Bible Study, The Transfiguration (A) – August 6, 2017

[RCL] Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

Exodus 34:29-35

Moses returns to the people with the gift of the tablets of the covenant in his arms. He has been speaking with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Ex 33:7-11). The Israelites stand in awe of the startling effect of Moses’ shining face. And the people are frightened by the change in him.

Moses calls the people close to hear God’s most holy words to them and to share in the renewed covenant. Eventually, despite their fear of the change in him, they come—the radiance of his face evidence of God working within him.

Don’t we long to be in the presence of our Creator? We pray for that very thing, to see the face of God, to be there with the Presence, to know what it is like. And indeed, it is a scary thing, knowing we will certainly be changed by the experience. Might others turn away, afraid of our shining faces and the truth we speak?

  • Moses veils his face unless he is with God or speaking God’s word to the people. Why do you think that is?
  • How is your faith visible to others?
  • What has been your experience of speaking God’s word to others? Do you think they see you differently afterward?

Psalm 99

Psalm 99 is the last of the “enthronement psalms” where we have a vision of God seated above all in the highest of holy places: in this case, upon the very Ark of the Covenant. In her translation of Psalm 99, Nan Merrill writes, “Awaken you people! Entrust your hearts to Love.” [1] In the face of very Love, the leaders of the world bow down and proclaim the mighty King, the lover of justice, who brings equity.

The psalmist, keenly aware of the failings of human kings and of the effect of their failings on the people, recalls for them their ancestral relationship with the Lord God. God is a king who can be relied upon to bring justice and mercy, while also holding us accountable. There are safety and assurance in boundaries and covenant. We know where God stands: God stands with us.

“Awaken you people, entrust your hearts to Love.”

  • Where do you find boundaries and structure help you in your relationship with God and others?
  • Are there “lesser gods” in your life that compete for your time with the Beloved?

2 Peter 1:13-21

The author of 2 Peter is obviously concerned about authority, credibility, and trust. We aren’t sure to whom he is referring when he contrasts “cleverly devised myths” with the eyewitness account of the Transfiguration. His are not words of boasting, but of concern that the readers or listeners know the truth of Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of the Majestic Glory.

The writer also makes it clear that the Bible is a powerful and dangerous text, not to be interpreted without careful discernment and reliance upon the Spirit as mediator. In the Early Church, it was important (as it is for us today) to have confidence in those that interpreted Scripture. Prophecy never begins and ends with human beings, but from and with the Holy Spirit who enlightens our efforts, that the Word may serve as a lamp to illumine our hearts.

  • With the many interpretations of truth that swirl around us, where do you look for guidance and counsel?
  • This letter, purportedly written by Peter, apostle of Jesus, was most likely written by a later prophetic author. How does that change, if at all, how we might unlock our own interpretation of the “eyewitness” testimony?

Luke 9:28-36

The telling of the Transfiguration is found in all three synoptic gospels. All have similar elements – Jesus’ changing appearance, his shining face and dazzling white garments, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, and the cloud from which God affirms Jesus’ authority, giving a foretaste of his glory as the Son of the Most High. The differences in Luke’s gospel lie in some specifics related to the conversation Jesus has with Elijah and Moses.

“They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Here Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, bear witness to Jesus’ departure, his exodus, as still another saving act of God. Jesus and his companions will now begin the journey, traveling from the mountaintop to the valley, and from there the glory of God in Christ Jesus will be made known to all the nations.

We can’t blame Peter for wanting to hold onto the three shining figures transfigured by their proximity to the Holy One. How many times have we experienced the shining of Christ in our lives in a moment of inspired worship and prayer, only to find the image fading days or perhaps hours later? Unfortunately, we can’t stop time. Perhaps what we might seek to transfigure is how we see the world in the light of Christ, and then to reflect that out to the world.

  • What are some ways we can listen to Jesus’ voice that might transfigure our lives?
  • How do you shine the light of Christ in small and not-so-small ways?

[1] Merrill, Nan C. Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness. New York: Continuum, 2008.

Sandi Albom is a recent May 2017 graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School with a Master of Divinity. She is serving as curate at All Saints’ Parish, Peterborough, N.H. and will be ordained to the transitional diaconate in September 2017. Sandi is active in the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire Recovery Ministries. Sandi, her husband Bob, a professor at Southern New Hampshire University, and their two feline companions, Mandy and Quinn, live in Hooksett, N.H.

 

 

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Bible Study, 8th Sunday after Pentecost (A) – July 30, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Genesis 29:15-28

Jacob was no stranger to deceit, having orchestrated enough of it against his twin brother Esau. Now, the father of his beloved Rachel turns the tables on him, switching out one daughter for the other on the night Jacob expects to consummate a marriage with Rachel. One especially interesting twist to the story is when Laban chides Jacob, saying, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn.” It’s as if God is reminding Jacob of his own scheme to displace his older brother’s birthright.

It’s difficult to sympathize with Jacob’s indignation at having been tricked, given his own history of similar behavior, however over the course of the Jacob story, it is illuminating to see that his mother and his uncle Laban manipulated Jacob just as deceitfully. He has come from a family of “players,” but God can still work with him, imperfect as he is. This is important because it affirms that even when we disappoint God, the promises that God has made will still be kept.

  • Can you think of an example in your own life where someone has done something to hurt you, and sometime later, you find yourself doing the same thing?
  • In what ways do you observe God blessing someone into greater holiness, just by being the God of faithfulness?
  • We read that Jacob’s seven years of toil “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for [Rachel].” What does this teach us about the power of love?

