Bible Study: Proper 14 (C) - 2013

August 11, 2013

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

In this, the beginning of the book of the prophet Isaiah, we read of the many things that people have been offering to God, such as burnt offerings and animal sacrifices, but we read that this not what God actually desires. Instead, some of the clearest direction that we get in the whole Bible about what God asks of God’s followers comes in verses 15 and 16.

In these verses, we read that God desires for us to make ourselves clean by removing evil from our lives and to do good and serve those in need. This is not breaking news for believers. We have been taught and we believe that this is our ultimate call – to love God and love our neighbor. And yet, we can struggle with comprehending that God would love us unconditionally and we stumble in seeing the image of God in our neighbors. But this remains our ultimate call and one of the deepest truths our faith. You are loved by God unconditionally and perfectly, and because of that, you are called to share that love with all of God’s children. This is what God desires and asks of God’s servants.

  • Consider and identify those things that may be keeping you from a deeper love of God and neighbor.
  • What helps you to connect with this love more fully and then to share it with others?

Psalm 50: 1-8, 23-24

The beginning of this portion of Psalm 50 reveals both God’s mighty power and constant presence with us: “The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.” We read here that God summons the earth – what awesome power! – and also that God is present constantly from the sun’s rising to its setting.

God’s presence is not just in the sunrise and sunset but it is also with us, individually. God rules the earth with omnipotence and, at the very same time, deeply cares for and loves each small creature that God has made. This idea is one that can be hard to fathom or believe. Why would God love each of us, individually and unconditionally? What have we done to deserve that? The answer, of course, is nothing. And further, there is nothing that can take that love away because nothing is stronger than God’s strength and power.

  • How is the power and awesomeness of God revealed to you in your life?
  • Consider where you see God’s love revealed both in the large things in life and in the details. God is in all and loves all.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

This passage from the letter to the Hebrews opens with one of the most famous and beautiful verses in scripture. This definition, if you will, of faith is a profound one: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

It sounds very lovely and, for many, remains one of the favorite pieces of scripture. Not only is it beautiful and lovely and a favorite, it is also a deep call to a belief in something that we cannot see, only hope for.

This is a demanding and difficult call. Those things that are tangible and directly in front of us are much easier to have faith in. But as we continue to read this passage, we come to understand why this demanding and difficult call is also one that is profoundly rooted in a God who loves us and will provide for us. We read that it was by faith that the world was created. It was by faith that Abraham trusted God to guide him when he did not know where God would lead him. It was by faith that Abraham arrived in the land of promise, and it was by faith that that which was previously impossible for Abraham and Sarah became possible.

It is by our faith that we know God’s deep faithfulness to us. In our trust, even in the things that we cannot see, including and especially God, we come to see and know God’s loving mercy and profound power to do those things that we can neither ask nor imagine. It is for us to trust and believe.

  • Each of us sees and feels God in different ways or places. For some it is in nature or art or exercise or relationships. Where do you most readily see and feel God in your life?
  • Consider how your faithfulness in God has helped to reveal the deep faithfulness of God in your life.

Luke 12: 32-40

This passage from the Gospel According to Luke does not contain a parable or story as we might expect from a gospel lesson. Instead, this passage gives clear instruction for what we should be doing now in order to prepare for the Messiah’s return.

Ultimately, the lessons here focus us on being ready by preparing our bodies, our hearts and our lives for the Kingdom of God. This calls to mind the image of physical exercise, like running in order to prepare for a race. In maintaining a regular running regimen, we can steadily increase our conditioning and be prepared to run any distance whenever the race may be.

Luke’s message to the reader here calls us to a spiritual exercise regimen. We do not know when God will return, but we believe God will. So, we are called to prepare ourselves – our souls and bodies –for this return so that we may join in the reign of God’s Kingdom.

  • What would your spiritual exercise regimen look like? Consider adding a portion or all of the Daily Office to your routine. Perhaps you can take on regular scripture reading. And still, for some, there will be other things that will be more of a benefit. The point is that we do these things not for the sake of completing a task. Instead, in bringing our lives more fully into God’s constant presence, we make ourselves ready to serve God as followers more fully formed into God’s image.