Sunday Adult Education Series: The Path
We are starting to make our way through The Path: A Journey Through the Bible. The Path gives us a guided tour through the Scriptures with prompts for reflection and notes to help us along. The book serves as a gateway into the wider world of Scripture, especially for those who feel that they may be unfamiliar with the larger scope of the Bible. This is a great opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the stories, images, and teaching of the Bible.
Apr 23rd: Our text this first week comes from Genesis, and will probably be a reading that is familiar to many of us. We will be discussing chapter 1 and the stories of creation that begin the Bible.
Apr 30th: We are making our way through chapter 2 this week. We will be looking at the stories of Cain and Abel, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. One of the main themes in these stories is the covenant. We will be able to see how God works with humanity through the making of covenants. The human response to the covenant takes a number of forms, but most importantly for us may be Noah’s response in worship. Key questions for us will be how we give thanks to God and how we know what God wants for us.
May 7th: Our chapter in The Path this week focuses on the story of Abraham’s life. Abraham is a pivotal figure not just for Christianity but for Judaism and Islam as well. As we read through his life, though, we may find him to be a rather surprising patriarch for these major religions. He doubts, argues, and bargains with God. The picture that emerges is one of God’s faithfulness to Abraham’s long journey of figuring things out for himself. Even when he seems to figure out, we are still left with the disturbing and strange story of the binding of Isaac. Life with God does not seem straightforward at all. What do we make of Abraham’s long work of learning to be obedient to God? Do we see any of ourselves in the story of faithfulness and doubt? God remains faithful to Abraham even as he goes astray at times. The image of the covenant gets fleshed out in God’s faithfulness to Abraham. We are also beginning to see the reason for the covenant with Abraham. God desires to bless the world through the people he is setting apart in the Abrahamic covenant. What are we being set apart for in our own lives and in our church life together?
May 14th: This is a week of blessings, tricks, dreams, and forgiveness. We take on the stories of Jacob and Joseph on this week. One of the key themes we run into in these stories is that while people are often up to less than good things, God, somehow, manages to bring good things about from those bad things. We may find this frustrating or we may find it a relief depending on how we think of our own relationship with God. Do we think of ourselves as a Jacob who has gotten away with a few things or an Esau who has been dealt a rough hand? We also see that God does not speak to anyone very directly. God works in dreams and in mysterious figures who wrestle and wound. Does our own life with God feel like a wrestling match sometimes? Finally, we see that God leads people to forgiveness again and again, and that forgiveness seems to be a major part of God’s way of working. Have you had times when you have forgiven or been forgiven in your own life?
May 21st: Our first week with Moses has finally arrived. Moses begins his time in the spotlight by committing a murder and fleeing to the wilderness. God chooses Moses to lead God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt. While Moses does turn aside to see the burning bush, he attempts to avoid responding to the call of God to lead the people. God persists by accommodating Moses’s concerns so that Moses can indeed return to confront Pharaoh. This part of Moses’s life leads us to ask questions about how suitable we are for the work God has called us to do. Do we feel inadequate to the task God has set for us? Or do we feel too morally compromised to be someone that God calls? Moses’s eventual willingness to follow God can help us think about these questions. The other major figure in this chapter is Pharaoh. Pharaoh is threatened by the increasing number of Israelites in the country. When he interacts with Moses, though, his heart becomes even more hardened to God’s people. Sometimes he hardens his heart but sometimes it is God’s work. What do we think this hard heart means? What do we think it means for God to harden someone’s heart? We will yet again be returning to discuss how God works in the world and how God takes sides.
June 4th: Our readings this week take us into the Promised Land at last. The stories this week detail the journey of the Israelites as they conquer by various means the land that God has promised to them. We see God delivering the land through fantastic means, as with Jericho, as well as by more conventional means of warfare. What does it tell us that at one point God works through a sex worker, musical priests, and a red string while at other times God simply gives the army success? How do we feel about the way God decides to get things done at this point? The other major theme this week is God’s demand for loyalty. Again and again, the people are warned not to begin worshipping other gods. Do we worry about worshipping other gods? Why might God give this directive to the people as they enter this new land?