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

What a terrific testament to the steadfast love of God. Speaking of “the promise he made for a thousand generations.” The psalmist is singing to the descendants of Jacob/Israel, reminding them, that God’s judgments prevail in all the world.” In times when it seems like it is evil that actually prevails, it’s important to remember that the laws of nature that God has set in motion ultimately prevail, whether or not the human sense of time demands an immediate and particular response to prayer. In particular, when the psalm reminds us to “continually seek [God’s] face, I can imagine God at work, slowly building a great chain of mountains, unobservable over the lifespan of humans, yet profound and triumphant over geologic time scales.

I am reminded of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s poem Trust in the Slow Work of God. A scholar priest, his perspective as a paleontologist gave Teilhard de Chardin the skill to take the long view. I imagine that he understood the slow process of God fashioning Jacob and God’s other agents of change into the leaders he needed them to be at whatever pace their growth required.

  • It seems as though the Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament) is full of stories of imperfect heroes. What does their evolution into God’s agents of change teach us?
  • How do you respond when God seems to be slow to answer a prayer?

Romans 8:26-39

There is hardly anything that can be said that is more comforting than the assurance that “there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul thought that the world would end soon, and wrote from that context. He was surrounded by Roman occupation and its associated violence and exploitation.  Even so, he understood that God’s purposes would still be achieved even in the face of significant challenge. It is a hauntingly familiar refrain that so many generations despair of the evil around them, as we do today. Yet Paul tells the believers in the early church at Rome that they are more, or better than the conquerors through Jesus. That message applies to believers now, assuring us that we must stay the course of following Jesus, because we can be more than those who conquer to impose their will with violence.

  • When Paul writes “all things work together for good for those who love God,” what does that mean? Do you believe this?
  • If nothing can separate us from the love of God, why do we sometimes feel estranged from God? Why might we perceive ourselves to be separated from God’s love? 

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven using parables. It’s important that he does not describe it directly, but rather by what it is like. This is somewhat reminiscent of the method we use to look at the sun—we cannot look directly at it, but we can view it through filters that protect the eye from its brightness. Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is so bright, we can only approach it obliquely until we put on the protection of our relationship with Jesus—God incarnate in human form that does not blind us?

In the parable of the net and fish of every kind, verse 50 is disturbing in its imagery of the “furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It is important to consider that it is evil that will be refined in this fire—transformed. While the language is violent, the point is that no evil will follow us into the kingdom of heaven.

  • Why do you think Jesus speaks indirectly about the kingdom of heaven? In verses 34-35, omitted from Proper 12, Matthew explains that Jesus spoke only in parables to fulfill a prophecy. Does this affect your understanding of the kingdom of heaven?
  • How would you describe the kingdom of heaven in contemporary terms?

Pan Conrad, a resident of Annapolis, MD, received her M. Div. from Episcopal Divinity School’s final graduating class this past May. She is a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Maryland, where she serves as clergy-in-charge at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church is Glen Burnie, MD. Pan is also an astrobiologist and planetary scientist, and a scientific co-investigator to the NASA Mars Science Laboratory and Mars 2020 missions.

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Bible Study, 7th Sunday after Pentecost (A) – July 23, 2017

[RCL:] Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23; Romans 8:12-25. Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob is on the run. He and Rebekah, his mother, have connived to deceive his father, Isaac, into giving Jacob his older brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob’s deception, which led Isaac to grant him the blessing due the first-born son, fuels hatred in Esau. When Rebekah is told that Esau plans to kill Jacob, she sends Jacob away to her brother in Haran.

Our story begins when Jacob stops on his first night on the road. He lays down with a stone under his head for a pillow and falls asleep. Little does he know that he is on sacred ground. Jacob dreams of a ladder or ziggurat to heaven with angels climbing up and down. However, it is not the angels who speak to Jacob, but God. God stands beside Jacob and introduces himself: “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” (verse 13).

God makes the same promises to Jacob that he made to Jacob’s ancestors: land and offspring. In a sense, God includes a caveat with his blessings. In essence, God tells Jacob, “You will be blessed when I fulfill my promises to you. But these blessings are not for you to hoard. It is through you and your family that all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God then makes a personal promise to Jacob: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (verse 15). God’s promises of presence and protection – of belonging to God – are central to the covenant relationship between God and his chosen people.

Jacob awakes a transformed man. He recognizes the awesomeness and sacredness of his encounter with God and commemorates it with a shrine made with the stone on which he slept, calling the place Beth-el, “House of God.”

  • Are you hoarding the blessings God has given you? How can you channel your blessings so that you will become a blessing to others?
  • How has your experience of God’s grace transformed you?

 Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23

The psalmist, resting assured in God’s promised presence and protection, turns to God for deliverance from his enemies. His blessing is his relationship with God. The psalmist addresses God by his personal divine name, YHWH (“LORD”) (verses 1, 3), and speaks to God directly: “you know” (verses 1, 3), “you discern” (verse 1), “you trace” (verse 2), “you press” (verse 4), “[you] lay your hand” (verse 4). The psalmist is awed by the completeness of God’s all-encompassing knowledge of him; God knows his actions, thoughts, and words (verses 1-3).

The psalmist affirms that God is always present with him. No matter where the psalmist goes, whether to the extremes of heaven or the grave, “Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast” (verse 9). The psalmist trusts his future to God, assured that he belongs to God. He welcomes God’s testing, which will reveal the psalmist’s righteousness and commitment to following the ways of God (verses 23-24).

  • Does God knowing you fully make you uncomfortable? Are you able to say with the psalmist with no reservations: “LORD, you have searched me out and known me”?
  • Have you ever wanted to escape from the presence of God? When and why?

