Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Vulnerability

a Bible Study based on a TED talk or
BrenĂ© Brown is a Social Work research professor. She has two talks on, Oprah appearances and a basket of books. Not where bible studies usually start. But this one on vulnerability – without ever mentioning God – had so many connections to the gospel that we’re trying it as a bible study. It’s one of those situations where people do research and find out something new and startling that Jesus told us 2000 years ago.

“So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you're a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is -- neurobiologically that's how we're wired -- it's why we're here.”

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

John 15:12-15 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

1)    Why does our relationship with God involve other people? Why can’t we just deal with Jesus or the father?

“When you ask people about belonging, they'll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection. … so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it's universal; we all have it. The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection.”

2) With what kind of shame do you struggle? Brown talks about the feeling of “I am not _______ enough.”

Matthew 5 & 6
21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
34 “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all.”
44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

3)  If none of us can do what Jesus is asking here, why is he so intent on bringing us down?

Romans 10:9-13 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ”

4)  How do you deal with shame as a Christian?

Brown studied shame, then, for years. “that's what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness -- they have a strong sense of love and belonging -- and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they're good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy.”

Romans 5:1-8 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

5)  Do we – or more to the point - can we be worthy of love and belonging? How does this relate to your faith?

So Brown wondered who had that worthiness. “What they had in common was a sense of courage … the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and – this was the hard part – as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.”

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

6)  What are the connections amongst being courageous, being compassionate and being authentic for you or in our faith life?

“The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”

Galations 5:22-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

7)  Where are you able to be vulnerable? When is it hard?

“I spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability.”

8)  Brown mentions many ways we numb. She mentions specifically one for churches: “Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up. That's it. Just certain.” Is that a fair description? How else might we as believers try to numb vulnerability?

Brown closes with this: “This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror… And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

Phillipians 4:10-14 “The Lord has filled me with joy because you again showed interest in me. You were interested but did not have an opportunity to show it. I’m not saying this because I’m in any need. I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in. I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless, it was kind of you to share my troubles.”

9)  This is one place where a Christian might really phrase it differently than Brown. It’s not that we are enough alone, but because God is with us we are enough. What difference does that make?

10)  What other scripture or parts of our faith does Brown’s summation remind you of?

11)  How might courage and vulnerability help us to share Christ with our neighbors?

Maybe Superman is hard to relate to.
Resources: Open Bible Info was helpful in chasing down these passages.


Though everyone agrees Paul wrote this letter, there are three views as to when and where he might have written it:  from Ephesus or Macedonia ca 55 AD or from Syrian Antioch ca. 48 AD or from Ephesus or Corinth between ca. 52 AD.  Probably it was to a group of churches in the southern part of Galatia, including Antioch, Derbe, Iconium, and Lystra (cf. Acts 13-14), all of which were founded by Paul on his first or second missionary journeys.   

Part of the letter is a response to a group called Judaizers, who were insisting on traditional Jewish practice.  They claimed Paul removed those requirements just to make the message more popular and this proved he wasn’t a true apostle.  Paul’s response is strong, to say the least (Gal 1:1-2, 11-17).  

In later times, the book of the Galatians played an important part of the reformation.  Though it was Romans that began Luther’s personal awakening, he based much of his theology on Galatians, to the point that one of the nicknames for Galatians is “Luther’s Book.”

From theologygrams, a fun site.
Paul’s authority:  read Gal 1:11-24.  Since he was previously in the position of persecuting Christians, Paul had undoubtedly heard some of there testimony.  
Side note:  Paul in 1:15 is paralleling his ministry with Jeremiah (Jer 1:5)

1) What does Paul mean that he heard the gospel by revelation and not from people?  Why does he make that point?

2) What is important about the information that Paul didn’t go to Jerusalem for 3 years, and then only met James and Peter?

3) Why does Paul remind these people about his past as a persecutor when he wants them to accept his authority?

The dissension:  read Gal 2:11-21.   After noting that his message was approved by the original apostles, Paul tells about this big conflict with them.  The big idea seems to be to add no work to the requirements of salvation.  
4) What works are you tempted to add to the requirements for salvation, or have you seen others require?

5) How was the conflict resolved?

The dressing down:  read Gal 3:1-5.  

6) Is Paul wrong to address people this harshly?  If not, what could make such harsh words okay?  (Imagine being addressed that way by a pastor.)

Unity of Old and New Testaments:  read Gal 3:6-9 and 3:26-4:7.  
7) What does this say about righteousness?  What does this say about us?

How to live:  read Gal 5:1 and 5:13-25.  Paul warns, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (v21)  

8) Why does this not conflict with Paul’s message of righteousness by faith?

9) How do you view the fruit of the spirit?  Something to strive for, or something to wait for, or something else?

The big finish:  read Gal 6:1-10.  

10) Share what this means to you.

11) This is a favorite book of many people.  Is there something we left out that you would like to share?

I have to share the paraphrasing of the close of this book in the Message:  Gal 6:17-18

Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.  May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes!