Friday, February 10, 2006

Bible Study Material for February 19th 2006 - 7th after Epiphany

Isaiah 43: 18-25:
Throughout the book of Isaiah, the reader is urged to remember God’s past actions. … Yet, here we are urged to “forget about what’s happened, don’t keep going over old history.” What does this mean? Are Isaiah’s readers being asked to remember who they are, their identity in God, and at the same time to forget their past history of mistakes and disobedience?

What does it mean to REMEMBER our past, yet face the future?
How do we make space in our lives (as people, as a church) for new things?
What are we, as a church, called to prepare ourselves for?
Could “new ways” of BEING church, be the NEW thing?
Why is wilderness associated with God’s judgement?
What does such a view of wilderness say to rural people?
How important is the forgetting of mistakes and disobedience in this reading?
How important is the forgetting of mistakes and disobedience in our lives?
What stories from our past (personal and communal) are worth passing on?
How do we discern which are worth passing on and which should be forgotten?

Mark 2:1-12:
A group of frogs was traveling through the woods, when two of the frogs fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around. When they saw how deep the pit, they told the two frogs they were as good as dead.
The two frogs ignored the comments and tried with all their might to jump up out of the pit. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally one of the frogs took heed and gave up. He fell down and died. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.
Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time. …

What lessons does this story teach us?
What do we seek in our times of distress, healing or wholeness?
Is there a difference?

Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while he was standing at the entrance to Rabbi Simeron be Yohai’s cave … He asked Elijah, “When will the Messiah come?” Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.” “Where is he?” asked the Rabbi. “Sitting at the gates of the city.” answered Elijah. “How shall I know him?” asked the Rabbi. “He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time, and then bind them up again. But the Messiah unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed, if so, I must always be ready so as to not delay for even a moment …’”

How important is healing in our faith?
How important is wholeness in our faith?
What does the wounded healer tell us about healing and wholeness?
What does the wounded healer tell us about ministry?
What did Jesus do that was so shocking?
Which is easier, healing? or the forgiveness of sins?
What was Jesus asked for, healing or wholeness?
Is there a difference? Should there be a difference?

Jesus, for the first time in this gospel, goes head to head with the religious leaders. He does it by going to the very heart of his message. It is unimaginable that Jesus would not have been aware of the impact the words “your sins are forgiven,” would have had on those listening. Given the growing reputation that Jesus was gaining as a healer, and given the lengths that the paralytic’s friends went to, to get the man to Jesus, no doubt they were as amazed and perhaps as put out as the religious leaders at Jesus’ response. Physical healing is an understandable, recognizable here-and-now event. Forgiveness of sins is a different kind of experience, one that must be taken on faith. Ancient Near Eastern cultures believed that sin and illness were connected. In healing the man’s body and proclaiming the man forgiven, Jesus was making it clear that the gospel he was preaching was about all of life and the whole person. Any gospel we preach must also speak to life in all its complexity.

How do we share THIS gospel?

Psalm 41:
If ever there was a psalm that celebrates what might be called divine luck, it is Pslam 41. Amongst the graphic details of things that can befall a person from enemies and even from friends, are delightful celebrations of the unexpected graciousness of God. True, the Psalmist can’t avoid a little polishing of the apple by reminding God that God’s favour is not wholly undeserved. But throughout there is a tone of delighted wonder at God’s goodness.

How do we celebrate when we need healing?
Is celebrating in times of need a form of healing?
How do we experience God’s goodness in our lives today?

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