Archives for March 2002

Bible Study, 5 Lent (B) – March 25, 2012

Discussion Leader: Elizabeth Ewing, Virginia Theological Seminary

“Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13 or Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

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Jeremiah 31:31-34 (New Revised Standard Version)

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.
32 It 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.
33 But 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.
34 No 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.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elizabeth Ewing:

Jeremiah offers this vision of hope for future after the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, the King of Judah has been taken away, and many of the Israelites are in exile in Babylon. Is this judgment of God’s disobedient people the end? What is the future? Christians often interpret this as a prophesy of the coming of Jesus, but even now we are not living in a world without sin, and it is hard to imagine that each and every one of us knows God. Is God’s law written on our hearts? Jeremiah offers a vision of the Kingdom of God, and as we learn from Jesus Christ, God’s Kingdom is here and it is to come. Jeremiah’s vision is about God’s love and God’s relationship with us. God dwells in our hearts. Through prayer, worship, sacraments, and Bible study, we come closer to knowing the love and grace of Jesus Christ. As Christ enters our hearts, may we seek to live with the freedom of the love of Christ in the vision of the new covenant.

What signs do you see of the kingdom now?

In what ways is God’s law written on your heart?

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Psalm 51:1-13 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 656)

1   Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2   Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

3   For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

4   Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

5   And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.

6   Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7   For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8   Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9   Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10  Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

11  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

12  Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13  Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elizabeth Ewing:

 

This psalm is a liturgical confession. The psalmist confesses, “against You only have I sinned” (v. 4) and asks God to make him pure. This verse echoes David in 2 Samuel 12:13 when he confesses his sin in the Bathsheba saga. Verse 7 of Psalm 51 shows God reaches in and touches the core of the psalmist’s being and imparts wisdom to help the psalmist come to terms with the evil he has done. Like David, the psalmist has fallen short but has returned to God and God is there to help the sinner see his sin, and then God cleanses to restore relationship. Orient yourself first toward God, and then worship and sacrifice fall into place and are rightly aligned. This is a psalm about praise and about God’s mercy. The morning daily devotion in the Book of Common Prayer begins with verses 11-13 from this psalm: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me; Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.”

How important is personal confession of sin to restoring a right relationship with God?

How has God touched your core to help you see truth?

In what ways does God’s Spirit sustain you?

Try saying verses 11-13 each morning for a week and see what you feel.

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Psalm 119:9-16 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 764)

9   How shall a young man cleanse his way?
By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,
that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;
instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite
all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees
than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments
and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

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Hebrews 5:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version)

5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
6 as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;
9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,
10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elizabeth Ewing:

These verses outline one of three key roles the writer of the letter to the Hebrews particularly sees in Jesus Christ: prophet, priest, and king. As priest, Jesus is both the performer of the sacrifice and the victim. No other sacrifice would be worthy to restore us to God. Priesthood is the point of reconciliation between God and God’s people. Jesus is called (not self-promoted) by God just as Melchizedek was (Genesis 14). Hebrews quotes Psalm 110: 4 “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus is faithful in his suffering. In the face of suffering, it is time to look to Jesus and his superiority as Priest and his sympathy with humanity. What life throws at us is not the end, and we are not alone. These verses come from a community trying to make sense of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and what it means for them as they go forward and follow Jesus. They are meant to encourage us in our faithfulness to God as Jesus showed faithfulness, and to comfort us because we have Jesus as sympathetic High Priest who mediates on our behalf with God.

What does it mean for you to have Jesus Christ as mediator between God in His transcendent holiness and us?

How does Jesus as priest encourage or comfort you as a follower of Christ?

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John 12:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version)

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’
22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’
30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’
33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elizabeth Ewing:

The visit from the Greeks sparks Jesus’s discussion of his impending death. In the Gospel of John those outside the community often identify Jesus, as Pilate will do when Jesus comes before him. What irony that crucifixion and glorifying God are one and the same, but they are. These verses stress the value of obedience to God and its life-giving quality. Jesus does not resist fulfillment of the “hour” that has come. It is time for Jesus to take on human suffering, sin, and evil and offer himself up to death. This is not easy for Jesus’ disciples to understand, nor is it easy for us to do so. Jesus calls us to look to Him as He draws all people to him from the cross. In Jesus’ saving act we are healed, and by following Jesus we can participate in God’s love and healing power for this world. Jesus draws us to him. He asks us to follow him and become a servant of God, as He is a servant. Holding on to this life does not bring life; letting it go out of love for God and God’s love for humanity is the way of eternal life.

