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Bible Study for the fourth week of the Covid 19 church building closure | Barn Church Kew

Parishes of St Philips and All Saints Kew with St Luke’s Kew

Where all God’s children are Welcome

Section 1: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41

Prayer:  Loving God, as your Holy Spirit flowed through Peter as he addressed the crowd at Pentecost, so may your Spirit work in us, that we may understand your word, and be able to put it into practice.  Amen.

Read the passage through twice:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:  “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Background

              This is the last section of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.  He has explained who Jesus is, what he did, what happened to him, and the fact that he is now alive.  He rounds his sermon off with the ringing statement that Jesus is the Messiah. 

Some questions

  • The transformation in Peter has been quite remarkable – from quivering denial to passionate preacher.  How many events have contributed to this change?  Enumerate them
  • The paradox of Christ comes to the fore again, as in last week’s passage.  How can the Messiah be killed?  What does the title “Lord” mean in this context? 
  • If “Lord” and “Messiah” mean different things, to what do they refer and to whom do they apply?  This sermon is being addressed to a Jewish audience, who have a specific understanding of both terms.  Peter is bringing the two together in Christ in a way that had never happened before in Messianic texts.
  • What does this single sentence imply for the basis of our faith?  Has Peter gone as far as preaching about the Trinity?
  • “what shall we do?” is the response that we all need when we understand more about Christ.  Does this text take you further in your discipleship?
  • The required actions are twofold – repent and be baptised – and the benefits are twofold – forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For what are these people repenting?
  • What exactly does “in the name of Jesus Christ” mean?
  • Peter states that the promise of forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit is available across the generations and “to all who are far away” – who are they?  And how are they going to understand the phrase “Lord and Messiah”?
  • “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” – does this mean everyone or a select few?
  • Did everyone in the crowd respond positively to Peter’s preaching?
  • What will have been the repercussions of this level of response?

Read the passage through again, out loud if possible

Review

  • What has this passage taught you about
  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer:  God of all grace and mercy, we rejoice in our salvation, that the promise you made at Pentecost through Peter still holds good for us today.  Help us to live as your children, servants of the King of kings, and lights in a dark world.  Amen

Section 2: 1 Peter 1: 17-23

Prayer: Loving God, show us your new way of life, that we may live as you intend us to live, and love as you love us.  Amen

Read the passage through twice:

 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Background

              The writer of this general letter to the churches in (what is now) Northern Turkey develops his argument in practical ways.  We have been redeemed by a loving God through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Power to live a new life can be found in Christ’s resurrection, and that new life calls us into the way of love.

Some questions

  • This passage is rich in imagery, but many of the images are surprisingly paired eg.  “… a Father who judges…”, “..purified yourselves by obeying the truth..”,  “… born again… of imperishable seed…”
  • The writer also juxtaposes common notions of value with concepts of spiritual value eg. “… perishable things such as silver or gold… …precious blood of Christ …” , “… born again… through the living and enduring word of God.”
  • Old vs new, former ways vs God’s way – does this make sense?
  • What does the writer mean by “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.”?  Foreigners to whom or what?  Are we no longer in our own country?  And why “fear”?  And how are we supposed to do this?
  • “love one another deeply” is an extraordinary gloss on Jesus’s command to love one another – does it resonate with you?  Is it helpful?  And how practical is it? 
  • Can we love everyone in the Church – for that is what the writer means – in this way?  To love them we have to know them, to know them we have to spend time with them – how do we do this in today’s world?
  • And yet it is deeply practical, especially in these days of lockdown and self-isolation – how to love “from the heart” people with whom we cannot have normal contact – how are we going to adapt our Christian concept of love with the practicalities of social distancing?
  • Is the Christian community to which you belong made up of people who love each other deeply?  If not, why not, and if it is, how can that be extended?

Review

  • What has this passage taught you about
  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer: God of redemption and love, teach us to love as you love us, and to be practical in our working out of our faith, for the growth of your Church and the glory of your holy name.  Amen

Section 3: Luke 24: 13-35

Prayer: Open our hearts, Lord Jesus,to your words of love and grace.  Help us as we read and study to hear you speaking to us, today.  Amen

Read the passage through twice:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;  but they were kept from recognizing him.  He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, asked him,

“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.   “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.  In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning  but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 

 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled togetherand saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Background

              This story happens on the day of resurrection.  Luke has recounted how the women had come to the tomb early in the morning and found it empty. Two angels had told them that Christ had risen, so they went and told the disciples.  They didn’t believe the women, but Peter did run to the tomb to double check their story, and found it as the women had said.  He then returned home “amazed.”  The phrase “the two of them” who were making the journey to Emmaus refers to two from the group of disciples.

Some questions

  • Why were these two travelling home when the rest of the disciples were staying put in Jerusalem?
  • Why didn’t these two recognise Jesus as he joined them as they walked?  Was something different about him?  Or were they simply not in a frame of mind to see who it was?
  • “… these things” that these two are discussing are all the events from Palm Sunday to the discovery of the empty tomb.  They are trying to make sense of all that had happened, most of which they had participated in.  What are the sticking points in the narrative for them?  Which events don’t they understand? 
  • These two travellers cannot see the long-term outcome of everything that has happened – they need Jesus to help to understand that.  Jesus tees up the story for them to relate – how accurate a summary of the events of Holy Week and Easter is it?  What have they included?  What have they left out?
  • There are several books which seek to find references to Christ throughout the entire Old Testament.  They tend to be quite long books.  Had Jesus finished his summary of Messianic Scripture after the 7 mile journey?
  • Jesus seems to have some other destination to which he is heading,  but the disciples persuade him to enter their house.  Are there any other examples of Jesus being persuaded to do something by his friends or the people he meets?  It is usually the other way round – Jesus persuading others to change their ways.
  • In Jewish household, a guest is always asked to say the pre-meal prayers, which are accompanied by a ritual breaking of bread.  This is why it is Jesus who performs this ritual, not the host.  After all that has been said, why is it this ancient tradition that opens these disciples eyes to who this visitor is?
  • Why did Jesus disappear?  Would it not have been better for the disciples to be able to talk things through with Jesus?
  • “it is nearly evening; the day is almost over” the disciples had said to the stranger, and yet when they recognise him as Jesus, they rush back the 7 miles to Jerusalem to tell their friends.  Would you have done that, or waited until the next morning?
  • Why had the risen Jesus appeared to Simon as well as these two?
  • Why did they all now believe that Jesus was indeed risen, after both Simon and these two disciples had met him?  What has made the difference?
  • This is a beautifully crafted narrative.  There is speech and reported speech, ignorance and knowledge turned on their heads (those who thought they knew the story turned out not to), mystery and revelation in broken bread.  There is travel and welcome, tradition and new ritual, Messiah explained and Messiah revealed in the new covenant.  Why did Luke lavish so much craft on this particular part of his story?
  • Which aspects of the risen Jesus appeal to you particularly?  His gentleness?  His ease of explanation?  His grace and generosity?  His mystery?   His sacramental presence? 
  • Is divine love visible in this story?
  • As sacraments are not possible today, and gatherings to worship and listen to God’s word are not allowed, what does this story have to offer for us today?
  • What sort of resurrection do we need, given the current circumstances?

Review

  • What has this passage taught you about
  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer:   Living God, open our eyes a we read your word.  Open our ears as we listen to your word.  May our hearts burn within us as you explain your ways to us.  Amen