Bible Study: Pentecost (B) – May 27, 2012

Discussion Leader: Diana Wilcox, Drew Theological School

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104: 25-35,37; Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

___________________________

Acts 2:1-21

This is a familiar story of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the followers of Jesus, and ends just after these verses with the mass baptism of thousands into the Body of Christ. Notice that this gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t meant solely for the disciples, but resulted in their ability to proclaim the good news to everyone. It was a gift that was given to individuals, for the benefit of a community, with the intention that it enable the spread of the gospel to all. So often today we hear people say that they are “spiritual but not religious,” engaging in individual faith practices. They are seeking a fuller relationship with God outside of the church. Perhaps it is because the church is often seen as something one does, rather than something one is. Church is not the destination. Church is where we are given strength for the journey, renewed with the body and blood of Christ to do the work we are called to do in our baptism. It isn’t something we do on our own, but as part of the Body of Christ, gathered to do his work in the world. It is a communal thing. We need one another, as each of us together make up the whole.

How do you see yourself as a part of the living Body of Christ in the world?

Do you feel renewed and refreshed to live into your baptismal covenant – to seek Christ in all persons, proclaim the good news, and serve all people – when you come gather as a community on Sundays? If not, how can you help to be a part of the renewal of your own faith community?

___________________________

Psalm 104: 25-35,37

The beauty of this psalm lies in the humility it should give to all humanity. Here the psalmist is exhorting the faithfulness of all of God’s creative work – “the great wide sea”, “the creatures both small and great.” All of them look to God. It ends with the psalmist doing likewise – praising God with their entire being.  This is a reminder that the entire world, not just humanity, is a loved and precious part of God’s creation. God called it all “good,” not just the creation of humankind. Unlike the animals of the land and sea, we do not always look to God, often turning away. We begin to think that we control our lives, the lives of others, and all of creation. We have long looked at the earth and its inhabitants as something we own, something we can control, and worse, something we can destroy. We think we are God. On Pentecost, we are reminded that all of it is an ongoing work of creation, not ours to control, but ours to care for as God cares for it and us.

How can we define and change our relationship with creation?

What lessons can we learn from thinking of the land, sea, air, plants and animals of all kinds as loved by God?

___________________________

Romans 8:22-27

St. Paul is reminding his readers in this epistle that God’s transformation of this world did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, but is only just beginning. What is striking here is that he is making it clear that this transformation is not just about humanity, but all of God’s earth and its inhabitants. Like a parent waiting for the baby yet to be born, we are awaiting with hope something not yet seen, but no less real. The work of God in us and the world has begun through the grace of God’s incarnation in Jesus, and the workings of the Holy Spirit in the world. Our transformation is not yet complete, and like those who await a new birth, we are anxious for it to be completed. This is a desire that is based in our hope. Just as one does not anticipate a birth if there is no pregnancy, we are first filled with the knowledge of God’s working in the world when we are brought into the Body of Christ in baptism. We hope, because we know that God’s grace is at work in the world, as we have experienced it in Christ. Paul tells us that, because those who await something not yet seen can sometimes lose heart, we are supported in our faith by the Holy Spirit, as we learn how to be the church.

What does Paul’s vision of the fullness of transformation for all of creation mean to us as Christian’s living on a human damaged earth? Is the earth, and all the creatures on it, included in the salvation of Christ?

On this birthday of the church, what gifts can you recognize you were given by God; and, what are you and your community of faith doing with these gifts to be the “Church Alive” in the world?

___________________________

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 

This passage from the fourth gospel is part of what are called the “farewell discourses” of Jesus to his followers. Jesus knows that his arrest and death are close at hand, and is preparing his disciples for the time when he would not be physically among them. The Johannine Community that wrote this gospel is expressing their understanding that our relationship with the incarnate Word has no limits. Jesus is not physically present, but those who follow him are not abandoned. At Pentecost we celebrate the renewal and transformation of the church and all of God’s creation, because Jesus not only was, but is, and is to come. And we, as the Body of Christ in the world today, are by God’s grace part of that renewal. Jesus is present with us whenever we gather together in his name. As the disciples learned in the story from Acts, the Holy Spirit is with us, but not for us alone. We are reminded at Pentecost of the charge of the church to be that renewing and transforming agent in the world, knowing that we are guided by the Holy Spirit to do the work of Christ.

