Tag Archives: Luke

with the Word online Bible study: small things

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Luke 13.18-21

Jesus asked, “What is God’s kingdom like? To what can I compare it? It’s like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in a garden. It grew and developed into a tree and the birds in the sky nested in its branches.”

Again he said, “To what can I compare God’s kingdom? It’s like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through the whole.”

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What caught your attention in this reading? What made you wonder or have a question?

When you read this (try reading it aloud to hear it differently!), what images, music, or other scenes float into your mind?

Think about your week or your day. How does this scripture connect with what is going on in your own life?

The mustard bush is an invasive species–it takes over all the space in the garden and drives out other things. People tried to avoid getting mustard seeds in their garden. Why do you think Jesus uses this example to talk about the kingdom of God?

Similarly, yeast (or “leaven”) was reserved for non-holy breads. During festivals and holy days, only unleavened bread was allowed. So the kingdom of God is like yeast that corrupts the whole bushel of flour and makes it unholy? Why this metaphor? What does this tell us about the kingdom of God?

Both the mustard seed (the smallest of the seeds) and yeast (tiny!) are small things that change everything. They’re barely visible, you can’t see them working, until suddenly the whole garden or the whole bushel of flour is changed. How is that like the kingdom of God?

What is something small that you can do that will make a big difference in your faith or life? Or how can your life be like yeast, growing the kingdom of God in the world around you?

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with the Word online Bible study: doing doing doing

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Mary and Martha by He Qi

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

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What do you hear in this story?

What reactions do you have? Do you feel interested, want to learn more, defensive, apologetic, angry, confused? Why do you think this story brings up that reaction in you?

What images, movies, or music plays in your head when you read this story? What about if you read it aloud and listen to it?

This story has often been used to suggest that a passive spirituality is better than an active one. Do you think that is a fair reading of this text? why or why not?

Is Mary actually passive? Is Martha actually active? Are either of them actually nurturing their spiritual lives with their choice in this snapshot of a moment?

Jesus says to Martha: “you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” What do you think he means?

Try to think of the One Thing Jesus might mean–is it about focus? Attention? Intention? something else? Read the story again with that one thing in mind. How does it read differently?

What do you think is the good news in this story? What do you think is the challenge?

with the word online Bible study–the communion of saints

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luke 20.27-38

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’

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What pops out at you in this story? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

We sometimes talk about the “great cloud of witnesses” or the “communion of saints”–what do these terms mean to you? Have you ever felt yourself a part of the cloud of witnesses?  Who is in your personal cloud of witnesses?

Jesus seems to say that “the resurrection” is not a sometime-in-the-future event, but instead that to God, “all of them are alive.” What do you think this might mean?  How does it effect your understanding of God, of death, of resurrection, of life?

At the communion table we remember that we share this feast, the glimpse of God’s kingdom, with the whole communion of saints, with people across boundaries of time and geography. The communion ritual, the symbols and words and meaning, bind us together with people very different from us as well as people we love to sit next to in the pew. How might this text speak to this idea of communion?

What do you hear as the good news in these stories? What do you hear as a challenge? What might this story have to say to our community today?

Spirit Space–hard words edition

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Luke 16.1-13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

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Lord, help us accept each other as Christ accepted us.
Teach us as sisters and brothers to embrace each person.
Be present, God, among us, and bring us to believe
that we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O God, your lessons,
as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all not just for some.
to love them as we find them, or as they may become.

Lord, let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance until we know by heart the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.

Amen.

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For one of the best explanations and applications of this very strange story…check out this article by Reverend Bill Loader, a professor from Australia.

with the word online Bible Study: humility and prayer

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Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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As you pray this psalm, what do you notice? How is it like (or different from) prayers you would normally pray? How is it like (or different from) hymns or songs you like to sing? How do you feel praying in this way, using words people have been using for prayer for thousands of years?  What about the prayers of the men in the story–do either of those sound like your prayers or songs?

What do you think prayer is for–what’s it’s purpose?  How does prayer (like any of these three prayers) play a part in your everyday life and in your faith journey?

What pops out at you in this story about Jesus? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

Can you see how or why this story and this prayer might be related, why they would be paired in our Bible Study today? Is there anything that becomes clearer when we read the two together, or a message we might miss if we read just one of them?

What character do you most identify with? Who do you think these characters might represent?

If you were telling one of these stories in 21st century language, how might you get a similar idea across? (what kind of images would you use, what kind of metaphor, who would be the characters, etc.)

What do you hear as the good news in these stories? What do you hear as a challenge? What might these texts have to say to our community today?