Bible Study: Proper 23(B), October 11, 2015

(RCL) Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

There are two kinds of good love songs. The happy ones that make me spin around with the joy of new love and the sad ones that take me down to the pit of despair. There are very few in between. The song that Job sings in his despair to us takes our breath away. And this is how it must be for Job has experienced the death of his children.

Job’s friends have pontificated to him their religious wisdom. His own beliefs about the universe and the God who made him have crumbled one by one. Who could do otherwise? Who are we to judge?

His poem of abandonment silences his well-meaning friends and all of us who seek to theologize over the graves of children. His words echo through time and space, reminding us that the tragedies of life do not make sense. Our losses call into question everything we believe about the goodness of God and the universe.

We have heard that God is love and that God loves us, but how does God love us when our children die and God is nowhere to be found? Job is crying for justice and he is weeping for his losses. Sometimes that is all we can do. The ancient people of God join him in this cry, “How long, O Lord, how long?”

God did not give a theological answer to Job’s suffering, or all the suffering in the world since time immemorial. He gave his only son and this beloved son suffered on this planet. “Jesus is the answer to which every human life is the question,” said John Paul II.

If we can sing this song with Job, here in the dust of death, perhaps we are able to enter more fully into the mysteries and joys of the incarnation and resurrection.

  • What have you said when someone you know loses a child? What can you say?
  • Why is there evil in the world?
  • Where is God when I’m hurting?
Psalm 22:1-15 Page 610, BCP

“Eli, Eli,” Jesus cried from the cross. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We do not know why these final words from the cross were recorded in Aramaic. Why would the evangelists record the words of Jesus in his mother tongue? He was clearly quoting this Psalm, using the Psalm as countless humans have used it over the centuries, to put into words that experience which has no words.

To be forsaken by God is to be ultimately forsaken. Even the word, “forsaken” has a haunting quality about it that makes us shudder. In his anguish, in his suffering, he gasps these words as he hangs between earth and sky. Our own words are too feeble, so we turn to Psalms like this and mumble them into the sink or shout them to the silent heavens.

These words are powerful, for they go deeper into the depths of despair than any other words we find in all the poetry of the world. They go deep into the heart of darkness, the abyss, that yawns before us and beckons us to abandon all hope therein.

No one can say these words out-loud without feeling their intensity. If you heard them on that first Good Friday you would never forget them. Not ever, no matter how many years separated you from the first Good Friday.

And that is why they are preserved in the original Aramaic.

  • Have you ever found a poem that expressed your thoughts better than you could?
  • What do you feel when you read that first line?
  • Was there a time in your life when you thought God had forsaken you? What did you do about it?
Hebrews 4:12-16

I have only used a sword once in my life. I was a young Marine Corporal, the lowest Non-commissioned officer rank in the USMC. Being a corporal authorized me to wear the “Blood stripe” on my pants and carry a sword. The only day I carried a sword was one of my fellow Marine’s wedding day. I was part of the “Sword arch.”

On that day we stood at the back of the church, three on each side of the aisle. I stood facing another Marine from my Combat Engineer Company. We tried not to laugh as we stared into each other’s eyes for a very long time. When the bride and groom came down the aisle, we unsheathed our swords and pointed them straight ahead, forming an arch. The happy couple walked underneath the crossed swords.

A sword is a mark of rank in the military and no matter how ceremonial it is, it’s still a weapon. It’s blade is meant to cut into the flesh of the enemy and kill him. Swords are dangerous things. And so is the word of God.

The author of Hebrews says it will cut us to the bone. The word of God can determine what is happening in our hearts. It is little wonder that the Service of the Word in our Prayer Book opens with the Collect for Purity, a prayer that comes from this text of Scripture.

The word pierces and cuts us, reminding us of how far we have to go to be perfect, to be righteous. Thankfully, this text also tells us that we have a high priest who understands this about us. Reconciliation happens for us in two acts. First, when the God’s word pierces us and we stand honestly before God. Second, when our great high priest brings us right up to the throne of Grace.

  • Have you ever felt that God was speaking to you?
  • Was it a good feeling?
  • What do you think about during the collect for purity?
Mark 10:17-31

My wife and I recently took our boys to a small art gallery in Austin. My pre-teen boys were intrigued by the simplicity of the paintings on the wall. Since they were in jocular moods, they started to quote lines from the Bob’s Burgers episode, “Art Crawl.” It’s easy to make fun of contemporary art, especially if you are eleven or you don’t look at it closely.

Then one of them said it. “I could have done that.” “I could be an artist.” My classic response, of course, was “But you didn’t” and “Sure thing, have at it!”

As we were leaving, I showed the boys the Catalog. When they saw that one of the paintings was selling for $45,000 their eyes grew wide with wonder. They looked at me. “Could this be?” They said.

Why does our understanding of something change when we know something was bought for $45,000? For most things in life the retail cost is about the only way we know something is valuable.

Money isn’t going away anytime soon. However, Jesus offers us the possibility to see past it, especially when it comes to the things that matter most in life. He tells this young man there is freedom in leaving things behind. Being with Jesus and his disciples is how we ought to judge value in this cash-rich and love-poor world.

  • If you could put a price tag on every person and thing in your life, what would that look like?
  • Do you love anything that isn’t worth money?
  • What is the largest amount of money you have ever given away to a poor stranger that you’ll never see again?

 Download the Bible Study for Proper 23B Bible Study

Written by The Rev. Dr. David W. Peters from Seminary of the Southwest

The Rev. Dr. David Peters has served as an enlisted Marine and an Army Chaplain in Iraq. His experience in Iraq and homecoming is detailed in his memoir, Death Letter: God, Sex, and War (Tactical 16 Press). His essays on war and spirituality have been published by the Huffington Post and Oxford University Press. He lives in Austin, Texas at Seminary of the Southwest, where he is working on a Masters of Arts in Religion.  

