Wisdom in the Community (August 2021)

WISDOM IN THE COMMUNITY GROUPS: AND REFLECTION IF ON YOUR OWN

 

Wednesday 25th August

 

Wisdom in the Community Notes: Mark 7 v 1-8 , 14- 15 and 21 -23

Context – The passage comes straight after Jesus has fed 5000 people out in the countryside. And the Phari-sees are criticising him for eating a meal without the required ceremonial cleansing. These Religious leaders of the day often gave Jesus a hard time. Can you think of any such occasions ?

From the Pharisees point of view …So for a moment try to see it from their point of view. So put on your Pharisees robe and think back to the synagogue on the Sabbath when Jesus cured the man with the withered hand. Surely to keep faith with your God you have to show this miracle worker the error of his ways. Or think back to that meal when he ate with all those tax collectors who had turned traitor by working for the Roman occupier. Surely you are right to express your indignation at such behaviour. And as you watch the disciples hand out the food to the crowds surely you are right to be cross at the way that Jesus and his friends are flaunting the traditions of the elders. Can you have any sympathy for the Pharisees?
Now think of a time when you have judged other people ? Do you think differently now about this ?

Religious Ceremonial and Rituals – A key issue this story raises is about the positive and negative sides of reli-gious rituals and ceremonies. For the Pharisees the ceremonial washing could be a strong reminder of their distinctive national identity when under a tyrannical dictatorship like the Sandana Catalan dance in Barcelona. Or is it just another reason for them to feel superior over the disciples of Jesus ?
Think of your own rituals in church. Are they a sincere witness to our heartfelt piety ? Or are these actions just an outward substitute for the true worship of the heart ?

What defiles a person ? Our current society is very concerned about Food Safety. Sometimes people even worry about the safety of ‘home cooking’. What we are much less fussy about is what we are prepared to fill our minds with from television, social media and the internet without thinking about it. Research from the USA claimns that by the age of 18 each child will have watched 16,000 simulated murders. And there has been speculation that one of the factors behind the mass shooting in Plymouth was the content of various websites that the perpretator had been influenced by. If we want to be clean in God’s eyes then perhaps each of us has to ask if there are things which we should no longer choose to watch as our entertainment ?

Pray for Afghanistan
O God of mercy and of peace, We hold before you the peoples of Afghanistan.
Be living bread to those who are hungry each day
Be healing and wholeness to those who have no access to health care amidst the ravages of pandemic
Be their true home to all who have been displaced
Be open arms of loving acceptance to those who fear because of their gender, ethnicity, religious or political views
Be peace to those engaged in armed conflict and those who live within its shadow.
Turn our hearts and minds to your ways of just and gentle peace
Open our eyes to see you in all acts of compassionate care
Strengthen our hearts to step out in solidarity with your suffering people and
Hold us all in your unfailing love.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself of all but love in order to bring life in all its fullness.

 


Wednesday 18th August

 

Wisdom in the Community Notes: John 6: 56-69
John 6: 56-69, is the reading, however I recommend reading the preceding verses too!  It will help to put vs 56-69 into perspective. (vs 41- 55 “At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.  It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.  No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.  Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.)”

56-69 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”  He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.  On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”  For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”’

The opening verse is difficult teaching!  It must have sounded quite shocking to the Disciples!  Think about it for a moment, for Jewish people to drink blood would have been abhorrent!  To the religious leaders it would have been repugnant, it was forbidden in Jewish law (see Leviticus 17:10-11), if you were one of those Jewish listeners what would you have thought?  Would you have understood the concept of His life becoming their own – remember they didn’t have the benefit of over 2000 years of theology!  They didn’t have the benefit of Paul’s teach in 1 Cor 11 who uses the imagery of the body and blood when talking about Jesus’ last meal with His friends - Communion.

Taking vs 56 literally sounds positively cannibalistic!  But of course, Jesus wasn’t speaking of literal blood.
Read vs 58 again, powerful words, contrasting the manna the Israelites ate and then died, with the bread given by Jesus leading to eternal life.  And read again vs 63 and 65 – what do these 2 verses say to you about the Holy Spirit, and of Spiritual renewal?
Now look to verses 66-68, many of Jesus’ followers left, why did they not remain with the chosen 12?  If you’d been in that synagogue that day – would you have had uncertainty about who Jesus was?  Or the certainty of the 12?  Perhaps Jesus wasn’t the sort of conquering King the Jews expected.  Did He give in to their self-centred requests?  Did he emphasise faith or deeds?  Some of His teachings, as in this reading were difficult to understand, sometimes some of His words seemed offensive.  There was no middle ground with Jesus, when He asked the 12 if they were staying or going,  He was showing them (and us) that God gives us free will to choose to accept or reject Him.

