Bible Study: Proper 9 (B) – July 8, 2012

Discussion Leader: Robert Solon, General Theological Seminary

“Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’” (Mark 6:4)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 and Psalm 48 (or Ezekiel 2:1-5 and Psalm 123); 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

In last week’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures, we heard how David mourned over the death of Saul, his predecessor, friend, mentor and finally enemy. We then skip forward over most of four chapters until we hear how David had been king of the tribe of Judah (one of the twelve tribes of the Israelite people) for seven and a half years when the rest of Israel asked him to be king as well. It all sounds very civilized and genteel. However, those four chapters we don’t hear in church tell the story of a civil war, a false accusation, a betrayal, and two assassinations, plus a sneak attack on a walled city. Read all about it here.

What details were omitted between last Sunday’s reading and this week’s? Why do you suppose they were not included? What portions of 2 Samuel 1-5 would you have included over these two Sundays? Why those?

Psalm 48

In the reading from the Hebrew scriptures (semi-continuous option, above) for this week, we heard how David “occupied the stronghold, and named it the City of David.” The text actually refers to Jerusalem, the capital of united Israel under the reigns of her two greatest Kings, David and his son Solomon. This psalm is one of several that speaks of Jerusalem, or its other name, Zion. Other of the 56 total references to Zion in the psalms can be found in Psalms 2, 84, 87, 122, 125 and 137.

Look up some of these other psalms. What do they say about the importance of place in the minds of the people? How important are places – physical, stable, brick-and-mortar – to you in your spiritual life? To your community of faith? How do the “songs of Zion” (Ps 137) inform your sense of sacred place?

2 Corinthians 12:2-12

In this passage, the apostle Paul continues a long argument what it’s OK to boast about, and what to be humble about. Although the text makes it appear that he is talking about someone else, in reality, Paul is talking about ecstatic visions he himself experienced in the course of his life. Remember that the Corinthians had asked about spiritual gifts such as these (1 Corinthians 14). Now Paul admits he has had them too, but then immediately goes on to talk about a “thorn in his flesh” to keep him from getting too proud. No one knows what it was specifically, but whatever it was, caused Paul in his reflections and prayers to say that “My grace is sufficient for you; power is made perfect in weakness.”

What do you think of this? Do you think God deliberately inflicts such challenges on people? Is it appropriate to call attention even to one’s sufferings, or better to be quiet about them? How might you use this passage to inform the challenges of your own life?

Mark 6:1-13

In this story, Jesus is back in his hometown, but no one takes him seriously. He apparently can’t even enact his usual ministries of teaching and healing. “And he was amazed at their unbelief.” The word here really is more like “un-faith” or “un-trust.”

Can you think of other times when people didn’t seem to believe Jesus and his ministry and teaching? How does this contrast, for example, with Jesus’ calming of the storm from two Sundays ago? Does Christ only wait to be asked before he acts? Is faith required first in order to experience the love of Christ? What does that mean for your own faith and practice?

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