Where do you see Jesus leading you?

In what ways might “hating” this life be healing for you?

What fears or pleasures of life might be obstacles to following Jesus?

Bible Study, 4 Lent (B) – March 18, 2012

Discussion Leader: Paula Toland, Episcopal Divinity School

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

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Numbers 21:4-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way.
5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’
6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.
7 The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’
9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Paula Toland:

For Moses and his community, serpents represented both a threat to physical life for those unfortunate enough to be bitten and, if we follow their thinking that God sent the poisonous snakes, divine retribution for their lapse in faith that God would provide as God had promised. Yet they also were the sign to the people that they needed to repent and amend their lives, so they asked Moses to pray for them; the Lord answered with very practical advice, and the bronze serpent became a source of healing.

The people were redeemed, transformed by their repentance and returned to faith in God and God’s divine promises. For us as we sit actively in this season of Lent, we may be lucky enough to avoid encounters with living serpents. However, we may encounter those figurative serpents that are the places we turn to avoid the hard work and discomfort that faith in God sometimes entails. Or perhaps we do not actively turn to those places but we let other things creep in and distract us from our faithful living. Whatever the case, Moses and his community can be the model for us of how to turn back to life in and with God.

Are there places in your life where you turn to avoid the hard work that faithful living can sometimes mean?

Are there things in your life that you are willing to give up or avoid in order to maintain your focus on your spiritual wellbeing and be healed?

Are you willing to humble yourself to ask for help to repent, to be redeemed and live a transformed life?

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Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 746)

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
and his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3 He gathered them out of the lands;
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

17 Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;
they were afflicted because of their sins.

18 They abhorred all manner of food
and drew near to death’s door.

19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

20 He sent forth his word and healed them
and saved them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

22 Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Paula Toland:

Psalm 107 almost seems like the logical next part in the narrative of Moses and his community, although we know that this is not actually the case. The psalm does, however, continue the theme of turning away from faith in God, who in this psalm is presented from the beginning as good and merciful, the God who creates community from the four corners of the earth. Unlike Moses’ community, these people don’t blame God for their troubles. And like Moses’ community, these people recognize their need to turn to God for deliverance from their distress, healing, and newness of life. They are then challenged to give thanks for God’s mercy and care, thanks which are to be given loudly and joyfully.

How do you feel about God in your times of trouble? Is God good and merciful or punishing?

Are you willing and able to give thanks to God with “shouts of joy”?

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Ephesians 2:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins
2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us
5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—
9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Paula Toland:

St. Paul ratchets up the theme of sin and disobedience and its detrimental impact on our lives. He likens our sinful human nature to death. Living our humanness in this world in tantamount to death. This passage challenges my understanding of the inherent goodness in all of God’s creation, including our embodied selves. And yet I acknowledge and appreciate the wisdom in these words, because if we live only to and in this world as if this world were all that there is, we do lose the fullness of our lives. We are blessed to be created, nurtured and sustained through God’s unwavering love for us, manifest in our lives through God’s unfathomable grace. When we acknowledge that reality, when we chose to live faithful lives with an awareness that our physical lives are only a part of our story as God’s created, we are privileged to see the “immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” It is difficult sometimes to live into this knowledge because it means that we do not get to take the credit for being loved as faithful people because of our good works.

Are you able to live your fully embodied life in this world with the knowledge that this is only a part of your story as God’s created?

Are you able to acknowledge that the newness of life we experience through Jesus Christ is not because of what we’ve done but because of who God is?

