Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Paul

This is the sixth and final entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina See our previous entries:

Week One: Abraham: “Ancestor of All”

Week Two:  David: “The Shepherd Who Is Also King”

Week Three:  Sarah: “Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement”

Week Four: Peter: “From Crumbled Failure to Rock of Strength”

Week Five: Pilate’s Wife: “A Forgotten Advocate for Jesus”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Paul: Apostle to All the Nations.

Crossing Boundaries and Removing Barriers

Lectio

Read this verse, which summarizes the heart of Paul’s teaching, as if he were addressing you directly. Expect these words to impact your mind and heart in a way that can transform your life.

2 Corinthians 5:17
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Continue listening to God’s Word as you also listen for the ways this Scripture passage has transformed God’s church.

The heart of Paul’s teaching is the experience of union with Christ. We live in Christ; Christ lives in us. We are united with Christ through faith in his saving cross and resurrection. Crucified with Christ, the old self dies, and in his resurrection, we live a new life.

This new life involves a new way of seeing, a new way of being, a new way of living—indeed a new identity. To be “in Christ” means to live as a “new creation.” As a new creation “in Christ,” we are incorporated into the saving community, the body of Christ. This is a community in which boundaries that divided people are broken down, in which distinctions among people no longer matter.

In Paul’s day, the world was divided between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people, women and men. But Paul envisioned a Christian community that not only included all of these but also brought them into interdependent relationships. Part of the dramatic witness the church offered to first-century society was this attractive, alternative community of dissimilar people called into a higher unity in Christ.

Paul was a boundary breaker, always seeking to remove the barriers that divided people from one another and from God. And Paul teaches us that the church must be a boundary breaker too. Today our culture continues to be divided along lines of ethnicity, race, class, and gender. Yet, when we listen to Paul, we discover possibilities that can transcend our differences and join us into a common unity. Life in Christ is liberated life. A believer is no longer imprisoned by the prejudices, resentments, and jealousy that so often dominate human life. As Paul speaks to us, he speaks a message of “grace and peace.” When we extend grace to and make peace with one another, we become boundary breakers, and, in so doing, we offer a powerful witness of Christ to our world.

Meditatio

Consider how this Scripture passage is challenging you as a member of Christ’s body today.

  • How can the church respect differences and diversity among people while seeking a higher unity?
  • How can I become a boundary breaker and thus witness to Christ today?

Oratio

After listening with the church to God’s Word, respond in prayer to God with the new understanding you have gained.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have promised to extend the blessings of your salvation to all the people of the earth. As you called Paul to proclaim your gospel to the world, you have called your church to make disciples of all the nations. Enlighten and encourage me as I read and contemplate your inspired Word in the life and letters of Paul.

Continue praying from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Spend some moments in quiet, placing your life in the life of Christ. Trust that God is creating you anew as he works deep within you.

 

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Pilate’s Wife

This is the fifth entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. See our previous entries:

Week One: Abraham: “Ancestor of All”

Week Two:  David: “The Shepherd Who Is Also King”

Week Three: Sarah: “Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement”

Week Four: Peter: “From Crumbled Failure to Rock of Strength”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Women of the Gospels: Friends and Disciples of Jesus.

A Forgotten Advocate for Jesus

Lectio

Carefully read these words from Matthew’s Gospel, asking God’s Spirit to open your heart.

Matthew 27:15–19

15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

Continue seeking the significance of this passage for Matthew’s passion account.

Pilate’s wife is another of those unnamed women of the Gospel accounts who plays a behind-the-scenes role in relationship to an influential man. She intervenes with her powerful husband to try to stop the condemnation of Jesus, an “innocent man.” She doesn’t even appear in the scene at Pilate’s judgment hall; her voice is heard only through a messenger. Only this single verse of Scripture mentions her, so we have no indication whether she had even seen Jesus or encountered him during his ministry in Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Matthew sets up a dramatic contrast between the religious leaders who plead for Jesus Barabbas and Pilate’s wife, who pleads for Jesus the Messiah. The leaders are motivated by “jealousy,” while Pilate’s wife seeks justice for Jesus because of the truth revealed to her in a dream. Both the Jews and Romans took dreams very seriously, and Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth had already shown how the Gentile magi received God’s warning in a dream in order to save the newborn’s life (2:12). Now, in this account of Jesus’s death, this Gentile woman intercedes to try to save the life of the Jewish Messiah.

Her pleading is ultimately unsuccessful as her vacillating husband gives in to the pressure of the crowds. The Gospel doesn’t tell us what happened to Pilate’s wife, either immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus when she encountered her husband again, or the direction of her life from then on. However, the indication that she “suffered a great deal” for Jesus, a New Testament indicator of discipleship, may hint at the later tradition that she became a follower of Christ.

Meditatio

Imagine and consider the behind-the-scenes drama taking place in the heart of Pilate’s wife while her husband sits on the judgment seat.

What might be some of the motivations of Pilate’s wife in urging her husband to have nothing to do with the murder of this innocent man? What does it tell me about the importance of suffering for the truth?

After the death of Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” what might be some of the conversation between Pilate and his wife? What can I learn and imitate from her witness?

Oratio

Respond in prayer to God, who gives you new insights and hope through listening to his Word.

God of all creation, you created man and woman in your image and sent Jesus the Christ to teach us how to live together in your love. Jesus drew forth the courage and beauty of the women of the Gospels and brought restoration and hope to their lives. He wept with them in their pains, laughed with them in their joys, affirmed them in their resiliency, and empowered their lives with confident trust. Bless my life as I listen, reflect, and pray with the Gospel texts of these women. Transform my life as you did theirs with the power of your Word.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in peaceful quiet and place yourself in God’s loving embrace. Ask God to give you whatever gift he desires for you during these moments.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Peter

This is the fourth entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. Three weeks ago we introduced the concept of lectio divina and posted a study on Abraham. The following week we posted a study on David titled “The Shepherd Who Is Also King.” Last week we had a study on Sarah titled “Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement.”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Peter: Fisherman and Shepherd of the Church.

From Crumbled Failure to Rock of Strength

Lectio

Listen to these challenging words that Jesus addressed to Peter at the Last Supper.

Luke 22:31–32

31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

After letting these prophetic words sink in, continue searching for their significance in the ongoing ministry of Peter the apostle.

These brief verses from Luke’s account of the Last Supper summarize the ordeal of Simon Peter’s discipleship during the passion account and anticipate his role beyond the Gospel and into the life of Christ’s church. Jesus speaks of three aspects of Peter’s testing: his sifting by Satan, his turning back to following Jesus, and his role in strengthening his brothers.

Jesus says that Satan has demanded “to sift all of you like wheat” (v. 31), that is, to severely test the disciples for the purpose of destroying their faith. The devil has already taken Judas, and now he is attempting to take the other disciples too. Indeed, that very night Peter’s fear will overpower his faith, and he will deny Jesus three times.

Jesus’s plan for his community of disciples involves Peter’s repentance and return to discipleship. Jesus assures Peter that he has prayed for him so that his faith will not collapse in the time of crisis. Though Peter will falter in faith, he will weep bitterly over his failing, marking the beginning of his turning back to Jesus.

In the remainder of his Gospel and in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke demonstrates Peter’s pivotal role among the other disciples in his ministry of strengthening them. Peter’s complete return to Jesus is not brought about by his own initiative but through the sovereign initiative of his risen Lord. The disciples exclaim, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” (24:34). The strength of Peter’s testimony convinces the others to join in affirming Jesus’s resurrection. The Acts of the apostles shows that Peter gathers the disciples again as a community in Jerusalem and that he becomes the leading figure in the infant church.

Jesus’s double address, “Simon, Simon” (v. 31), signals Jesus’s particular concern for Simon Peter and his desire to assign a unique ministry to him. This is the only passage in Luke’s Gospel that indicates why Jesus might have given Simon the name “Peter,” a name that means “rock.” Though Simon certainly did not act very rocklike during the passion of Jesus, through genuine repentance and the forgiveness of the risen Jesus, he becomes the rock of strength for the early church.

