Saturday, May 19, 2012


We've studied Peter before, and Pentecost. But this time of year it's hard to keep away from the Big Fisherman.

The Low – the night of the Last Supper 
John 13:36-38
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “You can’t follow me now to the place where I’m going. However, you will follow me later.” 37 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I’ll give my life for you.” 38 Jesus replied, “Will you give your life for me? I can guarantee this truth: No rooster will crow until you say three times that you don’t know me.

John 18:15-18, 25-27
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. The other disciple was well-known to the chief priest. So that disciple went with Jesus into the chief priest’s courtyard. 16 Peter, however, was standing outside the gate. The other disciple talked to the woman who was the gatekeeper and brought Peter into the courtyard. 17 The gatekeeper asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples too?” Peter answered, “No, I’m not!” 18 The servants and the guards were standing around a fire they had built and were warming themselves because it was cold. Peter was standing there, too, and warming himself with the others. … 25 Simon Peter continued to stand and warm himself by the fire. Some men asked him, “Aren’t you, too, one of his disciples?” Peter denied it by saying, “No, I’m not!” 26 One of the chief priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked him, “Didn’t I see you with Jesus in the garden?” 27 Peter again denied it, and just then a rooster crowed.

1)    How can Peter go from “I’ll give my life for you” to “No I’m not!” in one night?

artist's image, ca. 1000 AD.
Of course, Jesus still loves Peter. He knew Peter was going to deny him. But he also knew what Peter could and would do in His name.
John 21: 1-19
Later, by the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. This is what happened. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples of Jesus were together. 3 Simon Peter said to the others, “I’m going fishing.” They told him, “We’re going with you.” They went out in a boat but didn’t catch a thing that night.  
4 As the sun was rising, Jesus stood on the shore. The disciples didn’t realize that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus asked them, “Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” They answered him, “No, we haven’t.” 6 He told them, “Throw the net out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll catch some.” So they threw the net out and were unable to pull it in because so many fish were in it. 7 The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put back on the clothes that he had taken off and jumped into the sea. 8 The other disciples came with the boat and dragged the net full of fish. They weren’t far from the shore, only about 100 yards. 
9 When they went ashore, they saw a fire with a fish lying on the coals, and they saw a loaf of bread. 10 Jesus told them, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got into the boat and pulled the net ashore. Though the net was filled with 153 large fish, it was not torn. 12 Jesus told them, “Come, have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared to ask him who he was. They knew he was the Lord. 13 Jesus took the bread, gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after he had come back to life. 
15 After they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the other disciples do?” Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Jesus asked him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter answered him “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus told him, “Take care of my sheep.”  
17 Jesus asked him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt sad because Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” So Peter said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I can guarantee this truth: When you were young, you would get ready to go where you wanted. But when you’re old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will get you ready to take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to show by what kind of death Peter would bring glory to God. After saying this, Jesus told Peter, “Follow me!”
2)    What connections do you see between this story and the denial story?

NT Wright (a great Anglican teacher and theologian) points out that the first time Jesus said love/agape (unconditional), and Peter responds with love/philia (friendly).  Peter used to respond HUGELY to Jesus, but now he’s understated. The second time, Jesus says agape again, and again Peter says friends again.

3)    Why does Jesus shift from ‘feed my lambs’ to ‘care for my sheep’? Why doesn’t Jesus bring up Peter’s denial?

4)    Wright notes that the third time, Jesus asks “Simon, are you my friend?” Doesn’t Peter sound upset? How would you feel?

Wright comments: “I think Jesus is saying, in effect, ‘Very well, Peter: if that’s where you are, that’s where we’ll start. If you can say you’re my friend, we will build on that. Now: feed my sheep.’ And then, of course, he goes on to warn Peter of what is to come; this sheep-feeding business will cost him not less than everything, as it had cost the master Shepherd himself.” It’s very comforting to me that Jesus takes me where I am.

