Study Group

John Richardson’s Study Group

 

This coming week we celebrate The Ascension on Thursday and then begin the Nine Days of Novena on Friday which takes us to Pentecost on Sunday May 31st.For those new to The Novena the Diocese of Canterbury website has liturgies and prayers which can be downloaded for each day. This also coincides with the international days of prayer Thy Kingdom Come. Resources for that are available from the Church of England website.

Whatever you are doing in these coming days between Ascension and Pentecost we are coming alongside Jesus with His invitation to wait and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We wait on God like the early disciples who were with Jesus as He ascended into heaven and then returned to Jerusalem to watch, wait and pray. When the Holy Spirit descended upon them from heaven they were empowered to share their journey with the world starting where they were and each generation since carrying on that work. We are part of that story today right where we are.

In this study we journey with them on the Day of Pentecost.. Acts chapter 1v1-13 and then see the impact that experience had upon them in the coming weeks and months as the Early Church was born...Acts 2v42-47.and continues in many expressions until the present day.

Thank you for your conversations by phone and email and in the flesh as we have bumped into each other while maintaining social distance. Stories have been shared about how this sort of Bible study is new to some yet has brought great comfort and joy in these days of lockdown at home. Alone but together and together but alone as we discover the riches of all that the living and loving Lord and Saviour has for us through the gifts of His Holy Spirit always present in the here and now.

Are you sitting comfortable then we begin, cup of coffee or mug of tea in hand with that slice of cake or biscuit, alone or with members of our household? Have you your notebook and pen handy to make notes if needs be for further reflection later.....
We pray...

Make the Book live to me O Lord,
show me myself within Your Word
show me myself and show me my Saviour
and make the Book live to me.

An old prayer from youth Bible Studies fifty five years ago....
Now say the Lord’s Prayer remembering those you would normally be at church with or in a study group....can you remember their names....it’s hard sometimes I find!

First read Acts chapter 2 v1-13


Saying before and after as before..
LIVING WORD OF GOD...LIVE IN OUR LIVES TODAY.

In lectio divina style read the passage and consider the following questions as per the norm..
1.What new insights did I read and see today?
2.What questions were raised which demand and require answers
3.What personal challenges are there to work out in these relaxed days of lockdown as we use our common sense and keep alert? How will they impact us in the coming week, month and year?
4. Are there any adjustments to be made in my life at home, with my family and neighbours or at church and in the community?
5. What actions do I need to plan for when lockdown is eventually emerged from? How will I prepare to re-engage with life outside my four walls?
6.Where does the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit come into all of my experience of life as I look back, look around and eventually look forward? Make a list and be encouraged!

Now read Acts 2v42-47 and consider the impact of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those days disciples in the weeks and months after the Day of Pentecost and ask the same questions about CHALLENGES
                             INSIGHTS
                             IMPACT and
                             OPPORTUNITIES....for you..yes you and your loved ones.

THIS IS ALL PART OF GOD’S INVITATION TO HIS MISSION OF PRAYER,COMMITMENT AND THANKSGIVING...Hence the acrostic IMPACT.
Simply put as you have heard me say many times
We are open to God,
Because people matter,
For the sake of Jesus
As we live life out faith on our frontiers and boundaries of faith
Right where we are every day.

This is where the Holy Spirit is always at work, in and through us, and despite of us.

The Lion Handbook of the Bible writes helpfully on these verses we are looking at as I quote...
The church is born in Jerusalem...2v 1-13
With the coming of the Holy Spirit the waiting is over for those first disciples who had spent the last three years with Jesus. Tongues of fire or flames were there for all to see denoting the inner change which would be quickly evident within them. The apostles and disciples became the new church full of life and power, utterly
 different from their former fearful selves. The change is permanent.

Pentecost is the old Jewish Festival of First Fruits which took place at the beginning of the first wheat harvest, similar to Lammas on August 1st which we celebrate here in recent times at Old Romney Church followed by Afternoon Tea..now that’s a nice comforting thought but will it happen this year?

Watch this space.

Pentecost now is celebrated fifty days after The Passover which is also after the crucifixion of a Jesus.

