Bible Study: Proper 22 (C) - 2013

October 6, 2013

Lamentations 1:1-6

The book of Lamentations is composed of five lament poems. In this passage, we read the first one, written with a female voice proclaiming deep despair and loss. Other poems in this book are written with a male voice and, thus, in this book we read of much of the human experience of despair and loss – at least as it was understood by the authors of these poems.

This poem, in particular, metaphorically describes the city of Jerusalem, which has had to endure God’s actions caused by the sins of its inhabitants. While we should not assume that this chapter is the biblical standard on divine justice, we can embrace this passage as a true and deep experience of human emotion.

God has created human beings in God’s image and we are called to be in constant relationship with God. We know that God will never abandon us, but that does not mean that we do not fear that he will sometimes. When it feels as if we are not in contact with God any longer, that can cause deep despair and sadness.

Let us lift this up as a very real, human emotion and experience and also remind ourselves that God is always present and will not abandon us. We are called, then, to turn our hearts and minds back to God’s love and mercy.

  • If God has felt far off for you recently, consider why this may be. What helps you to reconnect with God who is always present and always quick to love?
  • If God has been particularly close for you recently, consider how you may deepen that relationship. What prayer practices help you connect with God more fully?

Lamentations 3:19-26

This, the third poem in the book of Lamentations, is listed as the response to the first reading in the lectionary. It is the middle of the five poems in the book and its location is theologically significant. It is at the heart of the book and its message is at the heart of our faith: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”

While the first poem reminds us of true and profound human experience of the world, this poem calls to mind the eternal truths to which we hold: God loves us abundantly and unconditionally and nothing can separate us from that love. Even when we have sinned or turned away from God, God does not turn away from us. God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, so let us always – even if we do not feel far off from God – always examine our lives and consider how we may give ourselves to the love of God more fully.

  • What is the most tangible way you feel or see the love of God in the world? What are signs of the hope of God in your life?
  • Consider how you might more fully share and embody the love of God in a broken and despairing world.

2 Timothy 1:1-14

I can hear Paul’s earnest cheerleading in this passage to continue in the faith Timothy has known for generations in his family and one that we also know deeply in our lives. “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”

Through our faith and in our baptism, we are given the charge to powerfully embody God’s love in the world. One way we can tap into that sense of God’s love in our lives is through self-discipline. One discipline I have is to say Morning Prayer each day and, in doing so, hear scripture and be in prayer with God for me and for those whom I love. This centers my day on the love of God and reminds me of my call to embody that love to help renew and restore creation to a more full expression of the image of God.

  • What disciplines do you have that help you in your life with God? What do you learn from those disciplines?
  • Perhaps you do not currently have a practice of self-discipline as a part of your faith. Consider one that may work for you. This may not be the one that works for me or others but should be one that fits your rhythm of life and prayer. Perhaps it is a journal reflecting on Scripture or a contemplative or meditative prayer time or saying the Daily Office.

Luke 17:5-10

The beginning of this passage shows a classic moment of the disciples thinking they know what they need and Jesus promptly reversing that thought. Isn’t that true with our lives also? The disciples want more and bigger and better faith. Jesus says one does not need that, only faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. With faith this size, you could have some serious power – even enough to move a mulberry tree!

I am reminded in this passage that my sense within myself that I am not doing enough or faithful enough or praying enough to be a good follower of Christ is a very flawed thought process. In Christ, it is not about whether we are doing enough or have bigger and better faith, but that we work to deepen our faith and trust and love of God. We do not need more or better; instead we are called to humble ourselves to love and serve God and our neighbor fully. In this, we demonstrate very powerful faith, even if it feels small.

  • Have you ever felt like the disciples? Consider how Jesus’ reversal of thought speaks to you and your faith.