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Bible Study: Proper 23 (C) – 2013

October 14, 2013

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

The children of Israel, God’s chosen people have been taken captive and live in exile. God and the prophets warned and foretold, and now it is happening. God will not intervene. That time – that opportunity – has passed. This exile is God’s method of intervention.

Hope is not always easy. It is not a removal from this life. It is not something that rescues us and magically takes us away. It is a long-term vision; it is what gets us through.

Israel is not to wait for rescue, but to live into their exile life. It is important that they do just that: live. They are to continue in the things that make them a community, building, growing, marrying. They are to live and participate in the exact time and place to which God has brought them.

This act of living faithfully in a time of what should be tragedy is its own triumph and its own end. In a tumultuous time of empire and conquest, the exiled people will be safe, will continue to be a people. They will continue to be called and special and chosen. And God will lead them home.

  • What part of your life have you been wishing away but you realize will be part of your life for a long time? Is there a place of exile in your life that you need to come to terms with?
  • Can you see a spark of life in a painful place in your world?
  • Imagine you have replaced your hope of rescue with the hope of re-creation and life; how will this change your view of God? Of yourself? Of others in your life?

Psalm 66:1-11

Children get excited over the strangest things. They will grab your hand and lead you to a room and say, “Look! Look! Look at what we did,” and they will show you something that is amazing to them, and they are so thrilled and beaming when you say with enthusiasm, “That is amazing! That is the BEST thing I have ever seen.”

It could be a picture or a fort or a frog. They are so proud and you hope they remember that feeling for as long as they are alive.

This psalm is like that – a psalm of praise and unbridled joy. “Look at what my God has done. God, Just LOOK at how awesome you are.”

  • What are you excited about in your life?
  • Can you list a few of the things God is doing today?
  • How can you share your thanks for God’s action in your life?

2 Timothy 2:8-15

The hope of the gospel is to overcome. The admonition to “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead” is the justification not simply for enduring hardship but for “salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” And it is God who is faithful to bring us through rather than our willingness or ability to suffer.

Our own actions, even our own suffering, are potentially a part of our life, but they are not an end to themselves. Like the reading from Jeremiah, we have an ultimate, better home in sight but this home, this place is where we are. This is very “here and now.”

Reading Second Timothy, we remember that in everything we are bound together through our faith in Christ and by God’s grace. Many of the letters of the New Testament speak as much of behavior within the community of Christ as our actions in the world. Here, we are reminded that our unity with Christ in our own suffering, and our shared life together in a broken, dangerous world is the reason that we can cease our quarrelling over things that do not matter and use our words to lift each other up. Hope is something to cultivate together.

  • What keeps you from participating fully in your faith community?
  • How can you share your story with someone who needs to know they are not alone?

Luke 17:11-19

The lepers are faithful people. They respect the distance the law requires as they call out for mercy. Like many outsiders who encounter Jesus, they know whom they are seeking: “Jesus, Master,” they cry. They know what he can do. The mercy they seek is not a generic quality of help, but a specific request for assistance. They need healing. They seek restoration. So it is all the more shocking when nine keep walking.

Ten are made clean, and one returns. Luke has again chosen to share a story of Jesus that highlights the outsider, the “foreigner.” The one who returns to thank Jesus is a Samaritan among lepers, an outsider among outcasts. He is the model for this story, and we are not sure if, in the end, he receives something more.

All of the lepers were cleansed; the Greek word for “cleanse” is the one used in many healing stories in the gospel for leprosy and other conditions that were cleared up by a healing act. But Jesus concludes this encounter by saying, “Your faith has made you well,” using the word for “salvation” so that it might be translated “Your faith has saved you.” This is the same word Jesus often uses when he connects an individual’s faithful act with their healing. Our salvation is inextricably tied to our healing of soul and self. We are not saved from having to walk to the mailbox today; we are saved to walk in newness of life.

In this case, the leper’s faith (the faith of a foreigner who most assume doesn’t “get it”) compels him to return to Jesus, singing. This faith leads to something more than healing, it leads to wholeness, a blend of wellness and healing. This encounter with God through a lens of faith and trust changed a leper forever. The difference from his friends was that he was the only one who knew it.

  • What intervention of God in your life causes you to return, singing?
  • Are there people you have met in the last few days who are outsiders? How might they need to see God today?
  • Where do you need mercy and healing?

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Christopher Sikkema


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