Consider also when Peter addressed the crowd after Pentecost.  One thing to note is that he didn’t run out after Easter Sunday, nor even after Jesus’ ascension, but waited, as Christ told him, to receive the Holy Spirit. But then he spoke to a multitude.
Acts 2:36-39
36 “All the people of Israel should know beyond a doubt that God made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were deeply upset. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter answered them, “All of you must turn to God and change the way you think and act, and each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. 39 This promise belongs to you and to your children and to everyone who is far away. It belongs to everyone who worships the Lord our God.”

Acts 4:10-12 Later Peter and John are on trial for healing a lame man. Peter says:
“10 You and all the people of Israel must understand that this man stands in your presence with a healthy body because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You crucified Jesus Christ, but God has brought him back to life. 11 He is the stone that the builders rejected, the stone that has become the cornerstone. 12 No one else can save us. Indeed, we can be saved only by the power of the one named Jesus and not by any other person.”

Acts 4:17-19 The Pharisees think everyone knows about the miracle and are afraid to punish them. They say:
“17 So let’s threaten them. Let’s tell them that they must never speak to anyone about the one named Jesus. Then the news about the miracle that they have performed will not spread any further among the people.” 18 They called Peter and John and ordered them never to teach about Jesus or even mention his name. 19 Peter and John answered them, “Decide for yourselves whether God wants people to listen to you rather than to him. 20 We cannot stop talking about what we’ve seen and heard.”
5)    Is Peter following Jesus’ instructions?

6)    Jot down one thing to remember from this study.

Christ is Risen from the Dead by N. T. Wright. Again. You should  really read that.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


(Based on the Nooma of the same name.)

Scripture from the Nooma

Read the following:
Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

John 13:31-35 After the Last Supper
31 When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
Watch the video with these two questions in mind, then come back to discuss them:
1) What is Rob Bell’s main point?

2) Does his point come from the scripture he’s citing?

As always, though you can find the complete Noomas on YouTube, I encourage you to buy the videos if you're going to use them for teaching. Here's the trailer for Bullhorn.

3) What would you want to say to the man with the bullhorn?

Scripture confirms our need to care for the poor and the helpless time and time again. But we do have a message to share also.
Romans 10:8-17
This is the message of faith that we spread. 9 If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. 10 By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved. 11 Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.” 12 There is no difference between Jews and Greeks. They all have the same Lord, who gives his riches to everyone who prays to him. 13 So then, “Whoever prays in the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can people pray to him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News? 15 How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.” 16 But not everyone has believed the Good News. Isaiah asks, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke.

4) What should we tell people about Jesus?

Resurrection of the Body

I adapted the Not Zombies youth lesson for the men's study today. The main difference was an expanded look at 1st Corinthians 15, with a connection to a Tom Wright speech. Here's the whole study if you want it in one piece. One of the fascinating parts about doing the study was how much the idea of our great commission came out in all of the earlier readings, before we even read the Wright stuff. (Couldn't resist, sorry!) See also the overview of the whole book, Dear Men of Corinth.

1st Corinthians 15: 12-19
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

5) Paul’s making a logical argument here. What’s the point and how does he argue it?

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
6) What does this passage have to do with Harry Potter?

7) What does he mean here? What does it have to do with the resurrection of the body?

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God - I say this to your shame.
8) “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die,” is a famous phrase and oft quoted. Is that what Paul is recommending? Do you agree with his point about associating with bad people?

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

9) Is Paul explaining by analogy or constructing an argument? What does the idea of an incorruptible body mean to you?

