Bible Study: Proper 7 (C) - 2013

June 23, 2013

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Poor Elijah! Before this particular passage, Elijah has just experienced a spectacular victory in the “Whose God Is the Best?” competition against 450 prophets of Baal. But his “reward” is receipt of Jezebel’s murderous vow, and Elijah quickly shifts from God’s über-prophet to just a common fugitive, running for his life. After traveling some distance, he ultimately dismisses his servant and walks into the wilderness to die alone.

But God does not let go of Elijah. God sees to it that Elijah is fed and well-rested. When he reaches Mount Horeb/Sinai, where Moses too spoke with and saw God’s glory, God asks Elijah twice what he is doing there. To both inquiries, Elijah supplies identical responses, unimpressed by neither the traditional means of God’s manifestation – wind, earthquake, fire – nor by the “sound of sheer silence” (v.12), and his replies sound very much like a truculent child! You can almost hear God sigh after listening to Elijah’s complaint for the second time before ignoring Elijah’s whining and instead giving him a new assignment, a new purpose. Probably the most miraculous part of this story is that Elijah accepts God’s charge and continues in God’s service.

  • How do you handle spiritual discouragement?
  • How has God not let go of you in the past, even when you might wish to be rid of God’s call on your life?

Psalm 42 and Psalm 43

While these are psalms of deep longing for God, they are also psalms of deep faith. People mock the psalmist for this faith, faith in a God who, from all outward appearances, has abandoned him. The psalmist recalls God’s faithfulness through both day and night, biblical code for “at all times.” Yet, his soul is “athirst for God,” so while the psalmist may not feel abandoned by God, he surely feels God’s absence.

Three times through these two psalms (42:6-7, 14-15, and 43:5-6) the psalmist repeats what seems to be a conversation with himself, asking what is the reason for this distress. No answer is provided. However, each time he asks these questions of himself, the psalmist responds with quiet confidence, knowing that there will be a time when he will again give praise and thanks to God. This is a faithful follower, one who will not let go of God.

  • How does your longing for God manifest itself?
  • How are you able to live out faithfulness when God seems to be absent in your life?

Galatians 3:23-29

These six verses are probably some of the most revolutionary words in the entire Bible. Through them, Paul overturns the world order, the worldview, of both Jew and gentile, and consequently, all of us. Paul proclaims that through faith in Jesus Christ, the law is obsolete. For the first-century Jew, these would be outrageous words. And then Paul tears away the strict social stratification of the first-century gentile by claiming such a radical inclusiveness that all social distinctions are washed away in the baptismal waters. Through union with Christ, through being “clothed” with Christ in our baptism, ethnic differences, class distinctions, and gender-based roles no longer exist. How could the Church have missed this radical message of inclusiveness for much of its 2,000 years?

  • What does “being clothed in Christ” look like in your life?
  • How can you live more deeply into this radical vision of life in Christ?

Luke 8:26-39

It seems that Jesus has sailed across the Galilean Sea for the sole purpose to drive demons out of this man, this man who has no name other than that to which the demons have reduced him, “Thousands.” With those legions of demons vying for control over him, the cacophony of this man’s interior life was probably far worse than his exterior life of living in the wild, naked among the tombs. But Jesus asks him his name, already exercising his authority over the demons by forcing them respond to him.

Jesus frees this man from the spiritual chains that have shackled him for years. As Jesus turns to leave, the man begs to accompany Jesus, the one person who could see beyond the horror that had become his life, to the person he was created to be.

Rather than allow the man to join him, Jesus instead gives the man, much like God does with Elijah in our Old Testament reading, a purpose, a mission: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And so he does, spreading the good news of Jesus.

  • From what “chains” has Jesus freed you?
  • How have you spread the good news of Jesus and his life-transforming power?