St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Saturday, November 28, 2015
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Weekly Bible Study

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The Gospel | Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
Background and general observations

John the Baptist figures prominently in the season of Advent, for obvious reasons. This is a season of preparation and reflection, and John the Baptist is a reminder, among other things, that an unexamined life can be a disaster, and there might be some important personal business for each of us to tend, in order to make the way straight and smooth for God’s advent in our lives.

The Gospel according to Luke places the ministry of John the Baptist very specifically in history, and this might be an occasion for us to consider the very specific circumstances of our own history. Where has God been in our lives? Where is God now?
In John the Baptist’s day, the Hebrew people were in a state of anticipation. It was time for a change. Surely God had heard the cries of God’s oppressed people. The prophets had foretold a time when God would act decisively, and Luke’s use of the prophecy from Isaiah was a clear message: God was speaking again. John the Baptist was announcing something extraordinary, something for which the people hoped and longed.

The fact that John’s baptism is a “baptism of repentance” indicates that the preparation for God’s return would not be dependent upon ritual or ancestry. This preparation was all about changing one’s life to make it more open and receptive to the One who was coming.  

Ideas for discussing the application of this lesson to our daily lives
1. Repentance and forgiveness are the heart of John the Baptist’s message and ministry. What do repentance and forgiveness of sins have to do with preparation for a fuller experience of God in our lives?

When have you experienced forgiveness, or the lack of it as an important factor in your spiritual life or relationship with God?

Who has been a John the Baptist figure to you, someone who helped you most in welcoming God into your life more fully?

Have you been John the Baptist for someone else in your life?

2. One might say that ordinary people seem to be chosen vessels for God’s revelation, and wilderness seems to be a chosen place for God to be revealed. Ponder God’s choosing John the Baptist to announce God’s coming, instead of choosing a more prominent or powerful person. And ponder the wilderness as a chosen place for God’s revelation. Why John? Why the wilderness?

What do you know about wilderness in your own life? What makes the wilderness especially conducive to divine revelation?

If God has a special ministry to manifest in you, what might that be?

3. If John the Baptist were ministering today, how might he call our society to repentance? What needs to change?

In what ways might John speak very personally to you? In what ways do you need to repent or change your life, in order to be more open or available to God’s revelation?

4. John the Baptist came onto the world stage in a time of great anticipation. Most of us know what it feels like to be eagerly waiting for something, hoping for something. It might be waiting for a college acceptance letter, a house closing, a new job, the results of an MRI. For what are you waiting and hoping in the spiritual life? In what ways to you look expectantly to God in your daily life?

Fall Covenant Period (2015) 
Preparing for September 27, 2015 (Proper 21, Year B)  
Preparing for October 4, 2015 (Proper 22, Year B)  
Preparing for October 11, 2015 (Proper 23, Year B)  
Preparing for October 18, 2015 (Proper 24, Year B)  
Preparing for October 25, 2015 (Proper 25, Year B)  
Preparing for November 1, 2015 (All Saints' Sunday, Year B)  
Preparing for November 8, 2014 (Proper 27, Year B)  
Preparing for November 15, 2015 (Proper 28, Year B)  
Preparing for November 22, 2015 (Christ the King, Year B)  
Preparing for November 29, 2015 (Advent 1, Year C)  
Preparing for December 6, 2015 (Advent 2, Year C)  
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