Romans 8:12-25

To Paul, every human being is subject to some power, and lives either in the domain of the flesh, under the power of sin, death and law; or in the domain of the Spirit, under the power of grace. Paul has assured believers in an earlier verse that they no longer live in the domain of the flesh, but now live in the domain of the Spirit, because the Spirit of God dwells in them (Romans 8:9).In today’s passage, Paul describes life in the Spirit in terms of relationships. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (verse 14). The indwelling Spirit is God’s presence with believers. Believers are blessed; we belong to God’s family – children of God by adoption (verses 14-15). We are God’s heirs and, therefore, joint heirs with Christ, sharing in his suffering, death,

In today’s passage, Paul describes life in the Spirit in terms of relationships. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (verse 14). The indwelling Spirit is God’s presence with believers. Believers are blessed; we belong to God’s family – children of God by adoption (verses 14-15). We are God’s heirs and, therefore, joint heirs with Christ, sharing in his suffering, death, resurrection and glory (verse 17). We are to live unafraid, knowing that we belong to God.Just as God fulfilled his promises to Jacob, Paul admonishes believers to wait with patience because God will fulfill his promise of future glory. God will free all of

Just as God fulfilled his promises to Jacob, Paul admonishes believers to wait with patience because God will fulfill his promise of future glory. God will free all of creation “from its bondage to decay” (verse 21). Believers and all creation must endure the birth pangs of the completion of salvation – of the promised restoration of creation to what God intended it to be, begun when God chose a people to be his instruments of blessing.

  • In what ways do you sense that you are living in the “in-between” time?
  • Discuss your experience of life in the Spirit.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a field sowed by two sowers.

The master sows good wheat seeds in his field. At night, an enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat seeds. When the wheat comes up and bears grain, the weeds come up as well. The master refuses to let his slaves gather the weeds. He tells them to let both of them grow together until the harvest, when the reapers will collect the weeds to be burned and gather the wheat into the barn.

Jesus privately interprets the parable to his disciples as an allegory. He is the master, and the good seeds are the children of Kingdom of God. The enemy is the devil, and the weeds are the children of the evil one. At the final judgment, the Son of Man will send his angels to root out sin and evildoers, and the righteous will inherit the Kingdom. God’s promise in the parable is that evil will not overcome the good.

There is a more contemporary dimension to the parable. In a previous chapter from Matthew, Jesus called us to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” or “is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Could it be that the final judgment isn’t a distant event in linear time but is now? Could it be that the Kingdom isn’t someplace that will be established in the future but is here now? Were both inaugurated with the coming of God in Jesus?

Jesus issues a warning: Those who reject Jesus’ message are refusing to participate in the Kingdom. They are refusing to be the blessing to all the families of the earth that God calls believers to be. Those who accept Jesus’ message and follow the praxis of the Beatitudes belong to God, are his children and have inherited the promised Kingdom.

  • What is the relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God?
  • How does your faith that God’s Kingdom will triumph over evil and death influence the way you live?

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Bible Study, 6th Sunday after Pentecost (A) – July 16, 2017

[RCL:] Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Genesis 25:19-34

The narrator of this passage describes Jacob’s success over his brother Esau, and in doing so we learn something about God. We learn that Jacob, the younger brother, even from the womb will be served by his older brother. We hear of Esau’s displays of masculinity and skills from birth in a variety of trades, while we are only told that Jacob is a quiet man. As the older brother and a successful man, Esau should be the favored choice for God’s future people, and yet it is Jacob whom God chooses. Jacob receives his brother’s birthright, setting him on the path that will lead to his new name, Israel, and his heritage as the father of the twelve tribes. In this passage, we see a God who favors the weaker brother, an individual of lower stature, who is not supposed to be destined to accomplish great deeds. This story presents us with a God who “casts down the mighty and lifts the lowly,” who stands up for the weak and leads them to acts beyond imagination.

  • I wonder who the weak and lowly are in your community. How are you and your community meeting their needs?
  • I wonder who you are in this story today. Do you relate more to Jacob or Esau in the present moment? Why?

Psalm 119:105-112

Psalm 119, written after the Exile, emphasizes the importance of God’s word in living a faithful life, especially in times of need and strife. From verse 112, we hear that the word of God is not simply something to be heard or read, but something to be applied to the heart, inwardly digested and lived. The beauty of the Psalms is their ability to meet us where we are. This psalmist prays in full confidence of God’s support, all the while acknowledging the difficulty in doing so. As 21st-century readers of the Psalms, we can be comforted by the timelessness of God’s guidance. This psalm, prayed thousands of years ago to bring comfort to this people still brings comfort and hope to those who can still feel troubled and trapped.

  • I wonder in what ways has Scripture been a comfort to you in times of trouble.
  • Do you have any portion of Scripture memorized and “applied to your heart”? If so, how did you choose it?

Romans 8:1-11

The juxtaposition of flesh and spirit is repeated over and over again in this passage. It can be easy in our world to attend services on a Sunday morning and switch gears back into our secular lives as we drive out of the parking lot. However, we are called to live into the spirit of God that dwells in us. As humans we are fleshy creatures; our bodies crave food, we grieve over the loss of loved ones, and we don’t have to watch news channels very long to see the weaknesses of governments and societies to protect the weak. These human parts of our lives are not to be turned off or altogether rejected, but as followers of Christ, we are called to live with a spirit of hope as well. It is this spirit, working through us, that will help us create a better world for all those who inhabit it.

  • I wonder how you get ready to listen to the spirit of God.
  • I wonder what distracts you from living in the spirit. What might keep you focused?

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

It is easy to be distracted from living a deep spiritual life. It can be easy to forget how to get ready to come close to the holy, how to open ourselves to the voice of the Good Shepherd. This parable gives imagery to the importance of hearing and understanding God. When this happens our minds can be like good soil, ready for growth and maturity. But often, we find ourselves among thorns, scorched by the sun, or a bird’s snack. While the goal is to be good soil, to always understand and respond to God, it is nearly impossible to accomplish this all the time. We are not just one of these seeds, but we are all of these seeds at one time or another. Growing in faith requires practice; sometimes we find ourselves in the good soil and sometimes we find difficulty and questions, but the key is to keep practicing. God is always present and waiting to greet us, we must continually practice being good soil, knowing that even when we fall among the thorns God will be there to help us try again.

