Archives for February 2002

Bible Study, 1 Lent (B) – February 26, 2012

Discussion Leader: Brian Pinter, General Theological Seminary

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:9-11)

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

__________________

Genesis 9:8-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’
12 God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’
17 God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Brian Pinter:

This passage, in its historical context, most likely served more as a folkloristic explanation for the appearances of rainbows than as a covenant story. Other such texts that use the term “covenant” involve agreements between two parties to perform (or refrain) from certain actions (according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary.) This text does not seem to fit those parameters. Perhaps this “rainbow covenant” story was a late addition to the Genesis text, inserted at a point when covenant rhetoric and its significance was in decline.

Nonetheless, the text could be interpreted as speaking to God’s view of creation, specifically God’s desire not to see it violently destroyed. This echoes, to some extent, God’s command to humans and animals in Genesis 1:29-30 that their relationship is not to be marked by violence and bloodshed – they are told they may eat fruits, vegetables and plants. It is later that God alters this command to allow the consumption of animal flesh, but with restrictions. The rainbow covenant of Genesis 9 also serves as a counter-witness to a certain kind of Christianity which seems to always be looking forward to God’s punishing, wrathful destruction of the created world. This notion runs counter to the thrust of the biblical record, however. The Biblical authors affirmed that the earth is our home, it is indeed good (Genesis 1:31), and the Lord has vowed not to deal with creation through unadulterated violence again. Every time we see a rainbow we are reminded of this.

How might we, as those created in the image and likeness of God, imitate the Lord’s promise not to deal violently with creation?

__________________

Psalm 25:1-9 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 614)

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you;
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame;
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O LORD,
and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7 Gracious and upright is the LORD;
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right
and teaches his way to the lowly.

9 All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Brian Pinter:

This psalm is a beautiful alphabetic poem, i.e. the first word of each line begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. While clearly a plea for guidance and forbearance, this Psalm also carries deep themes of the Wisdom tradition. The psalmist longs to be guided in truth, and taught the ways, the paths of the Lord. Proverbs teaches us that the beginning of Wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Pvbs. 1: 7). Psalm 25 serves as response to the Proverbial admonition by acknowledging a desire to be taught. It is often hard for us to admit that there is much we do not know, and that we need God’s guidance, especially those of us who have resources, wealth and privilege. This Psalm is a humble plea and act of submission to the majesty of God’s wisdom.

The psalm also asks the Lord for forgiveness and compassion. The sins of one’s youth are specifically mentioned. So often we are dogged in our hearts by mistakes of the past, especially regrets of things done or not done when we are young. Following the verse about the sins of youth, the psalmist speaks of the Lord guiding the humble. Allowing ourselves to be led in the “ways” of God is the path to transformation, and the death and resurrection of Jesus teaches us that even failings and wounds can be transformed by God into something new and good. Perhaps the psalmist was in tune with that truth as he/she composed these magnificent, heartfelt verses.

Are there parts of our lives where we resist submitting ourselves to God’s guidance and paths?

How do we interpret the psalmist’s prayer about enemies who might put us to shame? How are we sometimes our own enemies, dwelling on failings from long ago – our “youth” – when God is already willing to overlook these and accept with compassion?

__________________

1 Peter 3:18-22 (New Revised Standard Version)

18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water.
21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Brian Pinter:

The author of the first letter of Peter is using the symbolism of water in this text teach the significance baptism. Just as the flood waters saved Noah from destructive powers, so baptism allows us to participate in Jesus’ definitive defeat of the powers of evil and death through the cross and resurrection. There are several contexts at work in this passage: the Genesis flood story, the sacrificial interpretation of the cross, as well as the context of persecution and alienation which Peter’s audience was experiencing in the middle of the first century. Peter knew that those who originally read this letter were facing social ostracism and persecution because of their Christian faith. Through baptism however, they share in Jesus’ new life in the spirit. The waters rescue them, just as it did those who took refuge in Noah’s ark.

Interpreters have struggled for centuries to make sense of verse 19, especially the “spirits in prison”. At the time the New Testament documents were written, there was a great deal of speculation about the angels of Genesis 6:2 who took human wives. This transgression was related to God’s decision to bring about the great flood. The literature of the time imagined that those angels were imprisoned by God in what was known as the second heaven. Jesus, upon his ascension, passed by them, and not without saying a few words!

The author of the letter, above all, is encouraging steadfastness in the face of difficulties that the Christian way of living can bring. We are strengthened for this task through the power conveyed to us in the waters of baptism. Through this sacrament we can maintain our ability to “make sound decisions” (a better sense word often rendered “conscience” in this text) in the face of hostility.

