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?