Bible Study: Proper 22(B), October 4, 2015

(RCL) Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26, Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Poor Job! Alone in a garbage dump, he has lost all he owned, almost all he loved, and is reduced to scraping his sores with broken trash. Unaware of his starring role as the most blameless and upright person in this heavenly wager, Job’s faith is tested to the limits of his mortal life. Yet he refuses to question God for his misfortune…for now.

When tragedy and illness strike we often wonder how God can seem so absent. We ask why the “blameless” must suffer, and how bad things can happen to good people. Like Job’s friends later in this story, some of us blame divine retribution for our sorrows. What we do know is that no one in this life is spared the realities of pain and loss. Faith does not prevent our suffering, but it holds us in relationship with each other and the One who carries us tenderly through it.

  • How do you share God’s love and mercy with those who suffer?
  • Where do we find God when our hearts and lives have been shattered?
Psalm 26

This psalm is a personal plea to God for justice and mercy, and lays out a case in support of the petition. Like Job, the psalmist is said to have lived a life with “integrity.” A modern appeal could sound like this:

God, please rule in my favor because I am a good person. Get out your fine-toothed comb and see for yourself: I always trust you; I never fall down on the job; you can even check out my heart and thoughts; I love you; I am faithful to you; I don’t hang out with losers, liars, or gangsters; I am thankful to you; I worship you in the right way; and I tell everyone how awesome you are. I will continue to be a good person, so please, don’t throw me out with the bad guys. I promise to remain true to you.

Luckily, God’s love, mercy, and grace are not dependent upon our purity as seen through a divine microscope! The “come as you are” invitation to God’s forgiveness, acceptance, and divine embrace is waiting for each of us right now.

  • What might keep you from accepting this invitation?
  • When do you feel you could use God’s love, mercy, and grace the most?
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

This sermon-letter was written to an early Christian community living through an identity crisis fueled by public animosity and persecution. They are suffering for their faith and need encouragement. The author begins with a statement of faith about the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus to remind the listeners of their own confessions of faith. We continue to explore a theme of suffering in this reading, and see that through his own testing, suffering, and death, Jesus is “not ashamed” to call us all brothers and sisters who share one heavenly parent. As the drama of Jesus’ death ends in grace, honor, and glory, we too are welcomed as God’s children. We are reminded of this when we pray for our brothers and sisters to “Rest in peace and rise in glory!”

  • Has your own identity as a follower of Christ ever been “in crisis?”
  • Have you ever felt ostracized for your faith?
Mark 10:2-16

Jesus takes on toe-to-toe Torah with the Pharisees as they test him with a question about divorce and law. How does one argue against the authority of Moses? Jesus explains it is their “hardness of heart” that requires the law, which sits in opposition to God’s original design. This debate over the commandment is really a glimpse into the kingdom of God, where the restoration of God’s creation trumps our legislation.

We are given another peek into the kingdom when Jesus insists the disciples give the little children access to him. They still don’t understand that the kingdom belongs to the lowliest, the weakest, and the most vulnerable. In welcoming, holding, and blessing these children, Jesus demonstrates for us again that the greatest of all is the servant of all, including the least of all.

  • It can be tempting for church bodies to look to canon and law when faced with conflict. What would a kingdom response look like instead?
  • Who do we knowingly or unknowingly restrict access to in our own communities? To whom would you like to extend the gift of God’s kingdom?

Download the Bible Study for Proper 22B.

Written by Jennifer Pavia of Bloy House, The Episcopal Theological School at Claremont

Jennifer is a third-year seminarian at Bloy House, The Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, a Chaplaincy Intern at Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, and a postulant to the priesthood in the Diocese of Los Angeles. She serves as Director of Children’s Education at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in downtown Santa Monica, and lives with her spouse of 19 years and two daughters, ages 10 and 18.

Bible Study: Proper 21(B), September 27, 2015

(RCL) Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124, James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

 “Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” (Mark 9: 40-41)

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

One of the most joyous occasions in the Jewish calendar is the festival of Purim, when the Jewish people remember the story of Esther. Esther is one of many stories where the Jewish people faced a mortal threat, yet were delivered by God through a chosen emissary who would thwart the powers that threatened their lives. In this story, Queen Esther is that emissary.

Out of resentment toward Mordacai (Esther’s cousin and adopted father), Haman (the chief minister of the Persian king) convinces King Ahasuerus to order the genocide of the Jewish people. The origin of Haman’s evil desire is pride, as he resents Mordacai for not bowing before him outside of the palace gate.

Mordacai tasks Esther (Ahasuerus’s new queen) to convince the king to delay this order and to spare the Jewish people. Although Esther is anxious about this task she sets out to complete it, and this is where our reading begins. In the end Haman is hung from his own gallows and the Jewish people are spared from attempted genocide.

To this day, Jewish people around the world celebrate God’s deliverance as told through this story with costumed festivity, food and wine, the giving of alms, exchanging gifts, reading the story of Esther, and offering prayers of thanksgiving to God. I once heard this and many other Jewish holidays that commemorate their history in biblical tradition this way: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”

  • In what ways do we commemorate the saving works of God?
  • How can we, beyond celebration of the Holy Eucharist, joyously celebrate some of the beloved stories from scripture that have become important to our tradition?
  • How does the story of Esther speak to you?
  • What tasks have you been anxious about and how has God strengthened you to perform them?
Psalm 124

This psalm is appropriate for following a reading from Esther. With beautiful poetry that likely was used liturgically as a call and response prayer, perhaps with some liturgical drama, this psalm praises God for always standing with God’s chosen people through hardship. This psalm acknowledges that we can do little without God’s grace; that without God, the people of Israel would have been defeated by their enemies. But because God is good and remains with the chosen people, they have been delivered from destruction. While it is possible that this psalm is post-exilic, this language suggests that the psalm may have been written prior to the exile, as psalms written during the Babylonian captivity are often psalms of lament and post-exilic psalms, while giving thanks to God for deliverance, do not share the same triumphalism that is expressed in Psalm 124.

