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Friday, April 26, 2013

A New Commandment

01 May 2013


Hymn: They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love

Theme: The Resurrection

Topic: A New Commandment

At the centre of the point of view of the Bible is the idea that “God is love.” This means that everything God does is motivation by God’s loving nature. God has simply chosen not to act in any other way. That’s not to say that there aren’t consequences to our occasional sinful choices, but that even while we were sinners God’s choice – God’s chosen predisposition – is to love us. The Book of Genesis says (1:31), “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.The Psalmist new that God is love when he wrote (13:5), “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” In John’s Gospel it says (3:16), “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The “new commandment” to love one another is of paramount importance in the Christian journey. Love defines the One we worship and love defines the worshipper (or at least should).

Reading: John 13:31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

1. Is the “new commandment” Jesus gives us really new?
Exodus 20:1-17
Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to theLord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 You shall not murder. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. 17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”;33and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

2. What might be the implications for us to be as loving as Jesus calls us to be?
Titus 2.14-3.9
He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. 15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you. 3:1-9 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. 3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water* of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. 9But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

1 John 4.11-21
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

3. “See, I am making all things new…” is a wonderful promise. How might we help make the new thing God is doing in our generation real?
Revelation 21:1-6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be is peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Psalm 148
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights! 
2 Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his host! 
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars! 
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens! 
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for he commanded and they were created. 
6 He established them for ever and ever;
   he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. 
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps, 
8 fire and hail, snow and frost,
   stormy wind fulfilling his command! 
9 Mountains and all hills,
   fruit trees and all cedars! 
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
   creeping things and flying birds! 
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth! 
12 Young men and women alike,
   old and young together! 
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for his name alone is exalted;
   his glory is above earth and heaven. 
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
   praise for all his faithful,
   for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!


“So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4.16

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
Give us grace to love one another
and walk in the way of his commandments,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Topic: Unity

24 April 2013


Hymn 519: The Lord's My Shepherd

Theme: The Resurrection

Topic: Unity

At the time it was an extraordinary claim for anyone to make, Jesus says, when pressured to speak plainly, “The Father and I are one.” In fact today it remains an extraordinary claim, a claim we now make on his behalf. Jesus, it has been said, is the human face of God. What Jesus is doing in the world is what God is doing. What Jesus cares about is what God cares about. God, the one who wonderfully created everything is one with Jesus the Christ and Jesus is at once both the sacrificial lamb and the Great Shepherd, the one raised to receive “blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might.” Our study this evening will encourage us to think and pray about the implications of our claim that Jesus, both God and human, is lamb and shepherd, and is characterized by a love that overflows.

Reading: John 10:22-30
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’25Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.’
1. If Jesus is both Lamb and Shepherd, what implications are there for us, his followers?
Revelation 7:9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ 
11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 14I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
   and worship him day and night within his temple,
   and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
   the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 
17 for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

John 10.11-21
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes* it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’ 19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ 21Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’

Isaiah 40.6-11
6 A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
   when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
   surely the people are grass. 
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
   but the word of our God will stand for ever. 
9 Get you up to a high mountain,
   O Zion, herald of good tidings;*
lift up your voice with strength,
   O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,*
   lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
   ‘Here is your God!’ 
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
   and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
   and his recompense before him. 
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
   he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
   and gently lead the mother sheep. 

2. If God and Jesus are “one”, what implications are there for us, his followers?
Acts 9:36-43
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

John 13.31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him,* God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

John 17.6-16
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that* you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost,* so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.* 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.* 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

3. Love is the great qualifier, the one word that best describes God. Psalm 23 is a love-poem. Discuss.
Psalm 23 (BCP)
THE LORD is my shepherd; / therefore can I lack nothing.
2 He shall feed me in a green pasture, / and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
3 He shall restore my soul, / and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; / for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
5 THOU shalt prepare a table before me in the presence of them that trouble me; / thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
6 Surely thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; / and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Matthew 22.32-40
“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.’ 33And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching. 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’


The world and all of creation is truly blessed by a God who both created us and loves us. A love so deep that God is mad manifest in Jesus. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit calls us into this unity, calls us into being as God would have us be.

O God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do your will, and work in us that which is well-pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 17, 2013

There is no Bible Study on April 17, 2013. The Bible Study will resume on April 24.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Doubts and Faith

10 April 2013


Hymn: of thy choosing

Theme: The Resurrection

Topic: Doubts and Faith

Thomas, one of the Apostles, was not with the others when the Risen Lord first appeared. He desired an opportunity to see the Christ for himself, to place his hands on the wounds and has ever since been saddled with the name, “Doubting Thomas.” Whether the name is deserve or not, Thomas has come to represent what seems like an all too human characteristic of doubting. All of us suffer times of doubting. Doubts can be a useful when, for example, we doubt our ability to achieve a goal our doubts can motivate us to practice or prepare more. On the other hand, when it comes to issues of faith our doubts can inhibit our spiritual growth and well-being. This usually happens when doubts are treated as conclusions (the end of the story). But doubts can be challenged and used as useful tools to strengthen our faith. When someone comes to us who is doubting, we can share our own doubts and what helped us back to faith. So that they too might find faith and have their spiritual journey renewed and strengthened.

Reading: John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

1. What helped you deal with time of doubt in your own life?
Psalm 118:14-29
14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
   he has become my salvation. 
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16   the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
   the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
   and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
   but he did not give me over to death. 
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the Lord
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
   the righteous shall enter through it. 
21 I thank you that you have answered me
   and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
   it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
   O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! 
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
   and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
   up to the horns of the altar. 
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you. 
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Luke 12:11-12
When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

2. Many people find the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ difficult. What might help us proclaim the Gospel in the world?
Acts 5:27-32
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ 29But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

John 14.21-31
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’23Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Acts 2: 14-21
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams. 
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy. 
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty firmament!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his surpassing greatness! 
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with clanging cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!


The central mystery of our faith is, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

Almighty and eternal God,
the strength of those who believe
and the hope of those who doubt,
may we, who have not seen, have faith
and receive the fullness of Christ's blessing,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.