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Confirmation Circle Group Discussion Guide

Redemption/Predestination

Materials

Several squares of paper in 4 different colors

Text: Ephesians 2

Introduction

Explain that today we are exploring predestination, the idea that God chooses us to be in relationship with God even before we choose God. This belief is associated with Presbyterian Christians, and particularly with the early Swiss Protestant reformer, John Calvin.

Ask them to get comfortable, maybe even close their eyes, and listen as you read to them the section from the Brief Statement of Faith that talks about this. Remind them that this follows right after the Statement’s discussion of sin, where it concludes, “We deserve God’s condemnation.”

Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.

In everlasting love,

the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people

to bless all families of the earth.

Hearing their cry,

God delivered the children of Israel

from the house of bondage.

Loving us still,

God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,

like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,

God is faithful still.

Make sure they remember who Abraham and Sarah are and that they understand what a covenant is (an agreement initiated by God, entered into with humanity or with particular people).

Names and Warmup

If you think people still don’t know one another’s names, go around and do names.

Explain: we all have important events in our faith lives, that is, in our life of experiencing God, coming to church, believing, and wondering. Some of these events we remember well, like the first time we went to church, and some we may not, like if we were baptized as an infant.

Today we’re going to make a timeline of our faith lives using different color markers for different events. Your timeline should include the most important things to YOU. Just as our personalities are all different, our faith journeys are all different.

Your timeline can include (but doesn’t have to) the following: your birth, your baptism (if you were baptized), the first time you heard of Jesus, the first timeyou remember being in church, the first time you remember praying by yourself, a time when you (or your parents) joined a church, a time when you switched churches, an early communion, an “aha” moment when you realized something new about your faith or God or worship, and this Confirmation experience.

Give everyone 5-7 minutes to make a timeline in their journal.

Then go around the group and invite (though don’t demand) each person to share theirs.

        Processing: what do our timelines have in common? Is it comfortable to think of your

faith like this, as a timeline? Do you have a sense of where you want it to go next?

Springboard                Keep Your Balance

  1. Invite everyone to stand somewhere in the room, it doesn’t matter where. Ask them to get quiet and make sure they have a few feet of space around them.
  2. Instruct them to get into a “tree” pose, where they place the sole of one foot on the inside of the other leg at whatever point (ankle, calf, knee, or thigh) is comfortable and then place their hands in front of their chest in a prayer position. If they’re feeling really confident, they can stretch their arms overhead.         
  3. Ask them to get into the pose, to be quiet, and to remain balanced in the position for as long as they are able without undue strain.
  4. Everyone should come out of the position whenever they feel they need to. When they do come out of it, they should remain quiet and continue standing.
  5. When only a couple of people are left, direct them to close their eyes (most people cannot remain balanced for long with their eyes closed.
  1. Processing: Ask people how they stayed focused.
  2. Struggling to keep your balance can be exhausting, but finding a state of balance can feel quite peaceful. Where do you struggle for balance in your day-to-day routine?
  3. Does faith in God in today’s world require a kind of balance?
  4. Were you affected by the people around you in this exercise?

Work

Explain that we’re going to experience a passage from the Bible now that is one the reasons Christians believe what we do about redemption and predestination. It is from the New Testament, and it is a letter to one of the early Christian churches. It’s author is Paul, who went in his life from angrily chasing down Christians to becoming one and founding most of the early churches.

Explain that the first churches were made up mostly of people who were Jewish, like Jesus and the disciples, but that, as the message about Jesus’ death and resurrection spread, more and more people started to believe who were not Jewish. These were called “Gentiles.” Most of the people in the church Paul writes to here were Gentiles, and so the first part of this passage talks about what their lives were like before they knew about Jesus.

Ask someone to read the first 10 verses of Ephesians chapter 2:

At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience.  At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!  And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed.  It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

After a moment or two of quiet after the reading, invite somebody else to read it. This time, ask the students to use their journals to write down the word(s) or phrase(s) that stick out to them as the most important in the passage. After it’s read the second time, go around the circle and ask each person to share what they wrote down.

Processing: did we hear similar or different things as the most important? What is “grace?” If we had to cut this whole passage down to one sentence, what would it be?

Work                What Do We Do With This?

Paul told the church in Ephesus, “You are God’s accomplishment.” Rocky’s friend Landon puts it this way: “God loves you. Deal with it.”

But how?

Presbyterian Christians believe that living a good life and doing “good things” (in Paul’s phrase) is our grateful response to what God has already done, the gift of salvation,  and not something we do to earn God’s grace or mercy or favor or love.

Ask students to make a list of 3-5 “good things” they can do, even this week, in response to this claim that they are God’s accomplishment.

Give 3-5 minutes, then invite anyone who wishes to share their list an opportunity to do so.

Summation

Evaluation

        What was helpful here today?

        What could be more helpful for future conversations?

Close with with this prayer:

Gracious God,

Before we knew anything of it,

You were creating us to good things,

loving us, calling us,

And saving us.

Let our lives be a grateful celebration of your love for us,

As we share that love with everyone we meet.

Through Christ our Savior, Amen.