Can you think of a moment in your life when you were guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit? How did that feel, and where did it lead you?

On New Year’s Day and our birthday we often make resolutions to transform our lives. On Pentecost, the birthday of the church, what resolutions will you make to help the church be the agent of transformation in the world?

Bible Study 7 Easter (B) – May 20, 2012

Discussion Leader: Sarah Ginolfi, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

___________________________

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Who or what is “missing” from your community?

Jesus leaves the apostles with an extensive charge: to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Similar to what we see in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s church also needs a body of leaders who can carry out uncertain, unpredictable responsibilities. Sometimes, the church needs leaders like Peter who initiate conversation; other times the church needs leaders like Matthias who accept duties revealed by God through community. Every time, however, the church needs leaders who can unite through prayer upon realizing that someone or something is missing.

___________________________

Psalm 1

Where has God “planted” you?

What keeps you “rooted”?

In this wisdom psalm, we learn that the righteous are like trees, a simile that—even in contemporary culture—symbolizes strength, resilience, and productivity. Illustrations of “the tree of life” generally depict this life-giving force in nature as having roots that are exposed and visible to the eye. In reality, however, a tree with exposed roots could not survive for long.

Like real trees, we too have roots: in our family, in our tradition, and in the various places we have lived. Also like real trees, these roots are buried deep beneath layers and layers of earthly “dirt.” Thus, we must first sift through layers and layers of dirt if we want to understand our rooted beginnings better. For some, this process is painful and humiliating. During certain seasons of our life, the ground is muddy and the process of making our way through it leaves us messy full of goop. In other seasons, the ground is rock hard and the task of working our way through this life dirt seems impossible. In yet other seasons, however, the ground is perfect for digging. These seasons provide the right conditions for us to rediscover our hidden roots.

___________________________

1 John 5:9-13

 

Where is your personal testimony most welcome? Most Unwelcome?

How do you partner with God’s mission in the world?

Sharing one’s personal testimony can be challenging. The specifics seem clear enough, right? According to First John, the testimony is this: “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” However, what if those listening do not want to hear what we have to say? What if these people tell us that we are wrong?

First John delivers his letter to a community that believes Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, the letter is not meant to be argumentative. Instead, the author seeks to encourage those who have already secured eternal life because they believe.

Studies in church history, however, reveal that truth claims often were a source for argumentation. New methods of biblical interpretation cast a suspect light on former methods and their authors fought to the death sometimes in order to defend their claim. Even today, the increasing awareness of other faith traditions complicates the call to share our own truth. Fortunately, the true faith relies on God’s testimony as well as ours and God’s testimony has not yet been fully revealed.

___________________________

John 17:6-19 

How does God sanctify us?

Wait a minute! We do not belong to the world, yet we still have to live here? These verses sound paradoxical since a sense of belonging usually makes us feels more “complete” than a sense of exclusion. School playgrounds across the globe, for one, are filled with children who scream, “I want to play too!”

As we age, the desire to be a part of something continues to echo throughout the various stages of our lives: “Please pick me to join your company’s team,” one might say. Another: “This relationship does not make me feel as ‘whole’ as I thought it would.” On days like this, we may only find a sense of belonging through Jesus’ prayer that we become sanctified—set apart, made holy, and bound to something greater than our human inclinations.

Bible Study 6 Easter (B) – May 13, 2012

Discussion Leader: Matthew Kemp, Nashotah House Seminary

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

___________________________

Acts 10:44-48 (New Revised Standard Version)

44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.
45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,
46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,
47 ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’
48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Matthew Kemp:

During the earlier part of the 20th century, there was much debate over when the Holy Spirit was given to the Christian believer, whether at baptism or at confirmation. The former option won the day, as can be seen in our current Book of Common Prayer. However, this story in Acts flies in the face of the entire question. Here we see the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius and his household before they have received any sacramental action. This is not to devalue the sacraments as “sure and certain means” of grace, but rather serves to remind us that the Spirit “blows where it chooses” (John 3:8) and cannot be limited by our rigid theological categories. In particular this movement of the Spirit shows to Peter and his companions that God is calling the uncircumcised gentiles into his kingdom as well – something that they could not have fit into their working theological framework!

Where have you seen God at work in ways that defy your theological expectations?

How does this challenge us in our spiritual lives? In our ministry to others? As individual Christians? As church communities?

___________________________

Psalm 98 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 727)

1   Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.

