Monday, January 22, 2007

Day of Pentecost Year A

Here's the handout content plus the texts I typed out for myself as the group leader—thought I'd post all of it (actually, in the other Years A I hadn't included the scripture texts so they didn't get blogged).

  • Pentecost | 50 days after Easter
  • In the Jewish calendar, Pentecost commemorated God's giving the Sinai Covenant - the Mosaic law
  • The Christian Pentecost celebrates the fullness of the Spirit unleashed on all creation, enabling us to keep the new law of life in the Spirit and restoring all creation
  • Whitsunday - British Isles term, white robes worn by those baptized on Pentecost
  • Feast of Weeks or Harvest | Exodus 23:16; 34:33; Leviticus 23:15-16[17-22]; Firstfruits: Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:10, 16; 2 Chronicles 8:13
  • Disciples = taught
  • Apostles = sent
Psalm 104:24-34, 35bthis is a creation narrative!

24 How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
35b Praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 | 1 Corinthians 12:8-10—Gifts of the Spirit:
  1. a word of wisdom - Sophia v.8a
  2. a word of knowledge - gnosis v. 8b
  3. faith, trust - pistis v. 9a
  4. gifts of healings - v. 9b
  5. workings of powers [miracles] v. 10a
  6. prophecy v. 10b
  7. discerning of spirits v. 10
  8. types of tongues - glossolalia v.10
  9. interpretation of tongues - once again, glossos v.10
  1. The Spirit has come to the church and into the world in particular and collective senses, enabling the community as the body of the at once Crucified and Risen Christ to bear fruit in word and deed; without the Spirit there is no witness!
  2. How does this congregation demonstrate the variety of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit Paul describes? How do we complement or complete one another?
Acts 2:1-21
  • Acts 2:3, 4, 11 "tongues" is glossos
  • Acts 2:6, 8 "tongues" is dialect, as in languages.
  • Acts 2:15b It's only nine in the morning, third hour of the day; in the New Testament Day Watch the Third hour is from 6-9 a.m.
  • Peter referred to the Hebrew prophet Joel 2:28-32 to substantiate this event as the arrival of the Day of the Lord when everyone, men, women, slaves, free - everyone, including even the "least of these," would experience God's abundant and impartial grace through the Spirit's reign.
  • Name of the Lord - to know a person's name is intimacy with them and a kind of power over them.
  1. in all of these texts for the Day of Pentecost, Spirit is Pneuma rather than the Paraclete Jesus promised in last week's (Easter 7) text from John 16:7; but John 16:13 Jesus speaks of the Pneuma=spirit of truth
  2. The Spirit came to individuals gathered in community, "all together in one place."
John 20:19-23 - this is Easter Sunday evening

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Locked doors for fear of... - any ideas on this? Secrecy, hiddenness and shame - how does Jesus unlock doors, hearts and minds and open up lives?

Or John 7:37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Weeks, the spring harvest feast corresponding to the fall harvest Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth, Leviticus 23:33-36], Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." [Or If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me. And let him drink, 38 who believes in me.] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Feast of Weeks or Harvest: Exodus 23:16; 34:33; Leviticus 23:15-16[17-22], (Firstfruits Numbers 28:26), Deuteronomy 16:10, 16; 2 Chronicles 8:13

The Feast of Weeks celebrates the time of the grain harvest, from barley through wheat. John's version of the gift of the Spirit emphasizes the authority the gift of the Holy Spirit imparts to the church. What observations can you make about the Pentecost account in the book of Acts, especially reflecting on the Psalm and the Corinthians texts?

Easter 7 A | Sunday after Ascension Thursday

...another "recently rediscovered" handout I prepared for the study group I facilitated during spring 2005, which, after all, was lectionary year A. This particular one is not at all typical of me; maybe I was tired?

Acts 1:6-14
  • Acts 1:6-8 “Will you now, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus’ reply: “The question is wrong!!!!!”
  • Not about recapturing and re-appropriating specious past grandeurs, but about the work God call us to right here and right now.
  • “What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit!” You’ll receive the Holy Spirit so you can be Jesus’ witnesses and live as Jesus’ presence in the world; from now on, the world will discover Jesus’ presence within the presence of the community of the church, in our living as Jesus’ witnesses “as far as the ends [eschaton] of the earth.”
  • Acts 1:10-11 “why do you stand looking up at heaven?!” Like us at times, the disciples wanted to gaze at the heavens, to wait for Jesus’ Second Coming, and forget God calls us to transform this world, living as the presence of the Risen Christ in the heaven of right here and right now.
  • We need to remember it’s all God’s activity—we have the Holy Spirit and don’t need to imagine accomplishing all of this under our own steam.
  • Regarding Jesus ascendancy to the Father’s Right Hand of sovereignty, as Martin Luther insisted, the “Right Hand of God” - God’s sovereignty - is everywhere: in Wittenberg, Marburg, London, San Diego, Tokyo…absolutely everywhere, all the time. God’s heaven is right here and right now.
John 17:1-11