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John 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Paula Toland:

This passage from John brings us full circle from the passage from Numbers, and introduces the wonderful metaphors of darkness and light. Although v. 16 is one of the most well-known and oft-quoted verses in the New Testament, it has so much more depth and expansiveness when juxtaposed against the Moses’ narrative about the serpents and the Ephesians passage about grace, not works. The added dimensions of this passage: that in the world there is both darkness and light, the light embodied through God’s gift of the Son to save the world, and that doing what is true means doing what is in God, opens up so many possibilities to carry that famous verse into the world in a way that is radically welcoming and life-giving. It suggests that it is not quite enough only to say that one is a believer because true belief does have something to do with our deeds. It seems to challenge us to bring all of our selves and our deeds into the light, to be witnessed as having “been done in God.”

What are the dark places in your life, places that you want to keep hidden from yourself and others? From God?

Are you willing to try to make the changes that will bring the words you profess about eternal life with God through Jesus consistent with your deeds in daily life?

Bible Study, 3 Lent (B) – March 11, 2012

Discussion Leader: Jane BurkettNashotah House Theological Seminary

“In the temple Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’” (John 2:14-16)

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

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Exodus 20:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jane Burkett:

This is one of the two Old Testament passages containing the Ten Commandments, the other being Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The text itself does not make clear how the verses are to be divided into ten, and so they have been numbered slightly differently among different Christian denominations and Jews. But however they are divided, the first few commandments (vv. 1-11) concern relations to God, and the latter ones (vv. 12-17) concern relations with other people. Hence Jesus could summarize the law as loving God and loving neighbor (Matt 22:37-39). The order in which the commandments are presented is important. First of all, God has the right to set these rules for the Israelites because he is the one who rescued them from slavery in Egypt; he has redeemed them, and they are his. Second, the commandments about our obligation to God come before those to our neighbor, because how we treat our neighbor is based in God’s creation and ordering of the world. Human beings are made in the image of God, which means that how I treat my neighbor is intimately connected with my relationship to God.

As Christians, God has rescued us, not from Egypt, but from the slavery of sin and death. How should we respond to that today?

Does my behavior toward others recognize God’s image in them?

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Psalm 19  (Book of Common Prayer, p. 606)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2 One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3 Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,

4 Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.

5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever;
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jane Burkett:

Psalm 19 is a hymn glorifying God and the law that he has given. The first part of the psalm describes how the heavens silently declare the glory of God, and anyone who has ever looked up at the stars on a clear night can identify with the feeling of wonder and joy the psalm expresses.

The second part of the psalm discusses the law of the Lord. Although Christians frequently take a dim view of law and see it as only leading to dead legalism, this psalm expresses joy at the gift of the law, because it makes wise, enlightens, warns, and revives the soul. The law is intended to show us how to live in harmony with God, each other, and all of creation.

The last verse, a beautiful petition frequently used as a sermon opener, calls God “my strength and my redeemer.” The redeemer in ancient Israel was someone who bought back a family member from slavery. Thus, God is someone who deeply loves us and to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude for our rescue.

Do you see the Law as a blessing?

What might “secret faults” (v. 12) be?

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version)
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,
23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jane Burkett:

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” It goes without saying that no one wants to look like a fool, and yet here is St. Paul encouraging us to believe something that is foolishness to the wise of the world. And once you discard your familiarity with the gospel story, it does sound like foolishness. What kind of God, rather than coming in power to make everything the way it ought to be, instead allows himself to be publicly humiliated and tortured to death? Against all expectations, God came in humility and transformed the world through the cross, saving us from our broken state while respecting our free will. How fortunate we are that God is patient and merciful, and deals with us in love rather than power.

Why didn’t Jesus come as an earthly king to set things right?

If you were given infinite power for a day, what would you do?

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John 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version)

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables.
15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
16 He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’
18 The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’
19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’
20 The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’
21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Jane Burkett:

The sellers and moneychangers were in the courtyard of the temple selling the items devout Jews, particularly those who had travelled far and could not bring along animals, needed to perform the necessary sacrifices. Unlike the other three gospels, however, the focus of this story in John is not about the impropriety of turning the temple into a marketplace or the extortionary or dishonest practices of the sellers and moneychangers (the other gospels refer to them as “robbers”).