Meditatio

Reflect on the experiences of Peter in his failure, his repentance, and his strengthening ministry. Consider how he might be a friend and mentor in your discipleship.

Jesus assured Peter of his prayers for him so that Peter’s faith would not fail. How might this assurance of Jesus’s prayers have helped Peter to get through his period of testing without abandoning his faith? In what way do I depend on prayer for my own strength in times of trial?

Peter’s experience of failure as a disciple enabled him later to be a bettersource of strength for others. In what way have I found strength for others through my experiences of failure?

Oratio

After listening to God’s Word in Scripture, respond in prayer to God, who always listens to your voice.

Lord Jesus Christ, you chose Simon Peter as your disciple and prayed for him in times of trial. As the first among your stumbling disciples, he struggled with doubt and fear, failing you in your most desperate hour. Teach me, through the example of Peter’s life, how to trust in you and depend on your grace. As I continue to listen, reflect, and pray these biblical texts of Peter’s life, strengthen me and help me to be a source of strength for my brothers and sisters.

Continue to give voice to your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Jesus assured Peter of his prayers for him so that Peter’s faith would not fail. Remain in peaceful quiet for a few minutes and be aware of Jesus’s prayerful support of you. Feel the passionate care of Jesus for you.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Women of the Torah

This is the third entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. Two weeks ago we introduced the concept of lectio divina and posted a study on Abraham. Last week we posted a study on David titled “The Shepherd Who Is Also King.”

Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume Women of the Torah: Matriarchs and Heroes of Israel.

Listen to Sarah, the Quarry of Encouragement

Lectio

Listen to this prophetic voice calling God’s people to remember the lives of their ancestors Abraham and Sarah. Pay attention to the way the prophet exhorts people of every age to gain wisdom and strength in the present challenges.

Isaiah 51:1–2

1Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you.

Through this commentary, continue seeking the significance of this passage to help you look to your biblical ancestors, obtaining insights from them into life’s purpose and meaning.

This passage from the prophet Isaiah was written during the exile of the Jewish people in Babylon (sixth century BC). Though the exiles have remained faithful to God, they are discouraged and disheartened by their captivity and seeming powerlessness. They fear that, even if they are able to return to Judah, they will not be able to face the overwhelming task of restoring their homeland because they are so weak and few in number. Isaiah offers these exiles an encouraging message, calling them to look back to the example of their ancestors Abraham and Sarah. Though these exiles lived well over a thousand years after Israel’s patriarch and matriarch, the prophet still holds up Abraham and Sarah as the inspiring models for their descendants to imitate. In these mentors from the past is found hope for the future.

Based on the parallelism in Hebrew poetry, Abraham is the “rock” from which his descendants were carved and Sarah is the “quarry” from which her descendants were dug. The masculine image of rock suggests an indestructible foundation of solid faith from which later generations were shaped, while the feminine image of quarry implies a rich source from which offspring are mined. Sarah is the deep pit in which are buried valuable minerals and undiscovered treasure. She is the abundant source from which living stones in every generation can be excavated, stones filled with inspiration, courage, faithfulness, and hope.

Based on God’s assurances to Abraham and Sarah, the exiles in Babylon can be confident that God will bless them with strength and abundance as they prepare to make the same journey as Abraham and Sarah, returning to their home in the Promised Land. The promises made to Abraham and Sarah continue to be fulfilled in every age. As we reflectively mine the Scriptures for stories of the women of the Torah, we will realize that we are digging in a quarry that will yield plentiful discoveries. Through this work of excavation, we will unearth riches to bring inspiration and hope to our lives.

Meditatio

Consider how these ancient words of the prophet can shine their light into situations of discouragement today.

What might have been some of the discouragement felt by the exiles who listened to the prophet? Do I experience similar discouragement today?

How is studying the stories of the Bible like excavating a quarry? What rich minerals do I hope to mine from this Bible study?

Oratio

Respond to God’s Word to you with your own words to God. Speak from your heart in response to the hope you have been offered.