June 11th: Our Scriptures for this meeting take us into the time of the Judges. The Judges were charismatic leaders of Israel who helped shepherd the people after the death of Joshua. The familiar scheme of faithfulness, turning away, and repentance comes into play as these Judges arise when they are needed to help the people return to God. Returning to God, though, involves some of the more difficult aspects of the Old Testament. We see the leaders of the people killing, lying, and going astray as they try to navigate the way forward in the Promised Land. In Deborah and Jael we are given an early picture of female leadership. They, nevertheless, use this leadership to lead the people into battle on behalf of God. What do we think about this temporary form of leadership that arises when it is needed? What are the strange gods that we run after as Israel did before us? How should we call someone back when they seem to have wandered away?
June 18th: Our reading this week gives us two key Biblical figures that may be well known to us: Ruth and Samuel. While they may be well known to us, our previous readings give us insight into how the established Biblical types and tropes are changed as they are put to use telling these stories. Ruth, a Moabite woman, becomes a key figure in Israelite history through her husbands and mother-in-law. Marrying foreigners, though, has been a sign of infidelity to the covenant up unto this point but now welcoming Ruth into this family becomes a picture of God’s covenant faithfulness. She will be an ancestor of David and is named in Jesus’s genealogy in both Matthew and Luke. What does it mean that now this foreign woman becomes key to God’s plan? Samuel, on the other hand, shows us the continued relevance of established tropes. Hannah desires a child and is seemingly written off by others as unable to have one. God gives her a child when others doubt. The child, Samuel, has a special role in the life of Israel as he is one of the few people left who hear the word of God clearly. Do we find that these tropes, even finding it difficult to know that God is speaking, are relevant to our own lives? What do we think is being learned by Israel as Ruth is included in their life? How do we hear God speaking even if it sounds like someone else’s voice?
June 25th: Despite God’s warning, Israel insists on having a king in our reading for this Sunday. Israel desires a king in order to be like the other nations around them whom they admire and envy. Initially, God uses Samuel to anoint Saul as the king. Saul strikes the expected figure of a powerful king. Again and again, though, Saul fails to follow God’s commands God does abandon Israel at this time but attempts to call Saul back before looking ahead to the future King David. How do we try to listen to God in our own lives? Are there times when you feel like God has called you to something in particular? God does not allow Saul’s failures to get in the way of providing for God’s people. He chooses David who is not immediately an obvious choice. What do we think of how we choose our own leaders in the church and in politics? What does faithfulness look like in those roles?
July 2nd: We move from Saul to David this week in our readings. We do not, though, move from a “bad” king to a “good” king. David makes serious mistakes and commits egregious sins in his own life, like Saul before him, but he is not cast down as king of Israel. David differs from Saul in two ways. First, he has his own relationship with and trust in God that manifests itself in slaying Goliath and in dancing before the ark. He is too zealous to build a house for God rather than letting him remain in the tent. Second, God chooses to have a different relationship with David than God had with Saul. God promises to be with David and his descendants no matter what happens or what David does. The promise to David allows him to learn in his relationship with God, but it may also give us an example of God “learning” as the story of Scripture progresses. These readings leave us with many questions. I want to highlight two that may be helpful for our discussion. First, how do you see the faithfulness of God in your life? God is faithful to David but his life does not go smoothly nor is God simply nice to him all the time. Second, the promises to David are promises that are cherished by Christians as being about Jesus Christ. How do we make sense of those promises now? Do we think of Jesus as the one promised to David at this time? Both of these questions make us think about our relationship to the faith and history we have inherited. Do we find something of ourselves in David and the Psalms?
July 9th: Solomon takes center stage in our readings this week. Solomon is remembered for his wisdom and discernment as king of Israel. Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes are all attributed to Solomon in addition to some apocryphal works. We see that wisdom at work this week as he solves a dispute over a child as well as leads Israel in the Temple. The Temple becomes the place where Israel worships God, but also is the place where Solomon meets God. The Temple is a place where he gives thanks and where he knows the presence of God. God’s presence is so powerful that the priests can hardly remain in their places. What part does giving thanks to God play in our own spiritual life? What sort of things do we give thanks for when we pray? These stories also give us a chance to ask about how worship figures into our own lives. Where do we meet God? Do we think it is important to worship God in a particular place with particular people? Solomon does well at first but slowly begins to go astray as he acquires more and more wives. He builds temples to other gods and turns away from his exclusive devotion to God. This leads to the breakdown of the kingdom after his death with a civil war.