God didn’t create us as automatons!  If you agree with that statement, why do you think he didn’t?  Whilst Jesus antagonised some with His teachings, was he trying to repel them or simply telling them the truth?

For me, Peter has the last word – in vs 68 when he answers Jesus’ question on whether the 12 are staying with Jesus - or going - “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Imagine for a moment that you are one of the crowd and you hear Jesus describing himself as THE BREAD OF LIFE.  And then that you must EAT OF HIS FLESH.

Can you imagine hearing this for the first time?  Would you be shocked and what questions do you have for Jesus?
When are the times in your life that you have felt very close to Jesus?  What are the times that you have felt very much alive…..that life is so good that you can't get enough of it?  Where was Christ at this time?  As you look back can you see God at work in the high points of your life?

 

 


Wednesday 11th August

 

Wisdom in the Community Notes: Luke 1:46-55
Read through the passage slowly. What are your first thoughts?

Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy according to the promise he made to our ancestors to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Now read it again – what are your thoughts now?
Have you noticed how Mary moves from a personal perspective, from ‘me’ to a wider per-spective and appreciation of God in the story of Israel and a much bigger God in the human story? Do you think she might have got this from Elizabeth? When she visited Elizabeth, Eliz-abeth greeted her with the words ‘“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? “

Are there friends that you have learned from, who have helped you to see a bigger God?
There is the sense that the Holy Spirit was moving and acting in each person in this 1st chap-ter of Luke, in Zechariah and Elizabeth, in the unborn baby and in Mary and that theme of the moving and acting of the spirit continues through this gospel.

To reflect on:
What might be the signs of the Spirit moving and acting today? Ponder this in your quiet time with God and consider what it means for God to be present.
Could you sing Mary’s song, or lines from it, at times in your life?
Try it now: My spirit rejoices in God my saviour for …………
The mighty one has done great things ………...
I wonder what it means to have the joy that Jesus promises, the joy that is both the fruit and the gift of the Spirit, the joy that Mary had.

 


Wednesday 4th August

The Transfiguration

Luke 9:28-36

“You did not choose me I chose you” says Jesus. This story begins with Jesus choosing three of his closest companions Peter, James and John. Not the intellectuals, for the disciples from the more cultured Greek tradition, but three of those first Galilean fisherman. He chooses them to be his companions in a special moment of revelation. Imagine for a moment what it might feel like if Jesus were to say to you, “Just come with me a moment I have something I want to show you.”

1. I wonder how you would feel?
And then Jesus appears to abandon them, he turns to prayer, and notice the narrative doesn’t say when they were praying but while he was praying. Perhaps they were wondering why he’d taken them to that lonely spot, were they supposed to be his bodyguards?

2. Have you ever felt called to be somewhere or with someone and yet not been sure why?
And then suddenly it happened, there are Moses and Elijah, two of the most recognisable figures in Jewish history representing the law and the prophets, sort of historical celebrities in their day. And Peter and his companions who by this time had lost the plot and started to fall asleep, suddenly don’t quite know what to do with themselves and so Peter blurts out this rather strange remark about building three tents or dwellings. Again isn’t it true that sometimes we are with someone and we know that it’s a special moment, but we don’t know what to say and perhaps excitedly or perhaps rather foolishly we blurt out something that we think is somehow relevant to the moment that doesn’t quite catch the mood.
And then there is the moment when they suddenly realise what it’s all about.

3. How do you feel in those moments when you suddenly catch on to why being with someone is really significant or really important for them and for you?
Often they are the most special moments in our lives, which we go on to remember forever. And that’s exactly what happened to Peter, who told the story to Mark, who shared it with Luke, and indeed Peter in old age even refers to it himself in his letter to the churches.

4. Do you feel confident enough to share a moment when you really saw something won-derful in a situation or in someone else?