Most High God, you called our ancestors to a committed life in covenant with you. Help me to learn from their example and be inspired by their heroism so that I may leave a legacy to the generations after me. Bless my life as I listen to, reflect on, and pray through the stories of these women. Transform my life, as you did theirs, with the power of your Word.

Continue to express your hopes, desires, struggles, and commitment . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in peaceful quiet and place yourself in God’s loving embrace. Ask God to give you whatever gift he desires for you during these moments.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: David

This is the second entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. Last week we introduced the concept of lectio divina and posted a study on Abraham. Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume David: Shepherd and King of Israel.

The Shepherd Who Is Also King

Lectio

Read this prophetic text as God’s Word to his people. Listen with your heart to these comforting words.

Ezekiel 34:23–24

23I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Continue searching for the text’s meaning in these comments about Israel’s tradition.

When the people of Israel clamored to Samuel for a king to rule them, God’s prophet warned them of the cost of that decision (1 Sam. 8). A king would conscript their children into his army, extract forced labor for his many building projects, and tax their produce to support his royal court. However, the people were determined to have a king to fight their battles so that they would be “like the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:5) in security and prestige. But Israel was decidedly not like other nations. Its identity was bound up in its unique relationship with God. The Lord was Israel’s king.

God reluctantly tells Samuel to allow Israel’s request for a king, though not without expressing reservations. The monarchy in Israel is one more step in Israel’s unwillingness to accept God as the source and rule of its life. Indeed, all the warnings that Samuel uttered come to pass time and again throughout the history of Israel’s kingdom. Concentration of wealth, confiscation of land, political oppression, and, most significantly, a reduced practice of covenantal faith are all results of the abuses of state power brought about by the monarchy.

In granting Israel’s request for a king, God was already looking beyond the failed kingship of Saul to the rule of David, the shepherd-king. Through the metaphor of the shepherd, the biblical writers demonstrate David’s vocation to shepherd God’s people in imitation of God’s pastoral care. The Lord seeks out and rescues his sheep, bringing them to safe pasture in their own land. They lie down in good grazing land and feed on the rich pasture of Israel. The book of Samuel presents David’s rise to the throne, beginning with the young shepherd caring for his father’s sheep (1 Sam. 16) and continuing with God’s choice of David, the shepherd-king. God said, “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel” (2 Sam. 5:2).

Through the centuries, the prophets reminded Israel’s kings that the “good shepherd” exists for the sake of the sheep, to guard, feed, nurture, and protect the flock. The false shepherd, by contrast, acts as though the sheep exist for the enrichment and interests of the shepherd. As the monarchy of Israel crumbled, the hopes of Israel turned to a Messiah from the line of David. The prophet Ezekiel, speaking centuries after the reign of King David, awaits a new David, the messianic king who would rise to shepherd God’s scattered flock.

The New Testament writers extend the image of the shepherd to characterize the mission of Jesus. As the climactic fulfillment of David’s dynastic line, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the hometown of David, and sent to be the “good shepherd” of God’s people. This new David, Israel’s truest shepherd, gathers the scattered flock from throughout the earth. With compassion he seeks out the lost sheep, rejoices in his find, and brings it home. He knows the sheep by name, and they respond to his voice. His death is interpreted as a complete sacrifice of the shepherd for the sheep: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Taking the biblical literature as a whole, the image of the shepherd, beginning with King David, expresses a divine understanding of power and governance. In opposition to the empires of Egypt, Babylon, and Rome, exercising oppressive power to subjugate and control their people, the rule of God’s kingdom is one of freedom, nonviolence, justice, and peace. Certainly the historical life of David did not approach the ideal of God’s reign, but David is a channel through which God’s kingship is expressed in the world. He is fallible yet heroic, sinful yet forgiven, errant yet passionate, ambitious, and courageous. David, the shepherd-king, remains always a man after God’s own heart.

Meditatio

Consider the biblical image of shepherd leadership and its implications for your belief and discipleship.

In what ways did God prepare his people for the universal reign of Jesus Christ through the kingdom of David? How can understanding David help me to understand Jesus?

Why does God’s Word present the image of shepherding as a kind of ruling in the kingdom of God? What would this kind of governance do for our world today?

Oratio

Respond in prayer to God, who always listens to your voice.

God of Abraham, Moses, and David, you are our Lord, our Shepherd, and our King. You looked into the heart of David and chose him as Israel’s shepherd and king. Your anointed sovereign became a channel of your rule over the world and a shadow of the everlasting reign of your Messiah. Give me the heroic virtue, courage, and dedication of David. Help me to learn from his life how to rejoice, sing, pray, and trust in you. As I listen to, reflect on, and pray these texts of the Hebrew Scriptures, mold my heart to be like your own.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in peaceful quiet for a few minutes and be aware of God’s shepherding care for you. Feel the passionate desire of God to work deeply in your life to make you his own.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Abraham

During the Lenten season, we will be running a series of posts from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. For the next six Tuesdays, we will be posting from each of Binz’s entries in the series – beginning today with Abraham.

First, some background to the series and style:

“Ancient Future Bible Study unites contemporary study of the Bible with an experience of the church’s most ancient way of reading Scripture, lectio divina. By combining the old and the new in a fertile synthesis, this study helps modern people encounter the sacra pagina, the inspired text, as God intends it for the church. Through solid historical and literary study and the time-honored practice of lectio divina, the mind and the heart are brought into an experience of God through a careful and prayerful reading of the biblical texts (taken from Abraham, ix).”

For more on lectio divina (including a description of each of its movements) check out the excerpt from the Abraham study. You can also hear Stephen Binz’s description here.

Today’s study is called “Ancestor of Us All” and is taken from Abraham: Father of All Believers.

Ancestor of Us All

Lectio

Read this inspired text, listening for its fuller meaning in light of the whole plan of God.

Romans 4:11–12

11[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Continue exploring the meaning of Paul’s words through the tradition of the church.

In writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul demonstrates that Abraham is “the ancestor of all who believe” (v. 11). For the early church, this meant that both Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, could enter a saving relationship with God and thus claim Abraham as their father. Neither is pitted against the other. All people can become descendants of Abraham by sharing his faith. In the life of Abraham, as Paul demonstrates, faith was the priority. Abraham was made righteous before God through his faithful trust. His circumcision was a subsequent seal of his righteousness, not the producer of his saving relationship with God. Thus Abraham is the bearer of God’s promised blessings to all people, not just the Jewish people. All who believe in the God of Abraham are Abraham’s children.

Meditatio

Consider the meaning of this Scripture passage in the context of your own life in Christ today.

In what ways do people sometimes erect unnecessary barriers that divide people rather than unify them?

How can faith in the God of Abraham be a means of dialogue and understanding among Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Oratio

Respond in prayer with the hope that arises within you.

God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, you have promised blessings to all the peoples of the earth. Open my heart to a spirit of forgiveness toward those who share my life, and help me be a minister of reconciliation to struggling and broken people. May the peace you desire for the world begin through an understanding of the inspired texts of our ancestors in faith. Enlighten and encourage me as I read and contemplate your inspired Word in these sacred Scriptures. Show me how to make my life a testimony to God’s love.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in quiet and place yourself under God’s loving gaze. Ask God to give you an experience of shalom (Hebrew), salaam (Arabic), peace.

Operatio

How can I best dedicate myself to the reflective study of these sacred texts of Abraham over the coming weeks? What regular place and time could I choose for the quiet practice of lectio divina?

How can faith in the God of Abraham be a means of dialogue and understanding among Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Oratio

Respond in prayer with the hope that arises within you.

God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, you have promised blessings to all the peoples of the earth. Open my heart to a spirit of forgiveness toward those who share my life, and help me be a minister of reconciliation to struggling and broken people. May the peace you desire for the world begin through an understanding of the inspired texts of our ancestors in faith. Enlighten and encourage me as I read and contemplate your inspired Word in these sacred Scriptures. Show me how to make my life a testimony to God’s love.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in quiet and place yourself under God’s loving gaze. Ask God to give you an experience of shalom (Hebrew), salaam (Arabic), peace.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on the Ancient-Future Bible Study series, click here.