Using Light on the Lessons
"Light on the Lessons" is a series of informal studies based on the Revised Common Lectionary lessons for each Sunday. The studies are prepared by Lutheran Bible Ministries and offered to the church as a resource congregations and individuals may copy and use without charge. Studies are available on the Web at www.bibleministries.org at least one month ahead.
Lectionary or pericope Bible studies lend themselves to a variety of settings.
Sunday morning discussion groups. These groups can work either with the current Sunday’s lessons or with the next week’s lessons. In the first instance, participants can draw on insights from the sermon, if they already attended church and if the sermon was lectionary-based. Such a class may want to focus on the lessons which were not used in the sermon. In the second instance, participants can use the Sunday discussion to prepare them for hearing the sermon next week.
Mid-week study groups. Midweek groups usually focus on the lessons for the following Sunday. Often, the Pastor meets with the group, using their insights into the lessons as material for developing next Sunday’s sermon.
Ecumenical study groups. Being based on the Revised Common Lectionary, which many denominations share, these lessons are useful to groups with participants from several Christian traditions. Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal lectionaries very often coincide with the Revised Common Lectionary, at least in one or two of the lessons.
Personal study. Individuals can profit from using these study guides in their personal study. We suggest that you use the participant guide as the framework for your study. Consider each question. Write notes – brief sentences, really – for each answer. If you just think about your answer, you will never formulate the thought as you will when you write it down, even in sketchy form. Writing gives some of the thought-clarifying possibilities that group discussion affords. When you have worked though the participant guide, check the leader guide to compare with your answers and to pick up additional information.
"Light on the Lessons" studies follow a format designed to elicit conversation. Each session follows a uniform format.
I. Getting Started. This section begins with some background that should be read. The questions are general, designed to get conversation started along the lines of themes that will emerge in the lessons. Make sure all the additional passages cited are looked up and read.
II. Check the Texts. Here the participants will deal with each of the three lessons. The lessons should be read aloud. You can use lectionary sheets if you have them available, but have Bibles available to check the context of the lesson and to pursue other biblical references. The questions here relate to the text. Try to save general discussion for later, although that is very hard to do. Still, it is important to spend time simply exploring the text as it is, determining what it says, and seeing some of the ways it connects with other biblical material.
III. What Does It All Mean for Us? Here the group will discuss what the texts mean for us today. The questions offered are simply starters. Your discussion may go in other directions, depending on what insights your group finds in the texts. Ideally, you want to explore all three texts here, but sometimes one reading engages the group so much that they spend all their time in it rather than the other two readings.
IV. Into the Week. Often, a Bible study group comes up against the clock and closes with a quick prayer, no matter where they are in the study. Try to avoid this, because this section on applying the study during the week is important. It pictures for your participants the dynamic of Bible study: study-discussion-then application in daily life. It may take time for your group to get used to doing this, but once they grasp it, they will likely find that it is the high point of their study. In the following session, start by inviting participants to share their "Into the Week" experiences.
"Light on the Lessons" is a fairly open-ended study. The leader needs some resources on hand. We suggest a good, recent and up-to-date Bible dictionary, such as Harpers. A one-volume Bible commentary will also prove useful, such as the Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible (Abingdon Press). The Oxford and HarperCollins study Bibles have excellent footnotes that will prove helpful.
Consider using The Learning Bible as your basic text. This full-color Bible presents the easy-to-understand Contemporary English Version. It has innumerable marginal helps and notes, and is loaded with pictures. It is a study Bible, but more understandable that most. The CEV translation, however, is not currently used in lectionary sheets, although it was specifically designed for oral reading. You can obtain this Bible at your local bookstore, from the American Bible Society or Augsburg Fortress. (See the Links section of our website – www.bibleministries.org – for connections to these suppliers.)
Nothing would delight us more than hearing from you about your experiences with, and suggestions for improving, these studies. Send an e-mail to:
Sample Leader Guide
Light on the Lessons
Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17
Pentecost, Cycle C, June 3, 2001
+ Bibles for everyone (variety of translations often useful)
+ Lectionary sheets (very convenient if you use them in worship)
+ Chalkboard, newsprint, overhead, or another means for displaying information
+Basic reference books for use as needed: Bible dictionary, Bible atlas, concordance, a one-volume Bible commentary
I. Getting Started
Gather the group and begin with prayer: "We celebrate Pentecost with great joy, O Lord, for the Holy Spirit keeps us close to you. Help us be aware each day of the power and strength with which your Spirit showers us. Amen."
Begin by having someone read the opening comments on Pentecost. If you read an article in a Bible dictionary beforehand, you may have additional information to offer.
The four discussion topics don’t have right-wrong answers. They are to stimulate initial conversation on topics related to the theses of today’s lessons.
1, That Paul uses Pentecost as a date reference to young Christians who are not all Jewish suggests that in his missionary congregations, Pentecost was early on celebrated. However, this is speculative, but a nice thought!
2.Responses will vary: confirmation, reading Acts 2 in various languages, flowers for worshippers, a birthday cake have marked this day in various congregations.
3, Responses will vary. Point out the variety of ways that God speaks to us.
4. "Spirituality" is often used in a very generalized sense. Twelve-step programs are spiritual, for instance. "Spirit filled" suggests something more specifically Christian for it specifies the Spirit, for us one person of the Triune God.
II. Check the Texts
1. Check Acts 2:1-21
A. The list of places from whence they came. You might locate a few of these places using a Bible atlas.
B. The astonishment arose from hearing the apostles, Galileans with distinctive accents, speaking in their own language. Often called a miracle of tongues (language, speech) it can also be viewed as a miracle of hearing.
C. Some interpreted the event as the babbling of drunks. If Peter began his address with a defense of their sobriety, we can assume that a lot of the people assumed they were drunk.
D. Read Joel 2:28-32. The differences in our OT and the quotation in Acts stem from different translations, such as Greek and Hebrew. Also, first-century folks often quoted from memory, getting to the gist of the passage. "All flesh" suggests that God now deals with everyone, not just Israel, a point underlined by the listing of nations. In Joel’s day two views of Israel’s future were debated: remain exclusive, or reach out to all people with God’s promises.
E. Jesus spoke of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and Luke’s listing of nations reinforces this idea. The Spirit comes to empower the witness of the church to proclaim the Gospel.
2. Check Romans 8:14-17
A. "Abba," a word Jesus encouraged us to used when addressing God, suggest a highly personal, intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus.
B. Responses will vary. The language sparkles with confidence. It asserts that we are joint heirs with Christ, a glorious promise! On the other side, our risen Lord of Easter is also the suffering servant, s o we suffer with him as well. Talk about how we deal with the idea of suffering with Christ. In many places, the accent on joy in Christ tends to overshadow the serious business of suffering with him in our witness, taking risks and maybe paying some price.
C. Verse 15b-16 suggests that the Spirit empowers our prayers. Romans 8:26-27 spells this out clearly.
3. Check John 14:8-17
A. Since Jesus and the Father, in John’s language, are one, then knowing Jesus is to know the Father.
B. An advocate pleads in favor of another. That’s what the Spirit does before the Father: pleads for us, speaks on our behalf. What a cosmic support that is! Invite participants to share what they hope the Spirit is saying on their behalf right now.?
C. Verse 17 is the key here. We believe the Holy Spirit is given us at baptism. This is something beyond the general spiritual sense of God’s care or providence.
D. The "works" we are to undertake are those exemplified by Jesus: love, healing, compassion, willingness to suffer for others, and so forth.
III What Does It All Mean for Us?
This section explores participants’ reactions to the study. Accept all answers unless they are totally out of bounds. People feel insecure talking about their faith and they need all the encouragement they can get.
1. Responses will vary. Seek both "confidence" and "nudging" comments. These reflect in a way the law and the Gospel, the two ways God comes to us.
2. Do the responses include evangelism? Social justice? Care and support for individuals?
3. Romans 8:15b=16 is the key verse. No prayer is a failed prayer, for the Spirit speaks for us when we cannot speak.
4. Paul clearly states that we are children of God. That is our identity given at creation. Further, we are heirs with Christ, our baptismal identity. We take our identity from our gender, our skills, our occupation, but we never want to overlook our fundamental identity as God’s children.
5. It’s too easy to give pious answers, but really grabbing on to his dignity as God’s child, an identity the world cannot take away, may help Jerry cope with a depressing period of his life.
6. This is called discernment, and it is mighty difficult! However, two points are worth discussing: (1) we cannot ignore a message simply because we dislike the source; even Marxists have something worthwhile to say about justice; and (2) we evaluate all that we hear by the total revelation of God in Christ, which may be different from our partial understanding.
IV Into the Week
Save time to deal with these four items. They are ways to connect this time of study with real life during the week.
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