Bible Study, Easter 6 (C) – May 1, 2016

[RCL] Acts 16: 9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5; John 14:23-29

Acts 16: 9-15

Hospitality in the first century Roman Empire was risky. It was not simply inviting someone over for dinner or even offering them a place to stay for the night. Instead, it carried with it an offering of protection and provisions for the journey ahead. It signaled a commitment to enter into permanent relationship with another. A family would offer hospitality to people like them, social equals who could be trusted to reciprocate when needed.

So it is significant that throughout Acts, the apostles receive hospitality from people who are not like them, including Gentiles and businesswomen like Lydia. The power of the Holy Spirit explodes the dividing walls between strangers and knits them into a community of friends and co-workers for the spread of the Gospel. After Lydia and her household are baptized, she urges the apostles to stay with her and provides for Paul and Silas after they are released from prison (Acts 16:40).

  • Where have you seen the Holy Spirit create surprising community?
  • What are the dividing walls separating people from each other in your neighborhood?
  • Lydia and the apostles were open to God’s Word and their lives were radically changed. What practices help you stay open to the Word?
Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is a communal song of petition and praise, calling on God to bless Israel so that the whole world will know the Holy One’s justice, power, and guidance. We see this in the symmetrical structure of the psalm. Verses 1 and 7 begin with a petition for God’s blessing, while verses 2 and 6 concern the earth. Verses 3 and 5 are identical, and our attention is drawn to verse 4, the only three line verse in the psalm: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth.” God’s blessing is not just for Israel, but for the whole earth. The petitions voiced in this song are universal rather than contextualized.

  • Given the world as you know it today, what might these blessings look like?
  • Where is God’s saving health needed?
  • Where is God’s justice and guidance needed?
  • Using Psalm 67 as a model, write your own song of petition and praise, being as specific as possible.
Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5

The book of the Revelation to John is addressed to “the seven churches that are in Asia” (Revelations 1:4) and was written in the second half of the first century C.E. The beginning chapters of the book describe the various challenges those churches are facing, from imprisonment and death to spiritual complacency. John exhorts these Christians to “be faithful until death” (2:10b) and to be persistent in seeking a transformed life (3:18-20). Life in the Roman Empire held out visions of many different objects of worship, including multiple gods and the emperor. In Revelation, John records larger visions, reminding the churches of God’s sovereignty.

This particular passage offers the promise of the new Jerusalem, where God’s glory is the only light needed and the nations will dwell together in safety and wholeness. When the lectionary leaves out many verses, I like to find out what is missing. In this case, the compilers omitted several verses describing the new Jerusalem’s opulent walls and gates. Take the time to read these verses. Imagine the vision John is describing— a glorious city more radiant than anything the Roman Empire could construct.

  • How does this city, the river, and the tree of life appear in your imagination?
  • Which aspect of John’s description offers you the most powerful sense of hope for your life, your community, or the world?
  • How might you live into that hope with faithful courage?
John 14:23-29

Jesus’s words to Judas (not Iscariot) are part of a larger conversation at the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples to live faithfully after he has gone from them physically. They are understandably disturbed by this talk, but Jesus repeats his words of peace and assurance. Jesus has brought them into an abiding love relationship with God that has implications for their lives whether they are in Jesus’s physical presence or not.

The Advocate, the paraclete, is the Holy Spirit, sent to abide with the disciples (14:17) and to remind them of Jesus’s words and teaching. He is not leaving the disciples orphaned (14:18), and yet we can imagine how upsetting this conversation would be.

  • Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit and his gift of peace are intertwined. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence in your life?
  • Where do you sense a need for Christ’s peace today? Take a few moments to pray for peace now.

Download the Easter 6C Bible Study.

Written by Charlotte Wilson
Charlotte is a postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of California and a third year seminarian at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. As a spiritual director and minister, she delights in accompanying others as they encounter God in expected and unexpected places. Charlotte finds joy in reading, hiking, knitting, and hanging out with her family and friends.

Bulletin Insert: Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (B)

United Thank Offering

Photo: Grace Aheron, a United Thank Offering young adult grant recipient

July 19, 2015

125 years ago, the United Thank Offering was founded to help individuals pay more attention to the spiritual blessing in their lives and by making small thank offerings, those funds would go to support innovative ministries in the Church for which the church budget had not yet expanded to fund.

In 2015, the United Thank Offering annual grants and the special young adult grants are working towards God’s vision for His people and are seeking to change lives in a new way by a variety of actions. The United Thank Offering of The Episcopal Church awarded 55 grants for a total of $1,558,006.85 for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The 2015 grants were awarded to projects in 46 domestic and overseas dioceses, which included 34 Episcopal Church Dioceses, 5 Companion Dioceses, 5 International Dioceses and 2 grants to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society mission offices for Overseas Missions and Young Adult Service Corp (YASC). To celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the United Thank Offering, 9 Special Young Adults (21 to 30) were awarded, one for each Province.

