Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Adult Forum Class, October 7, 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's Plan for Companionship 

How would you define the term partnership? As we discussed at the beginning of class it ideally involves two or more people who are equally contributing, pulling their own weight, in any given relationship, project, or business. All of us have experienced the reality of having a partner, or partners, who didn't meet our expectations. Remember those forced group projects in high school where one person did all the work, but everyone else received the credit? Maybe that one person was you.

The best way to engage with a partner is to share responsibility, each person not necessarily contributing the same, but being willing to invest themselves fully in whatever ideas or skills they bring to the relationship best.

In Genesis 2:18-24, we read about God's original design for partnership through Adam and Eve. In these verses we see God has created all kinds of animal companions for Adam, but recognizes "for the man there was not found a helper as his partner."

The word for "man" in the original Hebrew is a collective term, not representative of an individual person, so it actually includes both male and female. When God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep (an unconscious state when God speaks to someone through an unexpected message or vision) he brings forth Eve- from Adam's rib he creates her. All other beings thus far God created out of the earth, but Eve came from Adam, and Adam declares "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of man this one was taken."

They are "part" of one another, and together they represent a more complete picture of God and his design for companionship. We are not meant to be alone, we are meant to be part of a community in which we share freely our gifts with one another. Equally amazing is God considers us to be his partners, working with the Holy Spirit to fulfill God's purposes on earth.

Eve is considered Adam's helper, a term many would assume means she had a lesser status, but that would be incorrect. The Hebrew word for helper, or enabler, is also used of God's Spirit in the bible. To quote directly from Living the Good News, "While the word helper today has connotations of assistant or subordinate, the Hebrew word is also used of God's Spirit and depicts the woman as an enabler, one who completes and facilitates the smooth functioning of the human community and is a partner in all the work the community is called to do. The recognition of woman as "bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh" affirms a relationship of kinship and quality."

In the gospel reading from Mark 10:2-16 Jesus goes back to the original purpose of partnership as given in the story of creation. That phrase "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" is one we have all heard at weddings, yet the truth is, marriages do not always last. Looking at Christ's stern words regarding divorce it feels too rigid, especially for those who have experienced divorce in their lives. Does Jesus really mean anyone who divorces and goes on to have another relationship is
committing adultery?

At the time Jesus spoke these words marriage was very different from what we perceive today. Marriage was arranged by families in biblical times, so people didn't marry for love or emotional connection, but instead to increase a family's wealth or status. Women were considered property and had no voice whatsoever in marriage or divorce. It was customary for men, if they were unhappy for any given reason with their wife, or especially if she could not produce children (which was of
course assumed to always be the female's fault) to dismiss her, moving on himself to another relationship but leaving her unable to do so.

Jesus makes the statement "whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." He's turning the tables again, rooting for the underdog. The man is being held equally accountable, and in fact Jesus knows the incidence of a woman filing for divorce rarely happened. How could it? Women had no legal voice.

Unequal partnerships never work well. As we try to define marriage and all important relationships today, let us recall what a healthy partnership should be, always rooted in mutual respect and equality.

In Mark 2:13-16 "people" (parents, particularly mothers) were bringing their children to Jesus "that he might touch them." The disciples were trying to make them go away; after all, children were regarded even lower in society than women. The Lord is about to teach us all an important lesson as he "takes them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them."

"Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Father Andy shared in his sermon that becoming like a child means to become a blank slate.

How we need to be open, in our hearts and minds, to all God's possibilities and to all
God's people.

The Reflection, from Living the Good News

Where in today’s society do we find the kind of healthy interdependence Jesus describes? There may be different configurations, but the same love. A priest presiding at a wedding makes a habit of inviting the couple to turn around and face the assembly. There, they see many different faces of love looking back: married people, single people, gay and lesbian people, divorced and remarried people, widowed people, partners, a whole variety of faces.

The faces and descriptors may have changed, but human beings are still as dependent on each other as they were in the Genesis story Jesus cites. They still yearn to belong to each other with the kind of fidelity Jesus describes. Resilient, they learn from their mistakes and try to move on when love has died. 
Furthermore, they honor the ideal Jesus holds up: the protection of the small and vulnerable. And if two dads adopt two hard-to-place children, is it our place to judge them? The gospel moves us into mystery, where familiar mental constructs and labels lose their rigidity. Instead, we can celebrate the marvelous world of love in which we are blessed to live. 

Next week, October 14th:

Title: God of Impossibilities

Bible readings: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Come join us!

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