July 16th: This is our last week with the Path before taking a few weeks off from our journey through the Bible. We are introduced to two very important parts of the Old Testament in these readings. First, for the first time we really see and read about the prophets. The prophets appear in the Old Testament as those who call the people of God back to faithfulness with God when they have gone away. Each prophet that we read about is called by God to this work. They don’t choose it as a profession. Their call to the people of God is to return to God in worship and in their moral life. How do we think of these two things going together for ourselves? The connection between the two is not always obvious, but seems to be demanded by the call of the prophets. Second, Israel is taken away in exile to Babylon. The exile includes the destruction of the Temple and much of Jewish religious life. The center of Israel’s worshipping life has been taken away and Israel led away to Babylon. The question now becomes how will they maintain themselves in a foreign land without power and without a Temple. The call of the prophets continues and becomes important again in this context. How can Israel stay faithful to God and morally upright? One question for us is whether we feel at home in our context or in exile like Israel in Babylon?
July 23rd: We are taking a few weeks break from the Path to mull over some difficult questions our raised by our reading of Scripture. Our discussion this week will look at what it means for God to be good, especially when so many bad things are going on around us. Traditionally Christians have answered these questions by appealing to doctrines of providence to develop an account of why bad things happen. As we will see, though, providence itself depends on a number of decisions that arise out of our reading of Scripture. The Biblical book that interrogates this question the most is the book of Job. Job asks plenty of questions but it isn’t always clear just what answer it gives us. We will dig into this question about God’s goodness together with the following passages for help: Jeremiah 12:1-13, Psalm 130, Psalm 131, Matthew 5:43-48, and Romans 8:26-30.
July 30th: As we continue our break from the Path, we will spend some time on a bit of Anglo-Catholic history. Fr. Basil Jellicoe was a devoted Anglo-Catholic who took on a slum parish only to transform the area around it by developing social housing in Somers Town, London. Jellicoe not only helped raise money and build social housing. He also bought and helped run a pub in the local area. To prepare for learning about Fr. Jellicoe please read through these two brief articles. One is from a local London newspaper while the other is from the Church Times. We also have a video of Fr. Jellicoe in the pub giving a short speech and leading the patrons in song.
Aug. 27th: Our journey with the Path starts back up again this week as look at the story of Daniel. The story of Daniel raises two important questions for us in our own lives. First, Daniel was prepared to listen to God and to follow God’s commands. How do we try to listen to what God has to tell us? In the absence of apocalyptic visions like those Daniel sees, how do we learn to know how to join in with God’s plan in the world? Second, Daniel was one of many in exile that chose to follow God even when that following got him and others in trouble. How do we negotiate this tension between what God calls us to do and what everyone around us seems to be doing? Or do we, perhaps, not feel such a tension? We will be diving back into the Scriptures this week and doing so for the coming weeks as we make our way to the end of the Path.
Sept. 3rd: This week as we focus on the Chapter 15, we will follow the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem as the exiles return there. Passages from the Old Testament books of Ezra, Haggai, Nehemiah, and Esther provide the basis for our discussion of this portion of the journey of the people of God as they attempt to re-establish themselves in their homeland., with notable assistance from the Persian kings whose predecessors had been their captors. This part of our study of the development of the relationship between God and God’s people offers us an opportunity to consider parallels in our own exiles and our returns from those situations, whether as an individual, a parish, the larger church, or a society.
Sept. 10th: Our journey along The Path takes us into the New Testament this week. Many of the stories we read will be familiar to us from Advent and Christmas as they tell of the expectation of Jesus’s birth as well as his arrival. You may also pick up on the fact that many of the canticles at Morning and Evening Prayer appear in these stories, and the “Hail Mary” too. Through our reading this week, though, we see a great variety of reactions to the birth of Jesus. Some are on the lookout for Jesus while others seem oblivious to his arrival unless a crowd of angels appears to tell them. As you read this week pay attention to the question of what people were expecting from the Christ child and what they made of his actual arrival. Do these treasured hymns make sense as a response to his birth? What signs, if any, did people see to set him apart from other children born at that time?
