Bible Study: Proper 11 (A) – 2011
July 17, 2011
Jacob has left home. He has recently bribed the ancestral birthright from his twin brother Esau and he must surely be somewhat anxious as he embarks on his journey. The dream of Jacob is what is needed for such a worried mind and troubled heart. The stream of rising and falling angels connects Jacob to God. God speaks to Jacob and makes another covenant of abundance and presence between God and God’s chosen. God will be with Jacob on his travels and throughout his life. God is always with us and may indeed feel especially close in those times when we run away or when we journey.
- How are we connected to God and how is this manifest in our lives? How will we mark the odd places where God finds us along the way?
This declaration of the eminence of God is a powerful statement. Hebrew scripture does assert that the Lord God is the only “god” around, for divinities of all kinds were abundant in the Ancient Near East. But here, the Lord God of the Hebrews claims to the very beginning and the end of all things, the God who has always been and who has always known what is to come.
- How do we witness to this in our experiences?
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Psalm 139 uses incredibly intimate images of God’s relationship with humankind.
I have relied on Psalm 139 in my hospital chaplaincy work continually. These words of comfort and promises of being known are familiar to people of faith and were even effective with those who had long ago left any faith system. Psalm 139 stares directly into the infinity of the divine and speaks to the all encompassing presence of God, before and behind, in speech and thought. We each are part of God’s beloved creation that the psalmist tells us is marvelously made, woven in the depths of the earth and known to our inmost parts. No matter where we go or flee, we cannot evade God.
Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
We rarely see the Wisdom of Solomon in our lectionary cycles, indeed the “wisdom teachings” in general are not emphasized. But within them can be found some of the most beautiful and accessible passages of scripture. This passage discusses the righteousness of God and the gifts borne. The reign of God is not like the reign of humanity; it is one of both strength and mercy, of both hope and repentance.
- What are the gifts that give you hope? What things open up for you when you contemplate of a “completeness of power” might look like?
The psalms often tell us a story of persecution, of being set upon or misunderstood. Consolation and comfort stem from an intimate relationship with God, one of teacher and student, of parent and child, of weaver and loom.
- What might it mean to have our hearts knit to God?
There is one guarantee with Holy Spirit work, one result that will happen when we live in, through and with the Holy Spirit: you will be changed. You will be transformed. This Romans passage uses the metaphor of fertility and birth to relay this. The Message translates a portion of verses 23 and 24: The Spirit does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. She knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
I like that image of the pains of the world being the pains of a divine birth, of god’s will being made manifest in the world, and that when we are distracted by this pain of transformation, The Spirit upholds us. When you engage in co-creation with God, when you say yes to this cosmic dance of the Spirit, you will be transformed. When you allow the Holy Spirit to be your inner guide, you will be brought to places you could never have imagined into God’s new creation.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
I am living in California while in seminary. One of the fascinating things about being here is the abundant food one sees while just walking down the street. Lemon and orange trees serve as municipal foliage, rosemary and lavender as landscaping accents. What may not be not so obvious are the remaining edibles. There is an urban scavenger movement that promotes dandelion leaf salad and fiddlehead fern seed bread, healthy edible foodstuffs found in the weeds.
Over and over Jesus tells us that the work of judgment is not ours. We should not pull the weeds but rather let it all be sorted by God. Jesus is very clear that we will uproot good wheat when we think we are pulling unwanted weeds in God’s garden. We will be doing the work of the enemy ourselves.
- What are those things we are quite sure are weeds? Could these things be food instead?
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