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Related Bible reading(s): Genesis 1.1–2.4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13.11-13; Matthew 28.16-20

Bible study

A selection from this week's resources to help you plan and run a Bible study.

Welcome and opening prayer (5 mins)

A prayer of approach

O God, you are at the heart of creation.
Your word brings life into being;
your peace gives living its fulfilment;
your Spirit unites us into your Son.
We draw near, seeking your love in our hearts;
your wisdom in our minds; your power in our lives.
Receive us with grace, in the name of your Son.
Amen.

 

Read the text (10 mins)

Consider different ways to read the text. For example, sharing parts between several readers, or hearing it more than once using different versions, or using/adapting this suggestion.

Present the Gospel

This simple scene can be presented dramatically, using the Bible text as the script.
You will need: a narrator, 11 disciples and Jesus.

As the narrator begins the reading (vv.16-17), the disciples enter and gather in front of a raised area such as a pulpit. Jesus appears in the pulpit after the disciples have gathered. The disciples raise their hands in worship, saying things such us, ‘Alleluia’ and ‘Praise the Lord’. A few of the disciples drop their hands and look questioningly at each other, not sure what they are seeing. Jesus comes down from the pulpit. The narrator introduces Jesus (v.18a), who speaks to the disciples (vv.18b-20).

 

Explore and respond to the text (30 mins)

Use the Bible notes as a way into Bible study. For example, you could read a section, then allow time for people to discuss issue raised and respond.

Bible notes

Old Testament: Genesis 1.1–2.4a

This account of the beginning of the world unfolds in a simple yet mysterious pattern. So much is held within so few words. Creation happens as God speaks, and God’s words separate one thing from another, so that what was a formless void becomes a detailed and ordered space supporting the life of plants, animals and birds – every living creature that moves, of every kind, in the sea and on the land and in the air. Then God creates humankind and gives us ‘dominion’. It is to our shame that for so long we gave that word our own aggressive and masterful meaning, instead of taking our cue from the way that God is – speaking in order to curate the dimensions of the world, not separating things in order to control or destroy them but in order to foster life.

 

New Testament: 2 Corinthians 13.11-13

Paul expresses his affection for the Corinthian church, even given the arguments and mistrust there has been between them. He appeals to them to ‘put things in order’ – to sort out the broken relationships within the church where people have split into factions (1 Corinthians 1.11-12), and where they have condoned the breaking of marriage vows and indulged in greed and pride (1 Corinthians 5.9-11). He implies that much of this situation has been resolved, but he is anxious that relationships should be restored and that no one be scapegoated (2 Corinthians 2.5-8). He has expressed mixed feelings about the pain he has caused them by writing a harsh letter previously (2 Corinthians 7.8). He assures them, ‘I rejoice because I have complete confidence in you’ (2 Corinthians 7.16). And this investment in forgiveness and restoration forms the background to the familiar words of ‘the Grace’, as we are accustomed to call it, in verse 13. This is not simply an amiable thought for one another, something that can be prayed at the end of a meeting but requires no real investment of effort. This is a prayer that the grace, the love and the shared life of the Trinity itself would be with the Corinthians, as they do their level best to share these qualities in their life of faith together.

 

Gospel: Matthew 28.16-20

Jesus has summoned the disciples to this farewell meeting on a mountain in Galilee. The phrase ‘they worshipped him; but some doubted’ is a little misleading, as it suggests that some did one thing (worship), while others did another (doubt). The Greek words are both participles – that is, ‘worshipping’ and ‘doubting’ – so it could be that the same disciples are doing both actions. The words of Jesus that all authority has been given to him echo the kind of cosmic picture in passages such as Daniel 7.13-14, yet the idea of authority itself has been comprehensively unpacked throughout Matthew’s Gospel, whereby the power of Jesus to effect change is often contrasted unfavourably with the institutional authority of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 7.29; 9.5-6; 21.23; 23.3). The authority of Jesus is the real deal, conferred by God, who created the heavens and the earth and who can therefore grant this authority. It forms the firm foundation from which it is possible to go to all the nations. Matthew is often described as a Gospel with a narrowly Jewish focus, but here we see his wider concerns. It is Matthew who tells us about the Magi at the opening of his Gospel, and it is Matthew who gives us this command about ‘all nations’ at the end. Every ethnicity and culture is included. The strong verb in this command is not ‘go’ but ‘make’ – that is, ‘in going and baptizing, make disciples’. The Trinitarian formula – ‘of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ – has become a very familiar part of our ritual, but in this context is surely saying something both universal and inclusive: the whole of God for the whole of the world. Equally, Jesus commands his disciples to pass on everything that he has taught them. The mission passes into their hands, and into ours.

The links between the lectionary readings

These readings share a focus on the importance of words – in creation, in reconciliation, in making new disciples. But the words are not to be empty; they become life-giving for the world when they derive their power from the very character of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

For more discussion ideas, and practical and active ways to explore and respond to the readings, choose from: Sermon ideasActive worshipPicture pointers; or PostScript

 

Pray together (10 mins)

Prayers of intercession

Where there is conflict between nations and within nations;
where people live in fear of the bullet and the bomb;
when parents weep for children who have been killed:
God of peace,
may your peace be known.

In homes filled with anger, cruelty and neglect;
where there are no safe places;
where poverty and addiction bring suffering and pain:
God of peace,
may your peace be known.

To those whose minds are tormented by depression;
to those whose hold on life is fragile;
to those whose lives are filled with stress:
God of peace,
may your peace be known.

To those who are nearing the end of life;
to those who love and care for them:
God of peace,
may your peace be known.

May your peace be known to us,
and may we be bearers of your peace in our world.
Amen.

 

End the session (5 mins)

A sending out prayer

May the grace of the Father be with you;
may the love of the Son enfold you;
and may the peace of the Spirit comfort you,
today and always.
Amen.

 

Live your faith

Carry out three acts of ‘faith sharing’ this week. For example: offer a word of encouragement to someone you know; speak about your faith to a friend or family member; offer a gift to a charitable organisation.

The ROOTS resources include a range of materials that can be put together to plan and run a Bible study, either leading up to a service based on the reading or in the following week.

The Bible study above is a selection of this week's resources and the timings are based on a Bible study session lasting one hour. This can be printed off and used as it is, or modified to suit your situation.

If you prefer to make your own selection from the weekly materials, please see our guidance on preparing a Bible study. You will also need to include a copyright acknowledgement as follows:
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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