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Bible Study for the ninth 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: 1-21

Prayer:  Open our hearts, Loving God, to the wonders of your word.  May we embrace its teachings and rejoice in all its richness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Read the passage through twice:

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Background

              Luke paints a dynamic picture of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, but it is couched in very impressionistic language.  What actually happened that morning in Jerusalem remains enigmatic, but its effect is still being felt to this day.

Some questions

  • The scene is set – a room, with all the disciples together.  Of which other events does this remind you?
  • Note how Luke prefaces the sound of the wind – “like a …” and then the tongues of fire – “what seemed to be” – why is Luke so vague?
  • Why did they start to speak in different languages? 
  • Is this a one-off event, or does it reverse an event in the Old Testament?  How might Luke be driving this story?  Where is he heading with his depiction of the work of the Holy Spirit (Think Babel).
  • How would you react if you were in a room where this happened?  What would you feel?  How positive an experience would this be, or would it be frightening?
  • They were obviously making a lot of noise – houses in Jerusalem did not have windows as such, but large flaps that swung up and out to provide light and air to the room.  Anyone in the street below would have heard everything that was going on in the room.  What sort of impression did people outside the house get?
  • This map provides all the locations from which the different people in the crowd originated from.  It is just about everywhere in the Roman Empire at the time, apart from Gaul & Hispania, but that is probably because the Jewish Diaspora took a certain amount of time to reach the newer areas that had been conquered. 
  • All these people had one common language, if not two (Hebrew and Greek), but the Holy Spirit speaks to them in their “own” language – the language in which they are the most comfortable.  Why?
  • Why accuse the disciples of drunkenness?
  • “What does this mean” the crowd may well ask – so what does it mean?
  • Peter gets up to speak.  Why him?
  • This is not the whole sermon – it continues for a further 15 verses.  Peter goes on to talk about Jesus in terms of Old Testament prophecy, just as he places the action of the Holy Spirit in him and the other disciples in that context.  How helpful are his words?
  • Why choose this passage from Joel – a particularly apocalyptic text?
  • The release of the Holy Spirit into the world was an expected part of the advent of the Messiah.  Up until this point, it was believed that the Holy Spirit came and went from an individual, according to the needs of the moment.  Some gained special strenght, others specific words to deliver, but like Amos the shepherd-prophet, each would then return to their day job.  This is different – the Holy Spirit will now stay with the disciples and all believers for the whole of their lives.  What has brought about this change?
  • Peter was addressing a Jewish audience, made up of religious people who had travelled long distances to worship God in Jerusalem.  In that sense, it was a captive, expectant audience.  He therefore tailors his message to his hearers.  Is his sermon effective for us today?

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:  Loving God, you live in us day by day through your Holy Spirit.  Open our hearts to the power of your love, to the effectiveness of your grace and to the boundless energy that your Spirit alone can bring.  Amen.

Section 2: 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13

Prayer:  Lead us, Good Lord, as we read your word.  May it be fully open to our understanding, and may we be fully open to its teaching.  Amen.

Read the passage through twice:

 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Background

              . There were many problems in the church in Corinth, but they had particularly serious issues with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We can infer from Paul’s letter that some considered themselves superior to others because of the Spirit’s gifts, while others felt excluded.  Paul in this passage lays down some basics about the work of the Holy Spirit, which hold true to this day.

Some questions

  • Does the opening sentence seriously imply that the Holy Spirit actually controls our speech?  Or is it something else, more implicit?
  • Difference in unity – that is Paul’s theme: “gifts, working, service” – all different, Paul says, but all equal and all for the common good.  We need to break them down into understandable categories
    • Go through the list of  effects of the Holy Spirit and separate out “gifts” from “service” and from “working”
  • Does that begin to make sense?
  • Each type of manifestation of the work of the Spirit is from God, Paul insists, hence the equality of each.  What is the purpose of those different works of the Spirit?
  • Why spread them out so thinly?  Why not give them all to all of us?
  • There are other lists of what the Spirit does: the rest of this chapter, and Chapter 14, contain an exhaustive account of how the Spirit works in the Church.  Which gifts (note: gifts plural) of the Spirit do you think you have?
  • Can our God-given spiritual gifts change as we develop and grow older?
  • Are there gifts which you think you may not be using to the full?  If so, how can that energy of the Spirit be released here?
  • Does talk of these gifts make you feel comfortable and encouraged or uncomfortable and suspicious?  Why?
  • Are we a truly Spirit-filled church?

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:  Fill us with your Holy Spirit, loving God, that we may serve you with loving hearts and open minds, in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Section 3: John 20: 19-23

Prayer

Read the passage through twice:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Background

              We last read this passage on Easter Sunday.  This takes place on the evening of that first Easter Day, after Peter and John had seen the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, and after she had been the first person to meet the risen Jesus in the garden.  The disciples have crept out of their hiding places and gathered together in one large room.  They had locked the doors, just in case anyone was trying to find them, when the risen Jesus appears in their midst.  Remember, this text was probably written for a majority Gentile readership, who would not be familiar with any of the Jewish writings.

Some questions

  • What state of mind might the disciples be in, given the events of the morning?
  • Are they expecting Jesus?
  • How did Jesus get into the room?
  • “Peace be with you” is a standard Jewish greeting, but is there more than that in Jesus’s words?
  • Why did he show them his hands and his side?  Why is that detail necessary for the narrative?
  • “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” must be one of the great understatements of the New Testament.   What other emotions may have been coursing through them at this time?
  • There is no explanation of resurrection, simply a series of consequences of it for the disciples.  Why?
  • “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” – is this the sort of thing that the disciples were expecting from the risen Jesus?  Had they had any prior warning in John’s Gospel of their mission or was this news to them?
  • John’s account of the gift of the Holy Spirit is completely different from Luke’s – why?
  • Why does Jesus breath on the disciples? 
  • The opening 14 verses of John’s Gospel are a prelude to the content of the entire book.  How do these verses fit with that passage?
  • There is a strong play between breath and wind both in Greek and in Hebrew.  Is this therefore John’s Pentecost, happening at the same time as resurrection?
  • Is there any conflict between these two accounts of the gift of the Spirit?  If yes, does it matter and what does it teach us?  If no, why do they differ so greatly?
  • Why all the talk of forgiving people’s sins?  What is John really talking about here?  What is the correlation between the disciples and the Church?
  • We read from John 17 last week, Jesus’s priestly prayer.  Is there any continuity between that prayer and these words and actions?  If so, was it just for the disciples, or does it cascade down to us, as we believe the Pentecost events Luke describes apply to us?
  • The Church has coralled the authority to forgive sins to its ordained clergy.  Is that in the spirit of John? 
  • Does this version of the gift of the Spirit encourage you and give you energy?  If not, why not, and if it does, how?

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 power and love, the risen Christ breathed your Holy Spirit on his grieving disciples on that first day of resurrection.  Fill us with that same Spirit, that we may be lifted from our isolation and fear, into the glorious freedom of your family.  Amen.