Archives for December 2015

Bible Study, Christmas 2(C), January 3, 2016

[RCL]  Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84 or 84:1-8; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

Jeremiah 31:7-14

In Jeremiah we hear of Israel’s people crying out to the Lord for help. God hears them and they are gathered up and returned from exile. How the people praise the Lord! Israel embarks on a journey out of captivity. Although the way is long, it is level and along streams. There are not only healthy people on this journey. All people come along including those who are weak, unable to see or walk. There are also pregnant mothers; their impending births symbolize a new start. This journey is a new start with abundance for all. People will celebrate with praise and dance! Their sorrow will be replaced with happiness!

  • Where in your life do you feel you have been exiled?
  • How has God delivered you from exile?
  • Where is your promised land?
  • What will your promised look like?
Psalm 84 or 84:1-8

This Psalm tells us of God’s loving power. It illustrates how we desire God’s love. God provides shelter in the temple. A place to sing praises but also a place of refuge for everyone; even the birds are safe there. We can find happiness with the security that God gives us and those who trust in God are blessed. Besides shelter we need water to sustain us. The pools of water at the temple are necessary for life and with the pools and God we shall not thirst. God provides for us. We praise God and call out in our fervent prayers for God is the Almighty.

  • How do you experience God’s love in your life?
  • How do you express the happiness you find in God’s presence?
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we hear of God’s strength, grace, and immeasurable power. God brings blessings for a future filled with glory and power. We are chosen to be God’s children. God finds us to be holy and without blame. Our sins are forgiven and God fully accepts us. We have not only gained an inheritance, we are also sealed by the Holy Spirit. God knows us well and we pray that we may be enlightened. We seek wisdom and revelation in order to know God better. We as humble people strive to know God better. We believe.

  • How might you know God more fully?
  • How has your life been blessed?
Matthew 2:13-15, 19

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and he obeyed. The angel told him of the dangers to his family. Joseph loved his family and he did everything to protect them. He and his family fled into Egypt for temporary refuge. The death of King Herod meant some safety so they moved on to Israel. The family was heading to Judea but found out King Herod’s son was there. This was another threat. So instead, they went to the district of Galilee and settled in the town of Nazareth. This town was of ill repute but despite this, Jesus became known a Nazarene.

  • How do you listen to God?
  • How has God guided you?

Download the Christmas 2C Bible Study.

Written by Malcolm Keleawe Hee.

Malcolm Keleawe Hee is a Native Hawaiian Episcopalian who was recently ordained to the Transitional Diaconate in the Diocese of Hawaii. He has been an educator for 28 years and will transition into priesthood soon.

Bible Study, Christmas 1(C), December 27, 2015

[RCL] Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18; Psalm 147 or 147:13-21

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

In mid-winter, the longest nights of the year, we hear this passage from Isaiah, full of imagery of shining royal splendor and beauty and of the springing forth of plants from the ground. In the midst of cold, dark nights, these images shine even more brightly. We are told that God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up in us, just like the garden causes what is planted in it to spring up. The gardener knows intimately that despite all their work, it is not they who cause the plants to grow and spring forth. We too, are not called to sit idly by and wait for righteousness to spring up in us. We are called to cultivate it, and trust that God will do the rest.

  • What might it look like to plant the seeds of righteousness and praise in our hearts?
  • How will we know when God has caused righteousness and praise to spring up in us?
Psalm 147 or 147:13-21

This psalm expresses thanksgiving and awe at the glory of God, who not only shapes all things in the natural world, but also cares for us. The psalm closes by extoling God for the special relationship God has with the people of Israel by the revelation of God’s judgments. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection is the revelation of God.

  • As you read all of Psalm 147, what other language and imagery reminds you of the revelation of God in Christ, of the incarnation?
  • What does the psalmist call us to do in response?
  • Why is our response important?
Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7

Have you ever felt unable to live up to the rules or expectations that govern your life? Constant self-judgment, or the judgment of others, leaves us feeling lacking no matter how hard we work to prove ourselves. Into this quid-pro-quo and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps world, the light of Christ breaks forth, entering our hearts, and inviting us to cry out “Abba, Father!” For we are no longer slaves to production and success, but we are adopted and beloved children of God.

  • What does this amazing gift of adoption by God feel like?
  • How is Christ calling us to respond to this gift?
John 1:1-18

Into the midst of our broken and hurting world the light of Christ bursts forth. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the news of terror attacks, of the refugee crisis, of violence and conflict. It can seem like the darkness is all around us, and yet, into that darkness, into that pain and uncertainty, the light of Christ shines, and the darkness did not overcome it. The darkness is still there, the pain and suffering, but with the light of Christ shining in us the darkness no longer has the power to overcome us. The incarnate one, who became one of us, walks with us through these times of pain, and calls us to follow him, not driven by fear into places of comfort and safety, but to lay down our fear, and to go out into the world to love and serve.

  • What difference does the light of Christ make in your life?
  • What might following Jesus look like, in light of a current event that has been troubling you?

Download the Christmas 1C Bible Study.