  • Jesus prayer for one-other-ness among God, Jesus, and disciples of all generations in the continuity and unity of the community of the church. Last Sunday, in John 14:18, Jesus promised he would not abandon the church; in the lections for Easter 6, Jesus promised to send the Spirit to accompany us and indwell all creation.
Acts 1 and John 17

  • Jesus gave the gospel to the disciples (including us!), who still communicate the gospel to the world through the church.
  • Within this community of the church, we can help one another experience eternity in the midst of time and discover the eternities of God’s sacramental self-revelation in the ordinariness of everyday life.
  • In God’s arrangement, it always is about the community—both Acts 1 and John 17 are about the person’s nurture, sustenance, challenge and transformation within the faith community, continuing the pattern in the earlier Old Covenant communities, in which peoplehood happens as God forms and re-forms a community for Himself and for the world.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Easter 6 A

More Bible study notes I prepared for the adult class I facilitated during spring 2005; I'll try to get the rest of the notes, etc., I found this afternoon formatted and blogged in a couple of days.

Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:5-20; John 14:15-21

Earlier in the Acts 17 narrative, Paul and Silas had been released from jail and gone to Berea, where Timothy and Silas remained; all the while they'd been preaching Christ and resurrection; verse 17:6b is the famous "turning the world upside down!" Immediately before this speech to the Areopagites, Paul had been talking with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers—and Paul constantly has been preaching resurrection from the dead! Contrast this with Paul in his epistles determining to "preach only Christ crucified."

Acts 17:23 unknown god by Epimenides, from Crete; 17:24 Lord of sky and land—Lord of all creation!

Acts 17:26b The Message: "Plenty of time and space for living!"

Acts 17:28 We live and move in him; quoted from Aratus of Cilicia, Paul's native province; Aratus was born in 310 b.c.e., and he "said it well: 'We're the God-created.'"

In the John 14 text, the word for love consistently is agape; Jesus calls us to love with the same love with which God loves us!! Here, Jesus says to fully live in God's way of agape love we must know and keep his commandments; in order to make this possible, Jesus promises the Spirit of God. In this text, the you pronouns all are plural! The New Testament always is about the faith of the called-out and gathered-in community; for each of us, our faith is rooted in the community, nourished in the community and lived out in the community.

A paraclete - literally called alongside - stood up with someone who was on trial in a court of law. The paraclete did not speak to the judge at all but spoke only with the person on trial to support and guide them through it. Jesus assured the people when they loved with God's impartial and all-embracing agape love, the Paraclete, this Spirit of Truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ would be with them and in them.

Here are some English-language versions of the Greek parakletos:
  • advisor
  • advocate
  • comforter
  • consoler
  • counselor
  • encourager
  • friend
  • helper

Easter 5 A

Well, yes—we're currently in lectionary year C and not even in Lent yet, but this afternoon I found notes I'd prepared for several Bible studies I facilitated during spring 2005. Whenever time allows, I virtually always have notes for the class and myself to follow. Somehow it proves I've prepared and also gives us something concrete to work through.

Easter 5 A: Rock; The Word in the World!

1 Peter 2:1-10 | Stones, Rocks, Bricks, and Other Substantial Building Material

  • Stones: hard, heavy, smooth, rough, impenetrable, permanent, won't easily decay; there also are many different kinds of stones. Is anyone here a geologist?
  • The solidness, safety and security of rock, brick, concrete or any kind of masonry as walls or building foundations.
  • 1 Peter 2:4 Living Stone, Source of Life.
  • 1 Peter 2:5 "present yourselves" (that's us!) as building stones for a sanctuary [holy place, dwelling for God, community in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells in the world: Shekinah] vibrant with life! What aspect of being "living stones" do we offer this faith community and the greater community?
  • 1 Peter 2:6, 7 Jesus Christ the cornerstone; foundation [Isaiah 28:16] [Matthew 21:44; Psalm 118:22]
  • 1 Peter 2:8 Stumbling block, stone to trip over, boulder in The Message version - the stumbling block, "scandal" of the cross! Paul says preaching "Christ crucified," is a stumbling block, scandal, to Jews and foolishness to the gentiles [1 Corinthians 1:23]
  • 1 Peter 2:9 Our royal, prophetic priesthood [Revelation 1:6]; different versions or translations of this text?
  • Jesus assertion he'd build the Church on the rock of Peter/Rocky's confession of faith!

