St Ninian's Lent Study Course 2020
This material was prepared before the COVID-19 outbreak. It is primarily for those who are journeying through the season of Lent on the current Bible Study Course, but anyone can join us and would be welcome on the remainder of the journey.
This is primarily for those who are journeying through the season of Lent on the current Bible Study Course, but anyone can join us and would be welcome on the remainder of the journey toward Easter.
We are using some of the Embrace material – Journey to the Cross. So far, on our journey we have celebrated family, brought healing, considered how Jesus crossed social barriers, spoke out and considered journeys where we experienced anguish. In our last session, we look at forgiveness.
Pause for a moment …
Take a moment to consider what you are like at saying sorry. Are you the type of person that says sorry even when something is not your fault? Is it your automatic default to apologise when someone bangs into you? Or do you find it difficult to say sorry, even when you know you are the one in the wrong?
How would you describe your ability to forgive?
If there’s a situation in your life right now where you are waiting for an apology or need to say sorry to someone then write it on a piece of paper, fold it and put it to one side and ask God to help you put it aside in your mind while you do this session.
Journeying with Jesus…
- Read Luke 23:26-49
- Focus on the journey
Q) How familiar is the reading to you? Have you looked at it so many times that some of its impact is lost? What strikes you about the reading? Look at v34. Whom do you think Jesus was referring to when he said ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing?’ The soldiers? The criminals on the cross? Everyone? What leads you to think this?
Are you aware of situations where people have been shown extreme forgiveness despite a terrible wrong being done to them? Are there things that you have trouble believing that God can forgive?
Luke’s Gospel is the only one that tells us anything about the men who were crucified with Jesus. How does each of their reactions to Jesus reflect how people view Christianity today? Imagine you were one of the criminals – what would you say to Jesus?
The crucifixion is not the end of the journey, of course. Read Luke 24.
Jesus rose form the grave and showed that no issue we are facing is too big for God to deal with.
Q) How does that make you feel about your situation?
Do you truly believe that you are forgiven through death and resurrection of Jesus? Why or why not?
Story – Learning to Forgive
The forgiveness Education programme in Lebanon brings young people together and enables them to resolve conflict and create conditions that can bring peace between individuals and communities. Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian young adults from Christian and Muslim backgrounds join together to learn how to respect each other, communicate better and identify and find peaceful solutions for resolving conflict. During the sessions, participants explore how forgiveness is central to society and how removing the grudge we hold on to when not forgiving is a key element for personal peace and rest.
Twenty-one year old Mousa said, ‘The role of forgiveness is very important in a person’s life because it makes them a truthful man or woman and it humbles you. It plays an important part in solving problems and conflict, and as well forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the problem, but it saves the person from its hard reaction and the constant problem-solving.
Tania, 19, said, ‘I forgave someone because I’ve learned to ask about the reasons of their behaviour before acting.’
In a recently completed programme, all participants asked for further in-depth training, especially on how they can bring forgiveness education to their community as they recognised forgiveness is the path to peace.
They shared that it all started with their own stories when they chose forgiveness over revenge or verbal and physical violence. The Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian participants are now working together on a peace-building social action project in their community.
Q) What are the equivalent situations where you live where people from different backgrounds ideally need to come together to bring about peace? What are the barriers to this happening? What can you do today to lay the paths to peace in your community?
I want to be a forgiver,
To show mercy to others as you have shown mercy to me.
Merciful God, help me to forgive.
When I have been wronged
And my first reaction is to seek revenge.
Mighty God, help me to forgive.
When I feel anger, bitterness and hate towards others
Remind me of your grace.
Gracious God, help me to forgive.
When it feels impossible
Help me to let go of bad feeling.
Understanding God, help me to forgive.
When my hatred of myself and my own actions
Remind me that you love and forgive me,
Loving God, help me to know forgiveness.
In deep-grained situations, around the world
Fan individuals’ forgiveness into country-wide reconciliation.
Powerful God, help me to forgive.
Thank you for participating in this Lent Bible Study. We pray that it has been helpful to you on your journey as we celebrate life.
We are using some of the Embrace material – Journey to the Cross. So far, on our journey we have celebrated family, brought healing, considered how Jesus crossed social barriers, spoke out and now we look at a journey that experienced anguish.
Pause for a moment …
Do you have a place to go to try and find a quiet moment in everyday life? Think about that place… and reflect on how you are feeling.
With 10 being good and 1 being poor, give yourself a score of how you feel your mental health is right now. What are some of the factors that lead you to give yourself that score?
Breathe in deeply and, as you exhale slowly, imagine any worries and anxieties being blown away. Ask God to help you keep them away as you do this study.
Journeying with Jesus…
Read Matthew 26:36-46
Focus on the journey:
Jesus’ journey to the cross is coming to the end. Jesu knows full well what this means (see Luke 22:15 and Matthew 26:18) and the weight of that knowledge is resting heavy on His shoulders. After spending a poignant time with those He loved over the Last Supper, Jesus seeks a quieter place to pray.