Written by Robin Denny

Robin is a student at Virginia Theological Seminary (M.Div 2017), from the diocese of El Camino Real. She is an agriculturalist, and has served as a missionary for the Episcopal Church in Liberia and South Sudan. Before attending seminary she served as a lay church-planter and youth leader.

 

Bible Study, Advent 4(C), December 20, 2015

[RCL] Micah 5:2-5a; Canticle 3 or 15  or Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

Micah 5:2-5a

Micah was one of the famous 8th century BCE prophets in the Old Testament (alongside Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea). Micah was primarily concerned with preaching justice and calling people to action while proclaiming a message of hope. Readers may associate Micah with his most famous verse: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). In the passage for today Micah predicts the coming of a peaceful ruler from Bethlehem. This can be understood in Micah’s over-arching critique of the political authorities of the day. Here he predicts a new ruler to come from a small town, from a “little clan,” from the family, with an “origin of old” (v. 2). In other words, things will change with this new ruler. A new era will come with security (v. 4) and peace (v. 5). This message of hope-filled anticipation is perfectly suited for the liturgical season of Advent as Christians await the birth of Jesus Christ, the peaceful ruler from the little town of Bethlehem.

  • Micah speaks of the coming of a new age, but the people who heard his message were still living in times of uncertainty and difficult leadership. As we hear Micah today can we put ourselves in the shoes of the original listeners?
  • Can we relate to a sense of insecurity and oppression while praying for a peaceful future?
  • How can we preach messages of hope and peace in uncertain times?
  • How can we proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ in our day?
Canticle 3 or 15 – The Magnificat:

Mary’s Song of Praise, known as the “Magnificat” comes into the scene just after she learns from the angel Gabriel that she’ll give birth to Jesus. Mary sings this song in the company of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (who was still in the womb). Mary’s song is remarkably similar to Hannah’s own song after she learns of the conception of her son Samuel in 1 Sam 2:1-10 (see commentary on Luke passage below for more on this). Mary’s song, sung in response to Elizabeth, is a song about toppling expectations. Mary, the “lowly servant” (or “handmaiden” according to some translations) is the one who bears our savior in her womb. The proud are scattered, the rulers taken from the thrones, the lowly are lifted up, and so on. Jesus’ birth, coming through the vessel of a young virgin’s body, ushers in a new era of expectations and realities. We recite the Magnificat in our Book of Common Prayer Morning and Evening prayer services, and it’s a familiar text aside from that, but we should be wary of forgetting the radicalness of Mary’s message to the world.

  • Mary begins her song, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” How can your own soul proclaim greatness?
  • How can you allow your spirit to rejoice in God your savior?
  • What is your reaction to the flipping of expectations that characterizes the Magnificat?
  • Does Mary’s message give you hope? Fill you with fear?
  • How have you experienced Jesus altering expectations in your own life?
  • Consider crafting your own song of praise to God. What would you say?
Hebrews 10:5-10

One of the resounding messages of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ himself was a “full and perfect sacrifice” for us, so there is no reason for us to continually offer ritual sacrifices to receive God’s love. The passage we have for today explicitly states this theology. Within the verses we hear Jesus proclaiming the importance of the incarnation when he says that God gave him a body to be used as a sacrifice. Jesus’ statement about what God desired of him (not “burnt offerings” or “sin offerings” [v. 6]) echoes similar statements that can be found throughout the Old Testament. The Psalmist, Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah and many others talk about the importance of sacrifices of faith rather than just ritual. By hearing Jesus’ words we come to understand the full extent of his sacrifice for us, and by that we begin to see what sacrifice really entails. Jesus repeats the phrase, “See, I have come to do your will” twice. By this repetition we see that sacrifice involves total submission to God and God’s will.

  • How can we discern what full submission to God could mean for us today?
  • Christ’s birth is fast approaching. How does meditating on the gift of Christ’s body as a sacrifice to God change our view of this Christmas season?
  • Does Christ’s gift of his body change the way you think about your own body?
Luke 1:39-45(46-55)

What an amazing gift we have in Luke’s account of the preparation for Jesus’ birth. If it weren’t for Luke we wouldn’t have Mary’s perspective on the birth of Jesus. We would never have received the Magnificat that we say in our Daily Offices. In this glimpse of the birth narrative we are given a sense of the deep interconnectedness of the women of God. Mary rushes to her relative Elizabeth’s house as soon as she hears from the angel Gabriel that she will have a son. We hear the wonderful detail that John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb upon Mary’s arrival. And then Mary offers her song of praise in a form reminiscent of Hannah’s song about her own son Samuel (1 Sam. 2:1-10). Jesus is born into a community of women that are tied together by God through the generations.

  • Who do you run to after receiving a revelation of faith? Or do you retreat to process the new information alone?
  • Consider doing a close reading of 1 Sam 2:1-10 and our passage today to see the similarities between Hannah and Mary’s song. What impact does this similarity have on your understanding of Mary’s song of praise?
  • How can this similarity help us understand our Judeo-Christian heritage?

Download the Advent 4C Bible Study.

Written by Jessie Gutsell

Jessie Gutgsell is in her third year at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and a transitional deacon (as of 12/19/15!) from the Diocese of Indianapolis. In her free time, Jessie enjoys playing the harp, biking and being with her husband Joe.