We've just celebrated Palm Sunday in church. Jesus' death and resurrection are much on our minds. So perhaps it's fitting that we're just getting to that part of our Bible study where Jesus begins to tell his disciples what's to come. First though, he asks them to put it all in context. Who do they really think he is? ... And who do we think he is?

(47) What’s in a Name? Jesus is back in Galilee at last. Most commentators believe he’s heading south now on his final trip. He knows what’s waiting for him in Jerusalem, but his disciples don’t. We know, but let’s try to read this as if we’re just finding out… First there’s another miracle. Having just asked his disciples why they still don’t understand, Jesus heals a blind man: Read Mark 8:22-26Which recent miracle does it remind you of? (Read Mark 7:33) 1.How are men like trees walking? How does this relate to things science has taught us about restored vision? 2.The Pharisees asked for a sign. The people asked Jesus to…

Time to feed the dogs?

In the last year of Jesus' ministry, he's surely thinking of what's to come. Meanwhile his disciples are frequently confused. And his opponents are determined to distract everyone from following him. So... Jesus escapes into the Gentile world. Will he relax and gather his strength for the ordeal to come? Will he take those uncomprehending disciples to task and teach them what they need to know? Will he rejoice in the absence of conflict... or will there even be an absence of conflict? Matthew and Mark both tell the tale...

(46) Welcome Signs The authorities have followed Jesus from Jerusalem all the way to Galilee and are still causing trouble, asking troubling questions, distracting the disciples from Jesus’ final year of teaching. So perhaps it’s time to move even further from the center of Judaism. But of course, there’s no escaping the crowds. Read Matthew 15:21-22, Mark 7:24-26 1.A Syro-Phoenician Greek Canaanite… The woman was probably quite rich and influential, accu…

Have you washed your hands?

Last time we asked if it was okay to misunderstand things, to accept that we don't know it all, and maybe to end up with different interpretations and traditions. This week we seem to be continuing the theme, with Jesus' followers accused of not following the right traditions. But perhaps it's more important to follow the one the traditions were meant to lead us to...

(45) What Are Our Traditions? Jesus fed the 5,000, sailed (or walked) across the water, healed lots of people, taught in fields and synagogues about the bread of life, and annoyed the authorities. Matthew and Mark continue the story with scribes and Pharisees coming from Jerusalem to question him. Read Matthew 15:1-2, Mark 7:1-5 Do you wash your hands before you eat? Why? 1.Why doesn’t Matthew explain about ritual washing? 2.Does this passage mean other nations didn’t wash their hands? 3.Do we have “rituals” that separate us from other people—things that Christians do or don’t do to stay “pure”? Read Matthew 15:3-…

Can we Fully Understand Anything?

Is it okay to misunderstand things in our faith? Is it okay if a neighboring church misunderstands something? Is it okay to believe we might not know it all? Our Coffee Break Bible Study looked at the Bread of Heaven passage last week - a "hard" saying, as the disciples now complain, and a hard saying that has divided Christian churches over the centuries. Does it matter that we don't all interpret it the same way? I hope we'll conclude in this week's study that there are more important things to worry about.

(44) Rejection or Misunderstanding? Christian churches still choose to divide themselves by how they interpret the Bread of Heaven passage. How comfortable are you accepting that other Christians might have different interpretations?
1.Read John 6:60 If this is, as the Bible and the disciples say, “a hard saying,” should any of us expect to fully understand it? Does the Spirit give us complete understanding, or sufficient understanding? 2.Read John 6:61 What …

What are we looking for?

Jesus fed the 5,000 then disappeared. When he reappears, the crowds gather to meet him. Are they looking for food, healing, teaching... or just for the next new thing? If they were looking for teaching, they certainly found some, though the disciples described it later as a "hard teaching."

What are we looking for?

(43) Hard Teaching Jesus has just fed the 5,000; John records this as Jesus’ fourth “sign” (Read John 6:14—the signs so far are: wedding feast at Cana, healing the official’s son, and healing at the pool) and so a seriously big deal in determining who Jesus is. Jesus then sails across the water (and walks on water—last week’s study). Meanwhile… Read John 6:22-24 1.How do the crowds react when Jesus has “disappeared”? 2.What efforts do we make to “find” Jesus when we don’t sense his presence? Jesus lands at Gennesaret (probably Kineret on the Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, not far to the west of Capernaum). Read Matthew 14:34-36, Mark 6:53-56, John 6:25 1.Ho…

Lent starts tomorrow... are you ready?

Today's the day for pancakes back home - Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday; the day before Lent begins. I loved pancakes as a child; Lent not so much, since giving up chocolate always seemed like more than I could do. I saved myself from too serious a commitment though, reminding myself that it would be "unkind" to refuse gifts of comfort food from my non-Catholic relatives. And now, here I am, a mongrel Christian indeed... and here's pancake Tuesday with me wondering if I can make gluten-free pancakes (they never quite work)... and here's Karen May with a fantastic book for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, for Catholics, Protestants and Mongrel Christians, and for anyone else wondering what the whole Lent and Easter thing is all about. Thank you for this great excerpt from your book Karen!

Excerpt from Walking Through Holy Week
Chapter 3: Good Friday Part I: Walking the Road to the Cross

  How meaningful it must have been for the followers of Jesus to stand in the plac…

Are You Drowning?

Our Coffee Break Bible Studies continue in familiar territory this week with Jesus walking on water after trying to escape from the crowds. But why doesn't he just calm the storm, rather than walking out in it? Or was he walking out there (on the water) to check if his friends were okay? It's nice to think he might be walking around (in the Spirit) to check if I'm okay when I'm drowning in things that go wrong.

(42) Are you drowning? Jesus has just preached to and fed 5,000 people. At least some of his disciples must be asking now if he’s Moses, Elijah or Elishah. Some of the crowd as well. Can you imagine how rumors might fly, and how dangerous the result might be for a preacher? So he slips away… or perhaps the disciples do… Read Matthew 14:22-23, Mark 6:45-46, John 6:16-17
1.Why do you think Jesus wanted to be alone?
2.When might you want to be alone with God? What can you do/has God done to make it happen?
Read Matthew 14:24-26, Mark 6:47-49, John 6:18-19
1.Why was Jes…