Focus 4 (of 4)-Recognition

Focus 4|Recognition

Fascinatingly, "recognition" can mean two different things in English. First, it can be about comparison. Recognition, when connected to words like legacy, achievement, or accomplishment can be the thing a person seeks when they try to be "better-than" someone else. The other meaning of recognition, in contrast, isn't about being seen by others but is about seeing them—in a special way that knows, identifies, and appreciates them.
Chat about this ice breaker question to get started.
Whom could you recognize from a mile away?
See what this Spotlight—and series—is focused on.
Tap on the words "Focus 4" in the image below to read this Spotlight's summary.
Let's talk about seeing people.
Read this section when you’re ready to begin today's Spotlight. (And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)

Luke 7:36-50
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Consider this quote about Mother Theresa:

Saint Teresa of Calcutta saw the face of Christ in the poor she and her fellow sisters served. To celebrate Christ, we should do the same.

Christ is there, in the face of the unborn child, one of the most dangerous places in our country.

Christ is in the face of the person on death row.

Christ is in the faces of those in prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers.

Christ is working in the fields, factories, and office buildings.

Christ is in the migrants and refugees crossing seas and borders everyplace across the globe.

Christ is in the newcomer trying to establish a safe and stable life.

Christ is in the emergency rooms, the nursing homes and clinics.

Christ is in the politically oppressed and those persecuted because of their beliefs.

Christ is in the faces of those trafficked for labor, sex and bodily organs.

Christ suffers in those caught in conflict, war, famine and fear.

Christ is in those bullied, sexually harassed and discriminated against.

Christ is in the face of those with whom we disagree, our opponents and our enemies.

The list could go on and on; for Christ is in all. This is one of the messages of Christmas. It is a reminder of Christ’s true presence here on earth.
Too often, some brands of Christianity want to treat Christ like a piece of personal property that is only held by the select who receive it. You have to be in the club. At best, these groups are confusing the Gospel with Christ Himself.
Consider the goodness of having a God who recognizes you.

There’s a beautiful quote from Paul as he talks about love in 1 Corinthians 13.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Grab a Bible and a partner and go to Song of Songs. Find three examples of language that the lovers in that book use about how they recognize and seek after signs of each other.
  • The prospect that someone is looking for you, watching for you, and will recognize you when they see you is one God uses to give you hope, especially in the loneliest moments. 
    • It’s like the father watching for the son in Luke 15: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
  • Think of a time you felt “unknown” - a time when it seemed like there was nobody who really knew who you were or what mattered to you. (Maybe now is that time. If so, it’s OK.) 
    • Pop open a note on your phone or just do this in your head: Write, in your own words, the fact that God knows. God knows [whatever it is.]

That feeling of being truly known and loved is one to share. We’ll talk about what it looks like to use recognition as a way to share that feeling in the Learn section. 
Figure out where your puzzle piece fits.
You were given a puzzle piece when you arrived. Find the people who connect to yours and work together to build the puzzle. 
  • This learn session is going to be on recognizing others, considering others, and finding unity with them. Explain how building a puzzle the way you just did is like life with regard to those theme ideas.
  • Remember, this is all part of our overall idea in this series that it’s worthless to be right for the sake of being right. Whatever rightness we might come across in life is like the definition in the sides of your puzzle pieces - it helps you connect with other people and with God. 

Open up a Bible or app to Acts 15. 
We’ll be looking at verses 1-29. Before you read it, get some context by watching this video from the Bible Project. 
Once you’ve watched the video, pair up with someone else. The two of you will read Acts 15:1-29 (you can just read it to yourselves.) When you’ve both read it, share with each other 1 thing that struck you and 1 question you have from the section. You’ll share these with the larger group when you reassemble.
Well done. Now…
  • Go around and share the things that struck you about the section.
  • Now, what were your questions? Can you, collectively, answer them? (It’s like making a puzzle together…) 

Discuss the story in view of recognizing others, considering others, and finding unity with them using these questions.
  • The dispute that arose in verses 5-11 takes place during a pivotal moment of change in the perspective of the church at the time. What were some of the principles or values that the Apostles demonstrated in their decision-making process as they responded to the dispute?
  • How did their response seek to be considerate of the Jews?
  • How did their response seek to considerate of the Gentiles? 
  • Can you think of (and will you share) a personal experience in which considering others made all the difference in navigating a conflict? (It doesn’t have to be church-related.) 
  • In what ways do you think the teachings of the Apostles in Acts 15:1-29 can positively impact our interactions with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs today? How can we overcome potential barriers and work towards unity and understanding?

