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Bible Study Guide for Sunday Nov 15, 2020

November 12, 2020
  • Judges 4:1-7
  • Psalm 123
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
  • Matthew 25:14-30

The Collect this week provides our annual reminder regarding the scriptures. We pray that God will help us to "hear them, read, mark, and inwardly digest them" in order that we may retain "Blessed hope of everlasting life." Our texts provide a typically violent story of God's help to the Israelites, a gentle urging from Paul to hang in there and don the "hope of salvation," one of the most confusing of Matthew's many parables, and a psalm containing what is surely one of the most heartfelt pleas for God's mercy. There is much to mark and digest.

First: do pray the psalm. As I write this we are in an electoral holding pattern and many of us will relate strongly to vs. 4-5 of this eloquent prayer. We may not require the dramatic military rescue from Siseras' iron chariots provided by the armies of Naphtali and Zebulun described in Judges 4, but our prayers do help to maintain our hope for earthly justice as well as eternal life. (And Siseras did not come out so well as you'll learn if you read to the end of Judges Chapter 4, if that's any comfort.)

Let's turn to Paul's message to the Thessalonians and consider: "... put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation." Paul has assured them and us that we are children of God and people of the light. So, these values (faith, love, and hope) are what we must keep uppermost in our minds as we wade through the pandemic, economic turmoil, racial oppression, and a horribly divisive election season. For encouragement, I make the strongest possible recommendation to listen to the sermon archbishop Michael Currey preached on November 1 as part of the National Cathedral's Day of Prayer#. It is a wonderful reminder to keep our values foremost in our minds as we seek God's Kingdom in the world.

The importance of values, for me, bears directly on how we understand Matthew's version of the parable of the talents, which appears in various forms of all the synoptic gospels. A conventional reading urges us not to bury the "talents" God have given us, but rather to use them to build God's Kingdom in the world (or something along those lines). But what about the drastic punishment for the fearful slave? What happened to our loving, forgiving God? And what about the scurrilous description of the man himself - harsh, reaping where he did not sow, etc.?

Let's look at this parable in a new way. (Much of this view is from The Power of the Parable by John Dominic Crossan). First, Matthew is instructing the Jews of his community, Jews whose traditions are filled with prohibitions against earning interest (e.g., Lev. 25:36-37 among many others). Therefore, Matthew is challenging these Jews to compare the values of the (secular) Roman world of commerce such as business success, accumulated wealth and military glory with traditional Jewish values of non-usurious practices and caring for the poor. So, the "worthless slave" is thrown into the outer darkness of the Roman world because he did not share

in the values of his master, not because he was a poor performer in God's Kingdom, as the conventional reading would have us believe.

  • What would your genuine personal values inventory look like? What role do those play as you deal with life in this real world of ours?
  • Pray Psalm 123 again. How does it speak to you this year?

Author: Chuck Medler


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