Church of England Diocese of Rochester St. Andrew, Bromley

Bible Study Notes

Ruth. Bible Study Chapter 1.  May 2020

Ruth is in the Old Testament; it comes between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is the 8th book in the Bible.

The book of Ruth is one of the stories read at Passover. Its importance in the Old Testament are the promises made and kept by God and His people. There are foreshadows of the redemption to come and it ties into the genealogy of Jesus which has gentiles within it.

Read chapter 1

Verses 1-5: Setting the Scene. This takes place before Israel has a king and is ruled by judges. Famine was a fairly regular occurrence. People moved to try and get a better life. There were rules about marrying into other tribes, but it was a common practice.

Have you ever been forced to move or to leave your home?

Have circumstances meant you have had to move for work or family?

How did this affect your relationship with your family and with God?

Verses 6-9: Go back to your family. Naomi still has faith in God even after her bereavements but choses to go home to Bethlehem.

Why did she decide to go back to her home?

What things have prompted you to move back home?

What might make you move nearer home if you have not done so before?

Even in her grief Naomi cares for her daughters in law. What an example for us.

Verses 10 -13: Bitterness and blame. Naomi desires her daughters in Law to find another family, to have children, to continue their line. She also blames the events on loss of God’s favour.

When things go wrong for you who do you blame?

Are you still bitter about things in your past, if so, why/why not?

Do you think God is responsible for our illnesses, bereavements etc?

Do you think God stands along side us in all circumstances?

Are there any Bible verses or stories that help you with this?

Naomi is both bitter with God but also prays His blessing on the two younger women. Do we ever feel like this and hold this contradictory view of God…..I am angry with you but please bless us????? Why might this be?

Verses 14-18: The choice to stay or Go. Ruth and Orpah have a choice, without their husbands they are not part of the Israelite community, they have their own communities and gods, so they must choose.

What choice would you make? Stay with your own kind or risk going elsewhere knowing you might not fit in?

What are some difficult choices you have made in your life?

Was God part of the decision?

Did your faith help you? If so how?

Ruth makes a decision and an allegiance. She declares faith in Naomi’s God, that means if Naomi dies she will be totally alone unless she marries again. Naomi knows she has lost her argument and allows Ruth to make her own decision.

What can we learn about allowing people to make their own decisions?

How can/should we advise people who ask for our help in making decisions?

Verses 19-22. Naomi returns with Ruth by her side. Naomi choses a new name for herself that means bitter. Marah.

Do we ever feel like changing our name?

Do we want people to identify us as something different?

The term Christian name came from converts changing their name from one which reflected their old life to a new name that reflected their Christian life.

If you could be known by another name what would it be?

Do you know the meaning of your name?

Did you choose names for children based on their meanings?

If you don’t know the meaning of your name/s why not look them up.

Chapter 1 overview questions

Naomi is returning to her family home with nothing, she feels that God has condemned her.

Why do you think she feels like this?

Have you ever felt condemned by God? Or even abandoned by God?

How did you deal with that?

Is it reasonable to feel that way?

Is it reasonable to be angry with God?

Whichever way you answer, explain your answer to yourself or someone else you are in contact with. Talking over our reasons helps put things in perspective.

This story happens because of bereavement.

What experience of bereavement do you have?

How did you cope?

Were you able to pray, to talk to God, to talk with others about your feelings?

Who helped you?

Were you given any advice that helped or has stuck with you?

Were there any Bible passages that helped?

Immigration is a hot topic. Here a girl leaves her land to go and live in another.

What problems does that present?

Should we be free to go and live anywhere?

Should we respect and help those who chose to go and live elsewhere?

Can you think why someone may risk their life to travel to another land?

What about refugees?

The Israelites were commanded to treat “aliens and strangers” with respect as they too are children of God. Leviticus 19:34. They were not very good at that.

How good are we at treating aliens and strangers properly?

What is our view on how we treat aliens and strangers, and is that a Christian response?

So Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem and the Harvest is just beginning……………

Being a Good Neighbour. Bible Study Notes.

The Bible shows that there are two great commandments. The first commandment is to love God with all our being. The second commandment is to love our neighbours as ourselves. So how do we show that we love our neighbours?

Read Luke 10: 25-37 the parable of The Good Samaritan

All of us, at one time or another, have been in need of someone else's help. Can you think of a time when you needed help? Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help, why might that be? Regardless of our status in life, we are to look out for the needs of others. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a lesson about being a good neighbour.

How much importance does God place on being a good neighbour? Can you think of any examples in the Bible?

Read Matthew 22:37-40 and Romans 13:9-10

Loving your neighbour as yourself is the second great commandment. Christ says when dealing with people, we need to stop and think how we would want to be treated, then treat them that way. How do you like to be treated? Do you treat people the same?

What should motivate us to be a good neighbour?

Read 1 John 3:17 and Luke 10:33

A person must have compassion if he or she wants to be able to genuinely help others. Human beings have a natural compassion, but too often we learn to shut our eyes and hearts to the needs around us. Would you call yourself compassionate? If yes, Why? If not, why not? We need to ask God to give us His love and the deeper compassion that comes through His Holy Spirit.

Who specifically is our neighbour?

Read Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and Matthew 5:43-48

Anyone and everyone is our neighbour. Friends, strangers and enemies alike, we are to treat them all the way we want to be treated.

What lessons can we learn from the parable of the “Good Samaritan”?

1.The Samaritan saw someone in need and had compassion. He could have easily continued on his way like the other two people did, but he stopped when he saw the man in need.

2.The Samaritan temporarily put his needs on hold so he could assist this man who needed help now. The Samaritan sacrificed his time and money to help this stranger.

3.The Samaritan quietly departed after he helped and did not make a scene about the good deed that he had done.

What state of mind is needed to be a good neighbour?

Read Philippians 2:3-4

Humility is also needed to be a good neighbour. We can't be selfish. We need to think about others and their needs. If our minds are focused on others and not just ourselves, we will be able to help others when we come across something they need.

What else is required of us to be a good neighbour?

Proverbs 3:28. Matthew 5:14-16. 1 John 3:18. James 1:27.

In order to be a good neighbour, we must take action. We must not only see the needs of others; we must act on those needs.

Is there anything that a good neighbour shouldn't do?

Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 3:29

God doesn't want us to think evil about our fellow man. We're not to try to get even, hold grudges or try to cause bad things to happen to anyone. God doesn't even want us to be glad when something bad happens to our enemy (Proverbs 24:17). Remember, we would not want to be treated that way!

What does God say will happen to those who help others in this life?

Read Proverbs 19:17 and Luke 6:38

God takes notice of those who help others. He says that when we give to others, we will be "repaid," though that is not our motivation for serving. Blessings won't always come immediately, but in time God will make sure good things will happen to us. The more sincere and wholehearted we are about helping others; the more blessings will follow us (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

What does God say will ultimately happen to those who love their neighbours as themselves?

Read Luke 14:12-14 and Matthew 25:31-40

Applying this to our lives now.

God wants us to be good neighbours, and we can start today! Pay attention to what is going on around you. We might not be able to chat with folk as we would have but we can still put messages in our windows, pray for people, use the phone or the post! The more you know people, the more you can help them. Make it a daily habit to treat others the way you want to be treated.

Set a goal today to do a good deed each day. These deeds can be simple, like offering encouraging words, phoning someone, offering a prayer. You will find that, as you look for opportunities to help others, the opportunities will come more easily. And you will find that, the better neighbour you become, the more blessings you will receive. You have God's Word on that!

Session 1 What Does Lent Mean?

For you? For The Church? For Jesus?

Read Luke 4:1-13 (Also in Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13)

What do you know about the significance of 40? Any examples?

Church word is Quadragesima, 40 days not including Sundays

Called Lent from Anglo Saxon word Lencten meaning lengthen, getting longer

Formalised as a Christian practice at Council of Nicaea in 325, Christianity now a legal world religion. St Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem taught on Lent.

Begins with Shrove Tuesday, to shrive or be shriven is to seek confession and be forgiven by doing penance, linked to fasting or to eating simple foods thus eating up the fats etc before lent in the form of pancakes. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday came from this. Symbolic of a simpler life.

The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. What happens on that day? Why?

Words from Genesis 3:19 are used: From dust you came to dust you shall return. What do you think this means?

God puts a prohibition on one tree, one type of food Genesis 2:16-17, humans ignore that because it looks good for food, it is attractive to the eye and it is desirable for Wisdom. The Jewish faith has the Day of Atonement, the time when all sins are confessed, repented of and are made right with God by sacrifice.

Sackcloth and Ashes were a form of repentance, also used in mourning and grieving 2 Kings 19:1-3, Jeremiah 6:26 and an act of submission 1 Kings 20:31-32.

Lent is a moveable feast because Easter is. Easter is chosen by the first full moon of the spring in the Jewish Calendar, just as Passover is, which is why Jesus celebrated the Passover just before His arrest and Crucifixion and why we link Maundy Thursday with the new meal of Communion as well as acknowledge its ties to Passover.

Lent is a replication of Jesus in the Desert, time to prepare, reflect, fast, a denial of self and self-ego.

Eating is a normal experience, to go without food means something is wrong. Fasting is used as a way of clearing one’s mind, giving more openness to God and His spirit, heightens spiritual experiences such as visions and dreams. Fasting is an act of humility, a self-denial, can be linked to weeping and mourning.

The Old Testament has proclamations about fasting 1 Kings 21:9, Isaiah 58:5, Jeremiah 36:9, Johah3:5, Ezra 8:21, 2 Chronicles 20:3. Sanctify a fast Joel 1:14 & 2:15 and to keep a fast 2 Samuel 12:16. It also ties in the Humbling of the soul Leviticus 16:29-31 and self-denial Psalm 35:13, Isaiah 56:3-5.

Fasting was for: Grief and Mourning, Repentance and Forgiveness, An Aid to Prayer, To Experience the Presence of God and An Act of Ceremonial Worship.

Lent can be described as a Spiritual Spring, a time for cleaning out, to be revived and reenergised in faith. Lent gives a time of more freedom from Earthly things to concentrate on more Godly things. A time to recall our Baptism and prepare people for baptism. Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness and Change.

What does Lent mean for you?

Session 2 Why Does Lent Matter?

What does Lent mean for you? (Follow up on last week’s question)

Read Hebrews 10

What does this passage tell us about the human condition? Sacrifices of animals cannot rid us of sin so what has to happen? What does God do to rectify the problem?

A once for all sacrifice is made in Jesus, what do we have to do?

Lent offers us the chance to examine and strengthen our faith through prayer, study and penance. What do you do to observe Lent? Have you changed how you observe Lent over the years? What about penance?

We can give up something we rely on other than faith, God’s word and prayer. We can give up food, or activities, Social Media, TV, anything that may benefit us and cause us to think and examine our priorities.

Lent is not about giving something up for six and a half weeks and making a fuss about it, it is about strengthening your bond with God, listening, learning, recognising, being sorry and changing. Remember the longer you do something the easier it becomes. What are some habits you would like to break or change?

Lent is a time to practice getting out of ourselves, our bad habits and strive for Heaven. We are all saints in the making, do you believe that? Lent offers a chance to heal and change.

The church realised that marking time, rhythms and seasons is how people live and move forward and so it developed its own seasons within the year that mark time and change. As each year passes, we are reminded of the importance of our life and relationship with God, of the key basics and teachings of our faith. We are in the Season of Lent, what other church seasons do you know?

Lent is a tradition, why do we have Traditions? Some people resent tradition and want rid of it, why? Why is Lent a tradition worth keeping and observing? Many Christians don’t understand that throughout human history God has used feast, fast and festivals to bless His people.

Once we realise that we can’t do things in our own strength and offer them to God we find His grace and love to carry us through. As we move toward Easter we recall Jesus death and resurrection, His carrying of the cross through the streets, His carrying of our sin and sorrow so that He knows exactly what each one of us will experience so that we never face pain and suffering alone.

Any spiritual discipline can be taken and emptied of its purpose of connecting us physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally to our God. If we are doing Lent as a public display of our own piety, then we are doing it wrong. Think about Jesus’ encouragement that when we fast, we put oil on, wash our faces, Matthew 6:17. We are not trying to distort our bodies we’re trying to change our souls.

Part of what we’re doing in Lent is giving up something that we desire in our heart so that we might begin, in a small way, to get our mind around Christ giving up His life for us.

What we work on in Lent isn’t just over when Easter comes. We are meant to be changed in a more permanent way as we strive to grow in virtue, love, and holiness. The journey to who we are meant to be doesn’t end when Lent ends. Each moment, each day is a chance to build and change or to begin again if we need to. God is a God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,…..infinite chances.

Lent offers us a serious opportunity to make Christ our treasure and to strive to understand and grow in our knowledge of Him and our relationship with Him. “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” Hebrews 10:19.

Why does Lent matter to you?

Session 3 The Symbols of Lent.

Why does Lent Matter to you? (Follow up on last week’s question)

The Bible and our faith are full of symbolism. What is symbolism and why is it important?

Read John 10:1-21. What is the symbolism in this passage? How might it link to Lent and Easter?

Lent Symbols:

Violet/Purple – The seasonal colour for Lent. The colour of mourning, humility, suffering. Associated with noble birth as it was expensive to colour garments in purple. Purple cloth often draped over crosses, statues etc during Passiontide, or removed completely to concentrate on the act of salvation. Christ was given a purple robe which is then cast lots for so as not to damage it. John 19:2-3.

Ashes – Ash Wednesday. From dust you came to dust you shall return Genesis 3:19. Mortality, vulnerability, purification, penance, forgiveness, sorrow. Dying to Sin, rising to new life at Easter.

Stones – Turn the stones into bread Matthew 4:3. Desert, barren, austerity, dry, rigor, misery, sadness, hard, unforgiving. Bread – Life giving, staple food, nourishing.

Fish – Ichthus: Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour. Secret Sign. I will make you fishers of Men Matthew 4:19. Fish eaten on a Friday, not a fatty food given up for Lent. You did not eat warm blooded creatures on Friday in penance for Jesus death on Good Friday. Fish was a staple poor person’s food, fasting often meant a strict diet without fats and meat, originally on both Wednesday and Friday.

Money Bag – Judas holder of the common purse and giver of alms money to the poor and himself? John 12:6. Given a bag of money to betray Jesus Matthew 26:15. Giving to the poor was expected and encouraged Luke 12:33.

Incense – Prayer, fragrances, worship, sounds all rising up to God Psalm 141:2. Incense also made churches smell better when full of dirty, unwashed, smelly people.

Pretzels – No fat so a good food for the Lent Fast. Arms across the heart as a child ready for prayer, 7th Century Monks. 13th/14th Century used to hunt at Easter time, given out on Good Friday, three holes became associated with the Trinity.

Thorns – Crown, mockery of kingship. Denotes sin, sorrow and hardship. As part of a rose it denotes pleasure and pain. Paul refers to thorn in the flesh 2 Corinthians 12:6-7. Suffering, persecution, loneliness.

Cross – Instrument of torture and death. Visible deterrent. Crucifix reminds of suffering and death, empty Cross of victory, salvation, the defeat of death, resurrection. Genesis 3:18 the cursed ground now has thorns and thistles which impede human use of the land.

What do symbols mean to you? How do thy help your faith? Do you know any symbols not covered here that might help others?

Jesous Christos Theos Huios Sotor

Jesus Christ God Son Saviour

Session 4 The Sorrow and Joy of Lent

What do symbols mean to/for you? (Follow up on last weeks question)

Read Romans 8:18-39 What is the key message for you from these verses?

What have been the most memorable joyful experiences in your life?

What have been the most memorable sad and difficult experiences in your life?

Why do we need both?

Within Christianity these experiences are often referred to as Mountain Top and Valley experiences. Why do you think that is? Can you think of any Mountain or Valley experiences in the Bible?

Julian of Norwich wrote about the need for both, that there was “profit for the Soul” through experiencing ups and downs. She also spoke of the opposites of pain and delight and how God is there at all times even if we cannot see Him at the time, we often see God’s presence later on, when we look back and reflect. Romans 8:28 Nothing can separate us…. Is that true for you?

Is it true, in your experience, that the higher we rise the harder we fall? Some of life’s most testing times in faith come after: Baptism, Confirmation, Calling, and in life after birth, exam success, new job, new home etc.

For many centuries the church suggested that times of darkness were as a result of sin and times of joy and success were because of our good faith. God was painted as one who rewarded good and punished bad. Is that your experience or understanding? Julian was one of many deeply spiritual people who stood against this idea. This did not make them popular with a church and a noble led state that used reward and punishment of God to control the masses.

God’s love is constant, it is not more when we are good or less when we are bad. The image of God as father can be unhelpful in promoting this idea. Why?

The way spiritual people such as Julian experienced this was to “practice the presence of God” What do you think that means? Do we need practice? How do we know? Is God’s presence always evident to us? How can we remind ourselves that God is always there and that His presence is not conditional on our being good or bad.

“When you find it hard to pray…..pray your hardest” why? Is this good advice?

How do we deal with the difficult times, the feelings of failure in life? Faith not feelings….what does that mean? How does that apply to us? Have you ever felt abandoned, completely alone? What happened? Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 22:2. Jesus cry from the cross as He took on himself the Sin of the world.

What about our feelings and emotions in worship? Are they good? Are they helpful? Why do we have emotions? Why do we cry and laugh?

The term “The Wrath of God” is used in many hymns, in books, in theology. What is meant by this? What about your wrath, your anger…do you get angry with God? About what? Why? Is it justified? The language of human emotion is all we have when we speak of God. Our human understanding means we can never fully understand God, that is why He is God and we have faith.

Think about a time of Sorrow and of Joy, what did you learn?

Session 5 The Heart of Lent

What did you learn about sorrow and joy? (Follow up from last week)

Read Exodus 3:1-17, The story of Moses and the Burning Bush. What strikes you about this story? God makes Himself known to Moses, why does God make Himself known to any of us?

The Burning Bush is a famous Bible story of a burning that does not consume, a symbol that God and His creation cannot be tamed. God is both life giving and dangerous just as fire is. Fire burns away the dross, the banal theologies and triteness and gets to the heart, the purity of the matter.

TS Elliot reminds us in “Four Quartets” that we have a choice, we can either be cleansed by God’s fire or consumed by the worlds fire. What do you think that means? Have you been consumed by the world’s fire? What did you do about it?

Within this passage God’s name is revealed. Moses needs something concrete, a name, a credential to give him gravitas so he could do what God calls him to do.

Names are important, in the past knowing a person’s name meant you had power over someone. God is not a puppet, so God giving His name is a big risk for God. BUT in order to save His people it is risk He is willing to take. God give’s Moses and us His name YHWH, Hebrew meaning “to be and being” often translated to us as “I am who I am” Please notice that we would usually write YAHWEH but in Hebrew and as respect for God the vowels are removed. This ties into the 10 Commandments of not creating a graven image by writing God’s name in full. Images and names restrict God to human form and therefore take away His power and authority.

If we move forward to Jesus in Mark 4:41, the disciples ask Who is He that the winds and waves obey Him? I wonder if you ask that question, just who is Jesus? In Mark 6:48-51 Jesus walks on the water, the disciples ask who He is and He declares himself I AM, in other words He is identifying with the God of the Burning Bush. On the cross in Mark 15:34 Jesus says “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” This can be translated as YHWH, YHWH or I AM, I AM why have you forsaken me? God’s presence has gone?

Have you ever felt deserted by God? What did you do? Has it really gone? For Jesus it is the complete vulnerability that brings redemption. Cross – Death – Resurrection – Ascension – Pentecost and the fire of the spirit that comes down upon the Disciples.

Just think of the figure on the Emmaus Road, who we know is the Risen Christ, He is elusive, mysterious, vulnerable but YHWH, Luke 24:13-35, revealed in the breaking of bread.

What is our response? On Maundy Thursday we strip our altar and our church back to the bare minimum, a recognition of bearing ourselves before God, cutting away the dross that cloaks and obscures us from God and His mystery.

What is your response to God this lent? Are you willing to let the I AM burn away the dross? The risen Christ send the power of the Holy Spirit into your life? Are you willing to let your heart be open to God?

If Moses had not turned to look things would have been different. We need to turn and look at what God is doing every day and see what part we have to play.

What is the heart of Lent for you?

Further reading: Daniel 3, Song of Songs 8:5-7, Luke 12: 22-34, Hebrews 12.

Session 6 From Lent to Holy Week

Think back to this last week. What is the heart of Lent for you?

Read John 12:12-19

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy week. Holy week recounts the story of Jesus final days and His Crucifixion. Christians remember the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus rode on a donkey and was welcomed by cheering crowds who threw down their cloaks in the road and waved palm branches shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’ (John 12:13). Palm crosses are given to worshippers during the service. What does your palm cross mean to you? What do you do with that Palm Cross through the year?

Monday: Jesus and the money changers, read Matthew 21:11-13. Why is Jesus angry with these people? What are they doing wrong? Is this more to do with attitude that action?

Tuesday: Jesus is questioned by religious leaders, Matthew 21:23-27. Jesus authority is questioned. What is your view on Jesus authority?

Wednesday: Judas betrays Jesus, read Matthew 26:14-16. What do you think of Judas and what he did? Do you understand his actions in any way? Why did he do this?

Thursday: Jesus eats the Last Supper with the Disciples and predicts Peter’s denial, read Matthew 26:17-35. What is special about the Last Supper for you? We call this day Maundy Thursday what does that mean? Maundy means Commandment, what commandment did Jesus give to us? How do you think Peter felt about Jesus telling him he would betray Jesus? How would you feel? Have you ever denied knowing Jesus? If you have why?

Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, read Matthew 26: 36-46. Jesus found it hard to pray, when do you find it hard to pray? Does it help to know that Jesus found it difficult as well? What can we learn from His experience?

In the garden Jesus is arrested, read Matthew 26: 47-56, the disciples do try and stand up for Him at first, but He stops them, why? Why does Jesus allow Himself to be arrested? What would you have done if you had been there?

Jesus is put in front of the Sanhedrin, an assembly and court of the Jews, read Matthew 26: 57-68. What are they trying to do? They even bring in false witnesses. Why is getting rid of Jesus so important? How do you feel when someone challenges your point of view, your strongly held opinions? Do you want to remove the issue rather than listen, think and weigh up another view? Faith is key to our belief, but it should not be blind faith, we should understand why we believe what we do. How can we do that?

Outside this court Peter is challenged about knowing Jesus, read Matthew 26:69-75. What if that had been you? How would you react? Why do you think Peter reacted like this? What was Peter afraid of? What are you afraid of when people ask about your faith?

Which of the events of Holy Week resonates most with you and why?

Further reading: I have used mainly Matthew’s gospel for this study to make it easier to find and refer to. You can also find these events in other gospels. Mark chapter 14. Luke chapter 22. John chapters 13 and 18. There is a lot of reading in this study and a lot of difficult questions, but it is worth it.