As you finish your discussion, listen to this recital of William Wordsworth’s “The Tables Turned.” It’s a poem about turning from the obsession with gaining knowledge and turning to “nature,” that is, the natural experience (that a Christian would argue is given by God) that shows the kinds of things the heart can receive.
At the start of the series you read this quote:
Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the cancer cell, the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark—that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy. Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes), we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his reputation. The point is this: if God seems to be in no hurry to make the problem of evil go away, maybe we shouldn’t be, either. Maybe our compulsion to wash God’s hands for him is a service he doesn’t appreciate. Maybe—all theodicies and nearly all theologians to the contrary—evil is where we meet God. Maybe he isn’t bothered by showing up dirty for his dates with creation. Maybe—just maybe—if we ever solved the problem, we’d have talked ourselves out of a lover.

Embracing the Role of Service
This is a very interesting quote that attempts to help us rethink “serving” so that we’re not trying to fix a problem - we’re trying to learn about love. (It’s less about making everything “right.”)

Split into groups and work through the 4 discussions below. Group 1 takes part 1, group 2 part 2, etc.

Discussion Topic 1: Exploring the Power of Service
Instructions: Take some time to reflect on the concept of service and its impact. Answer the following questions individually and be prepared to discuss your responses with the group.
  1. What does service mean to you?
  2. Share an example of a time when you experienced the power of service, either as a giver or receiver.
  3. How do you think service can contribute to positive change in communities?
  4. What motivates you to engage in service? Is there a particular cause or issue that you feel passionate about?

Discussion Topic 2: Identifying Community Needs
Instructions: Reflect on the specific needs within the community, particularly in the education sector. Answer the following questions individually and be prepared to discuss your insights with the group.
  1. What are some of the challenges or needs you have observed in the education sector within your community?
  2. How do you think these challenges impact students' lives and educational experiences?
  3. Can you identify any specific areas or groups within the education sector that require more support or attention?
  4. How might understanding community needs help guide your service efforts?

Discussion Topic 3: Developing a Service Mindset
Instructions: Consider the mindset required for meaningful service. Answer the following questions individually and be prepared to share your thoughts during the group discussion.
  1. What qualities do you think are important for engaging in meaningful service?
  2. How can empathy and active listening enhance your service interactions? (And have you experienced the opposite?)
  3. How might humility and open-mindedness contribute to your understanding of community needs and the effectiveness of your service efforts? (And have you experienced the opposite?)
  4. Can you think of any strategies or practices to cultivate these qualities within yourself?

Discussion Topic 4: Sustainability and Long-term Impact
Instructions: Consider the importance of sustainability and long-term impact in service initiatives. Answer the following questions individually and be prepared to share your insights during the group discussion.
  1. Why is it important to think about sustainability in service work?
  2. How can service initiatives address root causes of issues and create long-lasting impact?
  3. What strategies can be employed to ensure the impact of service extends beyond immediate interventions?
  4. How might you measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your service efforts within the education sector?

Note: After completing the individual reflections, gather as a group to discuss the answers and engage in an open dialogue regarding each topic. Encourage active participation and respectful listening to foster a meaningful and enriching discussion.
Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.
Follow along with this prayer guide with your group.
  1. Begin by offering a prayer of thanksgiving, acknowledging God's presence and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to lift each other's needs in prayer.
  2. Assign different individuals in the group to lead prayer for specific requests. As you progress through the prayer requests, consider the following guidelines: 
    1. Pray specifically: Address each request individually, mentioning the person's name or a brief description of their need. 
    2. Seek God's guidance: Ask for wisdom and discernment as you pray, inviting God's will to be done in each situation. 
    3. Pray with compassion: Express empathy and care for those in need, asking God to provide comfort, healing, guidance, or whatever is appropriate to their situation. 
    4. Use Scripture: Incorporate relevant Bible verses that offer comfort, encouragement, or guidance into your prayers. 
    5. Pray for unity: Pray for the unity of the group, asking God to strengthen relationships, deepen understanding, and bless the collective efforts of the group. 
    6. Allow for silence: After each prayer, provide a brief moment of silence for personal reflection or to allow individuals to offer additional spontaneous prayers if desired.
  3. Conclude the time of prayer by expressing gratitude to God for listening to the group's prayers and for his faithfulness in answering them according to his perfect will.
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.'

Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.

Tap on the buttons in the frame below to see what’s currently happening at Illume—information on everything from current and upcoming online content to live events and opportunities to serve in the community can all be found here.

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