  • What hardships has God gotten you through?
  • How have you noticed God’s presence with you in the midst of challenges or conflicts?
  • How do you give thanks to God for remaining with you through the good times and the bad?
James 5:13-20

In this portion of his letter, James writes about the goodness of God experienced through the power of prayer. Those who suffer should pray, those who are cheerful should praise God, those who are sick should have the community of the faithful pray for them while anointing them and laying hands of healing upon them. Through all this God will hear and answer their prayers in God’s own way with holy wisdom. James says that the prayers of the righteous are both powerful and effective; they work. God hears us and responds. But sometimes it might not be the response that we expect.

  • How do we deal with unexpected answers to our prayers?
  • Does that challenge our faith or make us more aware of the mystery of God?
  • We know that God’s ways are not our ways. How do we bring that knowledge into our prayer life?
  • How can these experiences develop wisdom?
Mark 9:38-50

“Whoever is not against us is for us.” The Gospel admonishes us not to set up stumbling blocks in another’s path to God. This is the well-known, macabre-sounding reading about amputating our hands and plucking out our eyes when they cause us to sin. Of course one way to interpret this is as a metaphor for eliminating behaviors and practices from our lives that lead us toward sin. When a novice brother or sister in Anacmhara Fellowship, one of the Episcopal Church’s new dispersed monastic communities, is being clothed in his or her Habit, the aspiring novice as asked to prepare a list of distractions, habits, and behaviors from their past life that he or she wishes to leave behind when entering the new life as a religious. These are behaviors or practices that inhibit us from living most fully in relationship with God, others, and ourselves.

  • What behaviors or practices do you wish to leave behind today?
  • What are some stumbling blocks you have run into – either those that have been set up by others or those that you have set up in the way of others?
  • How do you live into Jesus’ statement that whoever is not against us is for us?

Download the Proper 21(B) Bible Study


Written by Brother Paul Castelli from Bexley-Seabury Seminary.

Paul is from the Diocese of Michigan, is a senior M.Div student at Bexley-Seabury, and is working on an STM at Trinity Lutheran Seminary. As a vowed brother of Anamchara Fellowship, one of the Episcopal Church’s dispersed monastic communities, Paul serves as the prior of the Columba Priory in Ohio.


Bible Study: Proper 20(B), September 20, 2015

(RCL) Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; James 3:13–4:3, 7–8a; Mark 9:30–37

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:35–37)

Proverbs 31:10–31

How did this description of “a capable wife” strike you? For some, it may seem a model of self-sacrificing generosity and a poetic celebration of the valuable roles women played in ancient society (and still play, in many cultures, today). For others, it may reek of patriarchal inequality and seem of little relevance given our changed understanding of marriage and gender roles. When a single passage can provoke such differing responses, it is worth pausing to consider the ways our own experiences and personal histories shape our understanding of the text.

As a case study, reread verse 21. To most Episcopalians, the first half of the verse might provoke chuckles: “She is not afraid for her household when it snows…” Good, we might think. Glad there is no irrational fear of white stuff falling from the sky! To others, who may have experienced dangerous cold with inadequate clothing or shelter, the wife’s ability to provide plush (and warm) clothes for her family would hardly seem a laughing matter.

  • What verses in this passage seem most relevant to your life today?
  • What verses seem least relevant?
  • How might someone read those same verses and have an opposite reaction?
Psalm 1

From the very first verses, the psalm connects happiness with faithfulness to the law. Those whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” and who “meditate on his law day and night” shall be like fruitful trees, the psalmist tells us, whereas the wicked are “like chaff which the wind blows away.” Righteousness and wisdom are the foundation of happiness, according to Psalm 1.

But why do bad things happen to good people? Or to ask the more exacerbating question: why do good things happen to bad people? It would be a mistake to dismiss the psalmist as naïvely arguing that faithfulness to God guarantees an easy life. (The psalms are not the place that folks peddling a toxic Prosperity Gospel would have you look, for they are replete with lamentations of the faithful who suffer amid humiliation and defeat.) So the question becomes this:

  • What sort of happiness does faithfulness to the law of the Lord in fact provide?
  • How does that vision of happiness contrast with our contemporary culture’s understanding of happiness?
James 3:13–4:3, 7–8a

This is a beautiful passage that, like Psalm 1, speaks of the value of submitting to God. The author identifies conflicting wisdoms that might govern the actions of those he addresses. There is “earthly, unspiritual, devilish” wisdom that leads to “envy and selfish ambition” in the individual and “disorder and wickedness of every kind” in society. Against this, there is “wisdom from above” that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits…” Trouble arrives, he tells us, when we act based on earthly wisdom and not out of faithfulness to God.

The Letter of James was controversial for much of Christian history, largely because its emphasis on doing good works seemed to clash with parts of Paul’s writings that emphasized salvation by faith alone and not by works. (Other parts of the Pauline corpus—e.g., Romans 2:13—sound like they could have come straight from the Letter of James.) This passage can help us understand that faith in God and charity towards our neighbor are inseparable. It is our faithful adherence to the “wisdom from above” that spurs us to act gently, justly, and in ways that will yield “good fruits.”