John’s gospel contains a series of signs that show who Jesus is, and this is the second one, occurring immediately after the wedding at Cana. The Jewish observers of this event were correct in perceiving Jesus’ actions as a threat to the sacrificial system of the temple. John uses this event to indicate who Jesus is and what he has come to do. Jesus tells them that he himself is the replacement of the temple. The temple’s purpose was to be the place of God’s presence among his people; Jesus is now that place. The temple was the place where sacrifices were performed, especially at Passover. Jesus will be the final, perfect Passover sacrifice. Jesus fulfills the purpose of the temple, rendering it obsolete.

How would you have reacted if you had been at the temple that day?

Bible Study, 2 Lent (B) – March 4, 2012

Discussion Leader: Judy Landis, General Theological Seminary

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’” (Mark 8:31-33)

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16  (New Revised Standard Version)

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’
3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,
4 ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

15 God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Judy Landis:

All of the readings for today have a common theme of faith: God’s faithfulness to us and our response.

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Psalm 22:22-30  (Book of Common Prayer, p. 611)

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them;
but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;
he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the LORD’S for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Judy Landis:

This psalm actually begins in lament with the familiar: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Then, it moves to today’s portion, which includes praise, worship, and finally a proclamation of deliverance for all God has done. Although this psalm begins with a broken and suffering heart, it becomes clear that the psalmist turns toward the promises of God and gives his life over to the care of God. His experiences lead him to the very heart of a loving God who journeys with him and has heard the cries of the afflicted. During Lent, we reflect on the very nature of God; the self-emptying, self-giving, eternally faithful and merciful God.

Reflect on your personal faith journey. Can you think of a time in your life when you experienced a broken heart or a broken relationship; a low point? What happened? What was it like? Then ask yourself, did my despair turn to hope or did I stay “stuck”? How were you transformed by the experience?

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Romans 4:13-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,
17 as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
22 Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’
23 Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone,
24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Judy Landis:

When we go to the switch to turn a light on, we expect light. We expect the electric surge to be present. We cannot see electric surges. We only see the by-product, which is light or power. We just trust that the electric company fulfills the promise to provide us with electricity. Faith is similar. We cannot see faith, only its affects. Faith is trust that Jesus Christ fulfills God’s promises to us through grace; the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. It is about God’s faithfulness to us. Faith is trust in God’s grace. Trust always occurs first and then shapes our response. The Christian response to God’s faithfulness begins in worship and praise and goes out into the world to love and serve others.

How has God blessed someone through you this week?

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Mark 8:31-38 (New Revised Standard Version)

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Judy Landis:

In this passage, Jesus predicts his suffering and Peter appears to want to take the path of denial. Peter loves his teacher. Possibly, Peter loves Jesus so much he does not want to let go of him. But then, Jesus rebukes Peter and the crowd and begins to teach about true discipleship: if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

When reflecting on this lesson, I recall a book I read several years ago concerning a young priest, Father Jim. Father Jim was diagnosed with cancer and he wanted to teach others how it is possible to have inner peace in suffering which brings us closer to the heart of Jesus. Inner peace is the truest form of which the manifestation of God dwells within us. He highlighted that the way in which all of us, at one time or another, suffer, often becomes the way in which we experience God’s blessing and new life. Father Jim recalls being filled with holy desire and human fear as he walked this journey and was reminded of the words of St. Ignatius: “Take, Lord, receive. All is yours now. Dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace – that’s enough for me. Your love and your grace are enough for me.”

Father Jim left us with a message of hope: “Because I had cancer, my life was truly the Lord’s to do with as he will. From that moment on, I knew only thing for certain: I do not know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future.”

Do you have any challenges confronting you today? What are they? Can you accept this challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow in your faith journey? What could you possibly learn from this experience that will help you grow closer to the heart of Jesus?

Gracious God,
Help us to trust that you never abandon us in our weakness.
Lead us more fully into your presence through our prayer
that we may know you and love you with
all our hearts, minds, and strength
and love our neighbors as ourselves.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen