Sunday School Lessons

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Our teacher, Rev. Dr. Richard Boyce, will from time to time post lesson material here for the upcoming Sunday School lesson.  Class members are encouraged to read the material and post comments.

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September 15, 2019

Exodus 16

Our third lesson on God’s grace/faithfulness takes us out into the wilderness with God’s people on the way to the Promised Land. They have gotten weary, hungry, and discouraged. They begin to complain and recall the “fleshpots” of Egypt. The whole parade threatens to come derailed, until God “graciously” steps in. Let’s see what we can learn about God’s grace and our response from this sandy story.

Revelation of God’s Glory. Before God serves God’s people a meal, God appears to them in all God’s glory (verse 10). How do you understand this “miracle,” and why does it necessarily precede the miracle of the manna?

A Test. God provides God’s people with the food and water they need to survive. But God gives these provisions with detailed instructions regarding how much should be gathered and when. Read the story. God’s people break the rules from the beginning. How is God’s grace a test for us today?

A Gift. Regardless of how we respond, God’s grace, and provision is never failing. That’s what “grace” is all about. But how do we experience God’s grace at our tables (both sacred and mundane), and how do we reflect such graciousness in our own distribution of the world’s food?

“Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray every Sunday. How does this story help us understand this request, and how should this request shape our practices – in the Church and out? Hope to see you Sunday. I’m trusting God’s glory will be revealed, and we might even have some cookies!

September 8, 2019

1 Samuel 1

 

Our second lesson on grace is a little more “gracious” than our first. It’s entitled: “God Answers Prayer.” But by whom, and for what purposes? Where are we in the story of God’s grace?

Dysfunctional Families. God is getting ready to raise up a king (despite God’s appropriate concerns!). God needs a prophet to watch over the king. This is the story of that prophet’s birth. But what a motley crew this is: a clueless husband, a judgmental priest, and a barren woman. Couldn’t God do better than this – then and now? Here’s a great place to start a discussion on God’s grace.

Reversal. God not only works with dysfunction; God seems to choose the unlikeliest partners. For speaking – Moses. For fighting – little David. For birthing – Hannah. What’s this all about, and why does God love to work with the least likely human beings?

Revolution. It’s one thing to talk about reversal individually. We all might have stories. But this is also a story about God raising up Israel as a nation among the nations. Why does God seem to prefer the most unlikely nations/communities to serve God’s purposes? And what should that tell us about God’s choosing of the Church.

This is one of my favorite OT stories. Let’s have some fun with it – for Jesus’ sake. See you Sunday, I pray.

September 1, 2019

Genesis 18-19

We start this fall with a new series and a new book. Our theme is “Responding to God’s Grace.” Our opening lesson is the story of Lot’s escape from Sodom and Gomorrah. Get ready. This is quite a story, and has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Here are some prompts to get us started.

Abraham’s Confab with God. Our story begins with a strange scene of negotiations between Abraham and God. Why do you think this scene is included in the story, and what does it teach us about God’s grace?

The Sin of Sodom. All one has to do is quote the word “sodomy” to know how many interpreters have understood the sin of Sodom. How do you read the story, and why?

Judgment and Grace. Why in the world did the editors choose this story to lead off a series on “Responding to God’s Grace”? How do you understand God’s judgment as an aspect of God’s grace?

Our new books will take some getting used to. Hearing this strange story as a parable of God’s grace may take even more. Hope to see you Sunday. Don’t leave your houses and “look back”!

August 25, 2019

Ephesians 5:21-6:4

 

We finish out our summer series on covenant with a lesson on the covenant of marriage. While this is not a covenant in which all disciples necessarily participate, it is one that can serve as a model for the best of human-to-human covenants – if it is properly understood and practiced (a big if indeed!). Let’s see what we can learn together.

Problems with our passage. Come prepared to share your quarrels with this description of the covenant of marriage. It come to us from a different time and culture. What parts of this passage do we need to “let go”?

Possibilities with our passage. One approach to this passage is to re-construct ways this marital “code” improved on the expectations of marriage in the surrounding culture. What aspects of this passage do we need to “keep”?

Christ’s covenant with us all. How does Christ’s covenant with the Church help us see this marital covenant as a model for our proper covenant with all our fellow human beings? “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (verse 21)” is how our lesson for this week begins. How does this emphasis help us better understand what such verbs as “be subject to,” “love,” and “respect,” truly mean?

