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Bible Study: Easter 2 (B) – April 7, 2024

April 07, 2024

RCL: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Acts 4:32-35

What would life be like if we didn’t own things? It’s a difficult reality to imagine – after all, the very idea that we can and should own things is rooted so deeply into our contemporary Western society and culture that it’s very difficult for most of us to imagine that it’s possible that things would or could work any differently. Ownership is often presented as a goal or an achievement: owning a home, a car, land, or various possessions – each is a symbol of success and favor. Not all human communities have embraced ownership in this way, however. The early Christian community described here in the Book of Acts is one of them; they decide to eschew private ownership and instead “everything they owned was held in common.” Not only does this enable these early Christians to help the poor and ensure that everyone has what they need, but it also liberated those who once had possessions and chose to sell them from the ways in which ownership makes an idol out of things and distracts us from what really matters: our relationships with God and each other.

  • How do members of a community build trust with one another? What do you need in order to trust someone?
  • The early Christian community described here took a risk by choosing to live differently than most people around them. What was a time when you took a risk for the sake of the Gospel?
  • How would your life be different if you chose to follow the example of the Christian community in Acts?

Psalm 133

While some psalms express anger, frustration, or lament, this one is full of joy and gratitude, specifically for unity. Just like it was in the ancient world, unity can be hard to come by. Sometimes, we are so focused on what we want for our own lives that those individual needs start to eclipse the concerns and needs of the community as a whole. Unity is nearly impossible to achieve when this happens. But when we understand that we need one another, we start to be able to receive the blessing of unity: “life for evermore.”

It’s important to make a distinction between unity and uniformity. The psalmist doesn’t suggest that there is no disagreement or difference in this community of brethren who “live together in unity.” In fact, if everyone already thought and acted exactly the same way, there wouldn’t be much reason to celebrate unity in the first place! Instead, the psalmist celebrates the joy and the gifts of living among people who understand that they have a responsibility to one another and have chosen to prioritize that over their own self-interests.

  • Where are you seeking unity in your own life? What are the barriers keeping you from achieving it?
  • Is it possible to celebrate unity while also celebrating differences?
  • Where have you seen divisions healed or transformed in your own life, family, or community? What did it take to achieve unity in those situations?

1 John 1:1-2:2

In this passage from 1 John, we see an example of what it means to share one’s faith with others. The writer is sharing “the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you,” an example of passing on the Christian faith from one to another. And what is among the most important tenets of the faith to share? That “God is light,” a testament to God’s goodness and power.

We also can see that the author of 1 John is not suggesting that being a Christian means being perfect. No reason to pretend that you are without sin, he says. It’s better to confess your sins so that you can receive forgiveness, but the first step in being forgiven is being honest. Being honest about our mistakes is not always easy, though – especially when we’ve hurt or done harm to someone else. It’s tempting to simply put our heads down and move on as if nothing ever happened. But we know, and God knows, that that is not the truth. And though God doesn’t expect perfection from us, he does expect honesty and integrity.

Though sin is a part of our human lives, none of us is expected to go it alone. Christ is our constant companion and our advocate as we seek to be made whole again. Jesus stands beside us as we courageously tell the truth about our shortcomings and seek to do things differently.

  • What does it mean to have integrity? Who in your life would you describe this way?
  • Think about a time when you asked someone’s forgiveness. What happened? What emotions did the experience bring up for you?
  • In what situations is honesty especially challenging? Who or what strengthens you to do hard things?

John 20:19-31

In the verses just prior to these, Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb and finds it empty. The resurrected Jesus appears to her. She goes and tells the other disciples what has happened – “I have seen the Lord!” But the disciples are confused and scared. They don’t seem to believe what Mary has to say – or, at least, they don’t act like it. They keep the door locked, the text says, “for fear of the Jews,” a painful reminder to us of what happens when uncertainty morphs into the scapegoating of an entire group of people.

“Doubting” Thomas is not so different from all of the other disciples: he wants proof. When Jesus finally appears to him and asks, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” he is reminding not just Thomas, but all of the disciples that none of them believed that he had risen from the dead when Mary Magdalene delivered the news. Jesus does not let them off the hook for this, even though he knows that they are afraid and that the world outside their doors is chaotic and uncertain. Instead, he shows them that they have to learn to trust each other.

  • In this passage, Mary Magdalene is not believed when she delivers news of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples. If you were in Mary’s shoes, what might that have felt like? Have you ever not been believed when you were telling the truth?
  • Do Thomas’ doubts make him any less of a disciple? What are some moments of doubt that you’ve experienced in your own journey of faith?

Sarah Neumann is a senior in seminary at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and a candidate for holy orders in the Diocese of Massachusetts. She studied sociology and religion at Williams College and worked in nonprofit development before pursuing a call to ordination. Prior to seminary, Sarah served most recently as minister for youth and young adults at Trinity Church in Boston and is passionate about preaching, congregational development, and Christian formation. Outside of church, she enjoys being outdoors, solving word puzzles, and befriending other people’s pets.

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