Bible Study, 5 Epiphany (B) – February 5, 2012

Discussion Leader: Jodi Baron, Seminary of the Southwest
Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-12, 21c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

Welcome to this week’s online Bible study. Please join in the conversation. If you find you don’t have time to go over all the readings, please simply consider the following verses from this week’s scripture:

“Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mark 1:30-31).

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version)

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God’?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jodi Baron:

In seminary I write reflection papers as a part of the formation, to learn how to live a more attentive, intentional, and reflective life. I notice much of this chapter in Isaiah reflecting on the three “acts” of the Old Covenant scriptures: a reflective take on the threat, exile, and restoration of Israel. For me, the part that sticks out the most in this reading is the last verse, “but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I have experienced some times when I needed supernatural strength, so tired I felt as though I couldn’t take one more step. And then I find it, the seed of hope that comes from patience in waiting for God to bust through.

What part of the text (word or phrase) stood out to you reading it through the first time?

Who or what has served as a renewable energy for you?

What is this text inviting you to do, be, or change?

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Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (Book of Common Prayer, p. 804)

1 Hallelujah!
How good it is to sing praises to our God!
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2 The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

4 He counts the number of the stars
and calls them all by their names.

5 Great is our LORD and mighty in power;
there is no limit to his wisdom.

6 The LORD lifts up the lowly,
but casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make music to our God upon the harp.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares rain for the earth;

9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains
and green plants to serve mankind.

10 He provides food for flocks and herds
and for the young ravens when they cry.

11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse;
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12 But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who await his gracious favor.

21c Hallelujah!

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jodi Baron:

Not a detail left out in God’s creative and redemptive process revealed in this psalm: God is the one who did it all, fixes it all, and is worthy of all the praise. That is a given to most believers, right? So, when I read these psalms, sometimes I wonder, “Why do I need to say it if God already knows it?” I don’t know about anyone else, but the need to just use “God words,” words of praise, and just focus in on God with myself or my community re-centers me, gives me energy to go on doing the work God has me doing. That’s what these words do for me.

What part of the text (word or phrase) stood out to you reading it through the first time?

What words of hope have you gleaned from the psalms in downtrodden or outcast times in your life?

What is this psalm inviting you to do, be, or change?

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version)

16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel!
17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.
18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.
22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some.
23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jodi Baron:

Whether you like Paul or not, the man had passion. When I think about what he is saying – he crossed every social and religious barrier to bring the gospel to all – I am simply in awe. We have people in our midst who don’t even want to look at one of our neighbors holding a cardboard sign by the highway, and Paul is telling us that he would become that to share Jesus with them? I recall going downtown a few months ago with some friends from seminary to provide chaplaincy for the Occupy Movement in our area, for one day. I recall the trepidation I felt leading up to the first interaction. I also recall the great peace I received when folks started coming down to our table to tell their stories. All because we asked them, “How can we pray for you today?” Jesus wanted his message of love and reconciliation to reach all the corners of the earth, including the smelly pockets of downtown habitation. And part of these “blessings” Paul speaks about have to include those ways in which our hearts and minds and eyes are transformed to see the world and all God’s children as God sees them.

What word or phrase stood out to you in the reading?

How has the gospel blessed you personally?

What is the text inviting you to do, be, or change?

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Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version)

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
37 When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’
38 He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’
39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jodi Baron:

I have heard the gospel of Mark referred to as “insurrectionary” and that it portrays the inseparability of religion from social, political, economic, and physiological aspects of life. And that’s important to us why? It seems important to me because much of my life has been spent compartmentalizing the different areas of my life. If they started to melt together then I was labeled unbalanced. But something about dividing up my life and “keeping it separated” never felt right. Thankfully, for me, I find consolation in scripture like this, compelling me to be subversive and speak truth to the powers at work. I find consolation in scripture like this, where Jesus shows us how, when you follow that which God has ordained you to do, you can do it with authority and “keep on keepin’ on.”

What word or phrase stood out to you in this reading?

What social diseases, political demons, or economic sicknesses has Jesus healed you from?

What is the text inviting you to do, be, or change?

Comments

  1. It may be helpful to look for God’s presence in others. I’m reminded of an old joke about a deeply religious man who was unfortunately caught in a flood. Before things got really bad, the police came to ask him to evacuate – but he said, “I’ll be fine – God will provide”. Water came so high that he ultimately climbed onto his roof. A boat came by to pick him up, but he responded, “no thanks, God will provide”. Eventually a helicopter flew close and dropped a line, but he again said, “no thanks, God will provide”. The flood worsened, and ultimately the man drowned. When he met his maker, the man asked, I thought you would come and save me? God replied, “Well, I tried….who do you think sent the police, a boat, and that helicopter for you?”

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