Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adult Forum Class, October 14, 2012

About Adult Forum

Please join us Sunday mornings at 9:15am in the Charney Room, hosted by Terry and Danese Grandfield. 

Check here each week to receive a brief synopsis on what we taught the previous Sunday, as well as what we will be working on the following Sunday. We are using a study guide called Living The Good News, a lectionary based program. For those who are not familiar with the term lectionary, it is the book of appointed bible portions to be read during our church services throughout the year, which includes an Old Testament Lesson, The Psalm, The Epistle, and The Gospel Lesson.

There is beauty in how these sections of scripture are chosen. We are privileged to focus on them in our class as well as during our church service, and Father Gern's sermon further adds to what we are sharing during class time.
In a small group setting we also get to know one another more intimately, building friendships and our sense of community, so vital to continuing Christ's work individually as well as collectively. 
We are truly excited to be leading this class. Already we are learning so much ourselves!

God of Impossibilities

Our discussion began with the book of Amos, a part of the bible most of us are unfamiliar with, one of those minor prophets most of us skip over. The reading came from Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, and the first sentence grabbed our attention:

"Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it."

Strong words of command, followed by equally strong words expressing the consequences if that command is not obeyed. A little overwhelming, but once we began looking at the remaining verses the picture broadened as we discovered the essence of what God, through Amos, wanted to share with us through this teaching.

Amos was attempting to expose oppression within his society, calling to task people who were "afflicting the righteous, taking bribes, and pushing aside the needy in the gate." Although there are not literal gates people pass in and out of in our society today, it is easy to find oppression in our outlook as a community, as well as within ourselves.

How can we better notice and help the needy and vulnerable in our world today? How can we establish justice for all people? It's fairly simple:

"Seek good...... love good"(Amos 5:14,15).......for all people- and God will be gracious to us.

In the gospel reading from Mark 10:17-31 we looked at the story of the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and asks "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The Lord's answer is straightforward and challenging "Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Most of us have probably wondered-  how would we honestly handle such a directive from God?

Before Jesus said this, the gospel reveals his heart towards this young man, his heart towards all of us.

"Jesus, looking at him, loved him." It was not with a spirit of judgement Jesus gave this man a personal challenge, it was out of love. God sees the potential within us to become, to follow Christ out of our old familiarity into newer paths of freedom. Only the love of God can expose that, bring it to light. His love compels us to change, to want change, even if at first like that rich young ruler we walk away grieving.

The fact the young man went to Jesus, sought him out, shows he was looking for an answer beyond what he had already accomplished, including obeying the commandments from his childhood. He was looking for change, but maybe not completely ready to embrace it.  Jesus definitely planted a seed in his heart.

We don't hear the rest of his story, but God's word is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."(Hebrews 4:12)  No doubt his meeting with the living word, Jesus, forever changed his life, his perspective. God was also emphasizing through this story his desire, as we discussed from the book of Amos, for us to use our resources to help those less fortunate.

Jesus was trying to show this young man how his wealth could be translated to treasure in heaven.  Condemning wealth can be typical in some religious circles. But can't this too be part of how God equips his people to do the work of the kingdom here on earth?

Whatever God calls or expects from us we can rest in knowing that Christ understands fully our weaknesses, and actually sympathizes with them! (Hebrews 4:15) He knew the rich young ruler would walk away.... he knows we will fall short often in our journey. But He loves us. No matter what. And in Hebrews 4:16 we are encouraged "Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness. so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Grace. Mercy. Amen.

The Reflection, from Living the Good News

The genius of the gospel is often its unanswered questions. At one level, we don’t know what eventually happened to the young man. At another level, the gospel raises questions to answer in our own lives. 
In her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Remen distinguishes between spores and seeds. The first hunkers down and walls off the life force when times are harsh. It is a survival mechanism. Many years later when conditions improve, a spore might unfold into a plant. So people may wall off parts of themselves that aren’t encouraged in childhood. They do not grow but simply survive. 
Some even forget that this is a temporary mode, not a way of life. “What you needed to do to survive may be very different from what you need to do to live.” Reclaiming all the parts of ourselves, even those we may have judged shortcomings, is the first step back to being a fruitful seed. 
When Jesus looks at the rich man, what is contained in that look? If it is an invitation to fuller life, then it is even more poignant when he refuses. Only we can answer the question of what will help us live rather than merely survive. We might ask the rich young man for help. 

Next week, October 21st:

Title: The Call to Discipleship

Bible readings: Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 91:9-16; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark:35-45

Come join us!

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