READ: Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia is an important one in the Bible. As he draws his letter to a close he writes words of encouragement to his friends. He reminds them of an old commandment which is in the Jewish scriptures in Leviticus (19:18), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus had thought it such an important rule that when he was asked “Of all the commandments, of all the ten best ways to live, which is the most important?” Jesus responded, “Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And then he added, “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. (Mark 12:28-34)
Paul agrees with Jesus. And he builds on that commandment to love others as we love ourselves by describing what living according to the ways of God’s Spirit looks like. He imagines that a life freely lived in God’s Spirit is one filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” He calls these “fruits of the Spirit,” outward expressions of how the Spirit leads us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
(Galatians 5:1, 13-25)
WONDER: I wonder how the people in the church of Galatia feel when they read Paul’s words to love their neighbors as themselves?
I wonder how it feels when people love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength?
I wonder if it’s hard to love some people?
I wonder what your favorite gift of the Spirit is: kindness? joy? love? patience?
I wonder how the Spirit helps us?
SAY: In this part of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, we see how the teachings of Jesus were passed on to others. Paul shares the most important commandment from God for us--loving our neighbors as ourselves.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for people who help us learn more about you and how you want us to live. Thank you for the Spirit who gives us the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Amen.
Paul Writes Letters to his Friends
READ: The Apostle Paul traveled to many different places as he shared the stories of Jesus and of God’s love for the whole world. He would spend time in a town, making friends and teaching about the kingdom of God. When he left a town, there would be a group of people who continued to meet together, worshiping and learning about Jesus. Traveling took time in Paul’s day. There were no airplanes to make travel fast, and no phones or email. To keep up with the friends he had made and the new churches who were meeting in each town, sometimes Paul would write a letter to them. He would answer questions they may have had, or try to help them with a problem, or share a concern with them. When a church received one of Paul’s letters, they would read the letter aloud in their worship, just like a sermon.
In our Bibles we have a letter written by Paul to a church he had started in a town called Galatia. After he left, they had questions. Some people were claiming that in order to be a part of the church there were many steps that a person had to follow, and those that didn’t do everything weren’t fully a part of the church. Paul explained that this was not what he had taught them. When a person was baptized, that meant they were now all part of the same family, God’s family, the church. It didn’t matter where they were from, what language they spoke, what job they may have had, whether they were female or male--they belonged to Christ now. And that was all that mattered. (Galatians 3:23-29)
WONDER: I wonder what it was like to receive a letter from Paul?
I wonder what it is like to be baptized in water?
I wonder how it felt to be told you weren’t fully part of God’s family, the church?
I wonder how Paul felt when he heard some people were being left out of the church in Galatia?
I wonder what it feels like to be a part of the family of families, God’s family?
SAY: Paul loved the church in Galatia, and he wanted them to be a place that welcomed everyone. His letter to the church is an important part of our Scripture and helps us know more about God’s love for all people.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Thank you, God, for giving us a church to belong to, with people who love and care for us. Help us to share your love with one another. Amen.
Paul and Silas in Philippi
READ: While they were staying with Lydia in Philippi Paul and his friend Silas went out into the city to find a place to pray. While they were walking a young girl who was enslaved followed behind them, shouting at everyone that Paul and Silas were sent by God. She was known to be a fortune-teller, and her owners made money from her visions. Paul was exasperated at her endless shouting, for this was not the way he intended to share the good news of Jesus. He turned to face the young girl and he healed her. Once healed she could no longer tell fortunes, which made her owners very angry.
Her owners grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city leaders. Together with the crowd, they hit Paul and Silas with rods. The two were thrown in prison, with their feet in chains.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were singing hymns and praying. All the other prisoners were listening to them sing and pray. When suddenly there was a great earthquake. It was so strong that the shaking opened the prison doors and loosened all the prisoners’ chains. The jailer woke up and saw the doors to the prison open and he was afraid that he would be punished if the prisoners had escaped. Paul shouted out to the jailer that they were still all there. The jailer was so grateful, that he asked Paul to tell him more about Jesus and what he needed to do to be saved. He was so grateful he took Paul and Silas to his own home and washed their wounds. The jailer wanted to follow Jesus, so that very night he and his entire family were baptized. (Acts 16:16-34)
WONDER: I wonder how did Paul and Silas listen to the Holy Spirit?
I wonder how it feels to be led by the Spirit?
I wonder why Paul and Silas decided to sing and pray in prison?
I wonder what the other prisoners thought when they heard Paul and Silas sing and pray?
I wonder how the jailer felt when he learned that all the prisoners were still there?
SAY: Today we have heard three stories of bondage and freedom. The young girl who was a slave is freed from her forced work of fortune-telling. Paul and Silas are freed from prison. And the jailer finds freedom in following Jesus.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for always being near us, in good times and in bad. Help us to trust in you and your love for us. Amen.
Lydia Welcomes Paul
READ: Paul returns to our story today. After he had heard Jesus’ voice when he was traveling on the road to Damascus, Paul became a follower of Jesus. He traveled to tell people about Jesus and God’s love. Everywhere he went he told others about Jesus, and many people believed in Jesus. They began to meet in each other’s homes to pray and learn more about Jesus. One night Paul had a dream in which a man asked him to come to Macedonia. The next day Paul made his way over to Macedonia and went to a city there called Philippi. He and his friends were looking for a place to pray, and they went down to the bank of a nearby river.
There they saw some women praying. One of the women was named Lydia, she was a business woman who bought and sold expensive purple cloth. Peter and his friends talked about Jesus, and Lydia listened closely. Listening to Paul telling how Jesus had changed his life, Lydia was moved. In her heart she knew she wanted to follow Jesus, too. She and her whole family listened to Paul, and they believed in Jesus. Paul baptized Lydia and her family in the river where they had met.
Lydia was happy to learn more about Jesus, so she invited Paul and his friends to stay at her home. While they were there, Paul continued to teach about Jesus. After Paul and his friends left, Lydia continued to welcome other followers of Jesus into her home, where they could worship and pray together. Her home became what was called a house church. (Acts 16:9-15)
WONDER: I wonder why the women were praying at the river?
I wonder how it felt to hear Paul’s story of Jesus?
I wonder what it feels like to be baptized?
I wonder why Lydia invited Paul and his friends to stay with her?
I wonder what is the most important part of this story?
I wonder where you are in this story?
SAY: Today we heard the story of the beginning of a house church, when Lydia opened her home to others who wanted to follow Jesus.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for people who welcome us, who make space for others. Help us to be people who welcome others as we share your love with our world. Amen.
Weekly Faith Conversations
Use these guides as conversation starters with your family. A short retelling of the scripture passage is offered, or you may want to look the story up in your own bible or in a children's bible. The wondering questions are written to open up faith exploration with children and adults.