Take time to welcome any newcomers and catch up on the past week (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to:
Over this term, we’re looking at how knowing Jesus gives his followers strength to face the common pressures of life in a way that nothing else can.
Pray a short prayer asking that, however much group members have previously come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
This session considers the theme of shame, including the shame we may feel because of the things other people have done to us. Reassure group members that if they need to walk away to get space, they should feel free to do so.
In this section, we’ll unpack some of the negative ways in which we’re tempted to respond to feelings of shame.
Read Mark 5:24-34.
|Things we do
|Things about us
|The influence of others on us
Now we’ll see how Jesus demonstrates the kind of welcome we need if our shame is to be dealt with.
After touching Jesus’ cloak the woman is healed, but Jesus asks her to identify herself.
Jesus could have allowed the woman to leave quietly, or spoken to her in private.
Jesus welcomes us like he welcomes the woman. In dying in our place, Jesus guarantees our welcome and belonging. Whatever shame we feel, we can belong with him.
Leviticus is a book in the Old Testament, written to help God’s people live in his holy presence despite their sin. In Leviticus 9-15, ‘purity laws’ outline what made the people ritually ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’. Bodily emissions, infectious diseases, and certain foods were amongst the things that made someone unclean.
To be unclean meant you were unable to enter the temple to worship. Whilst you were unclean, anything or anyone you touched also became unclean.
This might sound primitive to us, but these laws had a teaching function. They taught Israel that God was holy, only full of life and wholeness and goodness, and that they were not. Anything that represents death or the loss of potential life (blood, reproductive fluids, menstruation), or anything that represented decay (infectious diseases) could not come into God’s holy presence.
This is why the woman’s bleeding made her ‘unclean’. She had not done anything wrong, she was not especially ‘dirty’ or sinful. Her constant menstrual bleeding represented a loss of potential life, rendering her permanently ‘unclean.’
The Bible speaks of times it’s right to feel ashamed as a result of our wrongdoing (1 Corinthians 15:34, 1 Corinthians 6:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:14). In each case, shame is a temporary experience given to draw us back to the mercy, forgiveness and welcome of God.
However, some of the shame we feel says less about our deficiencies and more about the world in which we live.
The unfair expectations of the people around us, societal expectations placed upon us, past or ongoing experiences of abuse, experiences of neglect and real or perceived failures can all contribute to wrongly-held feelings of shame.
Misplaced shame can show itself in negative thinking (e.g. self-criticism, self-doubt, suspicion), feeling (e.g. powerlessness, low-mood, over-sensitivity), and behaving (e.g. isolation, self-destructive tendencies, allowing others to take advantage). Shame can also have negative effects on our mental health.
If anyone in your group is experiencing intense feelings of shame which are affecting their mental health, the kindest thing you can do is lead them to long-term, sustainable help. They might start by talking with a parent (if appropriate), your CU Staff Worker, the university welfare team, chaplaincy or counselling services, and a GP. If possible, those struggling should also seek help from mature Christians within their local church.
Lead your group through this silent meditation, leaving a minute’s pause after each line. Encourage people to journal or write notes on their phone if they would find it helpful.
If you’re able to sing in your group time, there are plenty of songs that will help you celebrate how Jesus offers welcome in place of our shame, including: Who You Say I Am; Good and Gracious King and How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.
It is rare to find a community at university in which everyone is able to be totally themselves, and yet feel welcomed and accepted.
Thank You – Thank everyone for coming, and ask someone to thank God for your time together in prayer.
Ask – Ask those who are new to reading the Bible if they’d like to explore Uncover, a set of sessions in Mark’s Gospel, allowing them to investigate one of the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life alongside one of you.
Church and CU – What does the CU have planned ahead? And what help would group members value in finding a local church?
Others – Who else could you invite to join your CU Impact Group next week? These friends don’t need to be followers of Jesus and may really appreciate being invited.
See You Soon – Tell the group where and when you’ll meet next week, and arrange who will bring snacks. (You might like to alternate healthy and less healthy weeks!). See if anyone would be up for sharing a meal or just hanging out in the meantime!
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