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Bible Study Discussion Guide for Easter 4: Sunday, May 12
The following are the discussion guide and lectionary readings put out by the national church for this week.
- Acts 9:36-43
- Revelation 7:9-17
- John 10:22-30
- Psalm 23
Easter 4 in our tradition is commonly understood as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The collect which begins our worship sets a tone for the readings which follow: “O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads.” If we are not careful, springtime imagery of fluffy lambs, verdant hillsides and benevolent shepherds might mask some of the more profound truths scripture offers us this week. “Where he leads” is actually into “everlasting life” and that mysterious destination pervades everything the church offers us to read or hear on Easter 4.
Consider: Peter defies death and raises Dorcas (the Greek translation of the Aramaic “Tabitha”) in Acts. The voice of Psalm 23 claims a place in the house of the Lord “forever.” The multitudes present in the Revelation to John proclaim God’s “blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and power and might” to be “forever and ever” – that is, outside of time. “I give them eternal life,” says Jesus of his “sheep” in John’s gospel, “and they will never perish.”
The conviction that “there must be more than this” is central to central to Christian hope – the hope we affirm in Sunday Eucharist in the words of the Nicene creed: “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” What any of this will be like exactly no Christian can claim to know with certainty. The words of our catechism (Book of Common Prayer, p. 862) however, describe some of what’s at the heart of Christian hope: “by everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other.” To “believe” in this new existence (the Greek, “credo” means “to give one’s heart to”) is hence less about understanding than it is about acceptance and hope.
Christian orthodoxy also offers “everlasting life” as somehow both “already here” and “not yet” – that whatever the reality may contain, the joy of “fully knowing and loving” can be known to us in glimpses and flashes now, and that these glimpses and flashes herald an age both “in progress” and “to come,” an age outside of and beyond human understanding and conceptions of time. This is why Eastertide is full of references to the “Paschal Mystery.” The joy of Easter, the joy of Good Shepherd Sunday, is in the assurance of God’s “more” – manifest in Christ, signaling our own renewal and the renewal of creation.
- How do you respond to the “sheep” and “shepherd” imagery of Easter 4?
- How do you make of the term “eternal life?” Have you responded to that term differently over time? How? Why?
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Lesson
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. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since 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." So 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. Peter 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. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
Dominus regit me
1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
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. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And 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 worshiped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever!
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I 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.
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.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center 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."
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So 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." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."
Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
From The Lectionary Page: http://lectionarypage.net
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