Session 1 Questions
- What did you hear about the placement and purpose of the book of Ruth?
- What is chesed?
- How are lives transformed as a result of chesed?
- What questions about existence confront us in this text?
- What does this passage contribute to the setting or environment in which Ruth’s story unfolds? to the power in the story?
- Where is chesed (lovingkindness) at work in relationships in this story?
- Where are human beings carrying out God’s providential care?
- How might these words have spoken for the characters and about situations in Ruth?
- What is he thinking? What is he feeling?
- What insights did you get into the people and the passage?
- Which ones move persons from the situation in “Our Human Condition” to the situation in “Marks of Faithful Community”?
- What is being called for by these questions that would be radical for you?
Session 2 Questions
- In the Chronicler’s view, what would the genealogies, the Temple, and the Davidic dynasty contribute to the restoration of the people after exile?
- What kind of information is here other than family names?
- Why would these lists have been important to returned exiles?
- How might the Chronicler’s emphasis on theology inspire Israel to become an obedient people?
- What do you see and hear in these stories that symbolizes the bond between God and Israel?
- What does the passage actually say?
- What did the passage likely mean to its first hearers?
- What do you think the Chronicler intended to convey in this account?
- What elements are the same or different in the situation in David’s time and in the twenty-first century?
- What meaning does the passage have for today?
- What criteria are we to use as we decide what to value from the past and from the present?
- What heritage and what demands come with the names Christian and disciple?
Session 3 Questions
- From the Chronicler’s perspective, what constituted faithfulness to God?
- Why did the Chronicler focus his attention on the Southern Kingdom of Judah?
- What roles did priests and Levites play?
- Why does the story say God divided the kingdom?
- What actions and attitudes lead to sin and failure?
- What actions and attitudes demonstrate obedience?
- What are the roots of apostasy? of true worship?
- Where is the Chronicler’s theology of cause and effect being made clear in this history of the Davidic kings?
- What does the passage tell us about God?
- What does the passage tell us about human beings?
- What does it tell us about the relationship between God and human beings?
- What clues do you get from this passage about the Chronicler’s theology?
- What parts of “Our Human Condition” does the mark of faithful community call into question?
- What new insights do they provide on leadership?
- How does your congregation’s worship regularly encourage and support the discipline of prayer and repentance?
Session 4 Questions
- Where did you detect the presence of God active in people and events to bring about restoration?
- What did the Temple, Torah, and town contribute to restoration of a people?
- What does the passage say?
- What happened?
- What did the writer intend to communicate?
- What did the situation likely mean to those who were present?
- As twenty-first-century people, what do we say to the passage?
- How does God address us in this passage?
- What claim does this passage make on me?
Session 5 Questions
- How does Esther operate?
- At what points did you see Esther growing into her role?
- How do banquets and role reversal function in the story?
- What elements are necessary to the development of each of the characters— Ahasuerus, Vashti, Mordecai, Esther, eunuchs, Haman, Zeresh?
- What does each character contribute to the story?
- What elements in the setting are necessary to the story?
- How does the setting function in the story?
- What differences between the two versions did you see in the story, in the personalities and actions of the characters, in the purpose of the two authors?
- In your view, which account is more powerful? Why?
- What does the passage say?
- What happened?
- What does the writer intend to say?
- What do I say to the passage?
- As twenty-first-century people, what do we say to this passage?
- What does God say to me in this passage?
- How am I involved in this situation?
- What claim does this passage place on me?
- What response do you think Vashti, Mordecai, or Esther would have made to this statement?
- How does it challenge “Our Human Condition”?
- How have you heard these sentiments voiced?
- What response did you make?
- What stands must we take on God’s behalf?
Session 6 Questions
- What kind of book is Daniel?
- How has it been understood, used, and applied?
- What is the purpose of the stories?
- What is the purpose of the visions?
- How does this Scripture illustrate or bear out the truth of Daniel 6:26-27?
- What connection do you see between the situations in the questions just discussed and “Our Human Condition”?
- What do the visions offer the reader in terms of symbols or images, history, geography, descriptions of earthly kingdoms, the approach of the kingdom of God, and Antiochus IV?
- What persons or entities are involved in the story?
- What are their roles?
- What is being called for and why?
- What equipped the young men to make their response?
- What form does the call take today?
