Readings for Sunday 23rd September – 2012. Study notes

Bible Study notes for Sunday September 23rd – Theme “There are more things in heaven and earth . . .”

 

Old Testament : Proverbs 31:10-31

Psalm 1

Epistle : James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Gospel : Mark 9:30-37

 

This weeks readings are So full of riches it is very hard to know where to start, but as we are going to spend time meditating upon the Word – begin by reading slowly and meditatively the Psalm, Psalm 1. [If you are following these notes alone, then read the words out loud to yourself – it is more helpful than reading in your head. If reading in a group, then perhaps a couple of people could take turns to read it through slowly, so everyone has the chance to Hear the word]

 

 

1 Happy are those

   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,

or take the path that sinners tread,

   or sit in the seat of scoffers;

 

2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,

   and on his law they meditate day and night.

 

3 They are like tree planted by streams of water,

which yield their fruit in its season;

   and their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

 

4 The wicked are not so,

   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

 

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,

   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

 

6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

   but the way of the wicked will perish.

(NRSV)

 

  1. Our first reading is a little unusual – it is if you like a Coda to the book of Proverbs. Proverbs contains of course many ‘proverbs’, short pithy sayings, many attributed to Solomon. It is also perhaps the most explicitly ‘gendered’ text in the Scriptures. As we have increasingly sought to use inclusive language, the book of Proverbs provides quite a challenge!
    1. Read the passage quickly through and speak out your first impressions
    2. Now pause – read again more slowly – ponder the words. Does a second reading lead you to a different place than first impressions?
    3. This ‘Coda’ is actually all of Chapter 31 – read the ascription (Verse 1) – Does this in any sense affect the way you hear the passage?
    4. Is this text in direct opposition to
      1. Contemporary culture
      2. the culture of the church
      3.  The Gospel??

                                                . . . or is it more complex than that?

[If you would like to take a little more time to think about Gender in the Scriptural account, another passage from Proverbs might be worth considering – Proverbs 4:1-9. try and take all the Gendered language out of it, so father and mother becomes parent, and Wisdom is no longer ‘She’ but ‘It’. What happens to the text when you do this? ‘Male and female you created them’ we say in our liturgy – are gender differences of any consequence? ‘Moving away from acknowledging Gender differences enriches our common life’ – Discuss]

 

  1. Now move on to the Epistle – I suggest you ignore the omissions from the text set in the Lectionary and read right through from 3:13 to 4:8, in two parts, first Ch 3:13-end
    1. We move from ‘the Good wife’, with Wisdom personified as female in the background, to the letter of James – in some respects the most practically hard hitting of all epistles. It is about Wisdom for Life as are the Proverbs (despite Martin Luther calling it ‘an epistle of Straw!’ {note here by the way that even the Reformers had a more finely nuanced view of scripture than modern fundamentalist interpreters allow}. James 3:13 – are there echoes here of the Proverbs 31 reading?
    2. Remembering that James first calls us to pay attention to the use of the tongue and that we should be ‘slow to speak’, and that the tongue is a fire – how do these notions feed into the teaching on Wisdom in verses 14-18?
    3. James suggests that there are two types of Wisdom vs 14-18. What are they? What are their different fruits (the evidences of the two different types of Wisdom)? [Note: James mentions lack of partiality as a sign of Wisdom from above – a back reference to earlier in the epistle, Ch 2:3-9]
    4. Now read Ch 4:1-8 James begins to home in on the source of false wisdom, that leads to all the negative consequences of which we have read. This is one of the most compelling passages of spiritual diagnostics in all of Scripture. Contrary to Luther, James shows himself to be a Doctor of the soul. What does he see is the root of evil?
    5. When people are asked to list the ten commandments, there is a slight tendency to remember the ones we keep 🙂 We also have a tendency to forget the first few – that refer to God, and the last one. What is the 10th commandment??
    6. Think back to the old story of the man and woman in the garden. ‘Covetousness is the root of all our troubles. Being dissatisfied with our life in God and wanting ‘more’ is the root sin’ Discuss
    7. Read verse 4 in the light of verses 1-3. What in this context do you think enmity with God means? Is covetousness enmity with God? Remember this passage is all about the desires of our heart
    8. What does it mean to ‘cleanse our hands and purify our hearts’? What in this context does it mean to be ‘double minded’?

 

  1. Finally we come to the gospel which returns to the theme of last weeks reading after a few verses
    1. Read Mk 9: 30-32 What strikes you about these verses?
    2. A theme of Mark is ‘the hidden Messiah’ [a theme also found in John, but in a different way – ‘you cannot come where I am going’, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘”I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” etc. ] Why does Jesus seem to hide? Why does he seem not to want people to know who he is?
    3. Why were the disciples afraid to ask him?
    4. Read vs 33-37. ‘Jesus does not do away with heirarchy, he turns it upside down’ – Discuss
    5. Who is ‘the last of all’?
    6. This is the first time that Jesus mentions children in Mark. In the wider culture n which jesus lived, children were ‘no persons’. Here he stands a child literally ‘in the middle of them’ How does his action interpret his words about Welcome?

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