The E-Study is on temporary hiatus as our author helps her husband heal from major health issues, and while she moves to a new home!
Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande Study +++ May 28, 2017
Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day (Year A)
A Bible-dependent friend in my early adulthood believed as I do, that the Bible contains the wisdom of the ages, to guide our daily lives. I was advised at a precarious point in my life to merely open the Bible randomly and let my finger point to a verse, any verse, as though using a Ouija Board. From that single verse, I could expect literally to find the answer to my concerns. I was told I would receive the inerrant word of God directly given to me.
Oh, that finding out how to live in the world could be so simple! While all the books of the Bible are imbued with outlines for coping with the bumps and jumps of life, I Peter can be as helpful to us today, as it was to its first hearers about the year 100 CE.
I Peter is full of advice, coming from the thoughts of an elderly, learned, practicing leader of the Christian community in Rome. Those thoughts were sent to those who needed them, located in the far reaches of Asia Minor, now Turkey. One thing that folk in both these areas shared in common was living in the Roman Empire with its highly defined and deeply entrenched hierarchy of people-classification.
The writer of I Peter offers guidance in this sermon-form letter, as to how to live a good and proper life, while being buffeted by the non-Christian values of the world at large. With a few changes in vocabulary, this advice can work for us today.
Rules for living occur throughout the Bible, with the best known being the Ten Commandments. In I Peter, we encounter guidelines offered in the form of a literary house-code. In early, cursory readings of this section, single instructive verses can come across as abrasive or even offensive. (2:13, 18, 3:1a, 5, 7a) To understand it otherwise requires rereading and imaginative thinking.
The roles of masters and slaves, men and women, were set by very different boundaries in first century Roman society from what we consider the norm today. People were owned; people were property. To exist meant to find ways to live within the heavy restrictions demanded in life 2000 years ago.
Pause to reflect on the possibilities within that world. Imagine the ways lives long ago are similar to our lives today. How does I Peter tell us to survive authority that can be oppressive? How may we apply that advice in our world today? This is all heavy-duty stuff, grounded in the basics of human existence. As you are pondering, you will see that there are no quick fixes here. There is no one single verse that will protect any of us from all the perils of life.
Moving beyond this attention-seizing and jarring section of I Peter, we find the good news of the love of God through the presence of Jesus Christ. Here is what the author of this text wanted the greater Christian family, spread across the vast expanses of the Roman Empire, to hear. In becoming involved with I Peter, we hear the voice of this ancient sage speaking truth to us today.
Being freed from pseudo-spiritual presumptions, we realize the glories of wisdom found within the completeness of the many texts within the covers of our Bible. The Bible must not be read, interpreted, or used in fragments. Although each scripture in our printed or electronic versions of the Bible today is interesting in the smallest of its parts, God's real wisdom for us is only truly revealed if we perceive the grandeur of the whole of the collection of written thoughts.
From a single verse to all of the complete words of the Bible, God is using the skills of human beings, through story and advice, to pass along the best way of life to us. No verse can truly stand in isolation. This great collection of books, known as the Bible, is worth spending a lifetime discovering, through reading aloud and sharing it with others.
As the earliest Christians knew, God gives us life. And through accepting, following, and living with the presence of Jesus Christ, all of life will be glorious and full. That is what I Peter and the whole of the Bible can do. Read and rejoice. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (5:14b)
My reading my Bible and the prayers of many, have lifted Dick and me halfway through what will be three months of healing, as we move beyond fragile health into a new home. Thanks to the goodness of God's world and prayerful people, all will be well. --EAW
Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande Study +++ May 14, 2017
Fifth of Easter (Year A)
There is a wonderful, descriptive word seldom used today that is worth recovering...sojourner. The meaning applies to all of us, as we all are living as in an undefined space, that we inhabit for an unknown expanse of time in our journey through our earthly lives.
Sojourners is a word applied to several Bible texts, most importantly Hebrews and I Peter, the epistle assigned for all the Sundays of Easter in Lectionary Year A. Both are biblical books written 2000 years ago, several generations past the earthly life of Jesus Christ. The early Christians then were waiting for the end-of-days, which seemed to be becoming more and more elusive.
In Paul's epistles, written about 50-60 CE, the second coming of Jesus seemed eminent. For recipients of I Peter, fifty years, or several generations later, the expectation was dragging on, but the hopeful waiting persisted. Followers of Christ were "treading water" to wait for the return of the Messiah, whom they fully believed was sure to come. Christian life was then, as now, fixed in a holding pattern. What did they, and what do we, make of this heavenly time-expansion phenomena? How did they, and how do we, choose to live our own lives truly as Christians?
Sojourner texts were written as guidance and encouragement for committed Christians coping with the trials and tribulations impacting them from the world they lived in. Do they really have relevance for our existence today?
Since our nation elected a new President six months ago, many people in our country have sensed that they have been thrust into a new, different, and confusing world. It really doesn't matter how you voted, or even if you voted. We must all learn to live with the outcome reality of this past election. We all can agree, we are living in an unsettling time where the future, sometimes almost minute-to-minute, is unpredictable and unnerving. Reflect on this, and you will see your kinship with the transitional generations of early Christian sojourners.
Reading I Peter lets you discover a Bible document, although written about two millennia ago, which amazingly anticipates our life today. You will find this text is full of ideas to be applied to our current time. All beg to be discussed with others. Share your complete reading aloud of I Peter. It will take you 22 minutes, about the time of asermon.
Although I Peter is categorized as a letter, it is really a sermon from a writer who was a respected elder leader of the community of Christians in Rome, a city identified by the "code" name of Babylon in. This work was planned to circulate among Christian congregations in the area that is now Turkey, where growing gatherings of Gentile, or previously Pagan, Christians were receiving criticism and condemnation from the population they had left behind.
I Peter talks about the uneasiness of living under this personal persecution, a most disconcerting place for anyone ever to be. The persecution here is not the one most people think about for early Christians; it is not the powerful state oppressing people. Forget that idea, and listen to the text carefully. This is a very, very personal type of persecution, and not unlike the one spreading among people today, who may have different understandings concerning our governance rights. The writer of I Peter is talking to Christians being condemned merely because they are trying to live out the values of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The good news here is that biblical writers understood and talked about the pettiness of the human conditions that we all face everyday. In the Bible, we are given wisdom from across the ages to strengthen any obstacle that enters our lives. As Christians, we know that. As Easter Christians, we celebrate God’s loving presence in our lives. The Lord is risen! Alleluia!
Although last week I missed sharing I Peter with you, my submersion in this interesting text has given me courage and strength to live through the long final days of Dick’s successful rehab and to prepare for a physical move into our new dwelling, which will support the future for both of us. In our transitory times, I Peter was a constant reminder and guide. We are all sojourners, living within the hope of God’s love, thanks to Jesus Christ.Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande Study +++ April 24, 2017
Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)
There are two forgotten Easter messages that should be resurrected. First, the liturgical year has now entered the glorious Season of Easter Sundays! This is not a time when Sundays are "after" or Sundays are "in", but a period when Sundays are designated "of." This is the time when every Christian community should pull out all the stops and the festivities should explode to create a full seven weeks of joyful celebration.
Second, remember the word liturgy means the work of the people. Christ is risen IS the work of the people, you, me, all of us.
READINGS OF EASTER:
There must have been great wisdom on the part of the organizers of the Year A Lectionary epistles for the Sundays of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. The only book of letters selected for all of the Easter Sundays in Year A is I Peter. It is a gem worth reading over and over, especially if you keep an open mind and do not let yourself be misled.
To read I Peter aloud straight through will take you 22 minutes. Plan to do that several times over the seven weeks of Eastertide. Each time in your reading, you will discover verses to be noted and quoted. After your first full read-through, keep a pen handy to jot down phrases to ponder and share.
PERSPECTIVES OF EASTER:
To begin to enjoy I Peter, the text must be properly connected with time, place, and person. The timelessness of this Bible book gives us the opportunity to discover ways that it speaks directly to each of us in our here and now.
On every reading of I Peter, be aware that, although it was written around the year 100 CE (Common Era), this text is written to speak to people several generations after the earthly life of Jesus. Recipients 2000 years ago share our point-of-view, because all who hear these words have come to meet and know Jesus Christ only through faith.
Although I Peter begins with a listing of places that are being addressed, the true importance of this format is that it means it was expected to be received by many people in many places. This listing of places sets it into a category called a circular letter. As you read I Peter, know that you are part of the ever-expanding circle the writer hoped would learn from the thoughts expressed. I Peter is talking about the work of the people, the liturgy.
Trying to connect this biblical text with any known and specific person named Peter will lead you away from the meaning of this book. The author of this text uses fine Greek which would never have come from a simple fisherman from Galilee. The subject matter is set in a time decades later than events in the time of Peter, the Rock, the disciple of Jesus. The Peter of this text, however, continues and builds upon the leadership role begun by Peter, the close companion of Jesus in the gospels. This Bible book is meant for people who are already Christian believers, struggling to live out their faith.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF EASTER:
On Easter six years ago, a gentle combing of my 14-inch-long white hair painlessly removed it, all in reaction to chemo for cancer. That loss, continuing with a clinical trial to help others in the future, gave me reason to wear wonderful face-framing hats I call my haloes. Then, on Easter this year, my spouse of nearly 60 years was transferred from eight days in a post-stroke hospital room to three weeks of rehab, taking a detour to our future life in a new home. Though neither of these two events marked traditional observations of Easter, both were true celebrations of the new life the Day of Resurrection always brings.
Last week, when I missed writing out thoughts for the Second Sunday of Easter, it was because I was living fully through the unexpected understanding that Easter is always operative in our world. Because we are people of the living, resurrected Christ, every one of the Great Fifty Days of Easter is a reminder that we live in a time and place that is a good gift from God. As with every present, unwrap it with joy and joyously live your new Easter life. Living in the risen Lord, we are ceaselessly lifted up and loved by God. Alleluia!
(c) Women of the Rio Grande & Elaine Wilson 2017