2   With his right hand and his holy arm
has he won for himself the victory.

3   The LORD has made known his victory;
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4   He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
the house of Israel,
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5   Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6   Sing to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the voice of song.

7   With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8   Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,
the lands and those who dwell therein.

9   Let the rivers clap their hands,
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
when he comes to judge the earth.

10  In righteousness shall he judge the world
and the peoples with equity.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Matthew Kemp:

Strange as it may seem, the term “victory” has almost come to have a negative connotation in our culture, evoking images of arrogant triumphalism. But this is not the sort of victory being described in this psalm. Rather it is the victory of good over evil, of a righteous judge over injustice, of a God who “remembers his mercy and faithfulness” to his people (v. 3). Ultimately it is the victory of the risen Christ over sin, death and the powers of darkness. As the psalm expresses, joy is the only proper response to this, a joy not limited to the people of God, but a joy that must go forth among all people, extending even into the created order.

In what ways can we show forth “the victory of our God” in our lives?

Do you find it difficult to experience the joy of this victory in a world where sin, evil and injustice are still present?

___________________________

1 John 5:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,
4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Matthew Kemp:

“If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:22, 44, 48). These commandments of Jesus seem difficult, even impossible to follow. How then can John tells us that “his commandments are not burdensome” (v.3)? The answer comes in the closing verses of this passage. We have been “born of God” (v.4) in baptism, “by water and blood” (v. 6), and so united to Christ by faith. As Christ has “conquered the world” (John 16:33), so we have victory through Christ – victory even over our own sinfulness and weaknesses that keep us from living in accordance with the kingdom of God. It is only through God’s grace, which we receive through faith and the sacraments, that we are able to become the people God has called us to be, and to show his love to the world.

Which of Jesus’ commandments do you find most “burdensome”? How might you respond to God’s grace to overcome this difficulty?

What role does the community of faith have in allowing us to live into God’s grace?

___________________________

John 15:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Matthew Kemp:

In this portion of Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples before his death, he presents both a rich blessing and a weighty responsibility. By calling his disciples “friends,” he brings them into a deeper relationship with himself, a relationship marked by great acceptance and intimacy. But he also commands them to love one another, and illustrates this love by his own willingness to lay down his life for those he has called his friends. If we, like the first disciples, are to be friends of Jesus, it means not only enjoying the comfort of his presence and love, but also loving one another to the point that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other friends of Jesus. It is in this way that we abide in the love of Christ, and in this way that we bear lasting fruit for the kingdom of God.

What would our lives (individually and collectively) look like if we followed Jesus’ example of love?

What holds us back from loving one another the way Christ loves us?

Bible Study, 4 Easter (B) – April 29, 2012

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

Comments from this week’s discussion leader, the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek:

The lessons for this Fourth Sunday of Easter are surprisingly synergistic. The Good Shepherd passage, which is divided up over the three-year lectionary cycle, is just one of several “I am” passages in the fourth gospel. We are so familiar with these passages that it is easy to overlook what would have been perfectly obvious to those early Jewish Christians who first heard or read John’s gospel. The words “I am” are theologically loaded for Biblical Faith, and it may be argued that they are the very ground of Biblical Faith itself.

When Moses is confronted by a Burning Bush that speaks, he is instructed to take off his shoes. Be sure to search Youtube for a version of the Woody Guthrie ballad, Holy Ground. Guthrie makes the shrewd theological observation that wherever we stand is Holy Ground – that is, we are always standing before the God of the Bush wherever we are, whatever we are doing. There is just no hiding from that. Taking off our shoes seems to be a metaphor of both respect and humility, two virtues in short supply in today’s world. As Moses gets his orders to lead the Great Escape from the Evil Empire, he intuitively knows that the people are going to want to know just where these instructions are coming from. The answer, as we all know, is “I am who I am. … Tell them I Am sent you.”

Fast forward to Jesus, who in the fourth gospel is already identified as the Word, the logos; and that the Word is not only with God but is God. To bring that home, Jesus repeatedly is portrayed saying, “I am …” In a culture that reads and re-reads the Torah once a year, in a culture that spends several nights at the dinner table reviewing the Great Escape during Passover, it would be as strong a signal as any as to just who this Jesus really is. Which then tells us that the Good Shepherd who knows us each by name is in fact the same God who spoke to Moses from the Bush. Which, of course, is the same God who in Genesis 2 picks up a handful of dust, breathes into it, and voila! We are created.

