Ready for Paul?

Monday, September 17, 2018

And we're back!!!!! Time to break for coffee?

Coffee Break's restarting, and so are our Gospel Bible Studies. If it's true that Jesus' ministry lasted three years, I guess we shouldn't worry that we've only just reached the end of the Sermon on the Mount. We could take three years to follow the journey and feel those years well spent. Anyway, here are the questions we'll spend our time looking at this week:

(24) A Slight Digression on Notes and Translations

We ended last time at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 7), which is also the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6), with segments from the sermons in Jerusalem too (Luke 12).

1.       When you were in school, do you remember taking notes during lectures? What did your notes look like—neat compositions in straight lines down the page? Tangles of interconnected points with spiderwebbed arrows between them? Keynotes in bubbles connected by slant lines of text?

2.       What about when you tried to organize your thoughts later: What did your notes look like then?

3.       What do you think Matthew’s notes would have looked like?

a.       What about Luke’s when he interviewed those who knew Jesus?

b.      What about John’s as he planned out his gospel?

c.       Do your notes always look the same, or do you take notes differently in different circumstances?

Does this help shed light on how the gospels end up being so “same, but different” when we read them?

4.       When you imagine Jesus delivering a sermon, what kind of setting comes to mind?

5.       Do you think the disciples took notes? All of them? Some of them? Or the listeners (the people Luke might have interviewed later)?

6.       Do you think Jesus preached from notes?

7.       Do you take notes on sermons in church? Why or why not?

Even if Jesus didn’t preach from notes, he preached from a very deep knowledge of the Old Testament, which leads to questions of our many “same, but different” translations…

8.       Do you think Jesus quoted the Bible when he preached? (Read Matthew 5:17-18, 21-22, 27-28, 38-39)

9.       Do you think Jesus quoted a favorite translation of the Bible?

10.   What happens when we make one translation the only one we’ll accept? Why might it be good to have and use several translations? (And what was the equivalent in Jesus’ day?)

Do you remember John’s reference to “the first sign that Jesus did”? We’re moving on to the second sign next week, so read Luke 7:1-9, Matthew 8:5-13 and John 4:46-54.

1.       What similarities do you notice? (Most scholars believe these describe the same event)

2.       What differences do you notice?

3.       Can you describe John’s first sign (the Wedding Feast at Cana) and his second sign (healing of the nobleman’s son) in one sentence each?

a.       What stands out to you as the most significant fact in the story of the feast and this story of healing?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Define Speck

Last week our Coffee Break group thought about treasure - our treasure, God's treasure, where are treasure should be... But what would it look like if we really believed our treasure was in heaven? Would we see the world as a disaster area needing to be redeemed, our neighbors as casualties needing to be drawn into the fold... or would we simply ignore the state of the world as it's not where we belong?

(23) Why Do We Judge?