  • Can you think of a conflict in your own life or in the life of your congregation?
  • How does your sense of that conflict shift as you imagine seeking to work through it according to the heavenly wisdom that this passage describes?
Mark 9:30–37

After describing the disciples’ continued misunderstanding of Jesus’ passion prediction, this passage shows us their misunderstanding of Jesus’ values. Just as the psalmist and the letter of James advocate prioritizing heavenly wisdom, Jesus treats others according to a heavenly ethic and wisdom, not according to the hierarchical norms of society. The disciples’ concern for “who was the greatest” reflects their earthly priorities, and Jesus shows how a heavenly ethic reverses earthly expectations. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all,” Jesus says. He illustrates his point by taking a little child (in an age when such children had little social status) and telling his disciples that service to such a child is indistinguishable from service to him. A child without status can be a proxy for God. 

  • In our churches, do our children’s ministries demonstrate that we’ve embraced Jesus’ teaching?
  • Jesus used the little child as a stand-in for all those without status and power. Who in our communities (and, beyond them, in the world) are the powerless or neglected, and what would it mean for us to treat them as though they were proxies for God? 

Download the Bible Study for Proper 20B Bible Study.

Written by Robert Pennoyer, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

Robert Pennoyer is a third-year seminarian at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, where he is also a member of the Institute of Sacred Music. He is a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Diocese of New York. He lives in New Haven with his wife and their one-year-old daughter.  

Bible Study: Proper 19(B), September 13, 2015

(RCL) Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12, 14-17; Mark 8:27-38

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

Proverbs 1:20-33

What a challenging passage: on first glance it appears as though Woman Wisdom, the female personification of wisdom found in the book of Proverbs (and elsewhere), is merely scolding humanity for ignoring her calls. If we take a closer look, we can see that Woman Wisdom inserts herself into the center of commerce and community life of the city (vs. 20-21), where people are the most distracted from choosing the “fear of the Lord” (vs. 29). It is interesting to note that she feels that people lose sight of following God when they are attending to business and engaged in their daily tasks.

  • In what ways do our daily tasks and work distract us from following the way of God?
  • In what ways might you act or behave differently in your work or daily tasks if you were following the way of God while engaged in those tasks?
Psalm 19

This Psalm makes everything seem easy. If you follow the Law of the Lord, you are blameless in the sight of the Lord and are without sin. Easy as pie. Verse 8 tells us that the “law of the Lord is clear”, which is true sometimes, but other times it is not so clear.

  • What are we to do when the law of the Lord is not so clear?
  • What tools have you found helpful in discerning a course of action when you are finding the law of the Lord hard to decipher?
  • What are some of God’s “laws” that are very clear for you?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you doubted your understanding of God’s laws? What was that experience like?
James 3:1-12

Here we have another very challenging passage from the book of James, warning readers about the power of words and speech. James cautions us that the tongue controls the entire body and has the power to guide the whole self toward goodness or away from goodness. If we use our mouths to proclaim the goodness of God on Sundays and to talk badly about our coworkers come Monday morning, which way are our tongues guiding our whole selves? James says that the same spring can’t produce fresh water and brackish water; the brackish water will always contaminate the clean water, and no amount of clean water can completely dilute the contaminated water.

  • We have been meditating, in today’s readings, about the law of the Lord and how to follow the way of the Lord in confusing and unclear situations. What would it look like to be guided by our own speech and tongue?
  • What would you change about the way you use words in order to guide you into a closer relationship with God and closer to God’s goodness?
Mark 8:27-38

One general theme from the readings today is following in the way of the Lord in both action and speech. We have been asked to consider wisdom in our daily life and work. We have been told that the law of the Lord is clear, and that those who follow it are blameless. We have also been told that the tongue controls the entire self and that it can guide us into goodness. Each of these passages challenges us to avoid taking the easy and thoughtless way out of a situation, and choose God’s way. Here Jesus lays this message down loud and clear: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” The way of the cross is costly and Jesus never attempts to hide this fact from his followers.

  • What are some gospel truths that you think are worth setting aside your own comfort, or even your own life for?
  • In what ways have these passages encouraged you or challenged you to consider what it means to follow Christ differently?
  • What situation in your life or community might Jesus be calling you into? In what ways is that a comfortable call? An uncomfortable one? 

Download a copy of the Bible Study for Proper 19B Bible Study.

Written by Maggie Foster, Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP)

Maggie is a third year seminarian at CDSP, a postulant from the Diocese of Southern Ohio, and an Ohio State Buckeye. She is interested in ministry that finds a way to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of people living in poverty. She lives in Berkeley with her fiancée, Andrea and their dog, Jasper.

Bible Study: Proper 18(B), September 6, 2015

(RCL) Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; James 2:1-10 (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37

He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go– the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:27-29)

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

All the readings for this Sunday seem to point toward mercy and justice, reminding us of the first petition of the Collect: “Grant us…to trust in you with all our hearts.” So many times in our interactions with others, especially with strangers, we find it difficult to trust. We have learned that it can be foolhardy to give someone the “benefit of the doubt,” to enter a relationship by suspending judgment and assuming the person’s motivation is good unless we are proven wrong. The ancient wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that rich and poor, neighbor and stranger, even the just and unjust are all creatures of God. Perhaps our daily encounters do require us to be prudent, and we can blend prudence with a gracious recognition of our shared humanity. We can choose to act with justice and compassion, and to value integrity over prejudice or greedy self-interest.

  • Besides physical and material support, how can we “share our bread with the poor”? Describe an occasion when you have observed someone giving generously of his or her time, attention, labor, or some other resource.
  • What would you be willing to do or say to defend a stranger against injustice?
Psalm 125

“The hills stand about Jerusalem; so does the LORD stand round about his people…” In the language of the Psalms, God’s power in creation is often mirrored in God’s mercy and protection for God’s chosen people. However, our worldview is often at odds with such a straightforward equation. We have seen too much human domination and cruelty in history and in recent events that makes us dubious, and we can’t help thinking it a bit naïve of the Israelites to proclaim, “The scepter of the wicked shall not hold sway” over those who are just, good, and true of heart.