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The scripture Paul refers to is possibly Isaiah 25:8 “He will swallow up death forever, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from the whole earth. The Lord has spoken.” in addition to Hosea 13:14 ““I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”

N. T. Wright writes: “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep; and we who celebrate him as our contemporary are charged to work with him on his kingdom-project in the present time. 1 Corinthians 15 is a spectacular chapter, but one of the most remarkable verses in it is the last (verse 58), where Paul doesn’t say ‘therefore enjoy the presence of Christ’, though he might have done, or ‘therefore look forward to your glorious future’, though he might have said that as well. He says ‘therefore get on with your work in the present, because in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’ That is at the heart of the meaning of the resurrection. Because God is already making his new creation, all that you do in Christ and by the Spirit is part of that new world. Every cup of cold water, every tiny prayer, every confrontation with the bullies who oppress the poor, every song of praise or dance of joy, every work of art and music – nothing is wasted. The resurrection will reaffirm it, in ways we cannot begin to imagine, as part of God’s new world. Resurrection isn’t just about a glorious future. It is about a meaningful present. That is what it means that Jesus, our contemporary, is raised from the dead as the first fruits of those who slept.”

10) What do you think about this connection of resurrection with commission? How does it connect to the gospel passages we read? (Or other scripture.) Was that part of what Paul was saying here?

11) I will freely admit that this is the part of my faith I least understand. Yet I believe it on the authority of the Bible. Is it okay to believe something of which you haven’t made sense?

To close out, how about a Johnny Cash hymn of the most poetic verse?

Christ is Risen from the Dead by N. T. Wright

Saturday, May 5, 2012


John the Apostle (also called John the Evangelist and John the Beloved) wrote a gospel, three epistles (1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John) and the book of Revelation, though a few scholars think the last 2 epistles might be written by a different author. The epistles were probably written shortly after Revelations.

In John 15 (no starting number means it’s the Gospel of John), it’s after the resurrection, and Jesus has told the apostles he’s leaving them, but will send the Holy Spirit. 

John 15:1-7
Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.  You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me.

“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.  Whoever doesn’t live in me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours.  You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.

“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I’m commanding you to do. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandments. I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last, and to ask the Father in my name to give you whatever you ask for. Love each other. This is what I’m commanding you to do.”

1)    Why a vine? What are vines like? How do you picture them?

2)    What are Jesus’ commandments?

3)    What’s the difference to you whether we are God’s servants or Jesus’ friends? In what sense do we know what God is doing?

Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote about this passage: “There’s not a lot of agency for us in this text. God prunes us. We have already been cleansed by Jesus’ word. We cannot bear fruit without abiding in Jesus. Apart from him we can do nothing. The only thing that Jesus seems to think is ours to do is to: a) abide in him and, if we do, b) we can then ask for what we wish and it will be done for us. The getting all my wishes part sounds great. That is more like it. But I have yet to meet anyone who has had all their wishes granted but I’ve really been hoping Jesus will become my magic Genie. All I have to do is abide in him!?!
So, how do I do that?”

4)    What do you think? How do we do that?

In his first epistle, John wrote:
1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. We know that we live in him and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit.

We have seen and testify to the fact that the Father sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God lives in those who declare that Jesus is the Son of God, and they live in God. We have known and believed that God loves us. God is love. Those who live in God’s love live in God, and God lives in them.
God’s love has reached its goal in us. So we look ahead with confidence to the day of judgment. While we are in this world, we are exactly like him with regard to love. 18 No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love.

We love because God loved us first.  Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates another believer is a liar. People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen. Christ has given us this commandment: The person who loves God must also love other believers.

5)    Both of these readings have a lot of “we live in Him” and “He lives in us.” How does that work? How do you think about it?

6)    There are several different words for love in Greek and other ancient languages. Which of these would you use for some of the times John says love in this letter?
  • Agape – idealized, spiritual love; unconditional love or charity

  • Eros – romantic, passionate love

  • Philia – love of friendship, comradeship

  • Storge – fondness, affection

7)    Is ‘we love God because God loved us’ like your relationship with a parent? How does that work?

8)    What does this letter tell us about what it is to abide in Jesus?

9)    Jot down one thing you want to remember from this lesson.
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
The Hardest Question, Easter 5B by Nadia Bolz-Weber