Music and the Gospel: “Photograph,” Ed Sheeran

Relationships can be hard, especially in high school.  This week’s issue focuses on relationships, how they can affect us, change us, and what can happen when they don’t work out.

Key lines: Loving can hurt / Loving can hurt sometimes / But it’s the only thing that I know / When it gets hard / You know it can get hard sometimes / It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

Questions: Think about a time when you really liked someone.  How did that make you feel?  Now think about a time you were hurt by someone you cared about.  What did you learn from that experience?  How did you deal with the situation?  How has it affected your relationships with other people or changed your perspective on future relationships?

Music and the Gospel: “Compass” and the 3rd Sunday of Easter

When the risen Jesus appears to his friends on the road, they don’t recognize him immediately. However, they say their “hearts were on fire” when they talked with him and recognized him when they shared a meal. Similarly, when we feel moved to act out of compassion or justice, or we know in our hearts what choice we should make, Jesus is present with us—even if we don’t recognize it.

Key Lines: You wanna give up ‘cause it’s dark / We’re really not that far apart / So let your heart, sweet heart / Be your compass when you’re lost / And you should follow it wherever it may go

Questions: Who is a compass for you? What motivates you to act for justice? How have you developed these values? What is an example of following your heart or a cause you are fired up about? How does Jesus show us he is still alive today?

Music and the Gospel: “Ordinary Love” and Easter

Both Mary Magdalene and Thomas the apostle are sure that Jesus’ death means the end of their relationship with him. When Jesus appears to each of them, they learn that even the end of life on earth cannot separate them from the love of Jesus. In our lives, too, we often struggle to recognize that Jesus still lives and his love is always with us.

Key Lines: ‘Cause we can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love / And we cannot reach any higher, if we can’t deal with ordinary love / Are we tough enough for ordinary love?

Questions: What is ordinary about Jesus’ love for us? What is extraordinary? How is Jesus’ death and resurrection a sign of his love for us? Where do you see God present in our world? What keeps us from seeing God’s love? When is love a challenge? What makes faith difficult?

Music and the Gospel: Palm Sunday and “Pompeii” by Bastille

When we remember the passion of Jesus, we also remember the struggles and suffering that many in our communities face every day. This is a day to learn more about their needs, pray for them, and find ways to help. Like the story of Jesus’ passion, the song “Pompeii” reminds us of the need to strip away what keeps us separated from each other.

Key Lines: We were caught up and lost in all of our vices / In your pose as the dust settled around us / And the walls kept tumbling down/ In the city that we love / Grey clouds roll over the hills / Bringing darkness from above

Questions: What can distract us from following Jesus? What ideas or habits need to be torn down? What do you think Jesus’ death meant for his first followers? Where do we see the suffering of Jesus in our communities? In what ways can we respond to that suffering?

Current Music and the Gospel, “Oceans,” Hillsong UNITED

Jesus puts his own life on the line when he calls Lazarus out of his tomb and back to life. Following Jesus can also lead us to surprising places. The song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” reminds us that our faith can lead us places we never expected.

Key Lines: You call me out upon the waters / The great unknown where feet may fail / And there I find You in the mystery / In oceans deep / My faith will stand

Questions: In what mysterious or surprising ways have you experienced God’s presence? How do you feel called to serve others? What are you doing to respond to that call? What makes it difficult to do?

Current Music & The Gospel: “Break the Walls,” Fitz & The Tantrums

Just as Jesus makes a blind man see in Sunday’s gospel, Lent can be a time when we wash away things that are distracting us or holding us back. “Break the Walls” is about breaking through those challenges to become who we want to be.

Key Lines: Give me a sledgehammer and give me strength / Watch the world come crumbling down / Cut me loose I seek the truth / I bet the freedom, the freedom will carry me

Questions: What can stand in the way of our desire to follow Jesus? When is it challenging to speak the truth? What gives you strength to speak your truth? How can telling the truth be a freeing experience? What do you want to let go of at the end of Lent?

Who Tells Me Who I Am?

an excerpt from SPIRIT ONLINE for March 16, 2014


Young people are prime targets for the advertising and entertainment businesses. No big surprise. Advertising and entertainment pretend to name their dreams and deal with their problems, to care about their happiness and images, but for only one reason—selling products.

Our desires are infinite. We will always want more. We are made to seek God and follow stars. What happens if advertisers can train our desires for God into desire for more things?

Advertisers see teens both as consumers with money today and as tomorrow’s householders. Specialists keep up with teen trends and interests. They dream up the right looks, the right stuff, so they can cleverly convince us (or teach us through commercials) what we will need to live their way. They do this to make money. They don’t care if their stuff makes anybody a better person or the world a more whole community.

Why care what advertising tells us? Because somebody is choosing for us who we will become. Each of us faces the same daily struggle. Will we let other voices control our choices, our freedom? Or will we choose and shape our own ideas of who we want to be? What communities will help shape us? What about the gospel? What influence will Jesus have on who we become?

Current Music & The Gospel: “We Remain” and the 2nd Sunday of Lent

On the mountain of transfiguration three friends glimpse Jesus’ true self. We take a risk when we share our true selves with the world. Our hopes, dreams, values, and everything that makes us unique are gifts that only we can share with the world. “We Remain” reminds us that these things, which make up our true identity, are most important.

Key Lines: Burn me with fire / Drown me with rain / I’m gonna wake up / Screaming your name / Yes I’m a sinner / Yes I’m a saint / Whatever happens here / Whatever happens here / We remain

Questions: What values do you hold that you think you will hold throughout your life? When is it difficult to maintain your values? Who shares your values? How do they help you stay true to what matters to you? What are qualities you have that you would like others to see? What risks do you take when you share your true self with others?

Current Music and the Gospel: Follow My Feet and the 1st Sunday of Lent

When Jesus encounters the devil in the desert, he must choose either to give into people’s popular ideas of the messiah, which the devil represents, or to do what he knows is right from the scriptures. While rarely as dramatic as what Jesus faced, we face difficult choices every day. “Follow My Feet” is a song about the challenges of following our consciences and doing what is right.

Key Lines: And the high road’s steady and steep / And the low road’s easy and deep / Guess I’ll follow, follow, follow my feet / Guess I’ll follow, follow, follow my feet

Questions: What tempts you by seeming to be easier than doing what is right? Who do you trust to be a good example for your life? How do you describe what conscience is? When is it easy or hard to listen to your conscience? What challenges do you face this Lent? How does the tradition of “giving something up” for Lent help you face temptations?