But read this psalm again, and notice how much is expected of the faithful: they are to trust in the Lord, not put their hands to evil, and remain true of heart. It is those who turn aside – who do not look to God for their guidance and strength – who follow crooked paths and end up among evildoers. Here we find an expression of wisdom, possibly even born of hard experience, rather than naïveté. No, we can’t go through life expecting God to keep a protective bubble around us; that would be belief in magic, not faith in God. Perhaps the psalmist is saying that our trust in God should be for our spiritual protection against our own selfish tendencies, more than against any outward enemies.

  • Who do you think is to blame, when calamity befalls a person or group of people? Is the answer always clear?
  • In what ways might God be standing guard over us, if not to prevent us from suffering the pain and injustice inherent in human existence?
James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17

Scholars have long debated the identity of both the author and the intended audience of this epistle, but its message remains strong and clear: one who claims to have faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord must live in a way consistent with that faith. When we genuinely trust God’s power and love, we cannot turn our backs on the poor or show favor to the rich based on superficial distinctions.

Debating the relative importance of faith and good works is like asking the old question about the chicken and the egg – indeed, neither is viable without the other, and so we must look to the true source of life in both. Some people receive and respond to God’s love in an outpouring of faith that then is expressed through their sharing of that love with others. Some people act in just and compassionate ways out of an intellectual commitment that gradually deepens into faith. What James warns his readers about is the ‘disconnect’ – we cannot say we have faith and then act unlovingly without violating our own integrity. It is in this sense that he challenges them, “Can faith save you?” The superficial faith that does not urge us to action for the sake of God’s reign and love of God’s children is truly dead and useless.

  • Think of a time when you met a person whose socio-economic condition was greatly different from your own. How did you feel? How would it feel if your positions were reversed?
  • What actions might you take to express your faith as you now understand it? In what ways might your faith grow if you take those actions?
Mark 7:24-37

What an odd, even awkward pair of stories we read in this Gospel lesson. There is no escaping the fact that they do not present Jesus in the best light, and they were preserved by the earliest Christian communities and included by the author of this first written account of the Good News. We must look a little deeper to find their significance to early Christians, and their importance for us.

Mark weaves the idea of a “Messianic secret” throughout his story of Jesus’ ministry. God is already present and powerfully active in the world, as seen in Jesus’ miraculous healings and exorcisms; but we must also accept that God’s full restoration of creation – the perfection envisioned by ancient prophets – is yet to come at a time we cannot foresee. Through that lens, we might view the stories of the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf man as prophetic symbols of God’s power to transform and restore the world’s division and isolation.

Mark tells a story in which Jesus has gone a long way from home, and by implication a long way from the Jewish population, the children of Israel for whom his ministry began. When a Gentile woman seeks him out and asks his help, he replies in a way that sounds rude to us but would in fact have made perfect sense in the context of the first-century Church. Jesus had come to the “children” first, but then had extended his compassionate ministry beyond his own ethnic boundaries. Told from within a community of Gentile Christians, this encounter with a desperate mother presents Jesus as validating and blessing their faith, even against the background of a strained history.

Jesus moves on, but in an even wider circle beyond his Galilean base. In this companion story, we find echoes of the same themes – Jesus takes the deaf man aside, away from the crowd; he performs the requested cure, without seeming effort or even difficulty. Finally, he tells everyone to keep quiet about it but they proclaim the news far and wide. Here is the Gospel: the power of God is present, among us, and cannot be contained even though it has not yet been fully revealed.

  • Where are our blind spots, and what messages are we not willing or able to hear? Do we need to understand this passage as an invitation to move outside our own boundaries or our ‘comfort zone’?
  • It is hard to keep quiet when we have good news to tell. What kind of joy or gratitude do you have in your heart that wants to be shared? Can you see God present and working in your life somewhere? Do you hear God calling you into something new? Try to articulate those experiences.

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Bible Study: Day of Pentecost (B)

May 24, 2015

Jessie Gutgsell, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“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)

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

Acts 2:1-21

Here we have the familiar and yet still hard-to-believe story of the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles. It comes in the first section of Acts where the focus is largely on Peter and his ministry. The second major section of Acts (starting in chapter 13) will turn to focus more on Paul’s missionary journeys.

In this story, the Spirit comes with the sound like a rushing and violent wind (verse 2). The spirit descends in tongues of divided fire onto the apostles’ heads, and they begin to speak in different languages. Then a crowd gathers and begins to hear about God’s amazing power and deeds all in their own language. (See verses 6 and 11.) The primary reactions to this are amazement, confusion and a “sneering” kind of doubt. (See verse 13).

I could see these categorizations being the same today with people’s different reactions to amazing acts of the Spirit. We hear in verse 13 that people start to audibly doubt the situation, blaming alcohol for the craziness of the moment. But then Peter responds with his first public speech. He bases his words largely in scripture, quoting Joel in our portion for today, but also Psalms and other books later. Something that’s incredibly significant about Peter’s speech is that he quotes Joel in verse 18, saying that everyone, regardless of status or gender, will receive the Spirit and prophesy. Peter’s speech goes onto to explain that the Spirit will come, and then he briefly discusses the end times. Peter, quoting Joel, uses powerful imagery about the last days before Christ’s return, saying that the moon will be turned to blood and the sun to darkness (verse 20). But those who believe in Christ and have received the Spirit will be saved (verse 21).

What would it be like to hear about God’s deeds and power in our own individual languages? Maybe this means more than just languages that we speak, but also the different ways that we experience communication in non-verbal ways. How do you imagine that you would hear or experience the Spirit speaking?

Reflect upon verse 18 that all will receive the Spirit and prophesy. Are there people who you sometimes think have not received the Spirit and should not prophesy? Perhaps this verse will challenge that?