The focus for the 2015 annual awarded grants was the Fourth Mark of Mission—to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. The focus of the young adult grant was to provide seed money for a new project that was based on any one of the Five Marks of Mission.

One of the Young Adult Grants, awarded to the Diocese of Virginia, will provide seed money for a new intentional community. Grace Aheron shares: “Beginning in September of 2015, the Charis Community—Greek for “grace”— in North Garden, VA, will establish a semi-monastic intentional community of young adult Christians who seek the way of Jesus. The Charis Residents—initially four young people—will attempt to integrate their faith into their lives by establishing a rule of life, a rhythm of prayer, a mission of hospitality, and a commitment to enacting justice together. The community will be rooted in radical discipleship which will translate into a permaculture-based farming project, invitational, creative liturgy, and social action. Through the hospitality of the Diocese of Virginia and Grace Church, Red Hill, the residents will occupy Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and vicarage, a previously unused rural church property and will invite Albemarle County residents, especially young adults, into their ministry. Imagine if, instead of closing their doors, “dying” churches in America opened their doors in hospitality to communities of young seekers and believers who desire the rhythm of a rural life— a connection to the land and a slower, more intentional way of being together. This project is, in short, a dream of what Christ’s church will be and can be in this new day.”

The United Thank Offering Grants are awarded from the ingathering from the United Thank Offering Blue Boxes—all coins and bills placed in United Thank for the many blessings that each of us receive. If you would like information on how to start the United Thank Offering, or for information on how to share the story with children, youth and adults, be sure to visit www.UnitedThankOffering.org.

The complete list of 2015 Grants is available here: www.episcopalchurch.org/UTO

For additional information, contact Heather Melton, United Thank Offering Missioner: hmelton@episcpoalchurch.org.

 

Download bulletin insert as PDF:
full page, one-sided 7/19/15
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black and white, half page, double-sided 7/19/15

Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Jennifer Landis

Jennifer Landis is a candidate for holy orders from the Diocese of New York and a third-year Master of Divinity seminarian at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Prior to seminary, Jenny worked as a lobbyist and in government relations in New York City. During her time at Yale, Jenny has experienced a growing interest in parish ministry along with hospital chaplaincy and mission work in Haiti.

Read Jennifer’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Proper 22 (A).

Kerlin Richter

Kerlin Richter is a student at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and a candidate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Oregon. Prior to coming to seminary, Kerlin was the editor of Hip Mama, a countercultural, feminist parenting ’zine. She is currently doing her field placement at Transmission, a liturgical house church in NYC. You can read her sermons at postulantmama.blogspot.com.

Read Kerlin’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for 2 Advent (B).

The Christian compass

Finding our way with soul, mind, strength and heart

Living Compass“Your Living Compass” (Morehouse, 2014) divides a compass into four quadrants: soul, mind, strength and heart. Scott Stoner, an Episcopal priest and licensed marriage and family therapist, presents this new kind of compass with Christian faith pulling the needle.

Stoner divides each quadrant into sections: soul contains spirituality as well as rest and play; mind contains vocation and organization; strength contains care for the body and stress resiliency; and heart contains relationships and handling emotions. For each of the sections, he provides five reflections. These essays are thoughtful and conversational in tone, and offer memorable images and anecdotes. Each reflection concludes with practical ways to enrich this aspect of our life in thought, word or deed.

Completing the simple Living Compass Self-Assessment Tool allows an individual to obtain scores for all eight sections. A score significantly lower than the others indicates an area that has gone relatively unattended and may require attention.

Stoner identifies “wholeness” as our very essence, what God has already given us. In contrast, “wellness” refers to the choices we make to manifest that wholeness at any point in life. An essential first step to a better life is to recognize that the gift of wholeness, the gift of love, has already been bestowed upon us.

A major strength of “Your Living Compass” is the way diverse aspects of human living are addressed. Our lives are accurately presented as complex and organic, with the various sections influencing one another. The wellness that is advocated and advanced here is not something simplistic, but reflects the rich texture of real existence.

The entire volume amounts to a retreat characterized by flexibility. “Your Living Compass” can be used by groups or individuals. It can be used within brief or extended time frames. It can be used repeatedly, as we will bring to it a somewhat different self each time we engage it. After an initial encounter with the entire compass, some users may choose to focus on specific portions.

The Living Compass website offers resources for adults, parents, youth, congregations and even summer camps. Some materials are offered in both Christian and secular versions. Perhaps this compass will also be a bridge linking Christian spirituality with the non-religious spirituality of many of our contemporaries.