- Who or what are the actors in the modern story?
- What are realistic substitute symbols, actions, and consequences?
- What response may be expected from modern-day persons?
Session 7 Questions
- How did Israel’s wisdom differ from the wisdom of Israel’s neighbors?
- What does “the fear of the Lord” mean, and how does it influence wise living?
- In terms of your own knowledge and experience, where do you see truth in each of the statements?
- To what extent and in what ways does the conviction underlying the mark of faithful community erase the feelings expressed in “Our Human Condition”?
- What is taken account of in choosing the right path to wisdom and deciding which teachings apply in a given situation?
- What side roads, bumps, and dead ends complicate staying on wisdom’s path?
Session 8 Questions
- What wisdom does Proverbs offer the individual?
- What relationship do you see between wisdom practiced in the home and life in the community?
- Why do the terms paths, walking, and ways fit the subject of wisdom?
- What assumptions about life and expectations of life underlie the ideas, thoughts, and attitudes expressed here?
- What response would the proverbs you read this week make to “Our Human Condition”?
- What response is the mark of faithful community making to “Our Human Condition”?
Session 9 Questions
- How does the word vanity convey Qoheleth’s view of life?
- What is the central message of Ecclesiastes?
- Why do you think so little of the book is read in Christian churches?
- What philosophy or view of life is the writer of Ecclesiastes attempting to counter or correct?
- How does the writer's repetition of this key word reinforce his message?
- What encouragement do you find in Ecclesiastes’s discourse on life’s futility?
- What does this passage tell us about God?
- What does this passage tell us about human beings?
- What does this passage tell us about the relationship between God and human beings?
- If as the writer of Ecclesiastes observes, “All is vanity” (1:2), why is it important to “fear God” (5:7)?
Session 10 Questions
- Taking the six assertions about God as a whole, what one word best describes the God of Qoheleth?
- What do you think accounts for the missing elements in Ecclesiastes’ portrait of God?
- What kind of enjoyment does the writer recommend?
- To what extent is one's enjoyment an answer to futility and absurdity?
- What part does God play in the enjoyment described?
- Which “voice” do you hear best?
- What is the wisdom in not knowing the future?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of not knowing “the work of God” (11:5)?
- How do we work and act with resourcefulness and generosity yet without anxiety over the results?
Session 11 Questions
- How did ancient Israel understand suffering?
- How has Job’s experience of suffering affected his view of God?
- What sense do you have of the friends at this point?
- What sense of Job?
- How would you describe the attitude of the friends at this point in the dialogue?
- What is Job’s state of mind at this point?
- Which of the explanations for suffering given by the friends have you heard given?
- What do you learn about Job’s feelings from his choice of words and images?
- How does this statement address both our innocence about life and our recognition of the reality of life evident in “our Human Condition”?
- Why do you think pat answers come first to the tongue when tragedy strikes?
Session 12 Questions
- What are the problems with Job’s model of a trial for solving his situation?
- What does God show Job about the world that he cannot see?
- Where does the dialogue leave us in relation to the wicked, the righteous, and the justice of God?
- What is the value in thinking in new ways?
Session 13 Questions
- What is your understanding of the idea that human desire for sexual intimacy and human desire for intimacy with God belong together?
- What three levels of meaning are addressed in the Song?
- What are the messages carried in the language of love, whether between the man and the woman or between God and Israel?
- If language of human love can represent love between God and humanity, what does that say about human love?
- What wisdom does Proverbs 2–3 offer the lovers in Song 5–6?
- What do you think the lovers in Song 7 hear in Proverbs 4–5?
- What do Ecclesiastes 9 and 11 have to say to the lovers in Song 8?
- What do particular words, images, and scenes remind me of from their use in other parts of the Old Testament?
- What words, images, or scenes might point beyond these two lovers?
- What did you learn about how language can talk indirectly about God?
- How is lavish self-giving a corrective to “Our Human Condition”?
Session 14 Questions
- Where and why do we see ourselves in the Psalms?
- How would you describe the God addressed in the Psalms?
- What accounts for the universal appeal of the Psalms?
- What did you learn about how the Psalms were written and put together?
- How did this information increase your awareness of what you were reading?
- What similarities in language do you see? in feelings? in need?
- What sense do you get from these psalms of the relationship between the psalmist and God?
