My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

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Curt Sunshine
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Aug 2019, 16:51

The lesson today was about Romans 1-16. I focused on the interplay among faith, grace, and works/fruit, but I first talked with them about my overall goals for the class.

I told them I had been bored in a lot of Sunday School classes when I was a teenager, because I was hearing about stuff I had studied for years. I saw a lot of surprised, understanding faces. I explained my former Bishop's request to teach students how to fly their own planes and Elder Wirthlin's description of God valuing all of the instruments in the orchestra. I told them I see lots of things like other members and lots of things differently than other members. I told them I hope to help them understand the scriptures we study in whatever way makes sense to them, even if it is different than my views and the views of others in the class.

We started the class by reading selected verses from Romans 3 about faith, grace, and works. The wording can be difficult, so we rephrased each verse we read. The core was that "obeying the law" doesn't bring divine approval in and of itself, because everyone has sinned and needs redemption. It is faith that justifies, because faith drives people to act in accordance with their conscience - believing God loves them enough to forgive whatever gap there is between the ideal and what actually is possible. Faith doesn't make obedience meaningless; rather, it makes obedience meaningful.

We talked about Article of Faith 11 and how we are free to follow our conscience in faith. I asked them if we can say with certainty the 9/11 bombers were consigned to Hell. They said no. I asked how we can say that, given how atrocious their actions were. Someone said they were doing what they thought was God's will, and only God knows their hearts well enough to judge them.

I said that example applies to each of them individually. I asked them to think of something they had done in the past they wish they hadn't done. I told them if murdering thousands of people doesn't condemn people automatically to Hell, nothing they will do at any point in their lives will separate them from God's love. We talked about Article of Faith 2 and why it is before the Atonement in the next article. We talked about the consequence of Adam's transgression on each of us - how we inherit certain weaknesses and tendencies and issues simply because we are humans - simply because of Adam's transgression. I said we can't say, "It's fine; I was born this way," but, instead, accept in faith that we won't be condemned because of mortal stuff we didn't choose. I said our "work" is to let go of unhealthy guilt and just try to improve throughout life - to let our faith in divine grace empower us to not beat ourselves up over mistakes and just keep trying to do our best.

We read Hebrews 11:1 and talked about the definition of faith. I told them about the analogy of flipping a light switch and "believing" the light will come on. I asked them if that was faith. They understood it wasn't faith, because they had experience / knowledge that the light would come on - and, if it didn't, they understood why. I told them I personally have no experience with an afterlife, so I can't say I know we live after death. My wife, on the other hand, has felt her father's presence in the temple, so she feels comfortable saying she knows we live after death. I said I have no personal experience with a couple who have died and testified their relationship continued after death, but I love my wife so much that I hope mightily that we will continue to be together after death. I have deep hope in what I have never seen - which is faith. I asked if any of them had experienced something that gave them knowledge of an afterlife. One student raised their hand. I said that was cool, but everyone else's experiences were every bit as valid. They just were different.

I asked them if they could think of an example from the scriptures where someone exercised great faith. Someone mentioned Abraham, so we talked about that story. I mentioned that story is one example where I personally see scriptures differently than most members. We talked about the orthodox interpretation, then, as I started to move on, one of the students asked me how I see the story. I explained the old Jewish view that Abraham failed a divine test by being willing to sacrifice his son to his god - that he hadn't let go of the incorrect traditions of his fathers. I told them I had no idea what view is correct, but I don't care. Some people like the traditional version; I like the other Jewish view. To each their own.

We finished by talking about grace and that Mormons do believe in grace. We tend to call it the Atonement, but it is essentially another name for grace. We talked about "by their fruits ye shall know them" and the difference between "dead works" and "living fruit" - that works are what we do completely on our own or from feeling like we have to do it, while fruit is what is produced by a connection to a living vine/tree/bush. With a tree, it is the tree that enlivens the branch that produces the fruit. Thus, it is our faith that connects to God and produces living fruit.

For a first introduction to me (since I have attended only about half of the time I have been in the ward so far), I think it went quite well.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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DarkJedi
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by DarkJedi » 18 Aug 2019, 17:23

I try not to be critical*, but this was way better than the SS lesson I was in today. I ended up walking out about halfway through. Thanks for sharing Curt.

*OK, I only sometimes try not to be critical.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Roy
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Roy » 19 Aug 2019, 08:24

Thank you Curt. I enjoyed this lesson. FWIW, I would be overjoyed to have a teacher that was willing to validate non-traditional interpretations of the scriptures - even as "cool possibilities".
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Curt Sunshine » 01 Sep 2019, 21:45

Today's lesson focused on 1 Corinthians 13 - Paul's treatise on charity. I built everything around understanding why charity is so important and then what charity is, according to Paul in this chapter.