  • I wonder which seed you are today.
  • I wonder if you have found the good soil.
  • I wonder what you hope to grow into.

Reagan Gonzalez is a rising senior MDiv student at the Seminary of the Southwest. She is from the Diocese of Montana where she served as Christian Formation Director at St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman. She is a Godly Play storyteller and is looking forward to parish ministry after ordination. She lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband, Bryan, and their Welsh Corgi, Maggie.

 

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Bible Study, 5th Sunday after Pentecost (A) – July 9, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45: 11-18; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Abraham’s servant was given a difficult task—to go out and find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac. Abraham must have trusted his servant immensely to give him such an important and life-altering assignment. The servant, however, did not trust his own intuition or discernment to complete the task assigned to him, but, instead, turned to the God of his master Abraham for guidance. He prayed, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!” (Gen. 24:42). We know from the end of this story that the servant’s prayer made all the difference! How often do we begin our day overwhelmed by the things and tasks that have been assigned to us? How often do we wonder how we will make the right decisions or accomplish all that has been entrusted to us? Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this unnamed servant, who had the wisdom to place his trust in God and ask that God would make successful the way before him.

  • Do you begin your day with prayer? If not, why not?
  • Do you include God in all of your daily decisions or do you only pray when you have a major decision to make?
  • What could change about your life if you included God in even your most mundane daily decisions?

Psalm 45:11-18

Marriage, like all relationships we enter into, changes all parties involved. We enter as individuals and are joined together by covenantal promises to one another. We are no longer responsible only for ourselves—our wants and our desires, but are now willfully entangled with and responsible for the wants and desires of our partner. Successful relationships require both sacrifice and compromise for the happiness and fulfillment of all involved. These are the relationships that stand the test of time, that persist and become the stories our children and grandchildren share. Like the princess and the king, whose name is to be remembered from one generation to another (Psalm 45:18).

  • What are some successful relationships you have witnessed that give you hope?
  • Successful relationships often require both sacrifice and compromise. What type of things have you had to sacrifice or compromise in order to have a relationship with God?
  • Have those sacrifices and compromises helped or hindered your growth as a person?

Romans 7:15-25a

If I’m honest, I’m terrible at keeping my New Year’s resolutions. At the beginning of each year, I’m always so hopeful in preparing a list of all of the great changes I’m about to make in my life. But more often than not, I’m unable to successfully maintain those resolutions even through the month of January. It’s not that I don’t want to make the changes or that I don’t believe the changes would ultimately be better for me. In fact, it is just the opposite! So I can relate to Paul when he states, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). So what hope is there for a person like myself, who lacks the self-control or self-discipline to accomplish even the simplest of positive changes in their own life? Paul answers by asking, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). The answer is clear—our only hope is in Jesus, who has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Thanks be to God!

  • What New Year’s resolutions did you make this year? How many are you still keeping?
  • In what way has God extended grace to you in your own life?
  • How can we extend that same grace to others in our life whom we might have held to a standard that they could never successfully meet?

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

There is an old saying: Hindsight is 20/20. Or, to put it more simply, the benefit or effectiveness of our actions can be most clearly seen and considered after we have already done them. In this way, many of the spiritual practices we take part in don’t seem to make a lot of sense in the moment. Sometimes I’d rather sleep in on Sunday morning than wake up early, get dressed, and go to church. Other times I’d prefer doing something for myself to giving up my day to participate in an outreach project or community event. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that our point of view in the present moment is the most accurate one, yet most often, it isn’t until we are past our own selfish desires and emotions of the present moment that we are able to see our actions most clearly. The  author of Matthew affirms this, saying, “Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Often, the burdens that seem inconvenient and most heavy are the very things we are being called to by God, who has promised us both wisdom and rest.

  • Have you ever attempted a difficult activity, but were thankful for it after accomplishing it?
  • If you are avoiding doing or participating in something currently, what is stopping you? What are you afraid of?

Josh Woods is currently an MDiv student in his middler year at the Seminary of the Southwest. He is also a Chaplain Candidate for the United States Air Force Reserve, preparing for active duty chaplaincy after his ordination. He lives in Austin, TX with his wife Laura and their two dogs, Roxie and Ezra. 

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Bible Study, 4th Sunday after Pentecost – July 2, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Genesis 22:1-14

The Binding of Isaac may present one of the most well-known and most challenging stories of the entire Bible. Biblical scholars have wide-ranging methods of either discounting or explaining away the horrific image of God asking a father to sacrifice his son—a notion that is almost unthinkable to us. Rather than trying to justify or condemn this action, let me provide a bit of background and share a few ideas, and then, as people of faith, we will do what we have always done: We will prayerfully consider the story together and call upon the Holy Spirit to guide us to some deeper understanding of God through it.

First of all, we must remember that the first fruits have always belonged to God. This was true of the harvest, the cattle, and human offspring. In the Ancient Near East, human sacrifice was fairly common, and although it was slowly fading by the time Genesis was written, it was not unknown. The rationale was that everything we have is because of God’s gifting it to us, and we are to return the first and best to God as a sign of thanksgiving. Given Sarah and Abraham’s infertility, Isaac was not only the first-born but the miraculous and valuable first-born. God sets out to test Abraham’s faith, and, through that testing, God provides Abraham with all he needs. Out of bareness, God provides a son. God tests Abraham’s faith, and God provides the means to maintain blessing in the face of sacrificial testing.

  • What does it mean to offer the first fruits of our lives to God?
  • Without going so far as to glorify suffering, where has God provided for you in times of suffering?
  • Does God test us? What is helpful or problematic about this strong Biblical theme? (See Job, or The Lord’s Prayer—“lead us not into temptation.”)

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How many times in my life have I prayed this prayer? From the comparatively trivial times when the cop pulls me over for speeding, to the horrors of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, or the wildfires in Tennessee, there are times in life when it feels like God is far from us. Note that the psalmist believes that God has forgotten her “forever.” For the psalmist, this is not a temporary blip on the weather radar, but a permanent state wherein she feels as if God’s presence is so far removed that it will never return.

The psalms give us the incredible gift of raw, unvarnished human emotion. They remind us that God’s love for us does not mean that we live in a world of perfection without pain and suffering. This idea of human suffering in the presence of a loving god—theodicy—has perplexed followers of God for thousands of years. Yet we, like the psalmist, are called to recognize that pain and still ring out our song to “praise the name of the Lord Most High.” There is no shame in lament, for God laments with us; therefore, the Lord’s name be praised.

  • When is a time in your life where you felt God was absent?
  • How were you able, or were you able, to continue to praise God?
  • How might lament bring healing in times of suffering?

Romans 6:12-23

This passage from Paul’s most theologically dense letter always recalls images of the Exodus for me, and, in particular, Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy 30. Having led the people out of bondage in Egypt, God offers the people a choice between “life and prosperity, death and adversity” (Deut 30:15). In summary, if the people love God and follow God’s commandments, they will have life. If they do not, they will have death.

Likewise, Paul uses the imagery of slave either to sin or to righteousness. To our post-American slavery ears, this can sound harsh or even inhumane. We must never excuse or explain away the horrific sin of American slavery, but Paul means something different here. Just as God told the Hebrew people going into the Promised Land, God has given us teachings through the Law and through Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Law, which will lead us into a place of life and abundance. In particular, this “free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). Jesus’ whole life, culminating in his death and resurrection, was a testament to the Law which he summarized as “You shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind . . . [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:37–39).

  • Where in your life are you a slave to sin?
  • How might obedience to God deliver you from that position into life?
  • Where is our church/town/state/nation a slave to sin, and how might obedience to God deliver us into life?

Matthew 10:40-42

These two verses at the end of Chapter 10 of Matthew conclude a treatise from Jesus to his disciples on the role of mission. Jesus gathers the twelve, gives them the powers of healing and exorcism, and sends them into the world to cast out demons and heal (Mt 10:1). Jesus then warns his disciples that in performing these acts of love, they will meet persecution and disdain.

Jesus still commands us, his 21st-century followers, to share the Good News of Jesus, which brings healing and life to the world. This may not make us popular, and neither will the work be easy. In these two verses appointed for today, however, Jesus reveals the rewards for those who are faithful. Notice that these rewards do not include wealth, fame, or worldly goods. Our reward is “the reward of the righteous” (Mt 10:41). God calls each of us to spread the Gospel in different ways—some are wandering prophets, some are teachers, some are even little children. All of us, however, carry the light of Christ and can take that light into the dark places of this world.

  • What are your gifts, and how might you use them to spread the light of Christ?
  • What brings you great joy? How might God use that joy to spread the Gospel?
  • Where are the dark areas in your community that need the light of Christ?

Reflections written by Charles Lane Cowen, Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Rhode Island and  M.Div. Candidate at the Seminary of the Southwest.

Download the Bible Study for Pentecost 4, Proper 8.

Bible Study, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (A) – June 25, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39

Genesis 21:8-21

Outside of the book of Genesis, the word “Abraham” appears in the Bible 142 times. Compare that with Sarah, which appears 24 times, and Hagar who only appears 3 times—once in Baruch and twice in Galatians. Given that father Abraham is remembered for the covenant God makes with him to provide descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen 15:5), it seems strange on the part of the biblical authors to ignore Sarah and Hagar, without whom Abraham would have no descendants.

The author paints a picture in today’s story of a jealous Sarah who casts out a helpless Hagar into the wilderness with her young son. Hagar, a servant girl, was forced against her will to have sexual relations with her master, bear him a son, only to be cast by her master’s jealous wife into the wilderness — where she and her son will surely die of thirst. Human jealousy, pride, and ambition pit these women against one another. God, however, remains faithful to both Sarah and Hagar. Hagar calls out to God, and God provides water and makes of Ishmael a great nation. Through Sarah and Isaac, God makes another great nation. In today’s world, we see over and over nation pitted against nation as we fall trap to the sins of jealousy, pride, and selfish ambition. Perhaps through remembering that God loves and cares for us even when we fall into sin, we can seek to create a world where we love all nations as family.

  • Look at Gustave Doré’s famous engraving of Hagar in the Wilderness. Does this image change the story for you in any way? How might you depict the story of Hagar and Ishmael?
  • Where in your life have you been jealous of the accomplishments of others? How might God transform that jealousy?
  • What does this story teach us about modern political diplomacy?

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

In Psalm 86, the psalmist calls out to God for help against enemies (this becomes far more apparent when we include verses 11–15 which the lectionary leaves out). The psalmist follows a familiar pattern of petitions for God’s help, followed by words praising God before asking for deliverance from enemies and moving into thanksgiving even before God provides help (Ps 86:12–13, BCP). The psalmist believes so surely in God’s goodness that he thanks God even before the prayer has been answered.

The most important verse of this psalm has been removed from today’s reading: “But you, O LORD, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth” (Ps. 86:15). This is a direct quote taken from Exodus 34:6 where God, speaking to Moses, reveals that I AM is a God who loves mercy over anger. The hope of favor the psalmist holds is not a blind hope like I hold when I say, “I hope I win the lottery.” This hope comes from God’s own mouth. The psalmist teaches us that when we pray and call upon God for help, we should reach deeply into our scriptural tradition to see how God has worked and is working in the world. Then we can call out with faith and hope to the God who has “helped me and comforted me” (Ps. 86:17).

