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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, August 16, 2021

August 9, 2021
  • 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
  • Psalm 111
  • Ephesians 5:15-20
  • John 6:51-58

The single thing I remember from my college rhetoric class is when our professor discussed how our culture has shifted from a “culture of character” to a “culture of fame.” I can’t say whether he was 100% correct and that “the days are evil” as Paul writes to the Ephesians this week. I suspect that there has always been a tension between character and fame. However, I can say that in our social media and mass media driven culture, there are pressures and incentives to get attention regardless of how you get it.

The reading from Kings speaks to God’s opinion of seeking greatness and renown for its own sake. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign, God appears in a dream and asks Solomon what God should give him. Rather than seeking power and wealth, Solomon admits his human frailties and asks God for wisdom and the ability to govern justly. God is so pleased with Solomon’s prayer, he grants Solomon what he asked for and the greatness he did not ask for.

Solomon’s self-awareness,  humility, and desire for wisdom are counter-cultural in today’s world. How often do nuanced, wise opinions get likes or retweets? When was the last time we heard a public figure admit that past statements they made were flat out incorrect and that they’ve simply just changed their minds? The tacit implication is that humility, wisdom, and fallibility are incompatible with greatness, whether large or small.

How ironic is it then that one of the most well known people in our culture is Jesus of Nazareth, son of an obscure carpenter from a backwater of the Roman Empire and convicted criminal? And how telling is it about God’s character that this man of humble origins was the human form in which God chose to incarnate God’s self?

This week’s Gospel reading reminds us of the strangeness of the Eucharist, but Eucharist points us to the self-sacrificing love of Christ. Regardless of what our culture teaches us about greatness and fame, perhaps the enduring fame and attraction of Jesus speaks to a hunger all of us have for the alternative value system of Christ’s love as perfectly symbolized in the Eucharist. The Eucharist IS strange and so is the value system it symbolizes. So be it. – Ryan Newberry

  • When have you prayed to God for wisdom? How has this wisdom manifested itself?
  • Is there an acceptable time to pray to God for greatness? Why or why not?
  • What attracts you to Jesus? What do you find strange about him and his message?


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