Nothing has come into being that has not come from the Word who is the Good Shepherd. In this electronic age in which we become more isolated despite the promises of online community, it comes as a great comfort to know that the God of Creation, the God of the Passover, the God on the Cross, knows us, cares about us and loves us so personally. We are God’s Beloved. God is well pleased with us. How can we not shape our lives to reflect this Love in all that we say and all that we do? It is not our task, it is our privilege, if only we will take off our shoes and accept our Belovedness from the one who calls us each by name.

___________________________

Acts 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,
6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.
7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders,
9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed,
10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
11 This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

___________________________

Psalm 23 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 612)

1   The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

2   He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

3   He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4   Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5   You spread a table before me in the presence of those
who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

6   Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

___________________________

1 John 3:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version)

16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him
20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;
22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

___________________________

John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version)

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Bible Study, 5 Easter (B) – May 6, 2012

Discussion Leader: Anne Thatcher, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower” (John 15:1).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

___________________________

Acts 8:26-40 (New Revised Standard Version)

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.)
27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship
28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’
30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’
31 He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.
32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’
34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’
35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’
38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Anne Thatcher:

God bringing redemption through human agents is one of the main themes of Second Isaiah (Isaiah Chapters 40-55). The passage quoted here is from Isaiah 53, and how fitting that Philip appears on the scene just as the eunuch is reading this passage! This reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is to be here on earth and we are called share the gospel with one another. This sounds like an obvious point, but I know I need to be reminded of this over and over again. Notice what happens to Philip after the eunuch is baptized: “the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away.” Philip is called to spread more good news; he doesn’t have time to revel in or celebrate the eunuch’s baptism, nor is there time for self-congratulation.

Take a moment to reflect on all your interactions yesterday. How were you called to be in those moments?

Take the opportunity today to be the presence of Christ in all your interactions. Be open to the spirit moving.

___________________________

Psalm 22:24-30 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 611)

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, Anne Thatcher:

I’ve been learning about praying the psalms this last month, and I continue to be amazed at their longevity as a primary form of prayer. Lectio divina – read, meditate, pray and contemplate – is an ancient practice used to study the scriptures. This is a wonderful way to absorb the psalms and allow them to mold us. Take the time to read this section aloud several times (for the Word is performative and it will form you differently than reading silently.) Then take the time to meditate on these words, mull them over.

How does your awareness of different verses change when you read it a third time? A fourth? Allow your meditation to move you into prayer, flowing to silent contemplation.

___________________________

1 John 4:7-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world.
15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.
16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
20 Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Anne Thatcher:

Casting out fear and replacing it with love is easier said than done. Identifying our fears is sometimes difficult because the initial response might not be an obvious fear, yet upon reflection, we identify fear as the source of the reaction.

Reflect on a time recently when you have been afraid of something. What was driving your fear? How did that fear dictate your response in the situation?

Picture replacing that fear with love and notice your mental state now when you reflect on this situation. If you encounter fear today (in any shape or size), take a moment to own it, name it. Think about the depth of Christ’s love on the cross. Replace your fear with love.

___________________________

John 15:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.
2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Anne Thatcher:

I can picture the green hills and the workers during harvest season as I read this passage, because this is the topography in my hometown and state. But I also love the hills in the winter when the vines are naked. Their shape is so stark against the wire rows that hold their form as they bud in the spring. Wild vines bear random fruit. Yet those that are planted with a structure for support and pruned on a regular basis, produce fruit in abundance. So it is with our life in Christ. In seeking God, we must seek spiritual disciplines and formation to help us grow, to give us structure and guidance.

If you do not currently have a consistent personal spiritual practice, take time to reflect on beginning one.

If you already have a consistent practice, reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Challenge yourself to change a component to make it new again.

Bible Study, 3 Easter (B) – April 22, 2012

Discussion Leader: JK Melton, the General Theological Seminary

“They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’” (Luke 24:37-39).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

___________________________

Acts 3:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version)

12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him.
14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you,
15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

17 ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.
19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, JK Melton:

Peter has just healed a man on the front steps of the Temple in Jerusalem. Seeing the astonishment of the crowd at this healing, Peter makes a clear point that God did the healing – not Peter, who is merely an agent of God’s healing. In fact, God did something even more miraculous – the people rejected Jesus and turned him over to the authorities to be killed, but God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter tells the crowd that because of these events, they should repent and turn to God.

