Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dem Bones

Youth are doing this study which is an adaptation of a study from our family for Halloween a couple years ago.

Skull and Bones
Prophet for 20 plus years in the 6th century BC, Ezekiel came after Isaiah (8th-740 BC) and Jeremiah (7th-625 BC).  His name means “God strengthens.”  He prophesied to the people of Judah living in Babylon.  They were confused and disheartened.  Since they worshipped in the Temple, they didn’t know if they could reach God anymore.  Ezekiel preached that they were in exile because of disobedience, and could return to Judah once they repented and returned to God.  Because of the way he wrote and historical records, they are some very accurate estimates of when he made the prophesies recorded. Ezekiel refers to the Torah quite often (e.g., Ezek. 27; 28:13; 31:8; 36:11, 34; 47:13, etc.) is familiar with the writings of Hosea (Ezek. 37:22), Isaiah (Ezek. 8:12; 29:6), and especially Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; 48:37).”

dimitrij @ Flickr
Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

1)    Is that a vision or did it happen?  Why do you think so?

2)    Why is the creation of the bodies and the instilling of spirit in two separate stages?  What other details do you wonder about here?

3)    What is the message here for the Jews?  Why is this message important to them?


 Read John 5: 16-30

4)    What do we learn about Jesus’ relationship with his Father in this passage?  What does it have to do with the ‘work on the Sabbath issue’?

5)    What does Jesus reveal about resurrection here?  Why the connection with hearing him?

6)    What does his relationship with the Father have to do with resurrection?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-26

7)    Why would people have been telling the Corinthians there was no resurrection?  Is there a parallel in our time?

8)    What is Paul’s argument that there is a resurrection?

9)    What does this passage have to say about when and how the resurrection of the body takes place?

10)    Does the resurrection of the body matter to you?  How does it affect your faith or your living of it?

Bonus Scripture
11)    What connections do you see between these other passages and our texts for the study?

(Ps 104: 29-32)   When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works- he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

(2 Kings 13: 21)  Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

zoomar @ Flickr
(Isaiah 26:19)  But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

(1 Thes 4:16-17)  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

(Rev 20:4-6)  I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Double Bonus
I love Nadia Bolz-Weber's sermon on this. Please go read it in its entirety. Here's a snippet to get you motivated:

Sarcastic Lutheran – Sermon Excerpt; Texts:  Ezekiel 47:1-14

Just when this Lenten desert seems too much to bear, today we walk through a graveyard.  And what awaits us but a little Easter.  A foretaste of the feast to come  surrounded by corpses and a boneyard.  Here amidst the dusty remnant of a wasted humanity we see God’s spirit breath life into a valley of dry bones and raise the dead.  Ezekiel had prophesied to Israel for some time, but still the temple lay in ruin like bones bleached white in the unmerciful brightness of humiliation, conquest and exile. At the beginning of the book Ezekiel is told by God to eat the scroll and after eating it he was THEN told to go speak God’s word to them because God’s word does what it says.  We too get to delve so deeply into this word that we practically are EATING it.  God’s word made flesh.  God’s word proclaimed.  God’s word in holy text.  The word of God that raises the dead.  Maybe it looks like tasteless paper, simple wafers and wine, a boring preachers but , as Ezekiel tells us in chapter 2,  the Word is as sweet as honey.

God did not insist that Ezekiel agree with God’s word or that he even understand God’s word.  He was simply told to eat the word, then proclaim the word.  DO not pass go do not collect.  Just eat it and preach it.  And when he did, death was made to become valley dancing life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's a Trap

So the leaders of Israel are mad and worried. They get it – this Jesus is serious trouble. Time to get rid of him. They think, “good thing he’s a dumb hick from Galilee and we are soooo clever.”

Matthew 22: 15-22 A Question About Taxes—Mark 12:13–17; Luke 20:20–26
Then the Pharisees went away and planned to trap Jesus into saying the wrong thing. They sent their disciples to him along with Herod’s followers. They said to him, “Teacher, we know that you tell the truth and that you teach the truth about the way of God. You don’t favor individuals because of who they are. So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” 

STOP! What’s the trap here?

What would you do?

 Jesus recognized their evil plan, so he asked, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me a coin used to pay taxes.” They brought him a coin. He said to them, “Whose face and name is this?” They replied, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Very well, give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give God what belongs to God.” They were surprised to hear this. Then they left him alone and went away. 

GO! How does Jesus get out of it?

Is he just getting out or making his own point?

What does belong to God?

There’s another power group in Israel – they’ve been losing ground to the Pharisees, but they see their chance. Saducees, enter stage left.

Matthew 22:23-32 The Dead Come Back to Life—Mark 12:18–27; Luke 20:27–40
On that day some Sadducees, who say that people will never come back to life, came to Jesus. They asked him, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother should marry his widow and have children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers among us. The first married and died. Since he had no children, he left his widow to his brother. The second brother also died, as well as the third, and the rest of the seven brothers. At last the woman died. Now, when the dead come back to life, whose wife will she be? All seven brothers had been married to her.” 

STOP! What’s the trap here?

What would you do?

Jesus answered, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power. When people come back to life, they don’t marry. Rather, they are like the angels in heaven. Haven’t you read what God told you about the dead coming back to life? He said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ He’s not the God of the dead but of the living.” 

GO! How does Jesus get out of it?

Is he just getting out or making his own point?

What does he mean the God of the living?

What traps do Christians face today?
While Jesus at least was arguing with people who thought they believed in God, while today we could face traps by people completely opposed to the idea of God.