“Your Living Compass” may become part of the standard kit for many pastors, counselors and spiritual directors along with such tools as the Enneagram and Myers Briggs. Characterized by understatement, “Your Living Compass” provides a useful schema for exploring the mystery of our lives and welcoming grace wherever it shows up.

 

(The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is rector of St. Paul’s Parish, Baden, Md.)

Doreen Rice

Doreen Rice is a third-year presbyteral student at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry in Topeka, Kan. The Kemper School is a unique partnership of four Episcopal dioceses and a new approach to clergy training. Doreen loves to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in the mountains of West Virginia with her family and their Labrador retrievers.

Read Doreen’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Proper 8 (A).

Dale T. Grandfield

Dale T. Grandfield, a postulant from the Diocese of Bethlehem, is in his first year of studies at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He lives with his partner of 8 years, Brad.

Read Dale’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for 6 Epiphany (A).

Read Dale’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for 4 Lent (A).

Read Dale’s review of Frederica Harris Thompsett’s “Encouraging Conversation: Resources for Talking about Same-Sex Blessings.”  (Morehouse, 2013).

Christine Hord

Christie Hord is a Master’s of Divinity student at Virginia Theological Seminary. She is a native of Florida and moved to Alexandria, Va., with her husband, two daughters (ages 9 and 5) and dog to attend school.

Read Christine’s comments on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Proper 8 (C).

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 23 (B) – October 11, 2009

(RCL) Job 23:1-9, 16-17 and Psalm 22:1-15 (Track 2: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 and Psalm 90:12-17); Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

“Then who can be saved?” they asked Jesus.

How often we ask ourselves that very question. Oh, yes, day to day we put on a good face and project an image of confidence to the world around us. Like the man in today’s gospel reading who seeks Jesus to ask how he might inherit eternal life, we like to believe we know all the answers and have done all the right things.

Jesus asserts that when the rubber meets the road, one must give it all away and follow him; but that strikes us as simply impossible. And like the man in the story, we are shocked and go away unhappy at best, frustrated and defeated at worst.

How true are the words from Hebrews:

“The word of God is living and active, sharper that any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”

Deep down inside we know this to be absolutely true. We just wish Jesus, the Word made flesh, would save his ability to judge our thoughts and intentions for someone else. Anyone else.

Can’t it be enough simply to love Jesus? The disciples thought it was enough to follow him around, to have left home – family, friends, support, a bed of one’s own, the means to make a living.

It is curious, isn’t it, how Jesus is always upping the ante? And yet, from beginning to end, his program hinges on the foundational belief that in God’s reign the last will be first and the first will be last.

Now if Bill Gates with all his billions represents the first in this world, let’s say at number ten, and the poorest of the poor are at number one on a scale of one to ten, can we even begin to imagine, as Jesus urges us to do, what it would look like if this world were turned upside down? That is the first task here.

The second task is to imagine what it would be like to live at number five. Why number five? Because those who live at number five will feel the least disruption in their lives as the Kingdom of God turns everything upside down.

So the ultimate question may be, How do I get to number five? What does the journey to number five look like?

Now on a global scale, most of us in this country, not all of us, live somewhere nestled in around number nine. So what does an individual or a culture need to do, how do we need to change, to scale things back to number five?

This may be where the power of the Word of God comes in: time spent reading, listening to, and meditating on the Word of God will work like a two-edged sword, dividing soul from spirit – judging the intentions of our hearts. For as the author of Hebrews observes, Jesus has in every respect been tested as we have, and is willing to offer us grace and mercy to find help in making this journey from nine to five.

One suspects it will be a journey about common wealth, rather than individual wealth; about the salvation of the whole world, rather than individual salvation.

The man in our gospel reading today who came to Jesus evidently felt his salvation was in all that he had, not in all that he was. At the end of the day, says Hebrews, and Jesus, it is who you are that matters more than what you have.

This is very difficult to grasp – especially in a culture that urges us to acquire as much as we can get. It is difficult to grasp that letting go may be the most important lesson of all on this journey from nine to five.

We just might discover as we read, listen to, and meditate on God’s Word, that God’s own economic plan, a plan that revolves around the tithe and the Sabbath, is truly the meaning of life that we have been looking for.

Bishop Walker of Long Island recognizes four Holy Habits: tithing, weekly corporate worship, daily prayer and study of God’s Word, and keeping the Sabbath. These habits enable us to draw near to God, and as Paul’s letter to James urged a few weeks ago, “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.”

Perhaps this can lead us to a closer understanding of what Jesus answers when they ask, “Who then can be saved?”

“For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Drawing near to God seems to be the best way to make the journey. In the end, the meaning of life cannot be learned or understood. What is needed is fidelity to a way of living that transcends understanding.

 

— The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter’s Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also leads stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word.