As we move through the Easter season, in what ways is God calling you to newness of life? Is it through the miraculous? Or is it through the mundane, instead?

___________________________

Psalm 4 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 587)

1   Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause;
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2  “You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory;
how long will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?”

3   Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;
when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.

4   Tremble, then, and do not sin;
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

5   Offer the appointed sacrifices
and put your trust in the LORD.

6   Many are saying, “Oh, that we might see better times!”
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O LORD.

7   You have put gladness in my heart,
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

8   I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep;
for only you, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, JK Melton:

We have all been a part of this dialogue at one time or another. Calling to God for help, and hearing God call us to repentance. God is faithful to his people, whether we dishonor his glory, worship dumb idols, or wish for better times. Even in those times, we are told to trust in God and offer the appointed sacrifices. God has plans for us and is working them out. As a result, we can lie down in peace.

This psalm has characteristics of a lament. Is there a part of you that is praying a lament? What stands in the way of lying down in peace?

___________________________

1 John 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, JK Melton:

Christians are children of God, and that sets us apart. The world does not understand us, which should not surprise us, because the world did not understand Jesus. As God’s children, we have a special identity and special role in the world. We are a sign of the Reign of God, whether the world understand the Reign of God or not. We can take solace that God will be revealed in God’s time.

How can the Church, and we as the members of the Church, take our place as the children of God in this world? How can we better live into this identity? How should our lives be ordered so that all of God’s children can come within God’s loving embrace?

___________________________

Luke 24:36b-48 (New Revised Standard Version)

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, JK Melton:

How would we respond if the Risen Jesus appeared in the room? I suspect that we, like the disciples, would be “startled and terrified” and would think we were seeing a ghost.

Jesus’ response to their doubts is lovely – he asks for a bite to eat. He sees their doubts, and rather than dwell on them, he seeks to show them how real he is by behaving in the most natural way possible, asking for a snack. He asks them for what they can give him at that moment in time.

Where does Jesus appear in our lives today? I suspect we often do not notice, which may be worse than doubting. What do we need to do so that we can notice Jesus when he appears? What stands in the way of our seeing Jesus?

If we notice him, he may just stay awhile and open our minds to the scriptures – all while partaking in what we have to offer him, broiled fish or maybe something more.

Bible Study, 2 Easter (B) – April 15, 2012

Discussion Leader: Elaine Thomas, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20: 21-23).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

___________________________

Acts 4:32-35 (New Revised Standard Version)

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.
33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.
35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elaine Thomas:

Marxism! Communism! Socialism! This passage could be seen to propose community sharing of possessions and wealth, and, in fact, that is what it says. But Luke is not writing about a political system here – he’s writing about a specific faith community doing its best to practice koinonia as they understood it from the teachings of Jesus. This is a continuation of Luke’s emphasis on divine love and mercy, which calls for a response of love and mercy from the followers of Jesus. There is considerable evidence in addition to Acts that the practice of the early church was to share with those who had need. Justin Martyr, writing in the early- to mid-second century, describes the practice of Christian worship in his First Apology:

“What is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need” (Chapter 67).

Similarly, The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, from the late first or early second century, instructs, “Do not turn away from him who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own” (Chapter 4).

We have become far too accustomed to viewing what we have as the product of our own blood, sweat, and tears rather than wholly gifts from God, and to give away any of our own wealth is seen as diminishing our bottom line. This passage from Acts is, therefore, instructive. Generosity in giving did not derive from sheer willpower on the part of the giver. No, it sprang from the Apostles’ faithful proclamation of the resurrection, “and great grace was upon them all” (4:33). We cannot hope to achieve such selfless generosity on our own. It is a product of God’s grace and mercy toward us that we are drawn into generosity and love of our neighbor. Even if we achieved this kind of koinonia in all of our churches, this world would be a vastly different place!

Verse 34 claims that “there was not a needy person among them.” How might such a utopian statement be made real here and now, or is that a hopeless dream in our day and age?

What is it that inspires you to give generously of your wealth and possessions?

Does this community sharing seem fair to you?

Which of Jesus’ teachings led to these communal practices?

___________________________

Psalm 133 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 787)

1   Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!

