Unusual Names Personal Reflection Guide: Unusual Gospel for Unusual People - Studies from the Book of John

Unusual Names Personal Reflection Guide: Unusual Gospel for Unusual People - Studies from the Book of John

by Adam Thomas
     
 

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The first two times Jesus says “I am,” no predicate nominative follows. Remember seventh-grade English class: a predicative nominative is a noun that follows a linking verb. The first time, he says “I Am–the one who speaks with you” to the woman at the well. The second time, he says “I Am. Don’t be afraid” to the

Overview

The first two times Jesus says “I am,” no predicate nominative follows. Remember seventh-grade English class: a predicative nominative is a noun that follows a linking verb. The first time, he says “I Am–the one who speaks with you” to the woman at the well. The second time, he says “I Am. Don’t be afraid” to the disciples. In both cases the words stands alone: I AM. These statements are declarations of God’s very being, and they appear several more times over the course of the Gospel. A broader statement cannot be made. “I AM” is as close as language can get to universality and eternity. One of the markers of this revelation is a second kind of “I am” statement. This second kind takes a piece of the great “I AM” and fills in the blank that our sense of curiosity wills to be there. When Jesus says, “I am the bread/light/shepherd/vine/___,” he is comparing himself to those things. In these “I am ________” statements, Jesus discloses a piece of his divine identity, enough for us to hear, swallow, and digest over the course of a lifetime.

Each session begins with an opening prayer, followed by the text of the day being read aloud. The group will enjoy a 5-7-minute video where Adam shares his thought on the Scripture and its "unusual" focus. The group will discuss the readings for the day then close with prayer.

The new and exciting aspect of this particular Bible study series is the blending of traditional weekly Sunday school with modern, daily-delivered digital content, which will keep readers connected with the material throughout the week. Between the daily communication and the group gatherings, participants will immerse themselves in the Good News.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781426784651
Publisher:
Abingdon Press
Publication date:
04/15/2014
Series:
Unusual Gospel for Unusual People Series
Pages:
48
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Unusual Names Personal Reflection Guide


By Adam Thomas

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-8508-5



CHAPTER 1

Session 1

"I am the bread of life"

Nourished to Be Nourishment

John 6:26-51

"I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don't work for the food that doesn't last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life."

They asked, "What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?"

Jesus replied, "This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent."

They asked, "What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." Jesus told them, "I assure you, it wasn't Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

They said, "Sir, give us this bread all the time!"

Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me and still don't believe. Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and I won't send away anyone who comes to me. I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of the one who sent me, that I won't lose anything he has given me, but I will raise it up at the last day. This is my Father's will: that all who see the Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."

The Jewish opposition grumbled about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They asked, "Isn't this Jesus, Joseph's son, whose mother and father we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

Jesus responded, "Don't grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless they are drawn to me by the Father who sent me, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father. I assure you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."


DOODLE OR WRITE ABOUT YOUR RESPONSES TO THE BIBLE READING.

What words or phrases shimmer for you?

What inspires you?

What challenges you?

What makes you curious?


EXODUS 3:

Moses asks God, "What's your name?"

How do you name God?

God says to Moses, "I am who I am."

How do you respond to this name for God?

"I am the eggman ... I am the walrus."

"I am____________________________"

Who are you? How do you fill in the "something" in the blank?

EXODUS 16: The manna in the wilderness was a sign that God had not abandoned the people of Israel and that God would take care of them on their way to the Promised Land.

JOHN 6:35: Jesus says, "I am the bread of life." As the "bread of life," Jesus promised to be a daily source of nourishment for his people, as the manna was during the wandering in the desert.

What does "bread of life" suggest to you? What feelings or thoughts do you have about this name that Jesus gives to himself?


Doodle about these ideas:

NOURISHED TO BE NOURISHMENT

BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING


REFLECT AND RESPOND

Describe bread. What thoughts, images, or feelings come to you when you think of bread? How do these thoughts, images, or feelings shed light on Jesus' naming himself "the bread of life"?

What is your experience of Holy Communion? What meaning does it have for you as a follower of Christ?

When was the last time you felt yourself moving deeper into your relationship with Jesus? How did it feel?

As the "bread of life," Jesus is a source of nourishment delivered through his constant relationship with us. When have you experienced the nourishment of his relationship? When have you felt distant from it?

How does a nourishing relationship with Jesus Christ help you provide nourishment and blessing to others?


IMAGINE yourself as the following characters. Respond to the questions as you think they might respond.


A HUNGRY LISTENER

When you realized Jesus wasn't going to give you any more actual food, how did you feel?

Did you stick around to listen? If yes, what did you hear? If not, where did you go?


JESUS

What was your sense of the crowd as you spoke to them?

How did they respond?


PRAY THIS PRAYER ...

Gracious God, you are the source of all true sustenance. Grant us the grace always to look to you for nourishment and to deepen our relationships with your Son, who feeds us with his continual presence. Thank you for the opportunity to study your Word, share the wonder of your movement in this gathering, and be that movement as we depart into the world; all this we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who invites each of us to dwell in him as he dwells in us. Amen.


OR WRITE YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER ...

CHAPTER 2

Session 2

"I am the light of the world"

Turning to the Light

John 1:3b-5; 1:9-10; 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35-36

What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn't extinguish the light (1:3b-5).

The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn't recognize the light (1:9-10).

"This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don't come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God" (3:19-21).

Jesus spoke to the people again, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won't walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (8:12).

"The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn't overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don't know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light" (12:35-36).


DOODLE OR WRITE ABOUT YOUR RESPONSES TO THE BIBLE READING.

What words or phrases shimmer for you?

What inspires you?

What challenges you?

What makes you curious?

What does being "the light of the world" add to Jesus' divine identity and our relationship to him?

Light shines in darkness.

Light dispels darkness.

JOHN 3:19-21 calls us to come to the light, to choose the "good" and to leave behind the "evil" done in the dark. How do you respond to the idea that living in darkness is a self-imposed exile?

Which arrow are you?


REFLECT AND RESPOND

Describe light. How does it impact our lives? What thoughts, images, or feelings come to you when you think of light? What properties of light make it a unique image? What does the image of light say to you about Jesus?

What examples show the power of light over darkness?

When have you desired to stay in the darkness? How did that feel?

Describe a time when you felt bathed in the light of the world.

How was this experience different from being in the darkness?

How does it feel to have Jesus' light shining on your back? on your face?

In John 12:35, Jesus says, "The light is with you for only a little while." How do you reconcile this with the earlier verse, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn't extinguish the light" (1:5)?


IMAGINE yourself as the following characters.

Respond to the questions as you think they might respond.


DISCIPLE

How has following Jesus changed your life?

When Jesus is in your presence, how do you feel? How is it different when he's in another place?


SOMEONE WHO PREFERS TO STAY IN THE DARK

When you heard Jesus speak about coming to the light, what thoughts ran through your mind?

What kind of reaction did you have to his words?


PRAY THIS PRAYER ...

Gracious God, in the beginning you said, "Let there be light," and there was light. Grant us the grace always to choose to walk in your light, so that we might choose the right paths and shine with the light of your Son. Thank you for the opportunity to study your Word, share the wonder of your movement in this gathering, and be that movement as we depart into the world; all this we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who invites each of us to turn around and glory in the light of his love. Amen.


OR WRITE YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER ...

CHAPTER 3

Session 3

"I am the good shepherd"

Cast Out of Complacency

John 10:1-16

"I assure you that whoever doesn't enter into the sheep pen through the gate but climbs over the wall is a thief and an outlaw. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. They won't follow a stranger but will run away because they don't know the stranger's voice." Those who heard Jesus use this analogy didn't understand what he was saying.

So Jesus spoke again, "I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That's because he isn't the shepherd; the sheep aren't really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He's only a hired hand and the sheep don't matter to him.

"I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don't belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.


DOODLE OR WRITE ABOUT YOUR RESPONSES TO THE BIBLE READING.

What words or phrases shimmer for you?

What inspires you?

What challenges you?

What makes you curious?


CAST OUT OF COMPLACENCY

JOHN 10:4: Jesus brings us out of the safety of the sheepfold and goes ahead of us.

DOODLE ABOUT THESE WORDS. COMPARE THEM TO BEING IN A SAFE PLACE:

Stagnation

Complacency

Dormancy

Why do you think we might prefer these "sheepfolds"?

Why would the good shepherd cast the sheep out of the comfort of the sheepfold?

How does the good shepherd throw you out of your comfort zone?