How might we draw on the power of our baptism as we face adversity? How does our baptism strengthen our integrity? How is this manifested in our everyday lives?

__________________

Mark 1:9-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

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.’

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Brian Pinter:

Today’s gospel captures three distinct scenes: the baptism of the Lord, his time in the wilderness, and his return to Galilee to begin his ministry.

Why Jesus chose to be baptized by John is unknown, but the scripture scholar Jerome Murphy O’Connor offers an intriguing hypothesis – Jesus was in the process of discovering his identity as God’s Messiah. The baptism scene might then be linked to Luke’s story of the 12- year- old Jesus remaining in the Temple to converse with the rabbis. As Jesus struggled to discover his vocation, he first went to the teachers of the law, and now, in John the Baptist, Jesus has come to the prophet. The law and the prophets were the two sources of authority for the people of Israel.

The opening of the heavens and descent of the Spirit of God would have evoked, in the minds of the Israelites, Isaiah chapters 63,64 . Much of the vocabulary utilized by Isaiah is also used by Mark, and chapter 64 ends with the question “Can you remain silent…?” The evangelist answers this question by telling us that, through Jesus, God is again communicating with us.

Interestingly, Mark does not offer a detailed account of Jesus’ temptation by Satan. Matthew and Luke fill this out, probably in response to the curiosity of later generations of Christians. Mark mentions that Jesus was with wild beasts in the wilderness. This point carries great meaning and significance, which is unfortunately often lost on western people who have been heavily influenced by the Enlightenment worldview. Soulful, deeply spiritual people often go into the wilderness to fast, commune with and communicate with nature and other non-human creatures (think Francis of Assisi). This spiritual practice is common across cultures, religions and civilizations, and is still commonly practiced by native and aboriginal peoples, as well as many Christians. It appears that Jesus had this experience as well. Perhaps this “retreat” served as a time of renewal before he undertook his ministry.

Finally, Mark tells us that Jesus returned to Galilee. Apparently he was picking up where John had left off. The Greek word metanoia, often translated “repent”, carries the sense that one must “change one’s mind”. Jesus addressed his preaching to people who already thought that they were very religious and pious, yet he told them that they needed to change their minds if they are to be prepared for the coming kingdom. The message of metanoia still challenges us today, especially we who consider ourselves to be pious believers.

How might we relate to Jesus’ quest for self-discovery?

What does Jesus teach us through his example of spending solitary time in the wilderness?

Are we able to receive Jesus’ call for metanoia with humility and an open heart? How does this call serve as a challenge to us?

Bible Study for the Last Sunday After the Epiphany (B) – February 19, 2012

Discussion Leader: Joy Arroyo, General Theological Seminary

“Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’” (Mark 9:2-5)

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

__________________

2 Kings 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
2 Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’

4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho.
5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’

6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on.
7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.
8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’
10 He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’
11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Joy Arroyo:

In 1 Kings 19, Elisha leaves his home and his fields to become the servant of Elijah. This story in 2 Kings describes Elijah being taken up to heaven and Elisha’s reaction to his master’s departure. The emotional tone of this passage is heightened through repetition: three times Elijah tries to keep Elisha from continuing with him (vs. 2, 4, 6), and three times Elisha responds that he will not leave him while he is still alive. Twice, a group of prophets tells Elisha that his master will leave him that day (vs. 3, 5), and twice Elisha tells them to be quiet. In verse 12, we see that Elisha views Elijah like a father, which explains why he feels such profound grief at his parting.

Why do you think the author highlights the emotional tone of the relationship between Elisha and Elijah? Why is this relationship important?

Why do you think that Elijah grants Elisha’s request in vs. 10 only on the condition that he sees him taken away?

Did you find anything curious or intriguing that jumped out to you in this passage? What is it, and why did it stand out to you?

__________________

Psalm 50:1-6 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 654)

1 The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken;
he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

2 Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty,
God reveals himself in glory.

3 Our God will come and will not keep silence;
before him there is a consuming flame,
and round about him a raging storm.

4 He calls the heavens and the earth from above
to witness the judgment of his people.

5 “Gather before me my loyal followers,
those who have made a covenant with me
and sealed it with sacrifice.”

6 Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause;
for God himself is judge.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Joy Arroyo:

As poetry, psalms are often best read aloud. Take a moment to read through these verses aloud. Verses 1, 3, and 4-5 allude to the fact of God speaking. How does the psalmist highlight the power of God’s voice?