- What gives the psalm its power?
- What allows this psalm to stand alone?
- What new understandings might overcome those barriers?
Session 15 Questions
- What makes us uncomfortable with the biblical claim that the Lord reigns over every aspect of our lives?
- Why are the psalms of lament unsettling?
- How do the psalms of lament challenge our understanding of God and our relationship with God?
- Where do you see Israel’s strong belief in a God of justice expressed in these psalms?
- What differences in tone and content do you see between the individual laments and the community laments?
- How might our avoiding difficult psalms be influenced by desire to downplay the justice of God?
- What assurance do these psalms offer that God is a God who forgives?
- What assurance do these psalms offer that God is a God who can be trusted?
- What do these psalms tell us about God?
- What does the psalm tell us about God? about women and men? about the relationship between God and human beings?
- What response does the mark of faithful community make to “Our Human Condition”?
Session 16 Questions
- Why is God worthy of praise?
- How would you describe the justice of God?
- Who are the righteous?
- What different words are used to describe God?
- What did you learn about people from these psalms?
- What is the basis for the psalmist’s assurance the Lord will deliver?
- In what sense can we be sure God will rescue us when we cry to God?
- What are evidences of God’s majesty and glory?
- What are examples of God’s wisdom in creation?
- What images of trust, strength, and power do you see in these psalms?
- How would you describe the psalmist’s own sense of his relationship to God?
Session 17 Questions
- What do you think John wants to say by calling Jesus the Word of God?
- How does John use Greek and Hebrew ideas about wisdom to reveal Jesus’ identity?
- How does the Prologue’s use of the term logos (word) draw upon the concept of God’s word as depicted in Genesis and Exodus?
- Why does the Prologue establish John the Baptist’s identity before introducing Jesus?
- What did Jesus want the two disciples of John the Baptist to hear in that question?
- What did John want his readers to hear in that question?
- When Jesus says “Come and see” (1:39), what is Jesus inviting his disciples to do?
- What is John inviting his readers to understand about the nature of discipleship?
- What do the various names reveal about who the first disciples think Jesus is?
- What does the name Jesus gives to himself in 1:51 reveal about who he is?
- In what ways has or does the teaching that Jesus is God in the flesh put you on the defensive?
- What issues related to living in a pluralistic society challenge our belief that Jesus is the unique Word of God?
Session 18 Questions
- How do the works of Jesus function as signs in John?
- What kind of belief do the signs call for?
- What “sight and insight” comes from the sign of Jesus turning water into wine?
- What elements do the passages have in common? How do they differ?
- How do the details help convey the meaning of the signs?
- In each of the passages, what does Jesus offer those who witness his miraculous sign?
- What evidence does John give of belief in Jesus resulting from what Jesus accomplishes with these first two signs?
- What change takes place in each character’s understanding of Jesus over the course of the conversation?
- What images does Jesus use, and how are they appropriate to each person?
- What aspect of Jesus’ identity is clarified through each conversation?
- How would you describe the faith of Nicodemus and the of Samaritan woman based on their conversations with Jesus?
- What message about Jesus do you think John intended to convey in the way he tells the story of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple?
- How does the new life offered by God in Jesus give purpose both to our living and to our dying?
Session 19 Questions
- How does the manna story illuminate Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the crowd?
- What about Jesus’ declaration, “I am the bread of life,” offended those who opposed him?
- How does this healing compare to Jesus’ healing of the official’s son in 4:46-53?
- How does the lame man respond to being healed?
- What is the meaning of the statement Jesus makes to the lame man in 5:14?
- In what ways is Jesus’ healing of the lame man an affront to the Jewish authorities?
- How does Jesus’ appeal to his authority as Son of God answer the criticism described in 5:18?
- What does Jesus do and how?
- What does Jesus say?
- What do the disciples do?
- How does the crowd respond to the miracle?
- What does the sign of the miraculous feeding reveal about Jesus?
- To what group of hearers does Jesus speak?
- How does John characterize this group?
- How does Jesus’ claim to be “the bread of life” address the misunderstanding or protest of his hearers?
- Who does Jesus say he is?
- Who does Jesus say God is in relationship to him?
- Who does Jesus say human beings are in relationship to him?
- What message does this passage convey to believers in our day?