2   It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,

3   Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

4   It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5  For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:
life for evermore.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elaine Thomas:

This is a Song of Ascents, one of the songs that would be sung as the people went up to Jerusalem for the required festivals. It is beautiful in its simplicity – unity is not only preferable to dissension, it is as precious as the oil used to anoint priests and as life-giving as the morning dew in an arid land. Imagine the Rite of Baptism with not just a splash of water, but a font-full poured over the head and running down one’s face and clothing. It is such delightful imagery of the abundance of God in the life God has ordained for those of us united in God’s church.

What song might you sing as you go up to the temple/church?

This psalm has imagery of anointing/baptism and refreshing, life-giving dew in reference to unity. What other images can you think of that describe how you experience harmony between God’s people?

___________________________

1 John 1:1-2:2 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—
2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;
7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elaine Thomas:

In the early church as today, it is not always easy to identify true disciples of Jesus and those who are the pretenders, the false prophets. This epistle of John is very clear that those who walk in the light are the ones in true fellowship with Christ. They are also those who recognize their own sinfulness and call on the one true Advocate, “Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 2:1). Notice the parallels between the beginning of this letter and the Prologue in John’s gospel – begin at the beginning, light and darkness, Jesus as the one true light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” John wrote in 1:5 of the gospel. This epistle continues that theme with those true to Jesus’ call being identified as the ones walking in the light, admitting their sins, and asking for forgiveness.

This passage is beautifully summarized in Hymn 490 in the text by Kathleen Thomerson:

In him there is no darkness at all,
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the City of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

What does it mean to “walk in the light?”

How are we to identify “false prophets‟ in a world of such Christian diversity?

Verse 2:1 says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” Is that even possible?

___________________________

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version)

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’
28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.
31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Elaine Thomas:

Most people focus on Thomas in this passage. This is understandable. It is a fairly dramatic moment when the unbelieving one finally sees the risen Jesus and proclaims him “My Lord and my God!” There are, however, two other aspects of this text that are easily missed, yet remarkable.

The first is in verse 19, which makes clear that the disciples were hiding in fear on the evening of the resurrection having heard from Mary Magdalene that she had seen the risen Jesus. Jesus appeared to the disciples (minus Judas and the absent Thomas, presumably), yet even his words sending them out were apparently not enough to free them from fear, for there they are a week later in the same room, this time with Thomas present.

What was it about this encounter that released them from whatever it was that was holding them back?

What was it that freed them to leave that room and go out into the world proclaiming the Good News?

Was it Thomas’ proclamation that this was, indeed, the risen Jesus that prompted the change in their behavior?

It is not the Thomas narrative that first strikes me about this passage from John’s gospel but Jesus’ words in verse 23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Yikes! We can read these words as if Jesus is speaking only to these original disciples, but that is not generally the approach taken by people of faith – we believe that Jesus speaks to us in our own time and place. Are we to simply ignore the responsibility Jesus places on his followers in saying that we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have the ability to forgive or condemn to non-forgiveness? If we ignore this one, then we would have to ignore the rest, and I find this a particularly sobering directive from Jesus because I don’t want that kind of responsibility on my conscience!

Does Jesus really intend for us to have the power to forgive and condemn?

What are the implications of this, especially in light of other of Jesus’ sayings that we are not to judge (Luke 6:37, for instance)?

Why might John have included this at the moment Jesus conveys the Spirit on them?

Finally, the Collect for the day says, “Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” Reflecting on each of these readings, what elements of your faith are being called into practice in these stories of community sharing, abundance and joy, light and darkness, faith without sight, and forgiveness or non-forgiveness of sins? How are you called to respond during this Eastertide?

Bible Study, Easter Day (B) – April 8, 2012

Discussion Leader: William O. Daniel, Jr., Nashotah House Seminary

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:5-7).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

___________________________

Acts 10:34-43 (New Revised Standard Version)

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.
37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

___________________________

Isaiah 25:6-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8 he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, William Daniel:

Here Isaiah breaks into the eschatological vision of the eternal banquet. This banquet that will come upon the world is that which will give rise to a celebration that will not be squelched by death. It is here that we should hear Jesus’ words to the disciples of John on fasting: “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?” (Matthew 9.15). It is the same reason Christians do not fast on the Lord’s Day, for as the primary day of Eucharistic Celebration it would be as if fasting in the presence of the bridegroom. The question we must ask ourselves, then, in light of the Isaiah passage, is the same question Jesus ask: Do we mourn like the world, or do we now relate to the circumstances of life as the people of Christ, crucified, died and resurrected? It does not mean there will be no mourning in this life, but it does mean that mourning is ending even now.