I mentioned the three responses to an amazing act of the Spirit: amazement, confusion and a sneering kind of doubt. Which of these responses do you normally experience? Do you experience one more than others or none of them?

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

This is an exuberant psalm of gratitude and praise for our Creator God. The psalmist reflects upon God’s magnificent creation of the earth. One can easily conjure up luscious images of God creating the earth and its inhabitants with joy. (See verse 27 about the Leviathan.) God created everything, and verse 28 tells us that all the earth and creatures look to God for their sustenance and preservation. As we will hear in Romans, we get the message that the earth, the animals and humans are all in this experience of life and existence together. We have all come to being through one creator. God send God’s Spirit through all that lives, grows and dies, and that Spirit will renew the earth (verse 31).

The psalm ends with the psalmist almost unable to contain his praise: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being” (verse 34). How wonderful and right that marveling at God’s handiwork in creation would lead the psalmist to such praise. The speaker then reveals that he speaks his words to glorify God, to rejoice in God and please God (verse 35). If only we could all take such delight in God’s creation – both the earth and our fellow humans!

If you were to write your own psalm of praise to God for creation, what would you say? For what would you give thanks to God?

In verse 34, the psalmist says that he will sing to the Lord and praise God while he has his being. In what ways do you show your praise? Do you sing? Do you dance? Do you write? How can you show your praise and gratitude in more ways?

Romans 8:22-27

This has long been one of my absolute favorite passages of scripture. There is so much communicated in these few verses: the pain of ecological damage to the earth, the struggle of being human, the doubts about how to pray, and the awesome power and presence of the Spirit. Romans is one of the last-known undisputed writings by Paul. Read in this context, Paul’s words become that much more poignant.

Here in these verses we see that Christ’s return has not yet come. We live on this earth in a spirit of anticipation. This anticipation requires a hope for what we cannot yet see or maybe even imagine (verses 24-25). And while we wait, it is not just humanity that struggles “with sighs too deep for words,” but also the very earth and “whole creation” (verse 22).

This message may sound depressing, but the power and presence of the Spirit is assured in verse 26 when we hear that the Spirit will help us in our weakness. We may not know how to pray, or even how to deal with the destruction we see around us, but that third person of the Trinity will intercede for us. These verses give us the permission to grieve for life’s difficulty, but they also give us the responsibility to hope and trust in God and God’s will. And if you were to keep reading onto the next verse of Romans (8:28), you would read that all things will work together for good for those who love the Lord.

For what losses and disappointments do you sigh in a way that is too deep for words?

When you are struggling, try to remember Romans 8:26, that the Spirit will intercede for you in your difficulties. Perhaps this will give you comfort.

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

These words from the Gospel of John come in the last section of the gospel. They are in the middle of what has become known as the “Farewell Discourse” (Chapters 14-16). The Last Supper has just occurred in Chapter 13, and Jesus’ trial and execution immediately follow our selection for today. These emotion-filled words come in what could be thought of as the calm before the storm. The overriding message of these passages is similar to what we hear in Romans: The world will be oppositional, life will be hard, but we will not be alone.

In this somewhat lengthy discourse, also known as the “Johannine Pentecost,” Jesus names the fact that the news he’s delivering is not easy to hear (16:6). He communicates that he must go away and that it is to everyone’s advantage that he goes away (16:7). Imagine the dismay and emotion of the disciples upon hearing this news!

Jesus continues to discuss the future, explaining that the disciples will not be alone once Jesus leaves. Jesus introduces the idea that “the Advocate,” or the Holy Spirit, will come only if and after Jesus leaves (16:7). The next words are staggering in their honesty and their poignancy: The Spirit will come and prove the world wrong. The Spirit will prove the world wrong about sin and about judgment. When the Spirit comes, it will guide us into “all the truth” (16:13).

These words, even though they are hard to hear, also bring tremendous hope. These are the words that we can turn to when we are struggling with the hardest things we have to face in life, when we question why there is so much violence and injustice in the world. Jesus never claims that it will be easy, but he does say that we will have to testify with the Spirit to what we have seen and done, and that we will not be alone in this journey.

In what ways do you hope that the Spirit will “prove the world wrong”? What areas of life seem particularly detrimental and unfair?

Consider the title of the Spirit as “Advocate.” The Spirit is also sometimes known as “the Comforter.” In what ways can you relate to this person of the Trinity with these identity designations?

Read the passage in an imaginative way, trying to imagine that you’re one of the disciples hearing this farewell discourse from Jesus. What are your emotions? Your reactions?

Bible Study: 7 Easter (B)

May 17, 2015

Steven M. Balke, Jr.Virginia Theological Seminary

“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)

The 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

Trying to discern God’s will for our lives is a serious matter. We make decisions and choose courses of action all the time that we hope are for the best, but many of us would desperately love to know what God would have us do. Whether we are casting lots, randomly picking passages out of the Bible, or reading tea leaves, we are grasping at trying to make sense of our lives and to find some sort of profound guidance in an otherwise swirling sea of potential good choices and bad choices.

It is helpful to look at the approach the Apostles took in choosing their new member. Yes, they dearly wanted to know what God wanted them to do, but they tried to be in a kind of model of mutual discernment with God. Acts states that they prayed over their choice and worked to discern from all of their options down to two people, then they left room for God to work in their lives. It was a careful balance of not trying to wrestle control away from God but also not washing their hands of any responsibility. May we all strive to make decisions in such a way, holding lightly both the importance of our own discernment with trust in God’s grace.

When do you find yourself trying to wrestle control of your life away from God?

When do you find yourself letting go of responsibility for your own decisions?

How can you try to hold self-reliance and trusting in God in balance?

