Week of January 30–February 5, 2017 – Walking in the Light by W. Robert Abstein


Scripture Overview: Living genuinely out of a deep inner sense of connectedness to the Trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is a common theme for this week’s texts. By living out of this spiritual center, we match our actions with our words and avoid the judgment the prophet Isaiah casts upon the people of Israel. Psalm 112 is a hymn of praise for the blessings God brings upon those who revere and follow. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he urges them to move beyond their flirtation with wisdom and to go to the deeper regions of the Spirit, the source of true wisdom. And, finally, Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, calls his listeners to move beyond the mere words of the law to the deep meaning and intent of the law.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:


· Read Isaiah 58:1–12. When have you felt strengthened by God for a particular task? How did your light “break forth like the dawn”?


· Read Psalm 112:1–10. Where have you been a light to those struggling in the shadows?


· Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–16. When have you faced unimaginable circumstances and had no words to speak? How did God’s wisdom help you in those times?


· Read Matthew 5:13–20. How do you fulfill God’s intended purpose for you as salt and light to the world?


 

February 6–12, 2017 – Saying Yes to Life by Abby Thornton Hailey

Scripture Overview: How are Christians to understand and relate to the Jewish law? The text from Deuteronomy confronts Israel with a sharp choice: Follow the commandments of Yahweh or bow to the gods of the Canaanites. Choosing the law means choosing a way of life. Psalm 119 praises the Torah as God’s gift bestowed on Israel to be the authentic guide as to how life should be lived. Jesus becomes the authoritative interpreter of the Torah, the one who pushes beyond external behavior to a consistency between disposition and deed. Christians are invited by the text to be different and become what Paul describes as “spiritual people.”

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

· Read Deuteronomy 30:15–20. How do you go about choosing between the call of God and the call of the idols that surround you?

· Read Psalm 119:1–8. How has keeping God’s commandments been a joyful experience in your life?

· Read 1 Corinthians 3:1–9. What do you consider to be the “milk” of the gospel versus the “solid food” of the gospel?

· Read Matthew 5:21–37. Which of the “But I say to you” teachings of Jesus surprise you the most? Why?

 

Week of February 13–19, 2017 – Meditations on Holiness by Jason E. Vickers

Scripture Overview: These texts evidence relentless concern with the moral requirements that belong to life with the God of the Bible. They assume the foundation of covenantal law in God’s rescuing acts. That foundation is implicit in undergirding these several treatments of God’s commands. The psalmist is aware that the commands of God constitute a radical counter-obedience. The text from Leviticus brings us to the core claims of covenantal law. The rule of the God of Israel leads directly to focus on the neighbor. The neighbor is not just an inconvenience or an intrusion but is the stuff of moral awareness. Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthian Christians state the bold claim that Jesus Christ is the central focus of every Christian’s commitment. The Gospel reading invites the community to reflect on, imagine, and devise extra measures of neighbor love that reflect the character of God.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

· Read Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18. What would be some signs that you are attaining the holiness God desires?

· Read Psalm 119:33–40. The writer states that “Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it.” How did/does Jesus do that?

· Read 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23. Consider how these two statements relate to your life: “We do not have to be morally perfect before God will dwell within us” and “We can be morally impure after God comes to dwell with us.”

· Read Matthew 5:38–48. What instances in your life show that you “reject the call for retaliation or revenge in favor of the higher calling of forgiveness?

 

Week of February 20–26, 2017 – Mountaintop Experiences by Paul Wesley Chilcote

Scripture Overview: In deep deference and careful obedience, Moses enters the zone of God’s glory, which certifies Moses’ authority. Psalm 99 praises the kingship of Yahweh, while bringing to mind the human agents of God’s rule who facilitate Yahweh’s conversation with the people. The Gospel lesson, like Exodus 24, characterizes what is not fully seen or clearly heard. Jesus is taken up into the zone of God’s glory and so is filled with transcendent authority. Speech about glory points to the assignment of new authority. The epistle reading asserts the authority of the true teachers of the church who rightly present and interpret the scriptural tradition.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:

· Read Exodus 24:12–18. When did you last experience a life-altering encounter with God?

· Read Psalm 99. Have you ever felt that if God really knew you, you would be hopeless? What changed your mind?

· Read 2 Peter 1:16–21. For the epistle writer, the Transfiguration event focuses more on hearing than on seeing. How do you listen for God’s words?

· Read Matthew 17:1–9. What dark places have you seen brightened by Christ’s presence—through you or others?

 

Week of February 27–March 5, 2017– Living into Lent by Roberta Bondi

Scripture Overview: The texts for Ash Wednesday are all ominous in nature, pointing forward to the redemptive power of God’s grace. Lent is a time when Christians reflect on their mortality and sin, as well as on the creative and re-creative power of God. The original parents of humanity could not resist the seduction of the serpent, but that narrative stands beside the story of Jesus’ lonely and painful resistance to the power of Satan. In Romans, the “one man’s obedience” by which “the many will be made righteous” is the quality that endures. The Joel passage is an alarm bell in the darkness of the night. Those who are caught in this terrible moment cannot hope to save themselves, for they are powerless to do anything on their own behalf. They are powerless to do anything, that is, except to repent and to open themselves to God’s intervening mercy.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:

· Read Genesis 2:15–17, 3:1–7. What choices have you made that put you outside God’s intention for your life?

· Read Psalm 32. Are there unconfessed wrongdoings in your life that need God’s forgiveness? Will this Lent be a time when you can find the freedom forgiveness brings?

· Read Romans 5:12–19. Have you experienced a relationship that has died? How has God renewed that time in your life?

· Read Matthew 4:1–11. What has tempted you to set faith aside and to trust only in yourself? How did that work out?