Journey to Hope (An Ash Wednesday Lesson)

In case you are scrambling for what to do for a lent study, I have gotten to write another great resource with the team at RETHINK Church.  Below the video is the experiential element and Bible discussion for the Ash Wednesday lesson.  You can download the entire curriculum free at the RETHINK site.

In the original language of the Scriptures, the word repent means to turn. When we decide to accept forgiveness and attempt repentance, we set off in a new direction with our old life at our back. What an adventure! For a long time, we may have been taking a well-known path of sin. We likely have become comfortable with its direction. The turn of repentance takes us in the opposite direction. It takes us into the unknown. It is an act of risking adventure. That is what the ashes of Ash Wednesday are about. They are a sign of repentance; they are a sign of risking adventure!

Imagining Adventure:  Tell the students that you are going to spend some time together using your imagination. Ask everyone to close their eyes as they walk through this imagination-focused story:

You are standing in front of a massive plain. It is as flat a piece of land as you have ever seen. You see an occasional tree or bush, and you have the distinct feeling that you can see everything. Ahead of you are no surprises. The colors are as plain as the landscape, browns and brownish- greens. A few small animals walk freely. They reflect the landscape. What kind of animals do you see? (Pause.)What colors are they? (Pause.) What are they doing?

In the distance, you can see someone headed toward you. You remember that you are here to meet someone. The man is far away, but your eyes are fixed on him. You can’t stop looking at him, but you begin to hear things behind you ... wild things. You can’t quite make them out, but you know that somewhere in the distance behind you is danger. What do you hear? (Pause.) At the same time, the wind comes from behind you, and you smell some of the most intoxicating smells you have ever experienced. They are like your favorite foods all rolled into one hunger-producing scent. What do you smell? (Pause.) It is clear that no matter what those sounds and smells are, there is definitely one thing back there: Adventure. What are you feeling? (Pause.) Are you scared? (Short pause) Are you excited? (Short pause) At the same time you wonder what it is like back there, you are unsure if you are really interested.

You’ve spent so much time listening and smelling and feeling that the man has nearly reached you. You recognize him. You have never seen him before, but you know exactly who it is. It is Jesus. He is there to meet with you. He leans forward and says softly, “It’s time. I need you to trust me. It’s going to be an adventure. Let’s go.” Then he takes your hand. As you turn, you realize your adventure has begun.

After the experience, ask:
  1. What sorts of emotions did you feel? 
  2. Were you surprised that Jesus wanted you to turn around and head into the danger/adventure? 
  3. Which do you prefer in life going into the known or the unknown? Why? 
  4. What makes the unknown scary? 
  5. What is the risk of following Jesus in this scenario?

Experience Scripture: Have the youth open their Bibles and read John 8:1-11. Discuss the Scripture using these questions:

  1. What would have happened if Jesus had not been there, but another person had stood up for the woman?
  2. If you were in that situation, would you have risked the crowd turning on you if you defended the woman? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think happened when the woman left that place? 
  4. How was this situation similar to the story we imagined earlier?
  5. The word repentance means to turn from sin and head in the opposite direction. Understood that way, how is repentance risky?
  6. As we sin over and over again, we experience the negative effects.
  7. We know the bad consequences. What makes us choose to continue sinning instead of moving in a new direction?