Friday, November 18, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on November 20th, 2011

Here are the passages for November 20, 2011, Christ the King Sunday (sometimes referred to as Reign of Christ Sunday). Christ the King Sunday is the final Sunday of the liturgical year (Year A, in this case, on the Revised Common Lectionary). All links are to the CEB via BibleGateway.com, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at BibleGateway.com).

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
  • Outside of the context of Scripture, what do you know about sheep? Why do you think the Bible makes reference to this imagery so much?
  • When God "judges," what does God do with the "fat sheep"? The "lean sheep"? What do you think the original readers of this passage (several hundred years after the life of King David) understood the language of David as the "single shepherd" over them to mean? How does this compare or contrast without our understanding of the Messiah today?
Psalm 100:1-5

Ephesians 1:15-23
  • What does this passage have to tell us about God the Father? What does it say about Jesus? What does it say about the church?
  • The letter mentions hope for the church. To what extent does it mean our hope in heaven, and to what extent does it mean hope for the present age? In terms of this present age, what does that hope mean?
Matthew 25:31-46
  • More sheep imagery here, but this time goats are added. Should the goats be considered analogous to either set of "sheep" in the Ezekiel passage, or is Jesus talking about something altogether different? If different, what are the distinctions?
  • Jesus doesn't speak in this way, but in my experience, it seems that we succeed in acting on behalf of those "least of [Jesus'] brothers and sisters" on some occasions, but fail to do so on others. Thus, sometimes we act like sheep and sometimes like goats. How should we understand Jesus' teaching in light of this experience?
  • As with the gospel reading from a couple of weeks ago, we have a teaching of Jesus that seems to indicate that our actions matter in terms of salvation. This, of course, tends not to mesh well with the Reformed teaching of election (a doctrine many Presbyterians are uncomfortable with even as we claim to accept it), and "salvation by grace alone" (a phrase that is certainly more palatable). How do we reconcile (or, if reconciliation seems impossible, choose between) the teachings of the Bible on this matter?

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