Psalm 1

When trying to discern God’s will in our lives, there is a danger in thinking that outcomes are God’s judgment upon us. We are taught throughout the Bible that great blessings flow upon those who make choices that are pleasing to God, and great disaster befalls those who make choices that are displeasing to God. A side effect of this is a great number of people who feel like bad things happen to them because they did things in their lives that God did not like and God is punishing them for it. This can be disastrous for a person’s sense of well being as well as corrupting of his or her relationship with the church.

In our eagerness to see God’s will at work, we need to be careful in assigning God’s motivations to events. Instead, Psalm 1 teaches us that our own motivations to follow God lead us to delight. The psalm is an insight into our relationship with a God who loves us dearly and always wants what is best for us. God loves us, so if we “meditate day and night” on what God wants for us, God is watching over us.

When have you felt like suffering was a judgment against you?

Where have you seen other people struggle with feeling like God is punishing them?

How can you be a part of sharing God’s love with those who are suffering?

1 John 5:9-13

The Johannine community from which this letter came was surrounded by very God-loving people who were also deeply divided with one another about how best to go about loving God. This letter came from a people who believed that they had discerned God’s will in the best way that they could and were trying to share what they had discerned with those around them. Other Jewish communities and fellow Christian communities alike sometimes took the approach of excommunicating them, cutting off their relationships, or undermining their teachings; yet the Johannine community’s proclamation of God’s love for us and God’s promise of eternal life through Christ survives to this day.

Sometimes after carefully discerning what you think is right, some people are still going to disagree with you and challenge you. This is particularly true when trying to discern what God would have us do. Struggling with doubts in the face of such adversity is understandable. When in doubt, know that if the path you have discerned has led you to proclaiming God’s love in word and deed, has led you to be a more loving person to those around you, or has helped open you to believing in God’s promise of life everlasting, then you can be confident that you have not been led astray from God.

What do you do when others challenge what you feel is right?

When have others saved you from making a mistake that you thought was right?

What can you do to discern the difference between the two?

John 17:6-19

In his book “Thoughts in Solitude” (Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1958), Thomas Merton offers a very useful prayer for those trying to discern:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This prayer includes the statement that we do not really know what the future holds for us or what God’s plan is, but that if we do our best to try to do what we think our part in it is, that God will be pleased with us for trying. Merton can express this in good confidence because we learn much of what God expects from us in the actions of Christ in the gospels.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus’ disciples make lots of mistakes; they try very hard to do what they think is best but fall short of perfection, just like the rest of us. In the end, Christ still calls them his people, still loves them, and still wants them to receive eternal life just for believing in him.

God does not expect perfection from any of us. If we try our best to discern God’s will in our lives, God will love us for doing our best. In the midst of a world where there is too much going on to make sense of it all and too many things vying for our attention all the time, remember to think of God’s love and our own call to love, and you will be dwelling in the world but being a part of what God wants for this world.

When do you find yourself discerning what God wants from you?

When do you find yourself discerning what God wants for you?

How can you be what God wants for the world?

Bible Study: 6 Easter (B)

May 10, 2015

Jason Poling, General Theological Seminary

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

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

Acts 10:44-48

Our 1979 Book of Common Prayer includes all kinds of changes to the liturgy for baptism, but the most significant one doesn’t have to do with the language in our prayers. Have you noticed that our baptismal rites aren’t found right before Confirmation, as in older prayer books, but instead fall between Easter Vigil and the Eucharist?

There’s a reason for that: The Book of Common Prayer tells us right at the outset that “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 298). Baptism is the necessary precursor to the Eucharist, as our Canons clearly state: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church” (I.18.7). As the Easter Vigil is traditionally the time when the church would welcome new members, it is fitting that our prayer book follows the Vigil with the service for Holy Baptism. Only after baptism do we get to the Eucharist.

Some see this as exclusionary – but it isn’t. We don’t discriminate on ethnicity or any other invidious dividing line. Our table excludes nobody who wants to be at it; with Peter, we say to anyone who wants to share with us in our Lord’s Supper, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people?”

How do you understand the relationship between baptism and Eucharist? Where does Confirmation fit in?

Psalm 98

One of the most ancient poems of our English language is “Cædmon’s Hymn.” Dating from the late 7th century, this poem – which St. Bede attributes to a cowherd under angelic inspiration – is a short but powerful nine-line celebration of God’s might and glory as revealed in creation.

This psalm is in much the same vein (better, “Cædmon’s Hymn” is in the same vein as this psalm) in that it celebrates God’s might and glory. Here, though, the psalmist celebrates God’s might and glory as revealed in his vindication, his victory, his triumph – all of which requires a defeated enemy. The “nations” to which the psalmist refers are the hostile enemies of God’s people, who would indeed have been their victims had God not rescued his people by a demonstration of overpowering force.

Not long after Cædmon wrote his poem, his monastery fell prey to a Viking attack. Psalms like this one have a special resonance to those who know what it is to fear the violence of an irresistible, predatory foe. Most likely, as you read this you are not facing that kind of existential threat from your neighbors. So in times like these, we may follow the advice of our fellow Anglican C.S. Lewis and pray this psalm on their behalf.

Have you ever prayed a psalm for somebody else? For somebody you don’t know?

Have you ever prayed a psalm for yourself?

1 John 5:1-6

“Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus said, “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). “His commandments are not burdensome,” John says here in our passage. Likewise, in Torah we read that Moses told God’s people, “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away” (Deuteronomy 30:11).

None of this should give us the idea that we can earn God’s favor, or even that we have it in ourselves to please him. One shameful element of our Anglican heritage is that our native Pelagius (ca. 354-418 CE) is one of the heretics whose false teachings keep coming back like dandelions in the spring. The upside for the church is that Pelagius’ notion that we could merit God’s favor by our own works stimulated his contemporary, St. Augustine, to produce some of his most inspired works of theology.