___________________________

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 760)

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

2   Let Israel now proclaim,
“His mercy endures for ever.”

14  The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.

15  There is a sound of exultation and victory
in the tents of the righteous:

16  “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!
the right hand of the LORD is exalted!
the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!”

17  I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.

18  The LORD has punished me sorely,
but he did not hand me over to death.

19  Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the LORD.

20  “This is the gate of the LORD;
he who is righteous may enter.”

21  I will give thanks to you, for you answered me
and have become my salvation.

22  The same stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.

23  This is the LORD’S doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24  On this day the LORD has acted;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, William Daniel:

What is it to have life? This is the question the psalmist poses to us. “I shall not die, but I shall live,” and just as Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”) the psalmist tells us that living is for “[recounting] the deeds of the Lord.” Life is to remember and to bear witness to the truth of God with us, says the psalmist, and not only of his benefits but also of his disciplining.

How is it that God is disciplining us?

How are our actions known to God?

What needs mending in our habits for us to see how God is disciplining us and drawing us to himself?

Does our way of life permit us to see today as the day the Lord has made?

___________________________

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,
2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, William Daniel:

Paul here reminds the Corinthians of the truth of Christ died and resurrected, but something Paul says is very important to remember. Paul’s own eschatological vision of salvation is the eternal actuality of the redeeming work of God in Christ – the already-not-yet of redemption. We have been saved; we are being saved; we will be saved. It is this “being saved” that helps us to see the ongoing and eternal nature of Christ’s redeeming act. We are being saved, being completed, being perfected. Paul here names the eternal action of God’s creating, whereby we come to understand that God is always creating, always making us into his people – always gathering us into himself by his indwelling Spirit. Paul challenges our modern notions of success and completion, reminding us that we are ever in a state of being completed in Christ, because we are the Lord’s creation and our journey toward Christ and his redemption is an eternal journey. We might ask ourselves, then, how most everything around us moves us to fixate on determinable ends, timelines, goals, and to investigate how these daily measures of life hinder us from seeing the eternal action of God in Christ, who is still with us making of us a chosen people for our own good.

___________________________

John 20:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’
3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.
4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;
12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’
14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’
16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’
18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Comments from this week’s seminarian, William Daniel:

Earlier in John’s gospel (John 10.27) Jesus tells the Jews that, “My sheep hear my voice.” It is a curious passage, but it comes into full light in this passage when Jesus calls Mary by name. “My own know me,” says Jesus (John 10. 14). Mary knows Jesus when she hears him call out her name. Mary in kind knows Jesus, calling out to him in the same manner. She is an exemplar of what it means to know Christ. Mary Magdalene is there at the graveside; she weeps for his loss; and she hears his voice. Mary reveals to us what it truly means to know Christ. It is to be so attuned to the way of God in the world that when you hear the voice of the Lord, you know it. Mary calls into question the order of our lives and asks us whether we are so poised and attuned to hear Christ calling our names. In John 3, Jesus talks about the Pharisees having their sight darkened by evil deeds. We must ask ourselves what around us is moving us to fill our ears, preventing us from hearing the voice of the Lord.

___________________________

Mark 16:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
3 They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’
4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’
8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Bible Study, Palm Sunday (B) – April 1, 2012

Discussion Leader: Grey Maggiano, Virginia Theological Seminary

“Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” (Mark 11:7-10).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Liturgy of the Palms:
Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16 ; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Word:
Isaiah 50:4-9a ; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)
(Click on the link to jump down the page to each reading.)

Comments from this week’s seminarian, Grey Maggiano:

I have noticed that Palm Sunday in our Episcopal tradition is often a fairly joyous occasion. We break out the palms, we march into church, we sing many of our favorite hymns, and we leave with a cross-shaped palm to hang from our rear-view mirror or a handful of palms to show everyone just how much we love Jesus. I get worried that we sometimes turn Palm Sunday into “Easter: The Prequel.”

But Palm Sunday is its own day, and, if I read the passion reading for today correctly, not many folks were waving their palms and declaring their affinity for Jesus.

