Showing posts from June, 2020

Ever wondered who's in charge?

(86) Authority Temple worship was established long ago. It has been maintained through war, invasion, diaspora and more. Whenever things fall apart, the Temple and the people are restored. So now, here comes this itinerant preacher from the back of beyond demanding change, and refusing to accommodate the church leaders or follow established protocol. No wonder they’ve got questions. 1.        Read Matthew 21:23, Mark 11:27-28, Luke 20:1-2 When might we have heard similar questions asked in the community? What about in church? a.        Is it wrong to ask question authority? Or to question God? Read Genesis 18:22-23, Exodus 32:11 2.        Read Matthew 21:24-27, Mark 11:29-33, Luke 20:3-8 Answering a question with a question was a common form of argument, and one the religious leaders were familiar with. But the “answering” question has to be relevant. a.        How does Jesus’ answer relate to authority? b.       How does their inability to answer reflect on their authorit

Ready to Clean House?

(85) Cleansing the Temple Last week Jesus rode a donkey, entered Jerusalem, visited the Temple briefly, and set up base in Bethany with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jerusalem is packed out with people looking for places to stay, booking rooms for the Passover meal, buying lambs at the Temple or presenting their own lambs, etc... Bethany is a couple of miles east of the city, just over the Mount of Olives, and Jesus heads back to Jerusalem the next morning. Read Mark 11:12-14 1.        Would Jesus have known it was the wrong time of year for figs (or at least, for useful figs)? ( Did you know?) 2.        Would his disciples have known? If so, what might they have thought when Jesus looked for figs? 3.        What might they have thought when Jesus cursed the tree? a.        What’s the connection between miraculous healings and parables? b.       What might be the connection between a miraculous curse and a parable? 4.        Jesus curses a tree—not a city, not a group of peop

What's your most pressing problem today?

(84) Hosanna We celebrated Palm Sunday just a few weeks ago. In the church where I grew up, we didn’t just wave palms; we read the whole Passion story, starting with this story, and reading from a different Gospel each year. But let’s try to read it with fresh eyes now, remembering that Mary has just anointed the feet of “the Lamb,” just when the priests were anointing the feet of those lambs brought from the countryside; remembering that Lazarus has just been raised from the dead; remembering that the authorities want to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus; and remembering that the most pressing problem the authorities think they face is: how to maintain control without Rome cracking down on them. ·          What is our most pressing problem today? ·          What is the biggest threat to our society? ·          And who is really in control? Let’s start with the story of that donkey: 1.        Read Matthew 21:1-3, Mark 11:1-3, Luke 19:28-31 a.       What’s the difference? b.

Lazarus the undead, Judas the thief, and more

(83) Being Raised from the Dead might Pose Problems Jesus finally arrives back in Bethany with his friends Martha, Mary and the recently dead Lazarus. He’s been traveling with Passover pilgrims, making fairly slow progress, and arrives ( Read John 11:55-12:1) six days before Passover, which is cutting it rather fine since travelers liked to have a full 7 days to cleanse themselves in case they met something unclean on the journey. 1.        Read John 12:1-3. Traditionally, guests were offered water to wash their feet in after a journey. A few drops of perfume might be added. Nard wouldn’t be used (not even a small amount) as that would be religiously wasteful. Have you ever complained about wasteful church rituals (not necessarily your own church’s rituals)? a.       What does ritual—or expensive ritual—give us? And what rituals have meant most to you? b.       Why might Mary be thinking of ritual burial (where nard was used) at this time? 2.        Read John 12:4-6. John ca

What are you doing?

(82) What are you doing? We left last week with Jesus at the house of Zacchaeus, restoring physical sight to a blind man and moral sight to a tax-collector. So now everyone’s sure he’ll restore spiritual sight to Jerusalem. Which sort of sight are we most lacking in our modern society? And how do they relate to each other? How do they relate to the old adage—out of sight, out of mind? 1.        Read Luke 19:11-14. If Jesus’ listeners are Passover pilgrims, thinking the kingdom of God is about to appear, who do they think the nobleman is, and what “far country” has he just been visiting? a.        Who were the servants, what was the money, and what were they meant to do with it? b.       What citizens hated the king, and who were in the delegations? (What delegations came to Jesus?) 2.        Read Matthew 25:14-15. What’s the most important difference at this point? Could it be a different story? 3.        Read Luke 19:15. What were the servants in the story supposed to have