Session 3

Second Sunday in Lent: February 28

See Appendix B for recommended additional resources on this topic.

Core Preparation Reflecting on the Psalm Introduction Opening Prayer Group Discussion Take Action Closing Prayer

Core Preparation 
  • Read selected proposed 2021 Social Principles: The Social Community (page 21): 
    • Section B. Bullying and Other Forms of Violence (page 24); 
    • Section C. Colonialism, Neocolonialism and their Consequences (page 24);  
    • Section L. Racism, Ethnocentrism and Tribalism (page 29).
  • Read Resolution 3376 (2016 Book of Resolutions): “White Privilege in the United States” 
  • Take the Harvard Implicit Bias test. This is an excellent quiz that helps us uncover the choices we make that are not always obvious. It also looks at the impact our biased decisions, intentional or not, may have on others. 
  • Read and reflect on Psalm 22:23-31 using the questions below. 

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Reflecting on the Psalm
  1. When have you felt an immense sense of awe that you were in God’s presence? 
  2. When have growing feelings of affliction caused you to turn to God in spontaneous prayer? 
  3. Is there a memory you have of congregational worship where you felt a confident assurance that God will meet the needs of those who are afflicted and that God will keep the covenant promises God has made? 

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In Session 1, we encountered the United Methodist Social Creed and the proposed 2021 Social Principles, both of which ground our Wesleyan faith in public action. 

In Session 2, we explored how communities organize to strengthen the covenant with creation through sustainable, earth-friendly practices that are implicitly and explicitly antiracist. 

In Session 3, we now turn our attention to the covenant that connects our human family across race and ethnicity. This covenant begins with our common parents in the faith, Sarah and Abraham, and continues on through the prophetic, public ministry of Jesus in community with his first disciples. We invite you to become familiar with the interconnectedness of three harmful practices detailed in the Social Community section of the Social Principles: bullying, racism, and colonialism.  

These practices reflect human choices to misuse privilege and power, and are codified into the systems and structures that guide our daily lives. Some of us are all too familiar with the devastating and historic harm they cause to people, communities, and nations. We fervently pray for the spiritual and moral character needed to build up our capacity for human empathy and solidarity that will dismantle these practices.     

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Opening Prayer

Excerpted from the hymn “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God's children dare to seek
To dream God's reign anew. 

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God's grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus: 

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

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Group Discussion

(Optional activities are provided in the sidebar to enable a customized experience.)

Group Scripture study

Read and discuss Mark 8:31-38

  1. This passage takes place immediately following Jesus’ ministry of healing, feeding, and teaching. Jesus turns his attention to naming the unpleasant and undeniable truth about his own death. Notice that Jesus chooses to raise questions about his death in a public space. Jesus does not hide the consequences of his choices; he knows that challenging the dominant expectations of those in power is dangerous and yet he does not whisper about it in secret. Do you know someone who has been a truth-teller, one who is willing to name the elephant in the room? How were they treated?  Were they met with denial and avoidance? Or with full-hearted belief? 
  2. Jesus graphically details that his execution will be public. Imagine how the disciples may have responded: perhaps in shock or denial, fear, or even embarrassment or shame? In instances when you have been told a challenging new truth, how did you respond? 
  3. For us as listeners, Jesus’ words are intended to be stark and to name the consequences of a prophetic ministry, of calling out practices that do not live up to the covenant God has made with our ancestors. Jesus goes on to name those groups who will conspire to accuse, detain, and execute him and we wonder: who will benefit from his death? What will happen to the Gospel? His message demonstrates that to follow him, we need to be prepared to make real sacrifices. We let go of harmful practices that do not serve humanity, and that keep us from being fully human. How can this process dramatically alter our lives?  

Discuss these questions as a group, recognizing that not everyone in the group needs to answer every question:  

  1. What defines your “public” life? Do you make a clear distinction between your personal faith and public life? In his 2005 book, The Call to Conversion, Jim Wallis states that “faith is always personal but never private.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
  2. What makes up your character and identity? Is it what you do? Or, is it what you have done in the past? Is it who you know and how you relate to others? It takes a lifetime to collect an identity, but we don’t start at zero. We’re born into a culture and a social location that are self-perpetuating. For most of us, this determines significant parts of our identity as we age. As you reflect on the way these “default settings” of your culture are manifested in your life, what would you decide to give up, release, or let go of?
  3. What prevents us from letting go of the harmful parts of our default culture? Might this impact your access to control, security, assurance of success, or relationships? How does our response to Jesus’ good news create challenges for others?
  4. The default-settings of our culture and families often impact how we experience and talk about race. How often do you talk with your family and friends about race? Daily? Once a week? Once a month? A couple of times a year? Never? Why?
Reflect and journal on the readings

In preparation for this week, you reviewed the following social principles from “The Social Community” section of the Social Principles: B. Bullying and Other Forms of Violence; C. Colonialism, Neocolonialism and their Consequences;  L. Racism, Ethnocentrism and Tribalism.  

  1. In light of the Scripture we have just studied together, what do you think these three proposed Social Principles have in common? 
  2. Each Social Principle addresses an example of harm done to the human person that diminishes a person’s human dignity or denies their human rights. They name specific practices that seek to erase our sacred worth as persons created in God’s image and likeness. They recognize that political and social systems are set up to legitimize oppressive or dominating behaviors. In what ways do these systems harm the image of God in each of us? How are these practices collectively justified by our “default culture” which teach us biases  and imbed in us ideas of racial or ethnic superiority and privilege? 

Resolution 3376. “White Privilege in the United States'' lists several privileges afforded to White people and White communities that have an adverse impact on Black, Brown and Indigenoius communities. The list may feel overwhelming and includes: 

  • job discrimination; 
  • segregated housing; 
  • an increased likelihood to be victimized by hate crimes and unchecked over policing, police aggression, biased courts, higher rates of incarceration, and sentencing disparities based on race; 
  • gaps in access to health care and educational disparities; 
  • a limited ability to secure bank loans and credit and a history of wealth accumulation.  
  1. How has White privilege functioned in your own life? Physically, and spiritually? Go beyond the above list, based on your own experiences.  
  2. As we read earlier in Mark 8:31-38, Jesus declares “that or those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life.” How do we hear this declaration in light of your reflection on white privilege?
Watch Together

The UMC in Zimbabwe lifts up several inspirational examples of how people are making a choice to use their strength to thrive and as a result increase the capacity, resiliency, and infrastructure in their communities in the midst of death-dealing circumstances. In this video excerpt, you’ll meet Beauty Maenzanise, a Dean at Africa University, as well as other faculty and students at the school. (Stop at 29:30). (10 min)  

Maenzanise talks about the changes she has seen when women’s voices have been centered in leadership. “Centering the right voices” is something you may hear about in conversations about race and inequality. How can you and your church “center the right voices” as you respond to racism?   

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Take Action

(Choose which action you will take this week)

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Closing Prayer

(Based on Genesis 17:1-7; 15-16 and United Methodist Hymnal, p.34 The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN 1989)

God says, “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you”. 

[Leader] On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?  
[All] We do. 
[Leader] Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? 
[All] We do. 
[Leader] Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?  
[All] We do. 
[Leader] According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ's holy Church and serve as Christ's representatives in the world? 
[All] We will in the name of the One who was and is and is to come, Amen. 

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