What would it look like if we really believed our treasure was in heaven?
1.       Would we be “so heavenly minded we’re no earthly use”?  How do we avoid that?
2.       Would we be so overwhelmed by the sins of the world we’d do everything in our power to change it?
3.       How did the Jewish leaders expect the Messiah to change the world? Does that change how we feel about changing it?
4.       What’s the connection between change and judgement?
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus moves on from telling us where our treasure should be to telling us not to judge.
1.       How would poor people (Beatitudes people) have viewed this transition?
2.       How would the Jewish leaders have viewed it?
3.       Read Matthew 7:1-2, Mark 4:24-25, Luke 6:37-38 What’s the connection between judgement and forgiveness?
4.       Read Matthew 7:3-5, Luke 6:41-42 What sins were the Jewish leaders condemning? What do we condemn? How does it make you feel to imagine society’s sins as “specks”? (And bear in mind, if you've come up with a sin that you really, really know is absolutely evil, your anger at my question is just what the Jewish leaders felt when they heard Jesus!)
5.       Read Luke 6:39-40 Who were the blind? Who are the blind today?
6.       Read Matthew 7:6 Who were the dogs? Who are the dogs?
If we’re not supposed to judge—if we’re not supposed to change the world by telling people what they’re doing wrong—what should we do? How can we change the world?
1.       Read Matthew 7:7-12, Luke 11:5-13 The Luke passage comes straight after Jesus’ teaching on prayer (the Lord’s prayer). What did Jesus teach us to ask for in the Lord’s prayer?
2.       What if a child asks for a stone or a scorpion? How would a parent respond?
3.       How much do we trust God when we pray? And how do we know we’re not praying for scorpions? And how do we balance faith in God’s love with faith in prayer’s power?
4.       Do you really believe that prayer can change / redeem the world?
Matthew continues with Jesus’ teaching about the “narrow gate,” a lesson which Luke places much nearer the Passion, when Jesus is in Jerusalem, quite likely looking at a narrow gate (so we’ll look at this later). Then he reminds us (and his listeners) how to recognize false prophets. Read Matthew 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45
1.       What do you think “By their fruits you shall know them” means?
2.       Have you ever tried to look at the “fruit” of someone to determine if you will believe them?
3.       What is a false prophet? Is it just someone who makes a false prediction, or is Jesus talking about something more insidious?
4.       Some of Jesus’ listeners proved to be false prophets. How can we make sure we’re not false prophets too?
5.       What’s the connection between false prophets and judgement? Read Matthew 7:21-23
Matthew finishes his account of the Sermon on the Mount with a well-known parable. Read Matthew 7:24-28, Luke 6:46-49. Some developers do build in risky places, but we don’t build our own houses very often. Can you think of a modern analogy that would deliver the same immediate message to people today? What about building our worldview from Facebook, trusting our retirement savings to someone without checking their background…?
Read Luke 6:46. How should we judge? How should we live? How should we pray?

Monday, May 7, 2018

What's Your Treasure?

We're closing in on the end of the Sermon on the Mount... and on the end of the Coffee Break season. We're looking at treasure, light, lamps, flowers, birds and more, and asking, What's Your Treasure? How will you answer?

(22) What’s Your Treasure?

Matthew continues Jesus’ sermon through several chapters. Luke splits the teaching, giving different parts on different occasions. Many Bible translations split the sermon up with headers, defining passages by verse numbers. Many Bible studies pick out particular verses from multiple locations and combine them with a single focus or theme.
1.       What do we gain or lose from the different ways the Bible is printed or read?
2.       How important is the choice of Bible translation to you?
3.       How important is it to have context for passages? (And does Matthew lose the context when he puts all the teaching in one place?)
4.       Is the Bible your treasure?
5.       What’s the difference between being known as “people of the Book” and being known as “people of God”? How might this difference be perceived by outsiders?
Matthew includes Jesus’ teaching about treasure next. Read Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:33-34
1.       How does this relate to providing for our children, taking out insurance, locking doors and using mothballs?
2.       What treasures are we most tempted to store on earth?
3.       What treasures are we most afraid to lose? (What’s you greatest fear?)
4.       How do we avoid turning things and relationships into treasures on earth?
So, we have to see clearly and look carefully. Read Matthew 6:22-23, Luke 11:34-36
1.       Luke places these passages closer to the Passion (when Jesus is in Jerusalem). Why might they have seemed particularly relevant and memorable then? How might people who watched the crucifixion relate this teaching?
2.       How clearly do we see our own motives?
3.       What helps you see more clearly? What is your “lamp”?
We have to know our motives, know (choose rightly) who governs us, and then trust. Read Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13
1.       Have you ever been torn by conflicting priorities?
2.       Have you ever struggled to work out which choice would serve which master?
3.       Is this injunction meant to make us worry about all our choices, or to comfort us? Does Matthew 6:25 change your answer?
Read Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-32
1.       What don’t birds do? Does that mean we shouldn’t do those things?
2.       What don’t flowers do? Should we go around naked? Why not? (And was Adam naked? Were Christian missionaries right to insist that tribespeople wore Western clothes?)
3.       Is feeding the poor a good thing?
4.       Is worrying about the next war a good thing?
5.       How do we balance trust with sensible precautions?
6.       What are we anxious about today, in this church, town, city, country, world? How do we practice what this teaches?
7.       And what/who/where is our true treasure?