  • I’ve seen those Christians on TV and they are ignorant/stupid/judgmental/hypocrites… 

  • If God is infallible and the bible is the Word of God, how do you explain evolution/Noah/demons & angels… 
  • How does God go from wiping out whole nations in the Old Testament to being all lovey dovey in the New Testament? 
  • How can a good God allow famine/war/disease/natural disasters… 

Photo credit: Justin Good @ Flickr

Saturday, October 8, 2011


a lesson from Matthew 23 using Nooma 04

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees teach with Moses’ authority. So be careful to do everything they tell you. But don’t follow their example, because they don’t practice what they preach. They make loads that are hard to carry and lay them on the shoulders of the people. However, they are not willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to attract people’s attention. They make their headbands large and the tassels on their shawls long. They love the place of honor at dinners and the front seats in synagogues. They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have people call them Rabbi. But don’t make others call you Rabbi, because you have only one teacher, and you are all followers. And don’t call anyone on earth your father, because you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Don’t make others call you a leader, because you have only one leader, the Messiah. The person who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored.” 

1) What do you think is Jesus’ big point here?

2) What do you suppose the Pharisees and scribes thought about it?

We’re going to watch Nooma 04: Sunday. (Trailer below.) It’s based on that passage above and Mark 7:1-22. Try to keep track of what you notice. If there’s a place you want to stop and talk, or rewind and rewatch, just say so.

3) What questions do you have?

4) What’s the big idea? How does it connect to what we read in Phillipians 3:7-9?
These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him.

5) Jot down one thing you want to remember from this. Here's the trailer for Nooma 04. I'm sure you can find the whole video online, but I also urge you to support the ministry. They're doing downloads of individual Noomas for only $1.99 each now, or watch online for $1.00. 

Rob Bell makes reference to the Shema Israel here, and I agree that it goes well with what Jesus is saying. It's even how Jesus answers the scribes who ask him what the greatest commandment is. This presentation of the Shema is from Judaism 101, where you can see and hear the Hebrew, also:

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha.
 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

V'hayu had'varim ha'eileh asher anokhi m'tzav'kha hayom al l'vavekha.
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.

V'shinan'tam l'vanekha v'dibar'ta bam
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them

b'shiv't'kha b'veitekha uv'lekh't'kha vaderekh uv'shakh'b'kha uv'kumekha
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Uk'shar'tam l'ot al yadekha v'hayu l'totafot bein einekha.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.

Ukh'tav'tam al m'zuzot beitekha uvish'arekha.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The Shema almost always brings this song to mind:

Photo credit: Marion Doss @ Flickr. My Aunt Gert (Gertrude Golden) taught in a place like this.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dear Philippians

Dear Philippians: Don't Worry, Be Joyful. Love, Paul.

Adapted from Steve Brown’s Through the Eyes of Grace – the Prison Epistles.
Philippi by wallygrom @ Flickr

Philippi was the leading city of Macedonia, situated on the Egnatian Way between Rome and Asia. Philippi took its name from Philip II of Macedonia who captured the cityand was the father of Alexander the Great. It was the most important city of the province, but not the capital. It became a full Roman city—a rare and great privilege. A financial center with natural attractions, too.

Acts 16 tells how Philippi was the first church established in Europe. Paul was led to Macedonia because of a vision and shortly thereafter met 3 people who founded the church: Lydia, an Asian professional woman, a girl possessed of a spirit who had been making a lot of money for her owners until Paul healed her, and Paul’s jailer who received Christ and whose household was baptized. Paul visited this church three times.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written around A.D. 62 from the city of Rome where Paul was in prison. But one of the major themes of Philippians is joy. Paul was joyful, not because of circumstances, but because of Jesus. When the church heard he was in jail, they sent a man to help, and Paul sent him back home with this letter.

Phil 1:15-18 
Some people tell the message about Christ because of their jealousy and envy. Others tell the message about him because of their good will. Those who tell the message about Christ out of love know that God has put me here to defend the Good News. But the others are insincere. They tell the message about Christ out of selfish ambition in order to stir up trouble for me while I’m in prison. But what does it matter? Nothing matters except that, in one way or another, people are told the message about Christ, whether with honest or dishonest motives, and I’m happy about that. 

1) Why would someone tell about Jesus for not good reasons? Why doesn’t that bother Paul? What’s most important to Paul?

Phil 1:21-23
Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. If I continue to live in this life, my work will produce more results. I don’t know which I would prefer. I find it hard to choose between the two. I would like to leave this life and be with Christ. That’s by far the better choice. 

2) Is it possible Paul really didn’t care whether he lived or died? How would you explain that to someone?

Phil 2:14-18
Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life. Then I can brag on the day of Christ that my effort was not wasted and that my work produced results. My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me. 

3) What do you like to complain about most? How does complaining keep you away from joy?

In chapter 3, Paul warns the Philippians to beware those who impose extra rules on them. (Like circumcision.) He explains how he was a better rule keeper than anyone. But…
Phil 3:6-16 
When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering.
In this way I’m becoming like him in his death, with the confidence that I’ll come back to life from the dead. It’s not that I’ve already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me. Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.
Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think differently, God will show you how to think. However, we should be guided by what we have learned so far. 

4) Does Paul think we have to try to be good to get right with God?

5) Does Paul think we should try to be good to please God?

6) Key sentence: “But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.” How can you put that in your own words?

7) What does the end mean there?

Phil 4:4-9 
Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you’ve learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you. 

8) What is worthy of praise in your life? For what should we praise God?

 This image by Alice Popkorn on Flickr came with the quote:
"Joy is what happens 
when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."
- Marianne Williamson