Archives for June 2016

Bible Study, Proper 9 (C) – July 3, 2016

[RCL] 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

2 Kings 5:1-14

How many times do we bring our own agenda’s to God’s work, like Naaman did? How often do we think we know better than the prophets? I can really relate to Naaman and his need to have all the pomp and circumstance; to have Elisha, the man of God, come out and call on the name of God and wave his hands over Naaman. How could it have been as simple as to go and wash in the river Jordan? He could have bathed in Aram, where the water was better. After paying ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments to the king of Israael, that was it? Didn’t Elisha realize who Naaman was? Didn’t he realize that Naaman was a powerful warrior and the commander of Aram’s army?

I can also relate to the King of Israel who tore his clothes in frustration over the perceived “trick”. He didn’t even think to send Naaman to Elisha for healing, but rather assumed the king of Aram was picking a fight with Israel. Often we fail to see God’s work in the world and in our own lives; we jump to conclusions and fail to give others the benefit of the doubt. This happens when our minds set on earthly things rather than on the things of God.

  • When have you stood in God’s way?
  • What can we learn from the story of Naaman, the King of Israel and the man of God?
Psalm 30

Like the Psalmist, we exalt God for all that God has done for us. God lifts us up and restores our health and life. God’s favor endures a lifetime! But what about the times when we don’t see God’s face; when it seems hidden? We’re filled with fear, as the Psalmist laments. And then, by God’s mercy, our wailing is turned into dancing. In this Psalm, I am reminded of God’s ever-present love and favor. It is only my own inability to see God that makes it seem like God has turned God’s face from me. But my health and my very life are precious gifts from God who is worthy of exaltation and praise. My Lord, my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

  • When have you been unable to see God working in your life?
  • How might we be more present to God’s presence in our lives?
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16

When Paul says “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” he reminds us that issues of the spirit do not depend on mere rules or external appearances. What God is calling us to in Christ Jesus is to become new creations. What might it look like if we were created anew? God calls us to stop persecuting or even hassling others because of their outward appearance or practices. God calls us to be more focused on our spiritual selves and less focused on our physical selves. God calls us to be more concerned with helping people rather than judging them. Paul calls us to be that new creation through Christ Jesus. He says that he will only ever boast in the cross of Christ. Can we say that, too?

  • What might it look like if we were created anew?
  • How do you concern yourself with helping people rather than judging them?
 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

In this Gospel lesson, Jesus teaches his disciples how to carry out their ministry. He tells them to go in peace, to greet people, receive their hospitality, to heal, and proclaim the nearness of God’s kingdom. He also tells them how to respond when their peace is not reciprocated. Jesus explains that whoever listens to them listens to him, and whoever rejects them rejects him, and whoever rejects him rejects the One who sent him. Jesus grants his disciples authority over all the power of the enemy. In his name they are able to make spirits submit to them. Jesus also admonishes them to rejoice, not in the submission of the spirits, but rather that their names are written in heaven.

  • What does this lesson have to say about your own ministry?
  • How do you approach the work God has given me to do?
  • How do you respond when you encounter hardship in my ministry?

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Written by Robin Kassabian

Robin is a third year seminarian and a postulant for ordination to the presbyterate in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Her areas of interest include multicultural ministry, peace and justice work and accessibility/inclusion. Robin is married to Paul Kassabian and has three children: Claire, David and Anna.


Bible Study, Proper 8 (C) – June 26, 2016

[RCL] 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20, Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-16

He picked up the mantle of Elijah… (2 Kings 2)

The 2 Kings reading provides us with the basis for the expression “picking up the mantle.” In the 2 Kings reading, Elijah is about to ascend into heaven and Elisha requests that he inherit Elijah’s Spirit. As Elijah ascends into heaven, he drops his mantle, and Elisha literally picks it up. With the mantle, Elisha has the same power as Elijah to part the waters. We see that the spirit of discipleship, leadership, and evangelism has passed to the next generation. During this time of year, there are many graduations. Frequently, in this context, we hear about passing the mantle to a new generation.

  • How can we pass the mantle of faith and discipleship?
  • How can we inherit and embrace the mantle that has been passed to us?
  • How do we carry forward the mantle of Christ, like Elisha carrying forward the mantle of Elijah?
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

My hands were stretched out by night and did not tire. (Psalm 77:2)

This psalm celebrates God’s leadership and the psalmist’s persistence. When Elisha inherited Elijah’s mantle, he was taking on the responsibility of that mantle, which would require tireless work and challenges. Similarly, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus challenged his followers to have the courage to move forward and follow him.

  • When it gets challenging, how do we keep stretching ourselves?
  • How do we maintain our persistence in our faith and discipleship?
  • What are those things that reinforce our discipleship so that we can stretch out our hands tirelessly? 
Galatians 5:1, 13-25

For you are called to freedom, brothers and sisters… (Galatians 5:1)

In the Galatians reading, Paul introduces the fruits of the Spirit, and suggests that Christians find true freedom by living faithfully. This results in the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Who would not want those things? But, Paul also poses a challenge because he brings a very dualistic view to faith. He contrasts the “works of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit.” We are challenged to hear what Paul is saying about faith setting us free, without letting the dualism capture us in a more limited view of faith. As Richard Rohr writes about, we are challenged to move away from an “either/or” view of our faith to and “and/also” view.

