Packing for the Gathering 3-Part Pre-Gathering Bible Study Participant’s Guide
…and we’re talking about more than what’s in the suitcase
Packing for the Gathering These three studies are designed for your group in the weeks leading up to the National Youth Gathering. You’ll soon be doing a lot of packing, so we thought we might help you think about some of the things you’ll be bringing along that won’t fit into suitcases. We hope that these studies will help bring your group closer together around our Lord and Savior Jesus, who brings us to God through His death and resurrection!
(Part 1) Packing for the Gathering: “Baggage”
Baggage. In the next few weeks we’ll have plenty of it. As we get ready for the 2013 National Youth Gathering, we will load our suitcases and backpacks into vans and cars. We’ll put tags on our luggage and check it in at the airport. Of all the people in your group, who do you think will pack the most? Who will pack the least? We all have “baggage” in our lives—and now we’re no longer talking about suitcases. When you hear people talk about having “baggage,” what normally comes to mind? “Baggage” is the stuff in our lives that weighs us down and keeps us from living freely and fully. In this study, we’re going to read about two different people who had some serious baggage in their lives. A Lonely Woman with Baggage Read John 4:7-29. Describe the baggage this woman was carrying. How did she try to deal with her baggage? Was it working? How does Jesus help her with her baggage? A Young Man with Baggage Read Luke 15:11-32. Describe the baggage this young man was carrying? How did he try to deal with his baggage? Was it working? How did the father help him deal with his baggage?
Do You Have Baggage? We all have baggage in our lives. It comes from past mistakes, bad decisions, and unhealthy relationships. Generally, it comes from sin—our sin and the sins of others. The other people in your group may not have the same baggage as you, but let’s be clear: everyone has baggage. And everyone feels weighed down and worn out by the baggage they carry. What do you do with your baggage?
Sin is the ultimate source of all baggage. Our personal baggage is not always the result of our own sin, but when it is, there is only one way to deal with it. Read 1 John 1:8-9. Through his suffering and death, Jesus took our baggage and carried it in our place. He died for our sin and the sins of all people, so that we could live freely and fully in his name. When we bring our baggage to Jesus through confession, he claims it as his own and sets us free with his forgiveness! Prayer Lord Jesus, I come to You today to give thanks for all of Your blessings and for Your care. I know that I have deserved none of Your gifts, for I am a sinner who never stops sinning… Yet, in spite of what I am, You have blessed me with forgiveness, life, and salvation. You grant me the gifts of Word and Sacrament, wherein I can find my sins exposed but also the great grace that covers them all… The magnitude of Your grace and mercy is beyond my comprehension. I live in awe of You! Accept my humble thanks this day… Amen. (Lutheran Book of Prayer)
(Part 2) Packing for the Gathering: “Expectations”
You’re going to San Antonio! Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to this city. Whether or not you’ve been to San Antonio, let’s talk about what you’re expecting when you get there for the National Youth Gathering. How much sleep do you think you’ll get on this trip? How long do you think you’ll stand in line for lunch? What do you expect will happen to your group after you’ve been through this event together? Expectations. We all have them. Some expectations are realistic, some are not. Jesus’ Expectations for His Disciples When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He had clear expectations for them. In turn, they had their own expectations for what it would be like to follow Jesus. Read Matthew 4:18-22. This passage tells us about the time Jesus called some of the disciples to follow Him. How did they respond to His call? Where did they put their “stuff”? What do you think they expected when they dropped everything and followed Jesus? Read Matthew 16:21-23. This passage helps us see that the disciples’ expectations about Jesus were not always accurate. How did Peter respond to Jesus when Jesus announced something Peter did not expect? Read the next two verses (Matt 16:24-25). What does Jesus tell the disciples to expect in their own lives as they follow Him? What do you think it means to “take up your cross?” “Taking up your cross” does not always involve extreme pain. In the following passage, Jesus calls the disciples to put their own comfort aside for His sake. Read Matthew 26:36-46. What did Jesus expect from them? How did they do? Taking Up Your Cross Today Jesus’ words to the disciples about taking up their crosses apply to us as well. As Christians we are called to take up our crosses. But what does that look like?
Read Matthew 28:16-20. In these verses Jesus gives both a command and a promise. Identify them both. What does this command and this promise have to do with us? At the National Youth Gathering we will learn more about Jesus and His love for us. We learn about His suffering and death for our sins, His promise to be with us until His return, and His expectations for us as His people. It’s good to have expectations as you go to San Antonio, but be prepared to encounter something you aren’t anticipating. Expect to be surprised! Prayer Heavenly Father, keep us mindful of what it means to take up our cross and follow You. Sometimes the road will be rough. Sometimes we will need to set aside our own needs and desires for the sake of helping others. Help us to bear one another’s burdens. We give thanks that You bore the ultimate burden of our sin when You died on the cross. We are excited to grow in our walk with You at the Gathering and also to spread Your word to whomever we can. Bless us as we seek to do this. Amen.
(Part 3) Packing for the Gathering: “Friends”
Trips are fun. Trips with friends are even more fun. Have you ever taken a trip with your friends? Tell the group where you went and what you did. It’s likely that some of your friends are not going to be with you in San Antonio for the National Youth Gathering. It’s also possible that there are some people in your group that don’t know very well. Because you’ll be spending so much time together on this trip, it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about what makes someone a true friend. What Makes a True Friend? Spend a few minutes together as a group writing down the qualities and characteristics that you think makes a true friend. Read John 15:15-16. Jesus calls the disciples (and us) His friends (verse 15). You might even say He “friends” us. Our friendship with Jesus isn’t like our other friendships, however. What does verse 16 teach us about the unique nature of our friendship with Jesus? What is the greatest thing one friend could do for another? Read the words from this hymn and discuss how it portrays Jesus as the true Friend. He came from His blest throne Salvation to bestow; But men made strange, and none The longed-for Christ would know. But, oh, my friend, My friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend! (My Song Is Love Unknown, LSB 430 v. 2) Friends of My Friend Discuss this statement: “The friend of my friend is my friend.” As friends of Jesus, we are friends with all Christians. In just a few weeks, you’ll be gathering together with more than 20,000 of these friends in San Antonio. What will you have in common with them? What will be some differences you have with them?
Now think about your own youth group. What are the differences you notice in the members of your group? Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. In these verses Paul explains how the body of Christ is made up of people who are very different. What are some of the benefits of going to the Gathering with people who aren’t exactly like you? When you consider other Christians as friends, think of some of the things you do with them that you don’t normally do with non-Christian friends. How have the members of your congregation, who aren’t going with you to San Antonio, supporting you? How can the National Youth Gathering bring you closer to the people in your youth group? In your congregation? Prayer Lord Jesus, You are my true Friend. I pray that you would give me wisdom and discernment in choosing friends. Help my friends to know my faith in You through my words and actions. Thank you for my congregation and for my youth group. Give our group an open heart to hear what you have to say to us in our time at the Gathering and help us to return home with a renewed spirit, ready to serve You and one another. In Your name we ask this. Amen.