Bible Study Notes for Sunday November 4th
ALL SAINTS SUNDAY
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
The first reading comes from what we in the Western tradition call ‘The Apocrypha’. The church in the West does not have the high regard for these writings that the Orthodox church has, perhaps to our loss? Certainly these scriptures contain wonderful treasure and reading them throws light on some of the more elusive passages in the New Testament.
For the benefit of those whose Bibles do not contain these writings, here is the Wisdom of Solomon text for Sunday
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
3 and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
4 For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
6 like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
9 Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
The texts this week are for the feast of All Saints. A day in the churches calendar which has a double apprehension – we consider those who have gone before and now dwell in the presence of God, gazing upon his face (Psalm 24:6), and in that light also consider that we who by virtue of our baptism have been brought form death to life are also ‘called to be saints’ (Romans 1:7)
That feature of gazing upon the face of God, finds a parallel in our lives as we engage in the Spiritual Discipline of Contemplation. We tend to understand contemplation from our side – that we are the ones as it were gazing upon God with the eye of our heart (Matthew 5:8), but the deepest form of contemplation in practice comes about with the understanding that we dwell under the loving gaze of God. [This is one special reason why ikons are so important]
Take time this week to contemplate the word. Read the passages set – Meditate on the word [think about what you hear, what catches your attention, what God is saying to you] – pray in response to what you are shown – Rest in the loving Gaze of God. [This is the fourfold pattern of meditative reading we know as Lectio Divina: Lectio; Meditatio; Oratio; Contemplatio]
All the readings are immeasurably rich and deep, and here we are reminded (as we should be All the time), that we do not study the Scriptures as we would study any other book – we do not ‘murder to dissect’ in the memorable phrase of William Wordsworth (a constant tendency in our technological culture, and all too often in church). Rather we study as one should enjoy a fine meal with company – savouring, receiving, paying attention to what we are being given in so many different dimensions.
If you are meeting in a group – share some of what you are given from our readings
Here are some brief questions to ponder
- From the Wisdom of Solomon – briefly read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 : the reading uses similar imagery (we remember from our recent readings in Hebrews that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered) –
- Suffering is part and parcel of life. How might we use that which comes to us as a means of Grace?
- What promises does the scripture hold for those who learn from such discipline? (vs 7-9)
- How important has Spiritual growth and formation been in our own lives? Do we pay it sufficient attention in the church?
- Think once more about Bartimaeus last week – do we also ‘Want to See?’ – do we want to see Jesus? What is the place of such discipline in learning to See?
- Through the ages the church has taught the significance of ascetic practices. By and large these have fallen out of favour in a culture where ‘we have all we need’. Fasting has traditionally been seen as a necessary discipline for spiritual growth. In the light of our reading and our thoughts thus far, what role might it have to play in sharpening our appetite for God?
- From the Revelation of St John
- The gift of the life of heaven is to the thirsty – see John 7:37-8. Discuss
- How does this make sense of Jesus’ words ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you’?
- From the gospel
- First re read and sit in silence before what has happened
- We live in an age which refuses to pay any attention to the Fact of death. Jesus is not interested in ‘keeping us from dying’ vs 37 – Discuss
- Why is Jesus not interested in keeping us from dying?
 Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–
We murder to dissect. From ‘The Tables Turned’, by William Wordsworth. (I was first apprehended of this phrase in a lecture by Eugene Peterson)