By Norma Cook Everist
The retreat group, reflecting on the meaning of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, was responding to the question, “In what ways does God use you to provide daily bread?” Benjamin began. A 22-year-old recent college graduate, he’s looking for a job: “I often have lunch with my mother these days.” She recently completed graduate school and is also looking for a position. “I think I feed her intellectual conversation at the lunch table; we feed each other.”
Sue is a dental hygienist: “I keep people’s mouths healthy so they can eat.” Some years ago Norman and his family made a decision to tithe so that they can give to their home congregation and also help feed people around the world. Conversation continued around the circle. John said, “I am a farmer, so I actually grow food to feed people here and around the world and truck it to processing plants.” Wally said, “I feed people with challenging ideas at my work, things from the news about injustice in the world.” The sharing concluded with high school sophomore Jillian saying, “I’m a waitress. I serve food.” And then it was time for lunch!
The retreat, sponsored by a Lifelong Learning and Family network of an ELCA synod, included adults of all ages and walks of life. One-fourth of the group was teenagers. For two days they shared intergenerationally, at a deep level, what their faith means in daily life as they seek to minister in the world. They used “Connections: Faith and Life,” a new Web resource, which focuses on Martin Luther’s Large Catechism and Small Catechism. Participants are amazed to discover the contemporary implications of the Large Catechism: “Bread is a brief and simple word, but very comprehensive. When you pray for ‘daily bread’ you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy it How much trouble there is now in the world on account of those who wantonly oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread.”
“Connections,” downloadable in PDF form, is free and includes four units of six sessions each: Unit One: Living Faithfully (Ten Commandments); Unit Two: Living Confidently (Apostles’ Creed); Unit Three: Living Spiritually (Lord’s Prayer); Unit Four: Living Freely (Sacraments). A congregation could use one unit alone, or the entirety as a series. Each unit comes with a Leader Guide to provide guidance and support for effective discussion and experiential learning. Each session begins with “Going to the Heart of the Matter” and “Beginning Where we Are” in the arenas of participants’ daily lives. They “Connect with the Faith” through study of the catechisms and “Connect with Daily Life” through experiential learning. This includes two opportunities in each unit to visit a world of a participant. They “Connect with Scriptures” through passages from Romans, the Gospel of John and the Psalms. Suggested films and novels enrich the experience.
On one visit to a participant’s world, the office of a corporate executive, a “Connections” group pondered Luther’s “What does this mean?” in juxtaposition to the “What in the world does this mean?” of daily life. When dealing with markets, stockholders and family, whom do we fear, love, trust above all things? On another visit a “Connections” group went to Fire Truck and Engine Company 14. They were exploring the meaning of the petition, “Deliver us from evil.” “What is evil?” is a deeply theological and philosophical question for the ages. The group expected the answers of “fire” or “death.” The firefighter, however, quickly responded, “Unnecessary death,” telling of a firefighter killed on an arson call and children dying because of a landlord’s negligence. People can talk about faith when they talk in the language of their own workplace.
“Connections” is a resource for: small-group ministry; a Sunday morning adult group; adults who want to re-visit the catechism in lifelong learning; a new member class; confirmation ministry mentors; a retreat; parents of youth confirmands; a cluster of congregations, Lutheran or ecumenical; a neighborhood outreach endeavor; a hybrid face-to-face and online group; a workplace setting; and more.
The retreat group concluded with “Living Freely” on the Sacraments. Two teenagers read for the adults from Luther’s Large Catechism concerning the Sacrament of the Altar: “The treasure is opened and placed upon everyone’s table.” The group challenged each other with, “Freedom from is freedom for,” carrying ministry from the Lord’s table to tables where they serve all week long: Wally jumped right in: “The lunch table, where I work.” Crystal mentioned the reading table where her third grade children not only read a book, but tell their own stories, “Stories they need to tell where no one makes them be quiet.” Susan shared how she communes hospitalized and shut-in people. “We find a table wherever we can. It might be the sliding tray where they just had lunch, or the footstool by the side of the bed.” Tables to gather and serve in Christ’s name.
“Connections,” written by Norma Cook Everist and Nelvin Vos, which was previously in print form and used extensively across the church, is now revised with new Leader Guides. The ELCA, which owns the copyright, allows it to be duplicated for personal and congregational use. “Connections: Faith and Life” can be found on the homepage of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Go across the top and scroll down under “Resources” to “Connections Adult Study.”