Also in this passage both the Hebrew and Greek use of the word for wind and spirit is the same. The tongues of flame and fire are signs of the power and presence of God and refer back to the Creation stories in Genesis when the word ruach is uses.
This same theme is picked up in the prophet Joel who predicts the Day of  Pentecost
In chapter 2v28-32 and is quoted by Peter in his sermon in Acts 2v17-21.

In v6 we read that each heard in their own language of the deeds of God....the audience of Jews and converts were from widely scattered backgrounds and different countries. Now to their astonishment each hears in their mother tongue.their own language through  what these men of Galilee are saying ....remarkable!
The curse of Babel in Genesis 11 is now reversed. Languages are turned upside down for  ever as the privilege of hearing the love of God becomes personal to every family,tribe and nation for ever and all eternity. As then so now!

Note that in Acts 2v42-47 after the Baptism of 3000 people there is a new sense of joyous community which finds practical expression in a readiness to share money and possessions. It is sustained by a new pattern of life v46...prayer, meeting together over a meal, reading the Scriptures and breaking bread together. Here are the origins of the Church as we know it today. Some of these hallmarks and qualities we have all experienced during lockdown. It would be wonderful if they continued afterwards.

Will we return to this simpler way of sharing faith and life in the days to come without all the clutter that so often hinders, binds and bears us down some times to breaking point. God forbid!


After these events as we read on in The Acts remarkable events happen in peoples lives and that of their villages, towns and cities.. all described in the next 26 chapter by Luke the Gentile a wonderful friend and doctor .You might like to read on in the days to come....and that’s a challenge!

In the last week in my own personal studies I have been pondering how Jesus sees, reads and lives the Scriptures out before His friends the disciples. He does this with a listening discipline which is all about routine and obedience,
I have asked myself questions about my own rule of life in the daily use of Scripture as I encounter it in silence to behold, as a servant to accept, a sacrament to gather, as scripture to inspire, in sharing to enrich, in Sabbath to restore and in staying to live.

Thus
1.Reading,selecting the sacred text and listening to it speak is like selecting food and putting it in the mouth
2.Meditating is a deep entry into the meaning of the text like chewing foods and breaking it up to digest.
3.Praying in that the readers response, my response to God in the light of the reading is thus extracting the flavour of the food.
4.Contemplating is resting on the liturgy of the presence of God in the here and now which is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes the soul and life itself.

And so the word of God moves to enter our lives to sustain day by day.. reading becomes communion and moves us beyond information and knowledge to become reserve and transformation.

As we read Scripture and study the Bible we search for the words or phrases that speak directly to us and warm our hearts and raise our feelings and emotions. These words hit us in the face and both  lift us and arrest us as they hold our attention and fix our gaze. These words hit us in the guts and therefore should be mediated upon. They become light bulb moments with a WOW factor!

At the end of the day this is what Pentecost means 2000 years on for today and tomorrow.

As we say the Grace together and for ourselves and each other we
LOOK BACK AND THANK GOD HE IS ALWAYS WITH US.
LOOK FORWARD AND TRUST HIM FOR ALL THAT IS TO COME
LOOK AROUND AND  ENJOY THE PRESENT MOMENT FOR THAT'S GOD’S GIFT NOW.

So may the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm face upon your face
May the rain  fall softly on your face
And until we meet again may God hold us all in the palm of His hand.

So Lord support us all the day long of this troublous life
Till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes over
The busy world is hushed
The fever of life is over
And our work is done.
Then,Lord in your mercy grant us a safe lodging,
A holy rest and peace at the last
Through Christ our Lord.

God will show us the path of life,
In His presence is the fullness of joy and at His right hand there is pleasure for evermore. Amen

The next study will be produced by Friday June 5th.We will start a study on The Good News of Jesus Christ as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. In the meantime we are encouraged to keep alert, control the virus and save lives. Yes, indeed as we await guidelines for the eventual opening of churches for private prayer and later public worship. And to reassure you  we pray early morning daily and personally and in Compline at 7:30pm for you all by name. And finally before you go to bed yourself why not read Psalm 91 and say the evening collect

Lighten our darkness O Lord and save us from all perils and dangers of this night for the love of your only Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

It says it all in these days?

Go well and keep in touch.. as we sign off with best wishes, love and the assurance of our prayers.

Sue and John
John S. Richardson