Wednesday, November 04, 2015

All Saints 2015

All Saints! We remember and celebrate everyone in the Church Triumphant, as well as all of us still on earth. Today is about new creation, universalism, inclusion. The death of death. We'll discuss the second reading, but today also includes John's account of Jesus raising Lazarus from death; it includes the famous "Jesus wept" verse.

Sunday morning we got to about half these ideas, but I'm blogging most of my notes. After we read the text(s) I like to ask people for their impressions, then share some of my own, and then discuss how the passage at hand relates to Where We Live.

We have—

Three Creation texts:

Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a

Three Resurrection texts:

Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

1st Isaiah and Revelation both bring us apocalyptic

• apocalypse – ἀποκάλυψις

• calypso – Καλυψώ

The first reading, Isaiah 25:6-9 is from Isaiah's "Little Apocalypse"—chapters 24 through 27. It is the first reading for Easter Afternoon / Evening in all three lectionary years. It's also my current signature verse on my main theology blog.

Isaiah 25:1-10 is for Easter Evening years ABC and for Easter Day year B and for Proper 23A/Ordinary 28A • most recently experienced on Sunday, October 12, 2014

Psalm 24 also for Proper 10B/Ordinary Time 15B/Pentecost 7 • last experienced on Sunday, July 12, 2015

from my main theology blog last Wednesday:
In this passage we hear about the New Jerusalem, the city of God that formed the axis mundi between heaven and earth, where the old now has passed away—a common colloquialism for "dying"...

Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, tells us "Behold! I make all things new!" No more death, no more sorrow, no more tears. A well-tended garden grows into a city. Easter is about hope. Christianity is about hope. Christianity is about death and resurrection, about God's incarnation in Jesus Christ, and then about the presence of the risen Christ in each one of us. Our dwelling is in the city. We make all things new? We become Hope for the Flowers and Hope for the City.

PS I wrote this after spending some time with Sunday's lectionary texts earlier today and in five minutes or fifteen or fifty minutes couldn't say everything I wanted to. It's all very very dense and rich. The Greek for God's dwelling with us is the same as in John 1:14, "the word became flesh and dwelt among us." In essence that's pitched a tent, a tabernacle (remember Ark of the Covenant?), a portable shelter. Succoth – the Festival of Booths – remembers and celebrates that sheltered precariousness! In The Message version of the bible, Eugene Peterson says "God moved into the neighborhood." True. God did move into the 'hood, but didn't stay put inside the house, condo, or apartment. God moved around alongside the people everywhere they went, just as God in the Spirit calls all of us to do.

Psalm 24

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the floods."

Revelation 21:1-6a

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."

The Resurrection Account in John's gospel happens in a garden. A well-tended garden grows into a city. Revelation 21 brings us the city of the new creation, the new Jerusalem.

new earth is new land, soil, dirt, sod turf! The ground we walk on every day. "The Earth is the Lord's" and not ours. We steward the ground.

World / Planet / Cosmos

first earth is protos

skene = tabernacles, the little tents, houses, in Succoth, the feast of booths

21:3 people here is laos; humans is anthropos

21:5 throne of God is the cross of Calvary: cross / throne // death / resurrection

You need to be dead to be resurrected!

beginning and end / (origin not protos) arche // consummation, goal, not eschatos telos

John 1:14 pitched a tent, a movable dwelling; "moved into the neighborhood" in Pastor Eugene Peterson's Message version

How about us? Pitching a tent, living, and loving amidst our neighbors, midst all creation.
I tried to get people to imagine walking amongst their neighbors as Jesus' presence. Moving into their 'hood in various ways,

First Isaiah, Revelation: all people = universalism

Monday, October 26, 2015

Reformation 2015

Today we'll discuss all three lectionary readings and talk about God who covenants with us in love and grace. RCL also includes Psalm 46 (of course).

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31"The days are surely coming," says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt―a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more."

Jeremiah was very much into the ten commandments we've already described as how we live together in community. This passage from Jeremiah is about breaking the commandments of the Sinai Covenant—"out of the land of Egypt."

charter covenant or grant covenant – Abraham; David

treaty covenant or suzerainty covenant: if / then

Sinai Covenant: Exodus 10:1-7; Deuteronomy 5:14-21 if, then

Covenant makes demands but also makes provisions for restoration

Romans 3:19-28

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in/ of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice (propitiation) of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

Romans is Paul's [not always very] systematic theology

Abraham, father in faith of both Jews and gentiles? He was not circumcised when God covenanted with him.

covenant: God's election and God's promise. Not much difference between Judaism and Christianity: we enter covenant relationship by birth or by baptism, and absolutely by the election and grace of God. Obedience is how we remain in the covenant.

"works of the law" = circumcision, keeping kosher. "Works of the law" almost never means keeping the commandments.

grace and faith: patron and client // Paul's audience knew that arrangement very well

Throughout this Romans passage, "sin" is missing the mark

3:22 probably faith of IX rather then faith in IX.

3:24 redemption is deliverance

justice, righteousness, just, justifier, justifying = same word throughout for God and for us. Acquitted at the bar of justice!

A little about the New Perspective on Paul without labeling it as such—among other things, Paul's Jews very very definitely were not Martin Luther's Roman Catholics!

John 8:31-36

31Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue (abide) in my word [logo], you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?" 34Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place (does not abide) in the household; the son has a place {abides} there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

As sometimes happens, this NRSV translation misses that in Greek all three words are the same:

v.31 If you continue (abide) in my word; v.35 the slave does not continue have a permanent (abiding) place // the son has a place there (abides) forever.

8:31 If you remain in my word, truly my disciples (truly of me) you are, because Jesus is the incarnate Word!

The past few weeks we've been discussing servants and servanthood – diakonos, deacons The Greek here is doulos or slave rather than diakonos. Implications? Difference?

In English we talk about both freedom and liberty. Ideas? References?

free in this pericope is eleutheria, which also has some currency in the English language

Descendants of Abraham? Abraham as our ancestor? Descendants of Martin Luther? Martin Luther as our ancestor?

God who covenants with us in love and grace; whose final answer is resurrection from the dead!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pentecost 21B

Proper 24 / Ordinary Time 29 / Pentecost 21B

authority and servanthood; expectations and surprise

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" 37And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" 39They replied, 'We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Also in Matthew 20:20-28, {also immediately following Jesus' talk about his death), where the mother of the Sons of Zebedee asks Jesus. Great discussion yesterday when someone asked me why Matthew has Mom ask; I suggested with Matthew writing to a Jewish audience and bringing in features such as sacrificial law, Jesus as the new King David and new Human David, he probably felt compelled to do that Jewish Mother thing, too.

In between last week's gospel reading and this week's, Jesus predicts his betrayal, death, and resurrection. Here, in Marks' gospel, that gospel gives us no resurrection account!

Verses 10:32-34 between last Sunday's gospel reading and this one have Jesus still "on the way" and predicting his betrayal and death 10:34 "...and shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again."

Mark 10

32They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again."

Like last week they're still on the way―to the cross, to Jerusalem, to lives of service.

"Jesus isn't merely a person; Jesus also is a road, a way." –Jürgen Moiltmann

Barbara suggested the guys who found Peter's boldness so arrogant now wanted to take their turn. How dare they? I suggested the intimacy and trust of friendship.

doxa / glory: as in doxology glory of the cross!

Two bandits will grace Jesus’ left and right in the glory of his crucifixion (15:27).

God's power, sovereignty and glory: look to the vulnerability of the bethlehem manger; look to the cross.

10:43 ethnos nations – not necessarily the Jew / Gentile dichotomy we sometimes make

ransom, lutron, to loose, set free • lutrosis = redemption

• Matthew 20:28: "to give his life a ransom for many."

• Mark 10:45: "to give his life a ransom for many."

Jesus refers to a ransom, which is a payment for the release of a slave. Charlene picked up on kinsman-redeemer. Ched Myers points out the connection between this and the exhortation to be a "slave" in the previous verse, as well as the paradox about losing life to save it (8:35).

Myers points out Jesus has transformed the way of servanthood" into the way of liberation.

servant throughout this passage is "diakonos"

We had an excellent discussion about servanthood and service.

deacons in the church?

world facing rather than church-facing, the servant class that looks for and responds to needs of the word.

Acts 6:3-6
The early church first ordained deacons, not elders or ministers of word and sacrament.

Originally deacons served the surrounding community rather than parish insiders.

this is what the early church looked like to the world looking at it, evaluating it. Followers of the way to the cross and resurrection.

worship assistant / assisting minister / liturgist at worship / deacon

notes for myself I didn't bring into the class discussion:

Ched Myers calls Mark 8:22 - 10:46 his discipleship catechism

two stories of blind men getting their sight back frame this sandwich filling section of Mark's Gospel

1. Blind man, "trees walking," 8:22-26


2. Blind Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46-52

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pentecost 20B

Proper 23B/ Ordinary Time 28B / Pentecost 20

Mark 10:17-31

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud [do not cheat]; Honor your father and mother.'" 20He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" 27Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

28Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." 29Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age―houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions―and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

Thanks to Kenneth Bailey and Ched Myers for their help preparing this study―thanks to the astoundingly resource-filled internet, especially because most of my actual books still are in storage.

All three synoptics include this pericope, so it's important and we need to consider it.

• Matthew 19:16-23 (24-30)

• Luke 18:18-23 (24-30)

Walter Brueggemann insists the commandments are the working papers for covenantal community; they define the parameters and limits of our – relational – life together.

Mark brings us urban agricultural politics! We're all urban, but not agricultural in *that* way; this story still has a lot to say to us.

NRSV translates the Greek "as (Jesus) was going out into the way" very poorly as "setting out on a journey."

We've been discussing how incessant and relentless the way to Jerusalem and to the cross is in Mark's gospel.
Hodon—"the way" is a code phrase for Jesus' journey to Jerusalem

Hodos is a movement the followers of Jesus

"Hodos is a perspective. It is a way of encountering the world and engaging those we meet through our new lives in Jesus Christ." Travis Meier, The Bartimaeus Effect

Hodos is a way of life.

In Luke's book of Acts, we first encounter The Way in 9:2

Jesus is going to Jerusalem to give his life, to die, but this guy asks how to live.

Rich Young Ruler? Mark IDs him only as a man with many possessions. Matthew says he is young (19:20), and Luke calls him a ruler, head honcho (18:18).

The guy asks about eternal life, which typically is the gospel-writer John's phrase. Matthew prefers Kingdom of Heaven, Luke uses Kingdom of God. Elsewhere in the synoptics we hear "eternal life" only in Matthew 25:46 and Luke 10:25.

Expected Middle-Eastern practice would have been for Jesus to return the guy's "good teacher" salutation in kind with something similarly complimentary and florid, but Jesus cuts to the chase. Besides, "only God is good," and to label anyone or anything else as good is blasphemy.

10:19 "do not defraud" isn't part of the Sinai Covenant in either Exodus or Deuteronomy, but Jesus inserts it apparently in place of commandment 10, do not covet. Connotation for fraud here in Koine Greek (different from in Classical Greek) here is withhold wages, not paying what the hirelings earned (Ched Myers via Vincent Taylor).

At the cost of the greater community, and at the cost of keeping the worker indentured forever, always "owing their soul to the company store," like many southern sharecroppers, like present-day workers who pay room and board from their wages and can't afford to live elsewhere. With all that wealth, the guy wouldn't be tempted to covet, but he would be tempted to cheat and defraud so he could keep the $$$ he had and get even more.

10:22 many possessions, acquisitions, in koine Greek refers mainly to land, "real" property; it also can include flocks and herds.

Jesus' new social and economic reality

Over how long a time span do you imagine this incident took place? 15-20 minutes? Two or three hours? A day or two?

We've discussed oral transmission of texts not being written words spoken out loud, but instead carrying along with spoken narrative the culture; familial, religious, other expectations and practices. And, of course, changing, adding, elaborating on and deleting details along the way. Far different from someone saying, "today when I preach instead of reading the text from scripture, I'm going to recite it from memory."

Money has value only because there's not enough to go around for everyone, and because it carries the full faith and trust of some government. Remember the Weimar Republic and its 50,000,000,000,000 mark notes? Hyperinflation or what?

Eye of the camel: Could be a very low gate in the city wall, so you needed to unpack your camel's pack so the camel could fit through the opening (largest animal, smallest gate). There's no record of such a gate in Jesus' day, but the gospels recorded this story considerably later.

"Camel" could refer to a thick rope made of camel hair, the same way we might say, "they've actually recorded that on vinyl!" Or I could say, "I'm wearing denim" cuz the fabric of my skirt (I wore to church) is denim. Referring to a whole by its constituent part or parts. For example, even a thin rope made of camel hair would be impossible to thread through even the fat eye of a needle the disciples used to mend nets.

Where We Live:

• What captures us?

• What captivates us?

• Urban agricultural politics and economics?

• Where do we place our trust? "In God we trust?!"

"For God all things are possible." Mark 10:27b

Resurrection from the dead!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pentecost 17B

Proper 20 / Ordinary Time 25 / 17th Sunday after the Day of Pentecost

Mark 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

"From there" was the previous pericope about Jesus casting out demons from a boy possessed by a deaf and dumb spirit (word here is spirit, same as we use for holy spirit), boy left for dead; Jesus rebukes the "foul spirit" with his voice and word, then touches him and raises him to new life. A resurrection account.

In the gospel text for today they've gone through Galilee, where again Jesus announces his pending betrayal, assassination, death, and (three days later) resurrection. Here he uses his favorite title, "Son of Man /Human One"—born of a woman. The human one killed by humans, by one of his own kind. The disciples didn't understand and feared to ask. As usual.

When and why do we fear what?

They get to Capernaum, Jesus' primary hangout and place of operation during his three-year public ministry. Another discussion of who would be greatest and best, probably wanted to be closest to their (fearless) leader Jesus. Jesus knows something is up, asks what, they're silent (embarrassed?).

Jesus says there is a way to be first: you gotta place yourself last among everyone; you need to serve everyone. Example of a little child (this is simply generic little kid, nothing special), and says part of this servant lifestyle is welcoming a child in the name of Jesus. Welcoming Jesus means welcoming the One Who sent Jesus—the Father.

Discussion of names: meaning, power, essence, other associations. Authority, esp with the name of Jesus! To know someone's name means to have power over them. Welcoming a child or welcoming anyone in the name of Christ?

The late pastor and chef Robert Farrar Capon reminded us God saves only the last, the least, the little, and the lost.

In the next section John complains to Jesus about someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus, who doesn't care about being anonymous, only that good ministry gets done because if they're not against us they're for us (the Jesus folks). A cup of water to those who bear the name of Christ!

The verses immediately before and after the gospel for today, Pentecost 17 bring us a kind of Marcan sandwich with casting out demons on the outside, ideas about greatness and servanthood on the inside.

"Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name."

Thomas H. Troeger, Make Our Church One Joyful Choir

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Epiphany 4 B bible study

Thursday Night Bible Study • 29 January • Epiphany 4 • 1 February 2015

Introduction to this study

Last week we talked about the good news (culture, kingdom, reign) of God and contrasted it with the more secular, worldly “profane” culture that surrounds us. With Jesus, we encountered fishers Simon-Peter and Andrew, along with the brothers Zebedee James and John with their boats by the seaside in their typical occupational context. We discussed leading and following. Moving right along in Mark 1, this week we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath.

Mark 1:21-28

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

“...he taught them as one having authority...”

Following and leading:

1. When we decide to follow someone, what gives that leader authority?
2. All of us agree on Jesus’ ultimate authority, but what traits would make us willing to follow someone else?
3. When we have little choice (at work, for example) but for practical or sometimes moral reasons would rather not follow someone, what options do we have?

Recognizing Jesus

So far in Mark’s gospel we’ve heard John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We’ve seen the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit over the baptismal water; then the action of the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out from the riverside into the wilderness. The Greek text uses the same word “spirit” for both the Spirit of God and the unclean spirit possessing this guy.

4. Why did this man with an unclean spirit come into the synagogue?
5. What do you think was going on “just then” with him?
6. Say something about ritually clean and unclean in Jesus’ day.
7. Ideas about the unclean spirit that possessed him?
8. “What have you to do with us? I know who you are?” How did he recognize Jesus?
9. How do we recognize Jesus?

Spaces and Spirits: Holy/Clean – Unholy / Unclean

As Christians we think and talk a lot of sacred/secular holy/profane. We know God in Jesus Christ has brought heaven to earth. You probably can reference several passages of scripture that support that concept right away.

Including – Excluding – Hospitality – Boundaries

Life can be complicated. We know God welcomes everyone, excludes no one. In many ways we consider our homes, offices, and neighborhoods holy places we want to protect from misuse and from unwelcome entry by strangers and other outsiders. Most of us also do whatever we can do protect and restore the integrity of our natural environment, the wholeness of all creation. We do not want our spaces violated or desecrated. We know God’s extravagant hospitality excludes no one! God has created us in his image, and baptized us into new life in Jesus Christ, yet we also know we need to use common sense to protect our safety, the safety of our children, neighbors, and communities.

10. What criteria do you use for welcoming someone into your home?
11. What criteria do you use for inviting them to join you for a meal at a restaurant?
12. Do we consider people clean enough or possibly too unclean to join us?
13. How about Thursday evening family dinners?
14. How about worship in the church sanctuary? We commonly call our worship spaces sanctuaries = holy places. If you are an usher or greeter, would you dare prevent a newcomer from entering the sanctuary to join us at worship?

Possessions – Being Possessed

Our society is possessed—violence. sex. money. drugs. work. consumerism. debt. gambling (state lottery, powerball, anyone?). stuff. pornography. what else?

15. What does scripture tell us about material possessions?
16. Material goods (and bads) sometimes possess us. Less tangible, quantifiable goods (and bads) sometimes posses us, too. How about work? Careers? Even families? Are these all goods? Sometimes bads? Sometimes equivocal?

According to Scripture: commanding the spirits – a new teaching

The assembly in the synagogue (gathering place) has just witnessed Jesus’s words driving out the unclean spirit; despite the text telling us they were amazed, their asking if this is a new teaching seems tame, although they add “with authority.” The word here is authority rather than power. Difference in connotation? God gives all of us, baptized into Christ, authority over unclean spirits. A new teaching? From Jesus? To us? Now what?

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


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Epiphany 3 B bible study

Thursday Night Bible Study • 22 January • Epiphany 3 • 25 January 2015

Introduction to this study

So far in Mark:

1:1-3 we’ve heard Mark’s announcement of the beginning of the Good News;
1:4-8 met John the Baptist; [Advent 2]
1:9 witnessed Jesus’ baptism by John;
1:10-11 experienced a trinitarian theophany; [Baptism of Jesus]

We know about and again will hear about

1:12-13 the Holy Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness for the biblical number of forty days. [Lent 1]

Mark 1:14-20

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Backtracking: John 20:1-18

Last week in John’s gospel, we found Jesus in Galilee, where he found and called Philip, who then fetched Nathanael and told Nathanael “come and see!” We discussed our own experiences of being invited to church, to “come and see.”

The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near.

Closely paraphrasing Paul Nuechterlein, senior pastor at Prince of Peace ELCA, Portage, MI:

In a democratic world, we do not talk about reigns any more than we talk about kingdoms. But we do talk a whole lot about “culture”! So I suggest: “The time is fulfilled, and the culture of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” What does it mean to distinguish God’s culture from human cultures? What does it mean to be “called out” of conventional human culture and the structures of this world to begin to be disciples of Jesus, the one who brings God’s culture near to us? Why is this such good news?

Thinking about Gospel / Good News

1. What do you think Mark means by “the beginning of the good news?”
2. What do you think Jesus means by “Good News”?
3. What information or announcement anywhere would you consider good news?
4. Rephrase Mark 1:15 in your own words.
5. As a student or in the workplace, how were you/are you at following directions?
6. As a parent, boss (manager, supervisor, group leader) how are you at giving instructions?
7. Is it easier to follow someone or to ask someone to follow?

Repent – Believe – Follow

Just like last week’s passage from John’s gospel, this one from the gospel according to Mark is about evangelism (being a messenger of the good news / inviting) and discipleship (following the good news of Jesus).

8. What criteria do you use for obeying an order or following a leader?
9. What does it mean to leave what you are doing and follow Jesus?
10. How easy is it for you to follow Jesus?
11. How are we similar to the Galilee fishermen?
12. How is our situation different from the Galilee fishermen’s?

Where we live: according to scripture

Jesus adds another level: not only are we to follow Jesus, but we are to invite others to follow him. Sometimes we subtly invite by allowing people to see how we live, observe our choices, and note our values. Hopefully, our lives become a witness to the incredible love of Christ. Other times, we directly ask people to learn about Christ and to follow him. Jesus contextualized his invitation using the vocabulary and tools of the trade of the people he was speaking to.

13. How can we translate our information about Jesus and our invitation to follow him into the spoken vocabulary and other languages of the people we meet?
14. What do you imagine a friend, neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, that stranger you haven’t yet talked with might consider good news?

Where we live: God acts! Still.

Barbara Brown Taylor:

“What we may have lost along the way is a full sense of the power of God—to recruit people who have made terrible choices; to invade the most hapless lives and fill them with light; to sneak up on people who are thinking about lunch, not God, and smack them upside the head with glory.” Home by Another Way

Plainly and simply, God acts, whether or not we think we’re ready.

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