summer solstice!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Easter 6A bible study

Thursday Night Bible Study • 22 May • Sixth Sunday of Easter • 25 May 2014

Introduction to this study


For the sixth Sunday of the 50-day long Easter season, Jesus continues his farewell discourses by instructing his followers to be obedient and keep the commandments, and by assuring them of his constant, forever presence in their lives. We experienced Jesus’ bestowal of the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday evening; again in this passage, Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit.

John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Backward and Forward

Earlier in John 14, Jesus tells his followers he is the way, the truth, and the life; he says they
will accomplish even greater works than he has done. Sunday after next, on the Seventh and last Sunday of Easter, from John 17 we’ll hear Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer with his plea for unity among his followers. The following Sunday, the 50th day of Easter, will be the Day of Pentecost, and then the lectionary begins the long green season of Ordinary Time.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1. “Keep the commandments.” What commandments is Jesus referring to?
2. “If you love me...” What is the connection between love and obedience?
3. Read Matthew 22:36-40

But isn’t Jesus all about grace, about the free, unmerited, unearned (can’t be bought or worked for) gift? Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann calls the Ten Commandments the working documents for covenantal community. He says obeying the commandments helps us keep our freedom.

4. What is the connection between obedience and freedom?
5. What is the connection between commitment and freedom—in marriage, in employment (for example)?

Martin Luther begins his Small Catechism, traditional preparation for First Communion, with the Ten Commandments.

6. But aren’t the sacraments all about grace, about gift?
7. What does it mean to obey Jesus?

An Advocate

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate.” Advocate as in counselor, defender, defense lawyer, helper, attorney—someone who reliably has your back.

8. What does is mean for you to have the Holy Spirit as advocate, defense attorney, by your side at all times?

Worlds and Orphans

In the New Testament, two different words typically get translated as “world.” Here in John 14, “world” means this created planet, a physical space and dwelling place; it also connotes people, institutions, and structures that possibly do not know, follow, or obey God. In the second paragraph, when Jesus promises not to leave us orphans, the Greek word is the same as our word for orphan.

9. Jesus will not leave us orphans? What does that promise feel like to you?
10. How do we experience the Spirit of Truth?

Where we live: according to scripture

This passage from John’s Gospel begins and ends with love, commandments, and obedience. The fulfillment of God’s promises to us depends upon the free, unearned gifts of grace, but they also depend upon our obedience.

John 14:21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

11. What does Jesus mean when he tells us he and the Father will love and reveal themselves to those who love him?
12. Does God not love everyone?

The Fifty Days of Easter are almost over—Easter is a week of weeks (7 x 7). The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter!

13. How do we live in the Holy Spirit as Easter people every single day?

Final thoughts: What insights have you gained during this Easter season that will help you live Pentecost more fully?

Prayer

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter 2 A bible study

Thursday Bible Study • 24 April • Second Sunday of Easter • 27 April 2014

Introduction to this study


For the second Sunday of the 50-day long Easter season, we encounter the risen Jesus and his disciples two more times. We also hear about peace and about the Holy Spirit.

John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Backtracking: John 20:1-18

In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus’ empty grave “while it was still dark.” She runs and tells Peter and John Jesus no longer is in the grave! The tomb is empty, and the linen cloths/shroud are empty. Depending on the translation or version, the gospel reading for Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, uses the word tomb eight or nine times! Mary Magdalene recognizes the risen Jesus only after he addresses her by name.

“Peace be with you: so I send you!”

Both times, on Easter evening and the following week, the doors were locked, but even locked doors cannot prevent the Risen Christ from entering a space and being with us. After speaking peace on the gathered assembly (twice!), Jesus breathed on them. The only other occurrence of this Greek word for breathe in the Bible is in a translation of Genesis 2:7 “And God formed the man (a-dam) of dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.” Humans then carried the breath of the divine within themselves.

1. How would you react or respond if someone entered a room despite closed or locked doors and windows? (The Greek uses the exact same word translated here as both locked and shut—you can’t get in easily.)
2. What is this about closed, locked doors? Here in the city? In rural areas? Metaphorically in our own lives and hearts?
3. What does “peace be with you” mean to you?
4. Passing of the peace on Sunday morning?
5. Does “so I send you” remind you of any other scripture passages? Where does God send us?

Doubting Thomas

In the second paragraph, one week later, Jesus’ disciples again gathered together at the same place, and this time Thomas was with them.

6. What do you think of Thomas’ not quite believing it truly was the risen Christ? Of his needing or demanding physical evidence?
7. Do you think there are differing levels or trust and belief? Or does a person believe or not?
8. What spiritual, physical, or natural expressions of God’s presence do we find in our lives?
9. The presence and gift of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ in the sacraments?

Where we live: according to scripture

Jesus came to his disciples to guide them through that first week after his crucifixion. He blessed them with his presence, his peace and his Holy Spirit. Here in the gospel of John, Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit on the evening of the Day of Resurrection.

10. What does having the Holy Spirit in your life mean for you every day?
11. What does your having the Holy Spirit in your life mean for others around you?
12. When has God given you the gift of peace?
13. How is the Holy Spirit at work in your life?

Where we live: Easter is Fifty Days

Easter is not a single Sunday; Easter is not even two or three Sunday. Easter is a week of weeks (7 x 7). The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter! We also know every Sunday is a “little Easter,” one reason many people do not observe their Lenten fasts and disciplines on the Sundays in Lent.

14. How do we live in the Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ as Easter people every single day?

Final thoughts: What insights have you gained in this study?

Prayer