We started by doing an overview of Matthew 5 and emphasizing the "process of development" outlined therein. It ends with verses 43-48, which highlight love as the ultimate step of becoming perfect (complete, finished, fully developed, NOT mistake-free). Jesus' last words on the cross included, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," and, "It is finished." Thus, his mortal ministry ended with an expression of love toward those who persecuted, reviled, and spitefully used him - which signaled true love for everyone.

We then read Romans 8:13-14 and talked about what it means to be "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (equal inheritors through fully shared birthright) and how that was a departure from the old, sexist system. I asked the students two questions to which they didn't know the full answers: 1) What does "heresy" mean, and what is the central heresy of Mormonism in the eyes of most other Christians? (becoming like God) 2) Where in our scriptures does it teach that we can become like God? (The Bible, not the Book of Mormon)

We then read 1 John 4:7-8 where it says God is love and talked about why that is appropriate to say. That ended the set-up for 1 Corinthians 13 and why charity is so important. We concluded that becoming like God is impossible unless we develop the type of love outlined in Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 13.

We went through 1 Corinthians 13 verse by verse and talked about what each verse and phrase means. We talked about nothing else mattering if we are not charitable like God is charitable. We can be great orators - or prophets - or incredibly faithful - and still be nothing without charity. For example, we talked about God being LONG suffering (eternally). I described the scene in The Pearl of Great Proce where God weeps and all eternity shakes. We talked about specific examples of how hard it can be to love people who mock and hurt us, and I also emphasized that charity does NOT include putting up with abuse out of a sense of duty to love - that we still can be charitable toward someone from who we have to separate and with whom we can't associate. I mentioned that prophets can be wrong about some things (prophecy will fail). I told them to think of someone or a type of person it might be hard to love fully, and I used a few easy stereotypes of people walking into Sacrament Merting in the middle of the administration of the sacrament to make the point. (a drunk man staggering into the chapel reeking of alcohol, an obviously pregnant teenager wearing a short skirt and tank top with lots of visible tattoos, two men holding hands and displaying physical affection, etc.)

We ended with the request to seek charity intentionally by getting to know people they might avoid naturally - and to value real, expansive charity over ritualistic obedience to rules. I told them there is value to obedience, as we discussed in the last lesson about faith, works, and grace - but I stressed once again that love is the greatest commandment, and obedience without love (or contrary to love) is what Paul would have said means, "I am nothing."
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Roy
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Roy » 02 Sep 2019, 11:05

Thank you Ray.
I like to remember that Paul in those chapters is writing do a congregation struggling with disunity, strife, and factionalism. Specifically, there were Jewish converts that saw Christianity as an extension of Judaism and prided themselves on keeping aspects of the Law of Moses and Greek converts that were experiencing joy and spiritual gifts without adhering to the Law. I see Paul's examples in this context. If a new Greek convert is experiencing spiritual gifts then the Holy Spirit has placed his seal of approval upon that conversion - let's not go around placing additional limits on who is and who is not sufficiently converted. He then gives us the example of the body of Christ and how we all need each other. We are different but part of the same body. Finally, when Paul gives this hyperbolic treatise on charity and love, he is saying that no matter what you have or where you come from - do not use it as an opportunity to lord it over another. Perhaps you are a gifted orator and evangelist capable of converting thousands. If you use your strengths to cause division, contention, competition, and one upsmanship - your gifts are not profitable and become a hinderance. Perhaps you come from a muli-generational family and can recite your lineage back ten generations that have never eaten anything not considered Kosher. If you use this standing to look down your nose at the those that are more green and recently converted to the Gospel then all your stability, grounding, and deep roots in the church count for nothing because you are actively standing in the way of others. Whatever gift, standing, or station you might have - Act in Love towards your fellows or Go Home.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Curt Sunshine » 02 Sep 2019, 13:10

^This is excellent. Thanks, Roy.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16570
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Curt Sunshine » 15 Sep 2019, 20:30

The lesson possibilities today included 1 Corinthians 14-16 and 2 Corinthians 1-7. Last week, I was trying to figure out what to cover, and I was asked to speak in church today on the same chapters. It was great, since I was able to speak in Sacrament Meeting on 2 Corinthians 1-7 and cover 1 Corinthians 15 in class.

(In my talk, I focused on "reconciliation" being Paul's way of teaching what we do, ideally, when we use "atonement". I only had 15 minutes, so I focused on the description of the city of Enoch, mentioned my involvement online generically and how many people here are helped or hurt by how their local congregations accept them or not, and ended with a hope that our ward can be as close to the people of Enoch as possible in very practical ways - that each of us is accepting and accepted and helped in every way we need.)