Our current Book of Worship includes the following in its description of the purpose of the marriage covenant: “Those who marry are called to a way of life marked by grace, fidelity, and mutual respect, as they bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joys.” How might this serve as a worthy goal for our “covenants” with all our fellow human beings? Hope to see you Sunday – as we gather to embody this covenant once again!

July 28, 2019

Matthew 7

 

This Sunday we wrap up the Sermon on the Mount and our unit on “A Heartfelt Covenant” with a primer on communal ethics. Building a sturdy disciple is hard; building a sturdy community of disciples is harder still. So we are given some guidelines – from the First Century to today.

Church Discipline. For a denomination that cites “discipline” as one of the marks of the Church, this passage presents some basic and fundamental difficulties. How do you discipline a child or a fellow church member without “judgment”? Compare Matthew 7 with Matthew 18:15ff, and come prepared to talk about “judgment” versus “discipline.”

Dogs and Swine. This is not the only passage in Matthew that uses talk of dogs in problematic ways. See Matthew 15:26. Jesus uses strong language in order to warn the Church regarding how some people will try to use God’s “holy” things. How do we practice hospitality in a broken world?

By Their Fruits. Almost every Church wants to be known as a “welcoming” Church. “Our doors are open to all!” But what about leadership in the Church? Might some people try to take advantage of our openness, and use it to lead others astray? What constitutes a “false prophet,” and how do you spot one? Why is Jesus so intent on talk of “fruits”?

It’s fairly easy to come to the Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce Sunday School class. We even have an elevator! But how do you build a sturdy community of disciples once we’re in the room? Jesus has some guidelines for us. Let’s see what we can learn, and practice – together. Looking forward to being back Sunday. Hope you still recognize me!

June 30, 2019

Matthew 5

We shift this week from “A Covenant Fulfilled” to “A Heartfelt Covenant.” The text for the next five lessons will be Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded by Matthew. Jesus “sits down” as the new Moses and instructs the disciples in a “new” kind of covenant “on the mountain.” Some questions to get us started.

Attitude Adjustment. The lesson writer leads off with a quote regarding “attitude adjustment (page 28).” Some writers have called these first twelve verses “The Be Happy Attitudes.” Up to this point, we’ve been talking about the necessity for actions, not just words, when it comes to God’s covenant-making with us as God’s people. How do the Beatitudes push past “attitudes” and toward action?

A Topsy-Turvy Kingdom. From the beginning, these new commandments don’t seem to make much sense. How many of us begin our prayers each day with: “Lord, make me poor in spirit, lead me toward mourning this day, and make me meeker than I usually tend to be”? There is something strangely “counter-cultural” in these new commandments. How, in our daily walk, have we experienced the “blessedness” Jesus wants to give us as his disciples?

Plaques on the Wall. While I’ve heard much discussion regarding the pro’s and con’s of posting the Ten Commandments, I seldom hear about anyone wanting to post The Beatitudes – in either public or private spaces. Is that a good or a bad thing, and why?

I’m looking forward to spending a month in Matthew. Come to “the mountain” in the basement of MPPC, and let’s “sit down” together.

June 16, 2019

Hebrews 9

 

We continue our study of the “new covenant” in Jesus Christ with a reading from Hebrews. Building on last week, all the language of this week’s passage is grounded firmly in the “substitutionary” theory of the atonement – Jesus dies instead of goats and calves; and, instead of us! Some questions to guide our discussion.

Jesus as Mediator. There’s a great deal of talk about “mediation” in both the church and the world (especially in legal settings). How does the “priestly” office of Jesus Christ make clear his “mediatorial” function for humankind?

The Blood. Many of the hymns in our Rhodes-Johnston hymnal have texts awash in the blood. Such imagery is less frequent in our more recent hymns. Why is the blood such a central image in today’s text (“And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,” verse 22)? And what do we lose if we let such imagery go?

One Death for All. Say what you will about the blood in Scripture, blood in our lives is essential to life. Spilled blood immediately raises the possibility of spilled life. How would you explain the centrality of Jesus’ death for our worship, our service, and our faith – to a stranger?

Maybe it’s time for me to bring some music to class! Hope to see you Sunday.