Read the psalm aloud a second time. What words or images stand out to you? Pick one phrase, word, or image, and take a few moments to meditate on it.

Read it aloud a third time. Is there a prayer arising in you from this psalm? Take a moment to offer this prayer to God.

Read it aloud a fourth time. Spend some time in silence listening for God’s voice. Is God calling you to do or be something?

__________________

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (New Revised Standard Version)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
6 For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Joy Arroyo:

Paul uses light and darkness as metaphors for understanding and ignorance of the gospel of Christ. The image of a veil is also used, which Paul uses in the previous chapter, verses 12-18. A veil keeps someone both from seeing clearly and from being seen clearly. But when the veil is removed, the face is revealed. In the same way, when God turns on the lights of knowledge in the heart, God’s glory is revealed “in the face of Jesus Christ” (vs. 6).

What explanation does Paul give for why some people do not accept the gospel? What reactions do you have to his explanation?

In this passage, Paul connects light with knowledge (vs. 6). This is similar to the cartoon image of the light bulb turning on when someone has an idea. What do you think of this image? Is it helpful? Have you ever had a “light bulb” moment regarding Jesus?

__________________

Mark 9:2-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’
6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Joy Arroyo:

Peter, James, and John witness Jesus transformed: his clothing becomes “dazzling white” (vs. 3) and he talks with two famous figures from Israelite history, Moses and Elijah. The Transfiguration is a well-known gospel story, one that Christians sometimes hear so often, it is easy to read through quickly with no new insights. Yet, after you read Mark 9:2-9, look back over the other Bible readings for today.

The 2 Kings passage describes Elijah’s ascension to heaven. What reasons can you think of for Elijah reappearing here?

Compare Mark 9:7 with Psalm 50:1-3. How is God’s glory revealed and described in the Psalm? What images are used? Are there any similar images and descriptions in Mark?

Paul compares the knowledge of God’s glory in Christ to light. How are the concepts of light and glory used in this Mark passage?

Take a moment to be silent in God’s presence. I invite you to offer to God your thoughts and feelings, and then spend a few moments listening to God or simply being in God’s presence.

Bible Study, 6 Epiphany (B) – February 12, 2012

Discussion Leader: Jordan Haynie, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30 ; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45
(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:

__________________

2 Kings 5:1-14  (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.
2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.
3 She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’
4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.
5 And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.
6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’
7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’
9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.
10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’
11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!
12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage.
13 But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’
14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jordan Haynie:

So often, when faced with the poverty and oppression in the world, we are tempted to throw up our hands. It’s too difficult – where would we even begin? This story reminds us that often God calls us to find simple solutions to immediate problems. We can’t all be Mother Theresa and dedicate our lives to the care of lepers, but we can all donate blood, for example, or serve at a local soup kitchen, or advocate for better healthcare for the poor. Rather than be overwhelmed with all the problems in this world, let us wash in the Jordan seven times, and seek a simple solution to an immediate problem to become clean.

__________________

Psalm 30 (Book of Common Prayer, p 621)

1   I will exalt you, O LORD,
because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

2   O LORD my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

3   You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

4   Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

5   For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,
his favor for a lifetime.

6   Weeping may spend the night,
but joy comes in the morning.

7   While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed.
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

8   Then you hid your face,
and I was filled with fear.

9   I cried to you, O LORD;
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;
O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jordan Haynie:

What makes you exalt in the Lord? For what deliverances in this life are you most thankful?

How will you express your thanks to God? With dancing and song? With service to others? With joy in the morning?

__________________

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version)

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.
25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one.
26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air;
27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jordan Haynie:

How do you prepare for an important task such as a race? What practices are important to get ready? Do you think that punishing your body is helpful training or needless effort?

What is our imperishable crown? How do we know when we have obtained it? Can we ever stop running the race in this lifetime?

__________________

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version)

40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’
41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’
42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once,
44 saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’
45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jordan Haynie:

Unlike Elisha, Jesus does not prescribe a ritual, easy or difficult, for the leper. He just heals him, immediately. I admit that I struggle with this story, because I know so many who suffer who are not immediately healed. Why does Jesus choose to make this man clean, but not so many others who feel unclean or are shunned by society? And why does He tell the leper to keep it a secret? Wasn’t He sent to proclaim good news to the poor? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am comforted by the fact that our God walked among us and knew real suffering. He healed real sufferers. He hears the cries of the needy. And even though I can’t explain why some people are healed and others are not, it helps to know that Jesus has been down this road before, and is here with us too.

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).

___________________________

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?

___________________________

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?

___________________________

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?

___________________________

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?