John 14:1-14 | Jesus Christ and the Church: the Word in the World

John's "many mansions—many rooms" text often is considered a parallel to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount and Luke's Sermon on the Plain; just as in those homilies, this text is not about a future eventual location but about a here and now commission to respond in the Spirit to opportunities and situations God keeps offering us along with the relationship we need to remain in to do the Word. How can we live as God's Word in the world? For starters, let's try thinking about contrasting attitudes and behaviors: scripture versus popular culture or scripture versus the media. On the internet I found a few ideas to get us started:

The world encourages: "Seek your place in the world."
Scripture says: "Seek first the kingdom of God."

Popular culture says: "Find yourself."
Scripture says: "Lose yourself, so you can find life!"

The self-improvement industry says: "Be your own self-made person."
Scripture says: "I call you to become members together of one body."

Advertising tells us: "Look to your own needs and interests."
Scripture says: "Take on the attitude of Jesus, who took on the nature of a servant."

The world out there insists: "Be at the top of your game."
Scripture says: "Be crucified with Jesus."

A Treasure in Earthen Vessels

¸.•´¯*)¸¸,ø¤* ¸.•'´¯) A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: An instrument for an ecumenical reflection on hermeneutics | Faith and Order Paper 182 | November 1998 ¸.•´¯*)¸¸,ø¤* ¸.•'´¯)

This afternoon while I tried to organize and throw away some stray papers, I discovered hard copies of several things from a couple years ago (not unusual), but I did find it unusual that I hadn't blogged any of them! Unlike now, in those days I wasn't quite so quick to blog almost everything for storage and safekeeping. However, I'm delighted I discovered them, and here's the first. File properties gave Monday, 14 March 2005 as the date I created the original, which I did to help prepare for moderating the discussion at Faith, Order and Witness.

Some of my ideas:

A friend who'd seen the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit emailed me she felt she'd touched "the hand of God!" In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul explains, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels…" During the Coronation ceremony the British monarch receives a Bible, given with the words: "to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole of life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God." Touching the pages of scripture with our own hands, actually feeling the pages of God's grace-filled rule for covenantal living, the commandments, together with the Gospeled Good News, in a tangible intimation of the way Jesus of Nazareth's birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension brought the Good News texts into real-life! We can look at Divine wiseness, living revelation and prophecies in the same way we'd read any current book or magazine, and in a way concretely and actively related to our actual everyday world.

As someone recently observed on a theology site I belong to (my paraphrase):
The Church is in fragments; the contemporary situation of the church reminds me of our faithful predecessors in biblical times carrying those earthly treasures necessary for daily sustenance (water, wine, grain, etc.) in earthen vessels. Sometimes one of the vessels would fall and break; under similar circumstances, we would throw the shards away, but they found a use for them: with paper not yet invented, and papyrus expensive, they used the fragments as writing material! Those fragments, which we call ostraca, still exist until this very day, providing us with insight into the culture and thought of those early times. We might say: "The jar is broken, long live the pieces!"
My own notes, continued:

In the Reformation tradition an objective and sensible sign is sufficient for the presence of the Church, and that is the Means of Grace—Word and Sacrament; God chooses the Earthen Vessels of Church, Scripture and Sacraments to proclaim His presence in our midst, and within the physical pages of a book we find a living witness of God's past activity at the same time we discover hope for our future--a Word of resurrection from death: a Word of Life! The Holy Spirit creates Christians by acting upon the subject – as in the relationship between Potter and clay – by our living in a community formed by Word and Sacrament.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Theology of the Cross Course Description

Today, on the Feast of the Epiphany, I'm moving right along with my proposed Lenten course...
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2

A theology of glory imagines a view of God's essence and activity that parallels human aspirations to obvious, spectacular and excessive displays. A theology of the cross builds upon God's own self-revelation – particularly in Christ crucified – and seeks to discover God's characteristically hidden and frequently paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people.

This 6-part Bible study series will explore what it means to be a people who live under the cross of Jesus Christ for the world God calls us to serve, and particularly ways God leads and enables us to be a crucified – and risen! – people here at this church and in our families, neighborhoods and places of employment.

We will begin by contrasting the ever-popular theology of glory of immediately apparent divine intervention and activity with God's most typical manner of self-revelation in unassuming and concealed ways. After an overview of parallels and similarities found in the Hebrew Bible, the class will look at reading and interpreting several texts in the shadow of the cross of Calvary and through a cruciform lens. Weeks two and three will focus on the Cross in New Testament writings of Paul and Mark, in Reformation documents, and in more recent persons and situations. Some ways cross and sacraments are connected and intertwined will comprise the fourth week. Finally, the last two classes will be a time for the participants to discuss "what, then, are we to say about all of this?" What does this information and this manner of interpreting scripture, sacraments and our daily lives mean for each of us, for this church community and for the world we live in? In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says "Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." How about us? What's our take on all of this?

In addition to a printed course outline and related passages of scripture, I will bring a few short articles from various sources and even some things I've written myself!

© Leah Chang 2007