- What causes us to seek something less than Jesus the living bread to satisfy our deepest hungers?
Session 20 Questions
- Who are “the Jews” in John’s Gospel?
- What distinguished “the Jews” from other Jews in John?
- What about Jesus did “the Jews” reject?
- Whom does Jesus address?
- What claims does Jesus make about himself?
- Why do his hearers question or object to Jesus’ claims?
- What does Jesus mean by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am”?
- Taken together, what do Jesus’ claims to be water (7:37-39) and light (8:12) say about his relationship with God? with the world? with the believer?
- What works and words of Jesus blind the eyes of the Pharisees?
- How do their views of sin and sabbath contribute to their blindness?
- What does this story say about who Jesus is?
- What does this story say about the “scribes and Pharisees”? about the adulterous woman?
- How does this story illuminate the conflict between Jesus and “the Jews”?
- What are some things we must let go of in our lives in order to choose to be witnesses to the light of Christ?
Session 21 Questions
- How do Martha’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah (11:27) and the raising of Lazarus (11:44) help us understand Jesus’ claim to be “the resurrection and the life”?
- What meaning do the festivals give to Jesus’ words and actions in these passages?
- Who are the main characters and what roles do they play in the narrative?
- What happens in the story and in what sequence?
- What is the climax?
- Why do you think John wants to show people misunderstanding Jesus’ words and works?
- What does Jesus’ raising of Lazarus say about death? about who Jesus is? about God’s purpose in the world? about the life of the believer?
- What new insights did you gain from hearing the story from the perspective of all the senses?
Session 22 Questions
- What is the connection between the footwashing and Jesus’ death?
- What do the three statements by Peter (13:6, 8, 9) reveal about his understanding of the footwashing?
- What do the three responses from Jesus (13:7, 8, 10) reveal about what he wanted Peter to understand about the footwashing?
- In light of Peter’s questions, what does he want from Jesus?
- In light of Jesus’ responses, what does he want from Peter and the other disciples?
- According to Jesus’ description of the Paraclete’s functions (14:15-17, 26; 15:26; 16:5-14), what will a community who receives the gift of Jesus’ Spirit look like?
- Which of Jesus’ words would you say are most challenging to his disciples?
- Which are most comforting?
- What message do you hear in this passage?
- What feelings does this passage evoke?
- What have you heard the church teach about this passage?
- How does the Scripture and the church’s teaching on it inform your understanding of what relationship to God means?
- How do you resolve differences in your thinking and the church’s teaching on this passage?
Session 23 Questions
- What understanding of the church does John develop in his account of Jesus’ death?
- To what extent does Jesus’ death on the cross shape the nature and design of your church?
- What evidence do you find in John 18–19 that Jesus is in control of the events of his “hour”?
- How does this evidence shape your understanding of the purpose of Jesus’ death?
- What do you think John intended this passage to say to the first hearers?
- What does this passage say to the church today? to our world? to you?
- How does John’s Gospel answer Pilate’s question, What is truth?
- When is it difficult for you to receive selfless love from another human being?
- When is it difficult for you to receive the selfless love of God as shown on the cross?
Session 24 Questions
- What causes Mary to move from misunderstanding the reality of the empty tomb to proclaiming “I have seen the Lord”?
- What about the message of the empty tomb confirms your belief in the risen Lord?
- Why do you think John included certain details not found in the other accounts?
- What does Jesus mean by instructing Mary to tell the other disciples that he is ascending to the Father rather than that he has risen?
- What happens?
- Who is present to see Jesus?
- What does Jesus say and do?
- What evidence is there of anyone responding to Jesus’ presence with belief?
- What message does this story convey to those who would make up the community of believers?
- What do Jesus’ commands to Peter say to those who would be his disciples?
- What does John 29:19-25 say?
- What does John intend this passage to communicate to its first hearers?
- What situation might this passage have been addressing?
- What does this Scripture say to believers today?
- What does it say to you?
- What do you say to the Scripture?
- What claims does the risen Christ make on us in this passage?
- How do you experience the tension between those two statements?
- “The Radical Disciple”: Where will you risk taking the good news of the empty tomb?
Session 25 Questions
- What solutions to the problems of christology and ethics does the author propose?
- What contributes to or threatens unity in the body?
- What is the place of the individual in the body?
