Bible Study 11-13-11

Light on the Lessons

 Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 33, Proper 28); Cycle A; November 13, 2011

Participant Guide

I Getting Started

1. The Old Testament prophets often denounced the wealthy. Why do you think they do so? How well does that approach apply today?

2. What does it mean for you to be a “child of the light”?

3. “Our job as Christians is to invest ourselves and what we have in the Kingdom and make it grow for God.” What do you think of that statement?

II Check the Texts

1. Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Zephaniah worked in Judah during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC) who eventually sanctioned reforms to correct the earlier abuses of Manasseh and his successor, Amon. Zephaniah was a leader of the reform movement. Like Amos, he wanted to correct the overly optimistic popular view that the “Day of Yahweh,” to come sometime in the future, would bring God’s vindication of Israel over all her enemies and unbounded prosperity.

A. What will God do before the opening of the day of the Lord, in verse 7? Who do you think are the mysterious “guests” who are consecrated? In verses 8-11, who will first taste God’s wrath?

B. Describe what you think they believed about God who said, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm.” How does that attitude toward God compare with Abraham’s as he pleaded for Sodom, in Genesis 18:22-26?

C. What does the image “rest complacently on their dregs” mean to you (verse 12)?

D. Verse 13b presents an interesting image. What will the people do? What will be the result of their labor? How would you describe a life like that?

E. What in verses 14-17 might suggest that Zephaniah identifies the day of the LORD with an attack by an enemy force? What in verses 17-18 suggests a more cosmic and universal image of the day of the LORD? How might both of these images be valid at the same time?

2. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

A. What does Paul mean by “day of the Lord”? Both he and Zephaniah used the word “lord,” but how do their meanings differ? How do their concepts of the “day of the Lord” differ and how are they similar?

B. Read Matthew 24:43-44 and Luke 12:39-40. With what image in 1 Thessalonians do these Gospel passages relate? In the Gospel passages, who is to come? Who is to come in 1 Thessalonians? What do you think is the relationship between these two figures? What do you think is the main point made by this image: Stealth? Stealing? Surprise?

C. Both Zephaniah and Paul in 1 Thessalonians report a false illusion that some people held. What is Paul’s version of the false illusion? What was Zephaniah’s?

D. In verse 5, what do “day” and “night” represent? How does Paul shift his use of these images in verses 6-7? How does that metaphor change in verse 10?

E. Read Ephesians 6:10-17. What verse in 1 Thessalonians does the Ephesians imagery relate? What are the three things Christians have to share with the world? (See 1 Corinthians 13:13 for another expression of this theme.)

F. For those who worried about what would happen when the Lord returns, what is the comfort in verses 9-10? What do you think verse 11 means for today’s Christian communities?

3. Matthew 25:14-30

A. A “talent” was a very large monetary unit, equal to perhaps fifteen years of wages for a worker. What does that word mean in our English language? Could these two meanings be interchanged? Explain your reasons.

B. What is the common theme in all three lessons this week? With which does the accent on that theme in this Gospel reading come closer: Zephaniah or 1 Thessalonians?

C. Read Luke 19:11-27. How does that passage resemble and differ from this story?

D. What criterion did the man apply when giving money to his slaves? What does that suggest about the slave who received one talent? What does it mean, then, that he was held as accountable as the others?

E. Matthew 13:44 presents another “buried treasure” image. How does that image differ from verses 24-25?

F. Verse 29 sounds harsh. What do you think it means?

III What Does It All Mean?

1. How have you experienced God’s activity in your life this week?

2. If someone asked you, “What difference does your Christian faith make in your life?,” how would you answer?

3. What is the difference between speaking of our abilities as “talents” and calling them “gifts”?

4. “Use it or lose it!” has become a popular slogan. How could that slogan apply to the Gospel lesson?

5. A “steward” manages the assets of another and does not own those assets. When we talk about stewardship and our role as stewards, what does that non-ownership concept imply?

6. List your top five talents or abilities or personal qualities. Share your list with another participant. Talk about how your talents can serve the Kingdom.

7. Paul speaks of encouraging and building up each other. How is that done? What kind of encouragement do Christians in your community most need?

IV Into the Week

1. You go home and someone asks, “What did you learn today?” How do you reply?

2. Pick someone you know who needs encouragement and support choose some meaningful ways to offer that encouragement to them this week.

3. Reflect on your own stewardship of your talents and gifts and money. Where can you grow as a steward? What can you do that you haven’t been doing?


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