First, we talked about who Saul was prior to his conversion and name change: a brilliant lawyer who worked for the Sanhedrin and oversaw the formal persecution of the early Jewish followers of Jesus, at least after the resurrection. I stressed that he tended to write scholarly, logical, legal defenses (e.g., his speech before King Agrippa, I Corinthians 13 on charity, chapter 15 on the resurrection, etc.) compared to John's more narrative focus on love, and I likened it to Elder Oaks (a trained lawyer) compared to Elder Eyring, Elder Holland, and Elder Uchtdorf (story-tellers who often get emotional). I also mentioned that Paul liked to play the "I'm a Roman!" card whenever he pushed the envelope and got into trouble and was facing formal punishment.

I mentioned that Paul's two most powerful sermons are about the two core elements of early Christianity (charity and the resurrection) and that both of them were written to the saints in Corinth - mostly because they were arguing with each other and forming competing groups within the early Christian community.

We then read verses 1-29, verse by verse, and talked about each one. The following is a summary of the explanation we discussed:
I taught you that Jesus died for your sins and then was resurrected. Lots of people saw him - even someone like me who wasn't part of the original group of believers. My background and lateness in receiving a testimony make me the least of the apostles, but I worked my butt off to make up for my past. In fact, I worked harder than anyone else. Well, God's grace worked in me really hard. (I mentioned that Paul sometimes reminds me of Nephi: dedicated, diligent believers who come across as conceited, privileged jerks sometimes.) We preached, and you believed.

Now, some of you say there isn't a resurrection. Why? We preached that Jesus was resurrected, and if we are wrong, everything we teach is pointless. If that is the case, we are liars. If Jesus wasn't resurrected, your faith also is pointless. In fact, if Jesus wasn't resurrected, we are more miserable than anyone else in this life. (I talked about what the early converts lost when they joined the new movement and its shared community.) We talked about what that would be like for modern converts now who are disowned and/or ostracized by friends and family.

All people died because of Adam's choice. (I mentioned again that the scriptures are sexist and that it should be Adam and Eve's choice.) Likewise, all people will be resurrected because of Jesus' choice. Paul tells of an order for the resurrection, but, once again, everyone will be resurrected.

Finally, to tie it all together, Paul offers the ultimate proof that the early Christian community believes in a universal resurrection: verse 29. In more modern phrasing, he said: If there is no resurrection, why do we perform baptisms for the dead?


I explained a couple of alternate interpretations of that passage I have heard from Christian friends - the most frequent being that another, apostate sect was performing that type of baptism and Paul was condemning it. I simply said that meaning doesn't fit the actual words of the verse. I said that baptisms for the dead was THE "ordinance" Paul used to show how central the resurrection was to the new faith - and, particularly, a universal resurrection of ALL God's children throughout history.

We then talked at length about why so many people in other religions are appalled by and oppose our vicarious temple ordinances. As part of that discussion, I asked them to imagine if their dedicated, passionate, faithful parents had no understanding of such a practice and heard that another religion was claiming their parents or children had joined their religion after death. I used the following statement as an example:
My parents absolutely would not have denied their religion. How dare you claim they will do so now that they are in Heaven. That is arrogant, insensitive, and unChristian!
I told them about a missionary companion who joined the Church and walked away from a LONG tradition of being the Buddhist priest in his home town. (oldest son of the oldest son for about 15 generations) He lost everything and ended up serving a mission on about half of the suggested minimum allowance. He was one of the most cheerful people I have met in my life, and he attributed it directly to having "found the Gospel of Jesus Christ". I used him as an example, because it would be crushing if he learned that there was no resurrection and his sacrifice had been in vain.

I said I love the idea that we baptize absolutely everyone we can vicariously, since it tells me we truly believe God views all of his children exactly the same - but I also said I understand completely why it is such a hot button issue for so many people. I think probably none of them had considered that in the past, and I was glad to see their reactions as I talked about it.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My New Calling: Sunday School Lesson Recaps

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Sep 2019, 15:07

I just realized I didn't add the postscript I wanted to include here:

Paul's characterization of being "most miserable" if resurrection isn't real is most powerful for people who have sacrificed greatly for the cause. I couldn't say the following in that class, but that understanding can be powerful for those who aren't convinced but want to remain involved or associated, since it hints at a perspective that can be used to decrease the possible misery of a change in faith.

Lower commitment decreases misery, since it lessens the associated sacrifice. It also is more authentic for the person whose faith has changed. In my own terms, "I only can do what I can do without damaging other critically important elements of my life," and, "If you ask for me, you get me."

That isn't easy, but it can bring peace.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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