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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, September 26, 2021

September 23, 2021
  • Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
  • Psalm 124
  • James 5:13-20
  • Mark 9:38-50

Jesus’s words this week are harsh. He tells his disciples that if any of them put a stumbling block in front of those he calls the “little ones,” things would be better for them if they were cast into the ocean. Jesus doesn’t mean just children when he says little ones. He is speaking of all who are metaphorically young in the faith, not just children.

Jesus’s rebuke of the disciples serves to remind us that as Christians we are ambassadors of Christ. Our words and actions teach others what it means to be a Christian. This can be empowering. However, we can also be stumbling blocks to faith. This puts in a position of grave responsibility, particularly in a time and place where “Christendom” has receded and being a professing Christian is no longer the norm. How will we perform our beliefs for the secular world and show them what it means to be a Christian?

I believe the readings from Esther and James each show us a possible path forward. In the Old Testament reading, Queen Esther, an ethnic stranger in the land of Persia, demands vengeance on those who planned grievous harm towards her and her people. Not only is Haman hanged, Esther’s and her people band together and kill all those who seek their lives in a portion of Scripture conveniently skipped by the Lectionary. Any mention of God is absent from the book.

The passage from James, on the other hand, calls us to pray in our trials instead of focusing on insiders, outsiders, and tribalism. James praises those who bring people in from their “wandering,” not the gatekeepers who keep the sinners out. James’s sense of faith is about prayer and care for others, not closely delineated community identity. His call is not exciting or dramatic, and it lacks the satisfying vengeance of Esther.

As the tide of Christendom goes out, we can become insular and fight for whatever scraps of religiosity we can grasp in 2021 America. We can seek to protect ourselves and crush our spiritual enemies through political means like Esther. Certainly, we see many of our fellow Christians seeking to do just that. And, we see many driven away from Jesus through those Christians’ actions.

Alternatively, we can follow the humbler less flashy path of James, being loving instead of hostile and afraid. We can pray for those around us and for ourselves as we face our moments of doubt and spiritual darkness. Rather than ruling Christendom, we can be what Christ calls the leaven in the dough. Christendom may be fading, but Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven remains eternal.  - Ryan Newberry

  • Is there a “tribe” or group identity that you feel very protective of? Is there be a place in Scripture that mirrors your experience of this identity?
  • Where do you see our church community being the leaven in the dough of Boston helping brining about the Kingdom of Heaven?
  • Where do you see our church community showing hostility and fear instead of praying and loving those around us?


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