Q) Where are you most comfortable when you have a heavy heart – amongst loved ones or in a quiet place to reflect and pray?
Look at verse 38 again. How would you describe Jesus’ state of mind here? Have you ever felt ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’? Does it surprise you that Jesus describes His feelings so strongly here? How did you deal (or are you still dealing) with that situation?
Q) Does it comfort you to know that Jesus understands fear and anxiety or concern you that the Son of God showed frailty?
What can we take from what Jesus asked of His friends at His time of need (v38)? How should we respond today to those around us who are struggling with sorrow and stress? What can we do to help?
The scene at the Garden of Gethsemane takes place late at night, after a meal of bread and wine and the disciples show a very human response by falling asleep while they wait for Jesus.
Q) How do you react to their behaviour? How do you think you would have responded if you were Peter, James or John?
It is thought that stress related-illness accounts for over 75% of visits to doctors. What measures can we be taking to stay mentally and physically healthy?
Across the Middle East and around the world, people are being exposed to traumatic situations daily.
Q) What are some of the world events taking place at the moment that you are aware of that are affecting people’s mental health? How should the church respond to this?
Story - Seeking Help in Lebanon
Thirty-four-year-old Ana in an accountant. She lives in a small apartment in New Hankash, Lebanon with her parents and brother and sister. A few years ago, her father collapsed after a heart attack at home and the family had to carry him to the hospital, though they had thought he was already dead. Although her father survived, the trauma of the whole incident had a profound impact on Ana, affecting her physical health and her social skills and leaving her with high levels of anxiety.
Realising the need for Ana to get some help, her sister visited the Karagheusian Medical Centre, an Embrace partner in a suburb of Beirut. They provide counselling sessions to Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities, helping them cope better with their difficulties, overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and learning to manage emotional problems and achieve self-help.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you made us,
You love us and invite us to do your work on earth as the body of Christ.
May we see the needs of others and respond
Hear their cry and listen to them; speak words of hope and comfort.
Reach out and touch them to reassure and comfort;
Walk alongside them so they are not alone,
May we together strive to make this a world where fewer become stressed, distressed, depressed and anxious.
May we let others help us so that all have the opportunity to enjoy helping us too. In doing this together may none feel over-burdened, all enjoy both giving and receiving and the body of Christ be strengthened in the place. Amen
Next week is week six, the final study on this course after which St. Ninian’s will have Holy Week messages to share and also the Good News of Easter Sunday. Please check our website and facebook page for further updates.
We are using some of the Embrace material – Journey to the Cross. So far, we celebrated journeys, of family, that brought healing, that crossed social barriers and now we look at situations where people spoke out.
Pause for a moment…
Think about the last time you saw something unfair or wrong happening. What was the situation? Was it happening near to you or something that was happening far away? How did you react? Were you willing or able to say anything to those in the wrong? What was the consequence of your response? How did you feel?
Reading: Luke 11:37-54 and 14:1-14
The journey… Jesus’ journey has continued, and the Gospels tell us just a snippet of the countless people he met and spoke to along the way. We read of just some of the most notable miracles and healings that took place and are told probably of just some of the best sermons. Consistently though, during Jesus’ public ministry, we read of people – often Pharisees or Teachers of the Law – who are watching Jesus closely, and are quick to point out when Jesus is pushing the boundaries of (or even breaking) the Jewish law. Can you think of other Bible passages where others are criticising Jesus’ words and actions rather than applauding the good things he has done?
Q) How do you respond to criticism?
Jesus doesn’t shy away from spending time with those that He had differing views to and in Luke 11, we see Him going to dinner at the house of one of the Pharisees.
Q) Why do you think he was surprised (v38) the minute that Jesus presented him with such an opportunity?
See Luke 19:1-10 for another example of Jesus spending time with someone who was doing wrong.
Q) How can we today spend time constructively with those we don’t agree?
In these passages and in others throughout the Gospels, Jesus responds clearly and frankly, pointing out hypocrisy and making it plain where He felt it was the Pharisees that had actually misunderstood the law.
Q) What words would you use to describe Jesus’ response here?
Throughout His ministry, Jesus confronted other about their wrong practices, evil thoughts and destructive deeds.
Q) Are there situations when we should do the same? What about situations when we shouldn’t? Are there some people or groups whose authority we shouldn’t question? What are the key points to remember when we confront others? As followers of Jesus, are we called to speak out against injustice? Why or why not? What do you feel your role is in confronting unfairness? What ways do we have available to us today to speak out? Would you ever describe Jesus as a protester?
We focus now on Connie’s story
Connie is Embrace’s Advocacy and Campaigns Advisor. Based in the UK, her role is to help Embrace supporters stand up for the marginalised and oppressed in the Middle East. Having lived and worked in the region, Connie has a rich insight into how difficult people’s life’s can be, but also of how hopeful they are that change can happen.
‘I grew up in Jerusalem and experienced life in both Palestine and Israel through the Gulf War and two civil wars. I fled as a refugee and returned home as a refugee. I read Economics and Politics at university in the hope that I’d build a career in banking. But once I graduated, I knew deep down that it wasn’t where I was meant to work. It took me a few years working with the European Commission, the UN and human rights organisations to figure out where I felt my place was.
While I was in Jerusalem, I worked for a small but significant human rights charity – the Society of St. Yves, which is also an Embrace partner. At St Yves, my job was to find funds for a number of campaigns; focusing specifically on disability rights for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, helping people to access the rights and benefits they are due from the Israeli authorities. St Yves was also able to offer free legal aid to Palestinian farmers and people in the South West Bank …
Embrace is uniquely placed to help people speak out for themselves and on behalf of others because of the long standing historic relationships we have with partners and churches in the Middle East, and the partnerships we have in and with churches, supporters, volunteers and parliament in the UK.
But we can all follow Jesus’ example and speak out against injustice. It’s simple – you see something that is not right, you speak out. As a Christian from Jerusalem, I believe in my duty to reach out where I both see and feel that something is unfair and not right. I believe in speaking out against injustice, in reaching out to help, in playing an integral part in society, and in engaging in peace and reconciliation. For me, that is a natural calling as a Christian from the Holy Land who lives among the stones where Jesus walked. Being true to oneself and following the teachings of Jesus should bring comfort and empowerment in each of our own paths.’
A time of prayer
Heavenly Father, when we see devastating images of war and hear the inconsolable cries of those who have lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones, our hearts break. In the face of so much suffering and despair, come Lord Jesus and help me to see with your eyes, hear with your ears, think with your mind, speak with your lips, walk with your feet, love with your heart, so that I can reach out with your hands and be a futuremaker to my brothers and sisters in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq… Raise up those who will turn from violence and seek your ways of peace that they may act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen
So far, on our journey we have celebrated family, brought healing and now we consider how Jesus crossed social barriers.
Pause for a moment …
Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting on a bench in your local town or village centre. Are you in an area that you would normally be? Who are the people who walk past you? Do you know them? Would you say hello? Think about the groups of people you might see that you would find it difficult to speak to. Maybe they are a different age to you or a different nationality.
Journeying with Jesus… speak with those you wouldn’t normally speak with
Read John 4:1-26
Q) When have you been thirsty and asked for a drink?
At first, reading through a modern lens, this interaction between Jesus and the woman at the well seems like a normal (albeit frank) interaction between to people – Jesus is hot and thirsty, he asks the woman at the well for a drink, they get into conversation about her life … But take a step back and the strangeness of the of the meeting becomes apparent. The woman has gone to collect water on her own in the middle of the day suggesting she is somewhat of an outcast in her community. Jesus is hot, tired and sitting out in the heat of day, no Jewish man (let alone a rabbi) would have spoken to a woman in public. Even less would have accepted a drink from a ritually unclean Samaritan (v9) they would not use the same utensils or bucket, so the woman would not dream of offering hers (v11). God had a
message for this woman and Jesus crossed about every social norm of the day to deliver it.
Q) What social barriers exist today that prevent us from delivering the message of God’s love to those with whom we come into contact?
Look at the passage again and think about the way Jesus spoke to the woman.
Q) What words would you use to describe his approach? How do you think the woman felt when it became apparent that this stranger actually knew all about her?
John’s Gospel presents Jesus as someone who, as a Jew, brought something new to Judaism of his day.
Q) Should the church today be turning traditions on their head? What and how? Who are the ‘hard to reach’ members of your community? In what ways could you go to where they will be and deliver a message of God’s love?
Q) What are the situations where not crossing social barriers might be appropriate? Should we be willing to cross any barrier in order to spread the gospel message?
Breaking down barriers in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, physical and social barriers divide communities. But courageous Palestinian and Israeli women are confronting their prejudices and preconceptions, thanks to Musalaha Ministry of Reconciliation.
Musalaha (Arabic for reconciliation) supports reconciliation and bridge-building between Palestinians and Israelis, taking the life and teaching of Jesus as a model. Through their leadership training courses, they train Palestinian and Israeli women and young people
to act as reconcilers, initially in their own communities and then between communities.
They bring the groups of women together to listen to each other’s experiences. It is not easy when hurt is buried so deep, but the difficult conversations often end in hope and the training equips the women to challenge attitudes in their wider community.
Q) What inspires you about the work of Musalaha? What are the similarities in this project to our Bible reading today and what are the differences? What could you replicate from their approach in your own situation?
You made us in Your own image
And redeemed us through Jesus Christ Your Son.
look with compassion on the whole human family;
Take away the arrogance and hatred that infects our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us and unite us in bonds of love.
Even through our weaknesses,
Work to accomplish Your purposes on earth,
so that every people and nation may serve you
in harmony around Your heavenly throne.
In Your mercy.