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

 

Comments

  1. COMMENTS FROM THE RCL BIBLE STUDY ARCHIVES

    Ben Maimon, March 3, 2009:
    (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16) This passage is about the institution of the rite of circumcision but we must bracket that out. What we have left is some rather odd verses about God, El Shaddai in this case, and Abraham. The names of Abram and Sarai are changed to Abraham and Sarah to denote the radical change brought about by circumcision, which we are not allowed to talk about.

    (Romans 4:13-25) This is where Paul establishes the assertion that the descendants of Abraham are all of us who put our faith in God. The justification by faith that Abraham had came before the ritual of circumcision. Both the Jew and the Gentile are justified or righteous by faith before either circumcision or the Law. Paul further asserts that God is in the continuous process of creation by calling into being things that had not been there before. What does this say about the weak/strong tension among Christians?

    (Mark 8:31-38) Today we still accept and trust the world of sensible things. The Ruler of This World is presumed to be just because he is powerful. Peter is outraged that once we finally have a messiah he must be brutalized and killed. That makes no sense to the Ruler of This World who is Satan. Peter is of course not Satan but he is exposed as holding that line of reasoning. If we take up the cross and follow Him then we may hope for eternity with Him. If you don’t bear the cross then you can’t wear a crown. As Nietsche would say, in the eternal recurrence you have to do the whole thing, over and over.

  2. A few questions from today’s passages –
    Is it appropriate to make judgments about people solely on the basis of the actions they take?
    Do those actions convey an accurate picture of who they are?
    Would you answer the questions the same way if you were the person whose character was evaluated?

    A quote from David Starr Jordan –
    Wisdom is knowing what to do next; Skill is knowing how to do it, and Virtue is doing it.

  3. Leo Finzi says:

    Genesis 17:15
    God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.16I 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.’
    17Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’
    Romans 4:13
    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.’

    So this is the faithfulness that Abraham had in the face of God’s promise… to fall on his face and laugh at God’s promise. And this is the steadfast faith that Paul refers to, no distrust, no wavering, fully convinced, faith recorded to him as righteousness. Then perhaps my faith is also sufficient too.

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