#BigRead12, Week 5: Signposts

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Nibbles:

  • Think back over the previous week. Did you ‘eat your chocolate’, e.g. tweet #Jesus120?
  • How do you choose your direction, whether that be your route in life, or just getting from A to B? What ‘signs’ do you take that you’re on the right path?
  • You might enjoy: http://youtu.be/Xxg00C7PyBo 

Main:

“I believe in miracles” but some are easier to grasp than others, as Jesus heals Bartimaeus and curses the fig tree to die.

Video:

Bible Reading (Tom Wright Translation)

Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar

46 They came to Jericho. As Jesus, his disciples and a substantial crowd were leaving the town, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out: ‘Son of David! Jesus! Take pity on me!’

48 Lots of people told him crossly to be quiet. But he shouted out all the louder, ‘Son of David – take pity on me!’

49 Jesus came to a stop. ‘Call him,’ he said.
So they called the blind man.
‘Cheer up,’ they said, ‘and get up. He’s calling you.’
50 He flung his cloak aside, jumped up, and came to Jesus. Jesus saw him coming. 51‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.page98image3784

page98image4056
‘Teacher,’ the blind man said, ‘let me see again.’

52 ‘Off you go,’ said Jesus. ‘Your faith has saved you.’ And immediately he saw again, and he followed him on the way.

——–

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 The next day, as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 From some distance away he saw a fig tree covered with leaves, and hoped to find some fruit on it; but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves. (It wasn’t yet the season for figs.)

14 He addressed the tree directly. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again,’ he said. And his disciples heard.page99image3512page99image3784

15 They came into Jerusalem. Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out the traders, those who bought and sold in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dove-sellers. 16 He permitted no one to carry any vessel through the Temple. 17 He began to teach: ‘Isn’t this what’s written,’ he said,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all the world to share?

But you’ve made it a brigands’ den!’
18 The chief priests and the legal experts heard, and looked for a way to get rid of him. But they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.

19 When evening came, they went back out of the city.

20 As they were returning, early in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from its roots.

21‘Look, Teacher!’ said Peter to Jesus, remembering what had happened before. ‘The fig tree you cursed has withered.’

22 ‘Have faith in God,’ replied Jesus. 23 ‘I’m telling you the truth: if anyone says to this mountain, “Be off with you – get yourself thrown into the sea”, if they have no doubt in their heart, but believe that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 That’s why I’m telling you, everything that you request in prayer, everything you ask God for, believe that you receive it, and it will happen for you.

25 ‘And when you are standing there praying, if you have something against someone else, forgive them – so that your father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.’

Other translations: Mark 10: 46-52; 11:12-25.

Reflection: Katei Kirby (Methodist Church): Miracles in conversation

I recently went on a course for writers and spent the best part of a week with budding and experienced writers keen to improve their gift.  To be honest, I was somewhat in awe of the esteemed company I was in, and spent the first part of the course pinching myself in sheer disbelief as I rubbed shoulders and shared ideas.  As well as the new friends and acquaintances I made, it was the sessions called ‘language that sings’ and ‘do your people breathe?’ which are still fresh in my mind.  They unlocked fresh ideas and opportunities to explore the potential of well-written – and indeed clearly-spoken words.  I came face to face with similes again – a face I hadn’t deliberately looked in since my days at 6th form – and in a moment of inspiration, the underside of a leaf became ‘pale as the palm of an Ethiopian woman’s hand’, and its edges became ‘as delicate as lace…a well woven hemline’.  I was on a roll!

Well, there are no similes in these stories in today’s Bible reading, but the language sings of activity and impact, of movement and response, of interaction and reaction, and at the heart of both stories in Mark 10:46-52 and Mark 11:12-26, it is the power of well-spoken words which stand tall for me.  It is honest and deliberate word which precede the miracles, both the words of Jesus and the words of those who become witnesses to the miracles.  Each situation presents its own unique dilemma – Bartimaeus can’t see, but would like to, and the fig tree should be fruit-bearing but isn’t!  The solution?  It seems that speaking into the situation with faith changed both of these situations, and miraculously so.

Bartimaeus drew attention to himself by calling on the ‘Son of David’ to ‘have mercy’, and so the conversation starts.  By-standers are drawn in, initially in trying to keep Bartimaeus quiet.  Then they assist the conversation by calling him over to Jesus. It is Jesus’ question ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ that prompts  Bartimaeus to ask specifically , and he grasps the opportunity, stating quite clearly ‘I want to see’.  This was no longer a generic ‘bless me’ request, but a deliberate ‘ give me sight’ request.  And the result?  No surgery, no physical intervention, and no more questions either.  In fact, the conversation continues with an interesting response to ‘go’ and an acknowledgement that his faith had given him sight. I think that God is still open to hearing us ask specifically of him today…

In complete contrast, it is hard to miss Jesus’ disappointment in the second reading. It is clear that he approaches the fig tree with an expectation, only to find leaves.  Hunger, hunger, everywhere (for Jesus at least) and not a fig in sight.  And on entering the temple, he finds commerce taking place rather than communion.   Where Bartimaeus couldn’t see what he wanted to see, Jesus wasn’t seeing what he expected to see.  So he speaks to each dilemma, reducing the fig tree to fruitlessness, and removing the traders from the temple.  In both cases he spoke clearly and decisively, and what he spoke changed the course of events.

On reading these accounts again, I am encouraged by the thought that the opportunity to ask specifically of God is still possible today, and that I can speak solutions to disappointing dilemmas that present themselves.   I’m pinching myself now, because the power of my words spoken with faith in God, and with an intent that honours God, can move’ mountains’ or things which seem impossible…as long as have no doubt, of course!

#BigRead12: Week 5: Signposts: Katei Kirby by bigbible

Questions:

  1. Which do you identify with the most (Bartimeus or the Fig Tree), and why?
  2. What do you need Jesus to do for you?
  3. What might happen if you allow Jesus to open your eyes?
  4. What are the causes of spiritual hunger today?
  5. How confident are you that God answers your prayers?

Pudding:

Hot: “Miracles only happened in Jesus time, and everyone else has to wait”. Discuss

Leaders can take this conversation in a direction where we question what we define as miraculous, whether they still occur, and what the expectations around them are.

Cold: What road sign describes your spirituality today?

We’d be keen to get a few videos before Lent of people thinking about whether they are ‘at a dead end’, have ‘a child crossing’, or are ‘full speed ahead’. UK roadsigns can be found here, then let your imagination run away: think what sums up your spiritual life today. We’d be interested to see, on the Facebook group photos of people with their roadsign, and why.

After Dinner Chocs:

  1. Inspired by the Evangelical Alliance ‘Square Mile’ project, go for a walk around your local area, and look out for things that signal God’s glory?
  2. Search online for Louie Giglio, The Indescribable Project. There are videos, etc. demonstrating how if we look to the sky, we can see the glory of God
  3. Slow down on something, e.g. eat every meal this week really slowly (see e.g.: http://slowmovement.com/)

The Book

The related material in Lent for Everyone: Mark can be found on Week 4, Friday, pp 106-109, and week 5, Monday, pp 116-119, which finishes:

Today
Help us, loving Lord, to be absolutely clear with you about our deepest needs, and to trust you to lead us on from there wherever you want.

Today
Almighty Father, God of judgment and mercy, overthrow the systems that abuse their calling and oppress your people, and set up your rule of grace and peace.

 

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