  • What “enemies” persecute you or your community?
  • What insights do you gain from the scriptural witness?

Romans 6:1b-11

This poetic passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans beautifully summarizes for us the mystery of Holy Baptism. Baptism, especially as it has been made part of public Sunday worship in the 1979 Prayer Book, is a time for the whole church to rejoice in the addition of new members into our community, which is the Body of Christ. Given that in our tradition we practice infant baptism, most of our baptisms carry the double joy of also celebrating new life and growing families.

I certainly do not mean to suggest that the church should not celebrate the births of babies within our churches, but Holy Baptism has nothing to do with earthly birth, and everything to do with death to self and birth into a new way of being. Just as Paul reminds us so beautifully in this biblical song or canticle, through our baptism we, like Jesus, die. In the practice of full-immersion baptism, a person literally goes under water where they are incapable of breathing—death. Rising up out of the water under the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the person takes a new breath as they emerge from Jesus’ death into Jesus’ resurrection.

This is good news! We are no more slaves to sin, but we have a new life in Jesus. We are no longer slaves to death, but we have eternal life in Jesus. Alleluia!

  • What aspects of death are in our baptismal liturgy?
  • What aspects of birth are in our baptismal liturgy?
  • What does full participation in the Body of Christ look like? How might we order our lives if we remain conscious of the fact that we are part of the Body of Christ?

Matthew 10:24-39

One common complaint against Christianity brought up by atheists is the problem of theodicy—why does an all-powerful, loving God allow terrible things to happen in the world? This criticism only holds up, however, if one buys into the common misunderstanding, professed by many Christians, that Christianity is a religion of sunshine, rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dogs, completely devoid of suffering and pain. Readers of Matthew’s gospel know that the in-breaking of God’s kingdom comes with much pain and suffering.

Today’s reading begins with Jesus reminding us not to fear the oppressors of this world, but to fear God. Written against the backdrop of the oppressive Roman Empire, Matthew offers words of comfort to worshippers of God that the reign of God is being uncovered. Jesus empowers us to stand in opposition to our oppressors, proclaiming the peace and love of God, yet Jesus is not naïve enough to think that our oppressors will simply give up. Proclaiming the Good News will always make those in power uncomfortable, and sometimes that even means people in our own families.

  • When have you disagreed with someone in your family about politics or religion? Were you able to resolve it? If so, how?
  • What issues in your local community might be informed by your being a follower of Jesus? How might you proclaim God’s justice in places of oppression? 

Charles Lane Cowen is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Rhode Island and an M.Div. Candidate at the Seminary of the Southwest.

Download the Bible Study for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.

Bible Study, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost – June 18, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Genesis 18:1-15

In the Book of Genesis, chapter 18, verses 1-15, the ever-faithful Abraham, first of the Hebrew patriarchs, unexpectedly plays host to God and two angelic companions at an oak grove near his home in the Hebron neighborhood, a township nestled in the Judean Mountains of Palestine. While these three visitors do not appear as anyone special, Abraham immediately recognizes his divine guests and offers them the best hospitality he possibly can. While Abraham and his wife Sarah are already very old, God informs Abraham that he will pay them another visit at an appointed time and on his return, will enable his wife to become pregnant and produce a son. Overhearing the conversation from their tent and recognizing her advanced age, Sarah is doubtful of this prospect and laughs. When she realizes that God has overheard her laughing, she is afraid to admit her lack of faith and unsuccessfully tries to deny that she had laughed.

In our contemporary world surrounded by scientific and technological advances, how often do we use these advances to justify our lack of faith in the ability of God to intervene in our lives, rationalizing that the people of biblical times were somehow different than ourselves? The reaction of Sarah in this story shows us that just as in our contemporary era, these biblical characters were no different: they also doubted the unimaginable. Sarah is already advanced in age and she knows it is biologically impossible for her to have a child at her age. Nonetheless, her ever-faithful husband Abraham responds without doubt, only faith. He had even recognized the divine origin of his anonymous visitors without question, unlike Sarah who had not realized until sometime later.

  • Do we allow our doubt to blind us to the divine presence in the world? What can we do to awaken ourselves and be more aware of this presence?
  • Are we afraid to acknowledge our doubt to God or to others? What can we do in our church communities to make it safe to acknowledge our doubt and thereby enable ourselves and our church communities to grow in faith?

Psalm 116:1, 10-17

In Psalm 116, the psalmist expresses his relief and overwhelming feeling of thankfulness to God after recovering from illness. His faith has been strengthened and he expresses his thankfulness by committing himself to openly living out his faith, thus glorifying God.

In our contemporary age with many medical advances in technology and medicine, it is easy to overlook God’s part in our successful recovery. Just as the psalmist, we must faithfully remember God’s presence in our lives and the healing he offers us when we are suffering illness or other difficult circumstances. Let us always be thankful for God’s healing presence and always offer the best of ourselves to him as an expression of our thankfulness.

  • Have you ever experienced this kind of overwhelming thankfulness to God after overcoming hardship or suffering? How did you express your thankfulness?
  • What are some other ways we can express our thankfulness to God?

Romans 5:1-8

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he sends a message of encouragement to the Christians there that they have been made right with God and are at peace with him simply through their faith in Christ. Suffering persecution was part of life for the early Christians and so Paul encourages them to see their suffering as helping to strengthen their faith and remember that God’s presence is always with them. Perhaps Paul draws on his own experience of suffering for his faith. He continues by attempting to ease any doubt in their minds about God’s love for them by reminding them that Jesus had sacrificed himself out of love for them even before they we were right with God and undeserving—so how much more is his love for them now that they have faith in him?

