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BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 5:13-16
BACKGROUND: This week we’re looking at the call in the Sermon on the Mount to be like salt and light. These are two simple metaphors Jesus used to make it clear that his people were to be known. In some ways this has always been a difficult challenge in a world where it is sometimes easier to be like everyone else. In this sense it is a particularly pertinent challenge to teenagers in an age of identity formation, where what their peers think of them is felt so keenly.
This session looks at these metaphors and tries to explore what they might mean still today. Towards the end we seek to find ways to put these concepts into practical use in our lives.
Welcome everyone as they join you, by name if possible. If you normally have refreshments, you may want to save these until you’ve played the game in ‘Intro activity’.
You will need: salty snacks (such as pretzels) in bowls; a small bowl of salt; tea lights (real or battery-operated); matches (if using real tea lights)
Lay out your salty snacks and invite everyone to eat them. Put out a small bowl of salt as well to act as a visual aid. Display some tea light candles on an appropriate surface and invite everyone to take a turn at lighting one with matches or at switching them on (being very careful with safety and mindful of fire alarms).
Ask the group if they can guess what the passage you are going to look at today might be. Open up your Bibles to read Matthew 5:13-16. Ask a couple of volun- teers to read the passage out, with one person reading the ‘salty’ part in verse 13 and another the ‘light’ part in verses 14-16.
You will need: a large white sheet (big enough for everyone to sit on); a Bible Spread out a large white sheet. Cram everyone on it and read Acts 10 to the group. Encourage the young people to bear in mind that we are all the ‘unclean’, who are now called ‘clean’.
Challenge the young people to summa- rise the message Peter gave the Roman household. Ask everyone to have a go at summarising the gospel in one minute. You could time it to make this more of a game, or if they feel unsure you could give them a couple of minutes to write something down and then read their ideas out in turn. Reassure them that there is no perfect answer, and that in one minute they will only be able to touch on a tiny bit of it!
Encourage them to try to find an angle that is personal to them, as Peter did.
Without criticising anyone’s effort, you could spend a couple of minutes discussing the merits of some of the ideas and explore the ways you could share the gospel. Do you always have to tell people everything? Is the gospel we would tell the same as the message that might be preached at church on a Sunday morning? Is it OK to change the way we tell the gospel? What does God want us to communicate to our friends? Is anything off-limits when it comes to leaving bits out? What would be the most creative and radical way to communicate the gospel?
Peter’s verbal gospel to Cornelius was reinforced significantly by his godliness and anointing, and also by the supernatural way the two had come to meet each other.
Use these questions to generate discussion and unpack deeper meaning about the passage:
- What are the qualities of the salt and light Jesus uses as metaphors?
- Do you think they are still good meta- phors today?
- What do you think Jesus is trying to say to those who are listening?
- How do you think Christians should be distinctive in the world today?
- What do you think Jesus meant about salt losing its saltiness?
- Do you find this message challenging or encouraging?
- How can we be salt and light in our world today?
You will need: paper; felt-tip pens or gel pens in different colours
Ask the group to think practically about ways that they can be like salt and light in the world. What places do they find them- selves in each week? Where is it easier or harder to see where they can be like salt and light? What are the things they already do where they are being like salt and light? Prompt the group to encourage each other in the ways they think their friends are like salt and light. This might be the things they do or aspects of their character.
Draw out a weekly planner, with seven columns and a lot of space for each day. Ask the group to take a dark coloured pen and write in some of the regular things they do during the week. Then ask them to look for opportunities when they might have the chance to be like salt and light in the places they find themselves. Ask them to annotate their weekly schedules using light-coloured pens over the top as they find ways to take these opportunities to be salt and light.
You will need: a string of fairy lights; pegs, pens; small pieces of paper or card; music and the means to play it
Hang the fairy lights up like a washing line, then give each group member a peg, a piece of paper or card, and a pen.
Ask the group to think about a way they could respond to Jesus’ call to be like salt and light. What would they want to offer him back? Introduce a time of prayer. Say that you’re going to play a piece of music that they might quietly reflect on, then offer something up in prayer. When they’re ready they can write a small prayer, or just words or a drawing, that symbolise their response to Jesus on their piece of paper or card.
They can then hang it up on the fairy lights using their peg.
‘Build Your kingdom here’ by Rend Collective might be an appropriate song to play, or you could use another that is familiar to your group or some reflective instrumental music. At the end of the song you can finish with a simple prayer:
“Jesus, help us to be people who are like salt and light. Help us to be people who grow more and more like you. Amen”.
BECCA DEAN is a writer and PhD researcher in Durham. Her book, Be Live Pray, helps young people engage with prayer and spirituality in inclusive and creative ways. She blogs at beccaislearning.com
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