• Going Deeper: Growing in Faith and Knowledge

Bible Study Discussion Guide Winter 2019 Trinity Church in the City of Boston Year C / Revised Common Lectionary, Lent 2: Sunday, March 17

March 12, 2019
  • Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
  • Philippians 3:17-4:1
  • Luke 13:31-35
  • Psalm 27

 

 

This week’s reading from Genesis occurs several years after God initially called Abram out of his father’s house and promised to make of him a great nation.  Abram had been seventy-five years old at that point. Gen 12:1-4.  Three chapters later, Abram still has no children, nor is he possessing any land.  He believes God, but also still needs reassurance.  What happens next may need some explanation.  In the ancient Near East when two parties formed a covenant they would ratify it by this sort of ceremony.  They would sacrifice an animal and split its carcass in two.  Then both parties would walk between the two halves of the carcass, symbolically bringing that fate of death and destruction upon themselves if they do not fulfill the terms of the covenant.  In this passage the flaming torch and smoking fire pot – representing God – pass between the carcass pieces.  While Abram himself would not live to see it, his descendants will inherit the promised land. 

 

As God has covenanted to be faithful to Abram, Jesus is also determined to be faithful unto death.  While we often think of Pharisees as Jesus’ adversaries, in this passage they are trying to protect him.  Jesus will not listen to their sensible warnings.  He is determined to be about his mission and will not be dissuaded by death threats.  He must finish his work – be crucified – in Jerusalem.

 

After that sobering Gospel, Paul is writing to the Philippians while he is in prison and tells the Philippians to “join in imitating me and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.”  Imitating someone who is currently imprisoned sounds daunting but Paul reminds his readers that our citizenship is in heaven and our humiliation will be transformed.  Around the world, many of our Christian brothers and sisters face such humiliations every day.

 

Abram would never inherit the promised land himself, apart from a small plot he bought for his wife’s grave, and the verses we skip in chapter 12 warn that his descendants would first be oppressed for four hundred years, but God would be faithful to his promise.  Paul writes the letter to the Philippians while he was imprisoned, and would eventually be martyred, but still encourages the Philippians to imitate him because he knows God will be faithful to transform their humiliations into the body of his glory.

 

 

Most of us aren’t ever going to face imprisonment or death for Christ.  But we still may find that following Christ comes at a cost. 

Have you ever had to pay a price for your faith? Have you known anyone who had to pay a more dramatic price?

Paul can endure his imprisonment and encourage the Philippians to stand firm because he knows that his citizenship is in heaven.  How can we keep God’s promises in mind so that we are more prepared when difficulties come?

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