Through the Bible in a Year – January 13

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 27-28; John 10; Psalm 18:31-50

Once more the rich interplay between the texts reveal the unity of Scripture – that it is of a whole

Firstly though we are warned once more of the significance of the Word. We find the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau so strange because, to our peril we have lost sight of the Creative word. The idea that Blessings and curses are ‘more than mere words’, is beyond us. The idea that Isaac is Fast Bound by his giving of the blessing to Jacob, even though he has been deceived – even though Lying words have been used to bring forth the blessing, seems to us a nonsense. How infrequently do we now hear in our culture the praise ‘He is a man of his word’. We are often called to promise, but we no longer think a promise binds. Thus we have let go of the building blocks of Life. It is little surprise that we are lost without a Shepherd.

Jacob as he flees Esau is privileged to find ‘The house of God’ – the dwelling place where God is present to humankind once more. This ‘dream’ dimly evokes Eden, but also heralds the Tabernacle, the Temple and The Living Temple – a crescendo of Grace.

So comes the Good Shepherd. It was a difficult task to find adequate artwork for this. All the pictures are highly sentimentalised. It is to our romantic imagination, a ‘nice’ idea. But the Good Shepherd as revealed in John’s entire corpus,  is a figure of the profoundest Mystery. He is the Shepherd, who also is The Lamb of God, slain since the foundation of the world, who is also the Temple.

“For who is God except the LORD? Who is a Rock besides our God?”

Through the Bible in a year – January 9

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 20-21; John 7:25-52; Psalm 13-14

As we read on in the story of Abraham, a theme continues – that of Abraham’s inability because of fear to live in truthfulness. Once more he pretends Sarah is not his wife – once more there are hash consequences for others

We are encouraged to ponder how our lives are so interconnected that these small hidings, deceits, fracture a much broader reality. Once more we see how Words can create and destroy world’s  – bring forth Life as the life giving promise of the LORD is revealed in the birth of  Isaac – or how deceit closes off life, as the people of Gerar suffer for Abraham’s deceit.

The face of the father of lies is not well hid, and his narrative of death constantly struggles for ascendency, finding a home in our fears, the antithesis of faith.

Abraham may well have asked “How Long oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?” But what is at stake here is not the LORD’s faithfulness but that of his people. Abraham has been stood beneath the stars and shown the future – he is called to live in the grandeur of that vision, rather than with a constant eye to preserving his own life.

The centre of God’s revelation in the age to come is the Temple – and from the Temple of his body, life giving streams of water will flow to those who thirst. Yet as for Abraham, the question for us also is ‘who will believe?’ Who will trust in the one whose Word is Life – who listens yet for the whisper of the snake?

Through the Bible in a year – January 7

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 15-17; John 6:41-71; Psalm 10

“Does this offend you?”

In the story of Abram, there is much to offend our modern sensibilities – just as the words of Jesus offended those of his own time. Abram hears the promise of God but does not receive the gift of the promise. The promise is too far fetched he thinks for this strange God who has called him to put into effect. Sarai casts around for a way in which her lord might be spared the ignominy of Faith, of which the Psalmist often reminds us. Her eye lands on her Egyptian slave-girl Hagar and no good comes of it – yet once more, as in the story of Cain, God intervenes in the messy and ambiguous outcome, not staying removed.

The dark scene of the sacrifice feels prehistoric to us – yet it speaks of something profound of which we have lost sight. The Power of Word – or Promise – or Oath – that we are taken with immense seriousness. If the Word of God endures forever, does not that of the human made in his image? The divided animals were potent reminders of the significance of the human word – that it was a Bond. ‘Thus be it to me as it is to these animals if I do not keep my word’ [Thus do not swear . . . let your yes be yes, your no, no] Words are the creative power of life, and the destructive power of death. As Noah creates division enmity in blessing and cursing, so oaths have deep power. Yet here one party is taken out of the picture. Abram falls into a deep sleep – who walks between the pieces, with whom does the LORD make this covenant, but with himself. Abram as we see cannot be trusted [‘he knew what was in a man’] – Abram will try to do it for himself – he will not be a covenant partner. God swears by himself  – and when man fails – God pays the price

Anyone who does not see that the entire world is built for better or worse upon human sacrifice is blind to Reality. The offensiveness of the words of Christ are two fold – we think we have moved on from these deep primitive archetypes and metaphors – we think his words are nonsense, for we do not treat words with seriousness, And we like Abram and Sarai still believe that we can have life that is not Promised. The Gift that comes in the Creative Word – made flesh and blood – that is offered to us as real food and real drink – that we might have life within us.

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]