Sept 17th: Our chapter in The Path this week focuses on the ministry of Jesus as he calls, heals, and teaches. Throughout these stories, Jesus comes into conflict with other religious leaders of his time. He seems to break the sabbath law, and in fact demands that others do the same, while he proclaims that he has not come to get rid of the law. In fact, as we read through the Sermon on the Mount he seems to intensify the demands of the law. This double relationship of critique and intensification marks Jesus’s relationship to the law and in turn his relationship to those around him. What do we make of this kind of engagement with the law? What allows Jesus to move beyond some aspects while intensifying others? At the end of our readings, we get two passages where Jesus speaks very pointedly about judgment and about hell. We do not always associate Jesus with these aspects of the Bible but here he clearly invokes them. Does it surprise us to see Jesus talking so straightforwardly about hell and judgment? How do we relate to these teachings?
Spet 24th: This week our chapter is about proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. The chapter gives us a selection of Jesus’s interactions with those he meets in the course of his ministry. Jesus heals many of these people that he meets in a miraculous way. How do you think that these physical healings relate to the preaching of the Kingdom? Is Jesus bringing the Kingdom to these people or are they just signs of what will happen? We also read about Jesus miraculously feeding large groups of people. What do we think about these miracle stories? Do we want to explain them away? Finally, Jesus meets many people with compassion throughout his ministry, but with others he calls them to quite radical action. What do we think is the difference between Christ’s interactions with Canaanite woman and the rich young man on page 240?
Oct 8th & 15th: Our readings today give us a picture of Jesus as he comes into conflict with the authorities of his day. These conflicts lead to Jesus’s crucifixion and death. How do we understand these conflicts? He seems to be attacking the Temple and predicting its destruction while setting himself at odds with the scribes. He does this, though, by quoting the Scriptures that all parties agree are central to the faith. Do we find ourselves in conflict with Jesus at any point? What do we make of his castigation of scribes for devouring the houses of widows set alongside his celebration of the woman who pours out the expensive nard? In the middle of this conflict, we also have the story of the Last Supper. The Last Supper connects to our regular Sunday morning worship. How do we think that meal relates to our celebration of Holy Communion?
Oct 22nd: Our stories this week center on Jesus’s resurrection appearances. These stories are central to our Christian faith but can seem very strange sometimes. We know that Jesus has a body that can be touched and is able to eat food, but we also read that he appears suddenly in the middle of a locked room. The disciples on the way to Emmaus only recognize Jesus after the breaking of the bread that recalls the Last Supper. How do we make sense of Jesus’s presence to his disciples in this time between his resurrection and ascension? Do we think that it differs from the way he appears, for instance, to Paul? What do we make of Jesus’s continuing life and his ability to show up in our own lives?
Oct 29th: Our readings this week concentrate on the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit appears in two sorts of stories in this selection. On the one hand, we have stories where the Spirit appears in spectacular forms such as the tongues of fire or the outbreak of preaching understood in different languages. On the other, we see stories where the Spirit works in much less flashy ways such as the choosing of Matthias or the institution of the deacons. What sort of stories line up with your sense of the Spirit in your life? Do you think the Spirit needs to work in conspicuous ways or can the Spirit show up in more humdrum ways? Our own tradition tends to lean towards a more regular operation of the Spirit in the means of grace. Does this seem adequate to us? This will be a time for us to think about how the Spirit appears in the New Testament and in our own lives.
Nov 5th: Our selections in The Path this week come from the letters of St. Paul. Paul is a pivotal figure in the development of Christianity who gives us our earliest writings in the New Testament. We return to his letters again and again to see the way that the earliest Christians understood and practiced their faith. When you read these selections, what stands out as different from our church life and what looks the same? The similarities and differences allow us to see ourselves in the early church and to be challenged by their witness. The gospel is at the heart of all of Paul’s letters. He turned his whole life around to preach the gospel, and endured a great many hardships as a result. What passages from this selection are good news to you? What is it that they tell you?
Sunday mornings at 9:15, we meet in Fox Hall, or you can access our meeting online by any of the following methods:
2. Go to Zoom.us, click “Join Meeting” & enter Meeting ID: 912 9783 7526
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