Often, we feel we must do something to be worthy of God’s love for us, but Paul assures us that our faith is enough. Jesus was willing to sacrifice his life for us even before we had faith in him, so just as Paul assures the Christians in Rome thousands of years ago of Jesus’ love for them because of their faith in him, so too can we feel assured. Faith always comes first, and any good works that we do are an expression of that faith. They are not requirements to be loved by God.

  • Have you ever felt suffering for your faith? Do you feel this suffering has strengthened your faith and did you feel God was present with you in your suffering?
  • Are you convinced of God’s love for you? How can you convince others of this love?

Matthew 9:35-10:8

In this selection from the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus is fulfilling his mission of teaching, preaching, and healing throughout the entire Galilean region of Israel. Motivated by compassion for the people whom he had realized were in great need of healing and leadership, and also realizing the task was too great for himself alone to fulfill, he gathers together twelve of his followers, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, to assist him in his task. He delegates his authority to them. These disciples were a diverse group from all walks of life and Jesus would often complain about the lack of faith shown by the apostles he had chosen, but nonetheless, they were faithful enough to accept the task Jesus had given them, even to the point of leaving their former lives behind and experiencing suffering. Jesus, in asserting his messiahship over his own people, while also knowing they were in great need of healing and spiritual guidance themselves, made the priority of his new apostles to go first to the Jewish people. They would provide healing to them and announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, for which John the Baptist had long been preparing them. However, while they were to accept whatever the people gave them to provide for their basic needs, they were not to request payment in the same way that Jesus himself had not requested payment from them. God’s unmerited, merciful love and healing were already payment in full.

How often do our church communities expect leaders to fulfill the mission of the church while being unwilling to actively assist in this great task? Do we see simply attending church on Sundays and perhaps participating in a Bible study session as enough of a burden in our busy lives? If we do offer to assist, do we expect something in return, even payment, before we are willing to do it? As Jesus himself realized, while there is much to do and people are in great need of healing and spiritual guidance, there is an even greater need for all of us to actively assist in this work. Let us be generous with our time and talent, even if we believe our faith is insufficient for the task, and simply offer ourselves in faithfulness and allow God to work through us.

  • In what ways does your church community fulfill its mission in the world? Do the church members actively assist in this mission?
  • In what ways can you use your time and talent to assist in the mission of your church?

References:

New Revised Standard Version Bible (2007). San Francisco, CA: HarperOne

New Living Translation Bible (2013). Life Application Study Bible. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House

New King James Version Bible (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson

Gary M. Burge, Andrew E. Hill, eds (2012). The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books

Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall (2011). The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books

Daniel Woods, a New Zealander, is a postulant from the Episcopal Diocese of Davao in the southern Philippines and a 2nd-year seminarian in the Master of Divinity program at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Quezon City, Metro Manila. He has spent his entire adult life involved in various lay ministries in Anglican parishes from choir member to verger to vestry member and everything in between, and in several Anglican provinces: New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and now the Philippines. Daniel has a particular interest in Church History and a love for church music. During his two years as a seminarian he has most appreciated semester-long field education opportunities in a variety of church institutions including St. Luke’s Medical Center, Episcopal Care Foundation (Relief & Development), and Jigsaw Kids Ministry Philippines. Daniel has spent most of his working life in the education sector, including 7 years teaching English in Korean and Japanese public schools. He is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand with a Bachelor of Commerce & Administration in International Business, a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honors in International Relations, and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

 

Download the Bible Study for 2nd Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Bible Study, Trinity Sunday (A) – June 11, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

The stories of creation in the Bible are a few of the enigmatic and disputed narratives in history. Countless scholars and avid readers of the Scriptures have attempted to shed light on the meaning behind the Jewish version of the origin of human beings and the world as we know it. Amidst all the interesting commentaries and criticisms, the practical lesson of stewardship, of humans as creatures of imbued divinity, the images of God, capable of both the destruction and renewal of creation are perennial and emphatic statements of our nature as God’s children.

In the text, God’s command was for Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “subdue” and have “dominion” over every living thing on earth. I believe these words hint to a missionary aspect of our understanding of the Creation. From the very beginning, we have been given the task to bear fruit, that is, to produce good work, and to put things into order—especially with regard to the prevalent abuse of our natural resources and the disregard of the environment’s welfare. The Anglican Five Marks of Mission, which include the imperative to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth” is an allusion to that ancient divine command from our Triune God.

  • Christians have been accused of being “too eager for heaven that they forget earth,” and thus disregarding the importance of the environment. How would you respond?
  • Do you think the Creation narratives provide solid reasons to be faithful stewards of God’s creation? Why or why not?

Psalm 8

This psalm evokes a feeling of wonder and awe, the one we often have after gazing at the glittering canopy of stars against the dark sky. Humble adoration is immortalized in the words, “When I consider the heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man that you should be mindful of him?” The captivating intricacies of the universe have long captured the imagination of poets and scientists alike. The psalmist was no exception.

  • Many Celtic prayers are examples of beautiful odes composed for the adoration of God as the Creator. Have you experienced particular moments when the beauty of nature stirred you to worship?

 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

The Apostle Paul’s benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you,” is a striking statement worthy to be pondered in light of the Trinity. In this passage, Paul underscores the importance of building community: to strive to keep the peace, to dwell in unity with one another—even in difficult circumstances.

As I read this passage, I reflected on the word communion as a distinctive factor in understanding the Trinity. The benediction speaks of the entire manifestation of God’s love from the Father being exemplified in grace by the Son and bounded through the Holy Spirit. This trinitarian perception is conveyed through our faith expressions. The Trinity, then, is the Divine Communion. And we participate in the affirmation of this communion poignantly in our celebration of the Eucharist as a koinonia, or community of faith. In the Eucharist, we are bounded by God, with God, and in God, where love is perfected.