But we can’t miss the message – taught consistently throughout scripture – that God gives us his commandments to give us joy, not to kill it. It is sin that kills joy, that uses fleeting pleasures to keep us from knowing the fullness of joy that comes with a life lived as God made us to live it.

Think about the last time you confessed sin. How much pleasure did that sin bring you? How much joy? How much joy did it kill?

John 15:9-17

If all we knew was that God’s commandments bring joy, that alone would be Good News – since those commandments are available to us, and we can see the lives of people who follow them. But what Jesus makes clear in this passage is that obedience to God is not simply a matter of adhering to rules; rather, it’s an intimate relationship with the eternal Lover who made us. He has told us how we can live well, yes, but he has also made it possible for us to live not just for ourselves but in him. We abide in Jesus’ love as we keep his commandments; we keep his commandments as we abide in his love. And the more we “get” this, the more complete is his joy in us.

Think about the first time you were taught to do some sort of manual task, like cutting a piece of wood. Did somebody point at the saw and the wood and tell you to cut straight? Or did she guide your hands into place, demonstrate how much pressure to apply and how fast to go, even guide your hands with her own? The command to cut straight really would be burdensome, and would produce anxiety rather than joy, if we didn’t have any help. Thankfully, our master Carpenter is a better teacher than that. Indeed, as he told the disciples later on in this same conversation, he promised to send them his Spirit to teach, guide and comfort them. We receive that same Spirit in our baptism.

How do you think about the relationship between following Jesus’ commandments and abiding in his love? Do you sometimes feel as if you have to do one or the other?

Can you think of a time when you were especially aware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you followed God’s commandments?


Bible Study: 5 Easter (B)

May 3, 2015

Michael Toy, Princeton Theological Seminary

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

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8

Acts 8:26-40

This story from Luke/Acts stars Philip, one of the seven deacons chosen earlier, in Acts 6:5. Philip has just come from Samaria, where he preached the gospel with joyous reception. Now we find Philip on a road in the wilderness where he teaches the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples, “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Through Philip, the gospel message is being spread to all people, not just to Jews or even the surrounding nations.

The gospel message is the proclamation of God’s kingdom here on earth. In this story, the gospel is being spread to the physical nations of the globe. This story about the global spread of the gospel offers an opportunity for introspection as well. What corners of your own life need the proclamation of the gospel? Is the Good News about Jesus evident in your finances, work-life balance, attitude and health?

The Ethiopian eunuch humbly and poignantly asks Philip how he can understand the scriptures unless someone explains it. Whom do you seek when you find something in scripture that you do not understand?

In this passage, the Spirit instructs Philip to join the Ethiopian; how does God lead you to proclaim the message of Jesus today?

Psalm 22:24-30

Psalm 22 is an individual lament psalm beginning with the heart-wrenching cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But like all lament psalms, the ending glorifies God, acknowledges God’s omnipotence, sovereignty over the earth, and the universality of the worship of God. God’s far-reaching glory extends from the great assembly to the poor to all the ends of the earth. Verse 28 makes the claim that even those who have died will bow down and worship God. The glory of God also extends into eternity; those who are not born yet shall hear of God’s saving deeds.

The worship of God in this passage is corporate and communal. The worship takes place in the assembly, in families and with all of humanity.

Remember that this psalm began with an individual lament. How does this move from an individual lament to corporate worship serve as a pattern of worship? When have you had individual struggles and found that your worshipping community was a consolation? Conversely, how can the worshipping community be sensitive to the grief and laments of individual members?

1 John 4:7-21

The author of 1 John, in this passage, beautifully describes the relationship between God and God’s beloved. Within this description is a carefully constructed argument that ends with the exhortation for those who love God to love their sisters and brothers. Certainly, it feels good to know that the God of the universe, the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient God loves each of us. But equally important in this passage is the imperative to share this love that we have received. For this author, to be God’s beloved means that one shares that love. On one hand, unconditional love expects nothing in return. How then can the author make the claim that knowing the love of God means we ought to love one another? While abiding in God’s love sounds wonderful on paper, life happens and God’s love is the farthest thing from our hearts and minds. What does it mean to truly abide in the love of God? How can you remind yourself of this throughout the toils and busy-ness of life?

While this passage denounces fear, when we love and care for one another, we often worry and fear for a beloved’s well being. How is the fear that has to do with punishment different from the fear that has to do with caring for another person?

John 15:1-8

This is a difficult passage to swallow, for on a first reading, the message is one of warning and judgment. All those who fail to abide in Jesus will be thrown away, gathered and burned. On one hand, the rhetoric of judgment is a great reminder of the importance to abide in Christ. But on the other hand, the judgment and burning does not seem concordant with many conceptions of a God of love.

At the end of the passage, in verse 8, Jesus teaches, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” In this passage there is no mention of God being glorified by the burning of withered branches. On the contrary, God is glorified when people bear much fruit. And in these lectionary readings, we see that the gospel of love and its fruit is spread throughout the world, through all time and to all souls.

1 John tells us that sharing love starts with our brothers and sisters, those immediately surrounding us. In the story from Acts, Philip has left Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and is now bearing witness to Christ to all the ends of the earth. Finally, the psalm claims that God extends outside the boundaries of the assembly, beyond economic boundaries, past national borders, and even breaks down the barrier of death. “All who go down to the dust fall before him” (Psalm 22:26). What are the implications of this claim that the love of God is extended even to the dead?

All will worship God. Triumph belongs to the loving God, the one who leaves no boundary uncrossed and no person unreached. What hope does this bring to us as we contemplate God’s victory?

One of the perennial questions Christians must confront is this: If God is all powerful and God’s will is always accomplished, what then does it matter if I proclaim God’s kingdom? In the wake of the Easter celebration, the gospel reading compels each Christian to ask herself and himself: In what ways do I currently bear fruit of the resurrected Christ?