The good shepherd sacrifices, calls, gathers, and leads. How does Jesus the Good Shepherd lead you out of complacency to new life?


REFLECT AND RESPOND

Have you ever had an encounter with live sheep? If so, describe it. What were the sheep like? How did they measure up to the romanticized view of sheep we have from children's stories?

How does Jesus enter the "everydayness" of your life?

What or where is your sheepfold? What about it makes it a place of comfort or safety? What about it makes it a place of stagnation and complacency?

How has Jesus challenged your way of life with his? How have you responded when you've felt Jesus throwing you out of your comfort zone?

In what ways do you hear Jesus the Good Shepherd calling your name?


IMAGINE yourself as the following characters.

Respond to the questions as you think they might respond.


A SHEEP IN THE STORY

What is it like to leave the sheepfold?

What is it like outside of it?

What is it like to return again?


SOMEONE WHO THINKS JESUS HAS A DEMON (JOHN 10:20)

What about Jesus' words or demeanor makes you think he is possessed?


SOMEONE WHO APPRECIATES JESUS' WORDS

What about Jesus' words has touched you?

Where do you find truth in them?


PRAY THIS PRAYER ...

Gracious God, we praise you for always presenting us with life-affirming opportunities. Grant us the grace to go where you lead us and make choices that result in the fullest of lives for everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to study your Word, share the wonder of your movement in this gathering, and be that movement as we depart into the world; all this we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who calls us each by name and leads us to green pastures and still waters. Amen.


OR WRITE YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER ...

CHAPTER 4

Session 4

"I am the vine"

Connecting the Branches

John 15:1-8

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don't produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can't produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can't produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can't do anything. If you don't remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples."


DOODLE OR WRITE ABOUT YOUR RESPONSES TO THE BIBLE READING.

What words or phrases shimmer for you?

What inspires you?

What challenges you?

What makes you curious?


CONNECTING THE BRANCHES

Jesus says, "I AM THE VINE."

Jesus also says, "YOU ARE THE BRANCHES."

"You could go it alone," he seems to say. "But you'll bear so much more fruit if you stay connected to each other through me."

JESUS SUSTAINS LIFE-AFFIRMING RELATIONSHIPS.

NOURISHMENT

+

GROWTH

+

US

+

I AM

=

CONNECTION

RELIGION

RE - LIG - IO

WE CONNECT WITH ONE ANOTHER

WE CONNECT WITH GOD

THROUGH THE VINE

JESUS CHRIST


REFLECT AND RESPOND

What are other places in the Gospel in which we see Jesus' desire to sustain life-affirming relationships?

When have you experienced Jesus making or sustaining a life-affirming relationship in your own life, either with him or another person? How does that relationship feel different from other ones?

How does your faith community live into the reality that religion is about connection to God and others? In what ways do you think your faith community can grow into this reality?

What do you say to "spiritual but not religious" people when they ask why you attend a church?

In what ways do you live your life differently because you are a branch connected to the vine?


IMAGINE yourself as the following characters.

Respond to the questions as you think they might respond.


A DISCIPLE

How did you feel when Jesus said you were a branch connected to him?

How did you feel the next day when he was gone?


JESUS

Why did you choose to speak in metaphors?

Why did you compare your relationship with your followers to a vine and its branches?


PRAY THIS PRAYER ...

Gracious God, you are the vineyard keeper who prunes us, your branches, so we produce even more fruit. Grant us the grace to bear the fruits of love, peace, joy, trust, and generosity each day of our lives. Thank you for the opportunity to study your Word, share the wonder of your movement in this gathering, and be that movement as we depart into the world; all this we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who is the true vine which connects all the branches. Amen.


OR WRITE YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER ...


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Unusual Names Personal Reflection Guide by Adam Thomas. Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Adam Thomas was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2008 at the age of 25, making him one of the first priests from the millennial generation. His unique voice in the faith community emanates from a combination of his youth, honesty, humor, and tech-savvy nature. Adam is a nerd and a gamer and a preacher and a follower of Christ. He serves God as the pastor of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Mystic, CT, writes the blog Where the Wind, and lives a hectic but beautiful life with his wife Leah and their one-year-old twins. His Abingdon Pressresources include Unusual Gospel for Unusual People Series, Coverage: Who is Jesus, Letters from Ruby, and Digital Disciple.

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