- What is the responsibility of the individual to other members of the body?
- What is being said about Jesus Christ?
- How do these chapters portray those who belong to God and those who do not?
- What counsel do the writers of Second and Third John and Jude (Days 4 and 5) give for responding to lack of unity in the church and to persons who cause division in the church?
- What do the words say? What do they mean?
- What is behind the words?
- How do you understand the images, and where have these images appeared before?
- What do you think the author intends to say?
- What is the issue or concern underlying the questions in “Our Human Condition”?
- What is the overriding significance of the command to love one another?
- To what would the radical disciple appeal in holding self and community to the central teaching about Christ?
- What questions and opposition would the radical disciple face in the church?
Session 26 Questions
- In what ways is James similar to traditional wisdom literature?
- What relationship do you see between faith and works and a life of wholeness and integrity?
- What does the text say?
- What do you think James wished to say for God?
- What meaning does this passage have for us today?
- If I take this passage seriously, what changes would I have to make in my life?
- What attitudes are evident in this statement that we may think of as harmless?
- What counsel does the mark of faithful community give to the description of us and our actions in “Our Human Condition”?
Session 27 Questions
- What claims of our culture tempt us to compromise our obedience to God?
- What big picture emerges from these details?
- What is the overarching message?
- How do these themes and images convey the message that God is in control of history?
- Where and how is the church’s struggle pictured?
- What is John saying to the church?
- What promises of victory over the world does John give the church?
- What insights did you get from reading Scripture this way?
Session 28 Questions
- What forms did the temptation to compromise Christian identity and loyalty take?
- What compromises of faith do we make to live in society?
- What light do the passages from other parts of the Bible throw on the assigned Revelation passage?
- What is the message in the letter to this church?
- What cultural influences did the church have to contend with?
- What message to this church is applicable to the church in every age and location?
- What does the passage say?
- What does it intend to communicate?
- As twenty-first-century people, what do we say to this passage?
- What does God say to me through this passage?
- What do you hear the Spirit of God saying to your congregation?
- What pull toward accommodation and compromise is being experienced in your congregation?
- How would radical disciples call the congregation to accountability and faithfulness?
Session 29 Questions
- How does John weave images together to create a surplus of meaning?
- What forms does the conflict between church and society take in the visions?
- What images of divine deliverance and renewal does John provide?
- What sense did you get of John’s reaction to what he saw and heard?
- What were your feelings as you read the chapters?
- When did you find yourself thinking, I know about that? I know what that term or image means? I recognize that scriptural language?
- When did you experience worship as you read?
- What does this passage tell us about God? about men and women? about the relationship between God and human beings?
- According to this statement, what determines life’s priorities?
- What determines the priorities of faithful community?
Session 30 Questions
- How are we to read the book of Revelation?
- In reading Revelation, what has assured you God’s purposes will be fulfilled?
- What differences do you see in tone and feeling, in the way the two kinds of power are expressed?
- Read “Our Human Condition.” What do you think?
- Read Revelation 18:4-5. What do you think?
- Read the mark of faithful community. What do you think?
- What message do you hear when you consider these three statements together?
Session 31 Questions
- What images did you see?
- What words did you hear?
- What mystery do you experience?
- What vocabulary in words and images has the Scripture given you that equips you for the experiences of life and death?
- Twice John is reproved for attempting to worship an angel. Why?
- How do these reproofs fit into the overall message of Revelation?
- What is the temptation here for us?
- What event is described in the passage?
- How is it to take place?
- What does the passage intend to communicate?
- What does it say?
- What do I say?
- As twenty-first-century people, what do we say to this text?
- What does God say to me?
- How am I involved in the event described?
- What claim does this passage place on me?
- What do you see and participate in daily that you recognize as evil—evil you have power to stand against? evil you can act on without waiting for anyone else to act? responsibilities against evil you can’t place on someone else?
Session 32 Questions
- What new perspectives on yourself and on life do these passages provide you?
- What for you is the basis for hope according to each of these passages?
- What connection do you see between vulnerability and obedience?
- What contrast between control and the yielded life?
- What solution to the human condition do you hear in the image of a God who stooped to wash feet?
- What do you think Jesus intended his disciples to hear?
- What do Jesus’ words say to the church today?
- If I take this passage seriously, what changes will I have to make in my life?