Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dear Faith Family,

In Mark 12, Jesus has an interaction with a scribe. Hebrew scribes were very intelligent and prestigious persons at that time. They were known as “wise men” and their role was to know and interpret the Hebrew Scriptures for the people. When this scribe asks Jesus a question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?”; he is not just looking for a certain answer, but he is testing Jesus’ wisdom. This scribe wants to know if Jesus has the ability to handle the big questions. Is he really who he claims to be? And that is when Jesus answers with one of the most powerful and memorable responses the world had ever heard:
The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these .” (Mark 12:29-31)
Love God. Love others. This is wisdom with profound implications for life.

Jesus’ answer was not just meant to impress this scribe—which it did—but also to give the people of God a reminder of what God had called them to as a people under his rule. Remember, in Jesus’ day the Hebrews were under the rule of the Romans. They had been under the rule of other nations along the way, as well. They needed to be reminded that no matter their current circumstance—no matter their exile—they were called to be God’s people right there in the midst of it. Whether ruled by Babylonians or Persians or Romans, they were called to make their “home” in God and his ways.

Love God. Love others. Jesus was reminding his exiled people. As a people not yet home, we need that same reminder today. 

This week our BibleProject study is entitled “Way of the Exile”. It’s a journey into what it means to be the people of God in a foreign place. How appropriate since we find ourselves in a strange new world right now! Below you will find the link to the video and some discussion questions that will help you explore this theme in the Bible. There are both Old Testament and New Testament options available for you to explore.

As always, if you are a part of a Sunday School Class or Life Group, consider finding a way to connect online or in person. If you are not in a class or group, contact a friend and see if they would be interested in joining you in a discussion of this theme. Please be sure to practice safe social distancing practices if you get together in person. Let me know if you would like to get connected with others.
Discussion Questions

Scripture Reading Option One: Daniel 1:1-21
Daniel and his friends are exiled to Babylon and made to serve in Babylon’s royal court. They’ve lost everything they know and love and are forced into an unfamiliar world. Notice the balance they strike between resistance and cooperation, demonstrated by their adherence to the Israelite food-laws. Daniel is willing to serve Babylon, but not when it requires compromise in serving his God.
  • In what ways do you resonate with the Israelite’s experience of losing what they knew and loved? It’s okay to be sad and grieve this loss. Take a moment to reflect on how you might honor the loss you’ve experienced during this time.
  • Consider the combination of loyalty and subversion displayed by Daniel. Do you see any ways this can be a model for your own life in this time of change?

Scripture Reading Option Two: Jeremiah 29:1-14
Jeremiah writes a letter to a community of Israelites who were recently exiled to Babylon. He encourages them to settle in and build communities that seek the well-being of their captors. They are to seek peace and harmony not because they’ve given up, but because of their bold hope that God will rescue them and restore them to the promised land one day.
  • What resonated most with you in this passage?
  • Take a moment to reflect on what it means to “settle in” to this time, while still maintaining hope in the future.
  • What could it look like to extend love to our leaders and the broader culture in this time?

Scripture Reading Option Three: 1 Peter 1:1-2 Read here and 2:4-17
Peter addresses followers of Jesus in the Roman empire, yet he calls them priests of God who are living in exile. He calls them to distance themselves from the value system of their surrounding culture, while at the same time being faithful to God and those around them.
  • For many of us, our previous way of life has come to a halt. In what ways has your practice of worship and faithfulness to God changed?
  • Think creatively about what faithfulness to God could look like in this strange new world. How can you connect with God and others and live faithfully in this time?
  • May we together do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God!

May we together love God and love our neighbors as ourselves in this strange new world!

Pastor Doug
Longview Evangelical Presbyterian Church | Website | 903.234.0032