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Bible Study Guide for Sunday September 13, 2020

September 13, 2020

● Exodus 14:19-31

● Psalm 114

● Romans 14;1-12

● Matthew 18:21-35

I have lived with wonderful pet dogs for most of my life. There is nothing like the leaping joy that Sigi-of-Jamaica-Plain expresses when we are re-united after even a brief separation. Paul, describing the relationship between God and his Roman Christian listeners, brings up that picture of potential leaping joy to me. Paul reminds us that, once baptized into the faith, we live and die not for ourselves, but for God. Like Sigi, we have strong independent streaks that can border on rebellion. We can wander off and refuse to come home right away when called. But we can be as sure of God’s welcoming arms as Sigi is of mine (or my wife, Perry’s). Certainly, our world is infinitely more complex and our needs and desires far exceed Sigi’s, but we are assured that God is equal to the welcoming task.

This passage from Romans is in the midst of Paul’s guidance about judgment and forgiveness of our Christian brothers and sisters. We are called not to pass judgment here on earth; we will all eventually be judged by God. Matthew’s unambiguous parable about the initially forgiving but later unforgiving master dives into the same issue. Here, again, the ultimate judgment by God is made clear: we are called to forgive. It is something that we must do, as we are reminded in the Lord’s Prayer every time we pray it. And we must remember that there is an ultimate cost for placing ourselves as ultimate judge.

Our readings from the Hebrew Bible are also expressions of God’s care for God’s People – here the Nation of Israel. These events are far more overt and dramatic than even Paul’s eloquence, but we should remind ourselves of the continuity between that People, whatever the details of their experience, and we in the Christian era. God loved and protected them and God will ultimately welcome and protect us. Psalm 114 is a recapitulation of God’s miraculous care during the Exodus, not only the parting of the Sea, but also of the Jordan and water from the rock at Meribah. And Cecil B. DeMille’s script writers, of course, described the dramatic Exodus. But for me, the clearest expressions of God’s care are the pillars of cloud (or fire) that go before to lead the People and also go behind to protect their most vulnerable members. If we pay attention to our leader, Jesus, we can be assured of God’s protection as we follow Him.

· What image in your life best expresses the limitless joy with which God will welcome you back following a separation?

· When you read of the Exodus, are you able to go beyond the images provided by Hollywood? What most inspires you about the Exodus?

Author: Chuck Medler


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