  • How do we live into our faith and embrace the fruits of the Spirit
  • How and when do we see the fruits of the Spirit in our lives?
  • How do the fruits of the Spirit set us free?
  • What do the fruits of the Spirit tell us about our discipleship?
  • How does Paul’s dualism influence our faith? What are the benefits and the challenges?
Luke 9:51-62

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)

The Gospel seems to pull together all the other readings from this week. Jesus is looking to pass his mantle to his followers, but it is not a conventional mantle. He rebukes James and John for looking to command fire to come down upon the Samaritans who do not welcome them. Jesus will not be a fiery, vengeful ruler. Moreover, Jesus challenges his followers to drop everything and follow him. He compels a son to forego his father’s funeral and “Let the dead bury their own dead,” which was a very radical idea in heavily patriarchal 1st century Judaism. Jesus goes on to conclude with an even greater challenge for his followers. “Don’t look back.” Anyone who looks back to their life before Christ is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Upon landing in Veracruz, Hernan Cortes ordered his crew to burn his ships, so they would move forward confidently. Jesus seems to be calling us to do the same. Faithfully move forward; don’t look back.

  • How do we develop the courage to move forward without looking back?
  • How might the fruits of the Spirit give us the confidence to move ahead without looking back?
  • If we embrace the mantle of Christ, can we move forward without looking back?
  • As we proceed through “ordinary time” in the liturgical year, how can we embrace our faith and discipleship?

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Written by Brendan Barnicle

Brendan Barnicle is a Postulate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Oregon and in his second year in the low residency Masters of Divinity program at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He is also a Managing Director for Capital Markets Research at an investment bank, where his research focuses on enterprise software and Software-as-a-Service.

Bible Study, Proper 7 (C) – June 19, 2016

[RCL] 1Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 and 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

1Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Fearing for his life and in the depths of despair, Elijah journeys, not by his own strength, to the mountain of God. Awesome forces of nature go before God, but Elijah knows the Lord well enough to know that these terrifying sounds fall short of declaring God’s glory. Instead, the sound of sheer silence is the most fitting for the presence of God. Elijah makes his case to the Lord, twice, how because of his faithfulness to God, his life is now in danger. And what is God’s response? Is it: “You’re right Elijah, I’ve asked too much of you, you should give up and hide.” No. God says, “Go, return.” Sending is in the very nature of God. Elijah is not sent by his own strength or his own zeal, but by the power of God, to face his fears, to realize his own limited nature and God’s unlimited grace, and to participate in God’s mission.

  • When have you experienced the presence of God in silence?
  • Have you ever felt called, or sent by God?
Psalm 42 and 43

The psalmist is consumed with longing and heaviness. Yet even from the depths of despair, the psalmist remembers who God is, God’s love and faithfulness, God’s marvelous deeds. Then something amazing happens, like nearly every other psalm of lament. Somehow in the remembering of who God is, despite the current terrible situation the psalmist is in, the heart of the psalmist is turned toward God. Trust in the Lord and gratitude is the fruit of this practice of remembering God. The pain does not go away, nor does the trouble, the anguish, the enemies, and yet everything is different. The change comes from within the heart, and in relationship with God.

  • How important is the psalmist’s first step of longing for God?
  • What are ways that you can remember who God is, when you are in a difficult time?
  • Is trusting in the Lord something a person can decide to do? Where does trust in God come from?
Galatians 3:23-29

Humans seem to be particularly adept at making categories, divisions, and delineations. Layers of social conditioning and choices we make, including bias, stereotyping, and racism compound the biological brain functioning that allows us to classify, for example, edible and inedible things. We experience the world, and even relationships, through these filters. Paul explains that Christ turns all of this upside down. The law encouraged holiness through separation, division, and apartness. But Christ encourages a different kind of holiness, holiness through Christ, in whom divisions do not exists. Christ who encourages us to break down these divisions, to see each other as siblings, to accept our mutual inheritance of the promise of God.

  • In what ways is your church community living into this division-less identity in Christ? Where is there room to grow?
  • What practices have helped you to overcome bias, stereotyping, or racism?
Luke 8:26-39

We hear very little from the man who is possessed by demons. The demons define him, who separate him completely from community, and who are the ones who speak to Jesus. After he is healed, it is the swine herders and townspeople who speak. Finally, as Jesus is leaving, we see the man begging to go with Jesus. Yet Jesus has a different vision for him. The man instead is sent out into his community in witness to the wonderful works of God in Christ. This man, an ultimate outsider, voiceless victim, unclean among the unclean, is chosen by Christ to bear his message. It is through no virtue or strength of the man, but through his brokenness that he is called.

  • In what ways has God set you free or worked through your brokenness?
  • Do you ever talk with non-Christians about faith, religion, Christ? Recall a conversation that was meaningful, and share.

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Written by Robin Denney

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.