  • The doctrine of the trinity is difficult to explain. However, the traditions passed down to us by our predecessors in the faith help us understand it better. What are those traditions? Do you think they must be preserved and taught to the present generation?
  • Is the Trinity truly manifested in the Eucharist? Yes or no? Why or why not?
  • How should we encourage the Christian sense of community in our present societal context of individualism?

Matthew 28:16-20

The trinitarian formula—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is a peculiar mark of the Great Commission. Jesus, in this Gospel passage, gives his final instructions, citing the authority given to him by God the Father in the context of his resurrection. His authority is made absolute, triumphant, and infinite. Through him, the knowledge of the Triune God has endured.

Still, why bother with the trinitarian formula? Will the Great Commission still be great without it? Perhaps the glory of God cannot be realized without acknowledging the distinguishing work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Him, the Triune God is revealed.

  • Reflect on the Trinity and how it is a fundamental doctrine of our understanding of God.
  • How is the Trinity implied in the Paschal mystery of Jesus?

Sunshine Dulnuan was given her name because of her father’s favorite singer, John Denver. She is 26 years old and a second-year seminarian of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Quezon City, the Philippines.

 

Download the Bible Study for Trinity Sunday.

Bible Study, Day of Pentecost (A) – June 4, 2017

[RCL] Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23

Acts 2:1-21

The Holy Spirit empowers people in many different ways, but these gifts carry with them a responsibility to share them with others. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit gives some the ability to withstand great trials and adversity (look at the Judges) and others inspiration to see great truths (see the Prophets), and here the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ disciples the ability to speak to and be understood by the people of scattered nations and languages – a kind of reversal of the Tower of Babel story.

But if the disciples or anyone else takes their gifts and keeps them to themselves, they are wasted. The Good News that God has given us is likewise wasted if we do not then share it with others and welcome them into finding the love of each other and love of God to which we are all called.

It is not enough, however, to share God’s Word with those who are like us, think the way we think, and speak the way we speak. God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost points to our responsibility to share our gifts and our love with those who are different from us. The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the power to literally speak to others in their own language, but we can also approach people where they are in life. We cannot place the burden on others to cross cultural, social, and language barriers to find us – God empowers us to stand up and bring the gifts of the Spirit to them.

  • Where are the barriers that keep you from loving others?
  • In what ways are you empowered to go out into the world and love others?

Psalm 104:25-35

Looking for God’s presence and God’s love in the world around us can be a great habit to form. Noticing God in the world is just like exercising: It is an easy habit to pick up if you commit to it, and it adds to your life; but it is an easy habit to fall out of in a world where it is easy to just let it get away from you. It is easy to get trapped into thinking about God only when God is being explicitly mentioned, and fall into a habit of not thinking about God while you are out in the everydayness of our world full of pressing concerns.

As with exercising, do not start out too ambitiously and turn it into a dreaded chore. It really only takes a small moment to recognize God in something: the beauty and majesty of the sea, the breath on your lips, a smile from someone at the store. In time, these small moments become a habit and you will automatically start noticing God in the world around you. It is not that God has become more present, but that you have been recognizing what has been there all along.

The times that are the most difficult in life are the times you will appreciate having developed the habit of seeing God in your life, because it is in times of great crisis when we are the least prepared to start the work of seeing God’s presence and love, and yet it is then we need to see it most of all.

  • Where have you noticed God’s presence or God’s love out in the world today?
  • Ask yourself tomorrow where you notice God’s presence or God’s love.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

We live in a world that often prizes individualism more than community. People will tell you that you should be more proud of an accomplishment if you did it without the help of others – that somehow going it alone makes the work superior. This can, unfortunately, lead to an impression that needing help is a bad thing and, also unfortunately, leads people not to ask for help when they need it.

There is more work that needs to be done in this world than any of us can do alone. That should not be taken as a sign of our inadequacy as human beings, but as a sign that God intended us to be in community with one another, deeply living into our relationships with God and with each other. That we are all gifted in different ways is no accident, because we are less beneficial to people who are like us than to people who are different from us; we can help overcome each other’s challenges and empower each other’s strengths – and in so doing the entire community can become a stronger body of people.

Our goal in life should not be to become self-sufficient and not need others. Instead, our goal in life should be to recognize what gifts we have to offer the world and also, importantly, to recognize what gifts we have in those around us. The sharing of everyone’s gifts of the Spirit knits together the Body of Christ.

  • What of yourself can you offer those around you today?
  • How are you receiving someone else’s gifts of the Spirit offered to you?

John 20:19-23

We are all subject to doubt sometimes. The story that follows John 20:19-23 is the story of “Doubting Thomas,” where Jesus implores Thomas not to let doubt get the better of him.

Carefully look at today’s story, though. Notice that the other disciples also have trouble believing in Christ’s return. It is not until they actually get to see Christ’s wounds that they believe what they are seeing, rejoice, and really see Jesus (v. 20). Even after all the miracles they witnessed – the healings, the walking on water, the raising of Lazarus from the dead – they still struggled with doubt.

The question, then, is not whether or not we are going to be subject to doubt, but instead, what we are going to do about it. Jesus tells his disciples to go out into the world, challenging them not to let their doubts get the better of them. When we are going out into the world and forgiving others – loving others and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ – we are not letting doubts get the better of us. God knows that it is hard to do sometimes, which is why we have had the Holy Spirit breathed upon us. We have been empowered to struggle with doubts and still be the loving, rejoicing, forgiving, disciples Christ called us to be.

  • Where are doubts stopping you from loving or forgiving others?
  • Where can you find strength to keep loving and forgiving despite those doubts?

Download the Bible Study for Pentecost (A).