Through the Bible in a Year – January 10

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 22-23; John 8:1-30; Psalm 15-16

Paradoxically it is here in the darkest of all texts, that Light is most clear. It is worth perhaps meditating on Isaiah 50:10-11 as a commentary on this story in Genesis.

As many many people have noted down the ages, this story of Abraham and the call to sacrifice ‘your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love’ is The Story of Faith. Abraham is confronted with the starkest of choices. Both ways seem to him to be ways of darkness. On the one hand he may say ‘Yes’ to God’s summons – and yet once more and now in the very starkest of terms he is confronted by the impossibility of Faith. For saying ‘Yes’ to the summons, Obeying, seems to do nothing more than contradict God’s Promise. The God who has said to him ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned’ – now calls him to sacrifice this son.

[In a sense here we face the essence of the struggle of our own walk – for we walk in obedience but rarely can we see what it will bring forth]

Yet the other choice is no less stark – Say ‘No’ to the God who has from the beginning summoned him forth? One way or the other he must say No to life. Of course God’s promise is Not that Isaac will live, it is that through Isaac will the descendents of Abraham be brought forth. The Promise goes way beyond what Abraham can see as he looks at his son. And thus is faith. We can choose to live by sight and trust our own judgement, obedient to ourselves, or live by faith, which is nothing more nor less than obedience to the one who has Promised to bring forth life through our obedience.

It is in darkness that faith comes Alive. When all we have to hold onto is the promise of God, Faith is most True, for it is All we have. It is in that discovery that we are set free – Abraham chooses to die, and trust the God will bring forth Life. He hears the word of one who was lifted up, who in his obedient dying bears much fruit and follows Him. Life revealed in and through Death. And thus, through faith Abraham does rejoice to see the day of the Living One. In the choice of faith in darkness, The Lamb of God is revealed, the Light of the World shines forth.

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Bible Study Notes – Sunday September 16th 2012

Bible Study notes for Sunday September 16th

Proverbs 1:20-23

Psalm 19

James 3:1-12

Mark 8:27-38

Running through all this weeks readings is the theme of ‘Words’, so it would be good to begin this week by taking time to pray through our Psalm, 19, an expanded meditation on the speech of Creation and the Word of the Lord.

[When we say the daily office in church we ‘breathe’ the Psalms – that is we say the first half of the verse – give ourselves time to breathe, then say the second half. So much of our speech and prayer is ‘breathless’ – we need to give words space. Try saying the Psalm like this, together. It is a Good Discipline. It teaches us more of what it truly means to pray together (and how hard it is!)]

1The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

2Day to day pours forth speech,

and night to night declares knowledge.

3There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,

and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them;

and nothing is hid from its heat.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;

8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;

9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

11Moreover by them is your servant warned;

in keeping them there is great reward.

12But who can detect their errors?

Clear me from hidden faults.

13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

  1. Now turn to the Gospel reading. Note that this is all about Speech – “Who do people say that I am?” – ““But who do you say that I am?”
    1. EVERYTHING hangs on our answer to that question. Why?
    2. What is Peter’s answer? What does it mean for Us, that he is “The Messiah (Christ)”
    3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in ‘Letters and papers from Prison’ says ‘’What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is , for us today.” How do You answer that question?
    4. The distinguished New Testament Scholar, Richard Bauckham says ‘in asking this question, Bonhoeffer presupposed the biblical account of who Jesus was and is, as well as the consonance of credal orthodoxy with that biblical account. Knowing who Jesus Christ is for us today requires us to rediscover his identity according to the Bible and the creeds in the context of our unavoidable immersion in our own here and now. Our task is not to create a Christ out of the needs and demands of our context, but to discern the relevance for our context of the Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever.’ Discuss
    5. Where in the Liturgy do we answer the question “Who is Jesus”? – what words do we use?
    6. Look up the Nicene Creed in your prayer book – p. 410. What do we the Church affirm about Jesus Christ?
  2. Now turn to the passage from James
    1. In the context of the passage, why does James suggest that those ‘who teach will be judged with greater strictness’?
    2. “Whenever we speak of Christ, we are to some extent acting as ‘teachers’”. Discuss
    3. Bearing in mind James teaching that we should all be ‘slow to speak’ 1:19 –
      1. what light does his teaching in this weeks passage throw on this?
      2. thinking back to the instructions on praying the Psalms, how much of our speech is ‘breathless’, or unthinking?
      3. What might me be wise to consider before ‘putting mouth into gear’? Is the Truthfulness of our speech the only thing to consider? Were those who thought Jesus to be ‘Elijah’, or ‘John the Baptist’, or ‘One of the prophets’, speaking truthfully? What is ‘Truthful speech’?
      4. In the passage we read a few weeks ago from Ephesians we read the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love’. Take a moment to share what you think that phrase means. now read the verse in its context, Ephesians 4:11-16. Note the significance of the teachers and doctrine in the verses leading up to ‘speaking the truth in love’. Now discuss again what you think the phrase might mean
      5. “Doctrinal truth is of far less significance in the contemporary church than it was in the early church in which the creeds were crafted’ Discuss. Does having weak doctrine affect our faith?
      6. ‘Speaking truthfully of Christ is a necessity if we are to live out the gospel’ – Discuss
  3. Finally read the passage from Proverbs in the context of this weeks study. Discuss.
    1. The Wise are contrasted here with the Simple, those who ‘hate knowledge’ How do we attain Wisdom?
    2. “ In paying more attention to the thoughts of others than the teaching of Scripture we become wise in our own eyes, puffed up with what is falsely called knowledge” In our lives as disciples of Jesus, how much are we shaped by his words – how much by the prevailing ‘wisdom of the world’?

[Note: Wisdom is personified as female in the Old Testament, especially in Proverbs. In Christian tradition, Wisdom is associated both with Christ and the Holy Spirit]