Perhaps we would do well to follow this story a different way – to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else in today’s gospel reading. Not just any person, “A certain young man [who] was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”

The Naked Man. Much has been written about who this interloper might be, but for our purposes, let’s consider him a young follower of Jesus. He’s probably a Jew, so he is familiar with today’s reading from Isaiah, and he certainly knows all the psalms by heart. And because he was a follower of Jesus, he probably was fairly familiar with the song found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which is our epistle for today.

Our friend the Naked Man, in meeting Jesus, suddenly has a whole new perspective on this hymn from Isaiah. He sees in Jesus finally the man with the tongue of the teacher, who sustains the weary, who doesn’t run away from the insults and the deprecations of the community. And the Naked Man, is a little scared. He knows where this might lead. So he hides in the shadows.

And as the Naked Man is in hiding, suddenly he starts humming Psalm 39. And soon enough he is full-out singing, “For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.” In his desire to protect himself, to ensure that he isn’t consumed by the all-consuming fire that is the Spirit of Jesus, the Naked Man is suddenly forgotten, like a dead man, as useless as a broken pot.

So he ventures closer to Jesus. He is there when Jesus is anointed. He is embarrassed in the Garden when Jesus rouses the disciples again, and again, and again because they can’t stay awake anymore. He watches as Judas betrays Jesus, as the disciples lash out, perhaps he is even the man with the sword? And then he runs – runs because he continues to be afraid that he is wrong. That Jesus is not the one. That Jesus does not carry with him the power to heal not just our hurts in this world, but our sins and our offenses against our God.

The Naked Man isn’t afraid of Jesus. He is afraid of his own faith, and how that faith is necessarily going to put him out of step with THIS world.

But God is wonderful, and wonderfully good to us. A few years later the Naked Man is singing a song, a song to Jesus, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” when a man named Paul overhears the song and asks him to sing it again, so he can catch the tune.

Today we are the Naked Man. Fascinated by the dangerous, powerful love of Jesus. Scared of what it means to follow him, even at times running from the consequences of our faith. But gearing ourselves up for that day, which will come very soon, when we can proclaim Jesus risen, and truly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

___________________________

Isaiah 50:4-9a (New Revised Standard Version)

4 The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
5 The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
6 I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

7 The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
8 he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
9 It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

___________________________

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 760-762)

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

2  Let Israel now proclaim,
“His mercy endures for ever.”

18  The LORD has punished me sorely,
but he did not hand me over to death.

19  Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the LORD.

20  “This is the gate of the LORD;
he who is righteous may enter.”

21  I will give thanks to you, for you answered me
and have become my salvation.

22  The same stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.

23  This is the LORD’S doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24  On this day the LORD has acted;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25  Hosanna, LORD, hosanna!
LORD, send us now success.

26  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.

27  God is the LORD; he has shined upon us;
form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

___________________________

Psalm 31:9-16 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 623)

9   Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble;
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
and also my throat and my belly.

10  For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails me because of affliction,
and my bones are consumed.

11  I have become a reproach to all my enemies and
even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance;
when they see me in the street they avoid me.

12  I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am as useless as a broken pot.

13  For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around;
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.

14  But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD.
I have said, “You are my God.

15  My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.

16  Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving-kindness save me.”

___________________________

Philippians 2:5-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

___________________________

Mark 11:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples
2 and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.
3 If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’
4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,
5 some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’
6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.
7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.
9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

___________________________

John 12:12-16 (New Revised Standard Version)

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

___________________________

Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47) (New Revised Standard Version)

1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him;
2 for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.
4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?
5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her.
6 But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.
7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.
9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’
13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him,
14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”
15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’
16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve.
18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’
19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’
20 He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.
21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’
23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.
24 He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’
29 Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’
30 Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’
31 But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’
33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.
34 And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’
35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’
37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?
38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.
40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
41 He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’
45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.
47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?
49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’
50 All of them deserted him and fled.
51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him,
52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled.
54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none.
56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree.
57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying,
58 ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’
59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’
61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’
62 Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses?
64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death.
65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by.
67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’
68 But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed.
69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’
70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’
71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’
72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
2 Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’
3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things.
4 Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’
5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked.

7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.
8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.
9 Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’
10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
12 Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’
13 They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’
14 Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’
15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.
17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.
18 And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’
19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.
20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).
23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.
24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
26 The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’
27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.
29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,
30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!’
31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.
32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’
36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’
37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.
41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time.
45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.
46 Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.


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.)

___________________________

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?

___________________________

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.

___________________________

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.

___________________________

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?

___________________________

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?