Love, Justice, and Service: Themes from the Old Testament and the Gospels, A Study Guide   Jane

 Gilgun         For  the  course  Old  Testament  Narratives   Fall  2012   Mark  Hillmer,  Professor   Luther  Seminary,  St.  Paul,  MN        
The  readings  in  this  document  are  from  the  New  International  Version  Bible  as  cited   at  the  Some  of  the  links  in  the  readings  are  alive,  which  facilitates   seeing  the  readings  in  their  contexts.  The  silent  meditation  aspects  and  not  the   content  of  the  sessions  are  based  upon  The  Art  of  Engaging  Holy  Scripture  by  Jim   Clark,  Rector  of  St.  Barnabas  in  the  Desert  Episcopal  Church,  Scottsdale,  AZ.  

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Love, Justice, and Service: Themes from the Old Testament and the Gospels, A Study Guide
Jesus embodied themes of love, justice, and service from the Old Testament and left behind an avenging, punishing God. Much attention has been paid to Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesies about the messiah who would save the children of Israel and establish the Kingdom of God forever (Westermann, 1964). In this study guide, I hope to show that, while there are many possible interpretations of what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God, one of these possibilities is something Jesus himself said: “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 20). Furthermore, the Kingdom of God could be what we human beings bring about when we do what Jesus did, which was to embody love, justice, and service. There are other possible Kingdoms of God, such as the resurrection of the dead, which is a belief many Jews and Christians have had. For this study guide, not only is the Kingdom of God within but it also is present in everyday life. The Kingdom is present through actions of individuals who attempt to embody love, justice, and service. Each person who makes the attempt will do so imperfectly. Nonetheless, it is possible that in the doing we are bringing about the Kingdom of God. There’s a bit of the Holy Spirit in what we do when we enact these themes of love, justice, and service. I wonder if the Holy Spirit is a synonym for the Kingdom of God. From my point of view, Jesus’s embodiment and teaching of the themes of love, justice, and service are practically miraculous. The Old Testament is steeped in constructions of God as vengeful and genocidal. One construction of God even punishes people for not killing their enemies. For example, according to 1 Samuel 15, God deposed Saul as King of Israel because Saul refused to kill Agag, king of the Amalekites, and some of his finest sheep and cattle. Saul and his armies had wiped out every other Amalekite, but that was not enough to satisfy God as 1 Samuel constructed God. Samuel spoke for God and told Saul, “The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord?” (1Samuel 15: 17-18) With that, God punished Saul and deposed him as King of Israel. For many including me, the good news of Jesus is that we can leave behind constructions of God as vengeful and genocidal and live out the themes of loving the Lord our God and our neighbor as ourselves. God already loves us and we respond with love or not. By responding to God’s love and following Jesus’s teachings and enactments of love, justice, and service, we also take away permission for us as human beings to emulate the vengeful, jealous murderous, genocidal constructions of God. A difficulty with interpretations of the Gospels of Jesus is the uncertainty of what Jesus actually said (Meyers, 2009). While the passages I present for study in this curriculum show that Jesus embodied Old Testament themes of love, justice, and service, the Gospels attribute many other themes to Jesus, including statements that represent his possible belief in a vengeful

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construction of God. For example, Luke (17: 26-37) attributes to Jesus the recalling of the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as Jesus’s way of showing what will happen “ on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17: 30.) That day, presumably, is another interpretation of what the Kingdom of God means. The earlier verses from this section of Luke contradict this evocation Old Testament stories of punishment. The earlier verse states “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 21). While it is not possible to know whether Jesus thought God could be punishing and vengeful, it is clear that Jesus’s life and death embodied themes of love, justice, and service and downplayed or left unmentioned a jealous, avenging, threatening, punishing God.

This study guide is composed of four sessions that could take place once a week for four weeks. The first session provides citations on love from the Old Testament and the Gospels. The second session covers justice in the Old Testament and the Gospels. The third sessions covers service in the Old Testament and the Gospels. The fourth session asks, Where is the Kingdom of God? I mean this session is a sending forth that asks how we can embody love, justice, and service in our everyday lives. Structure of Each Session I suggest that there be two group facilitators and six to eight group members. Sessions would take place in a pleasant environment where outside disturbances are unlikely. A library or other room in a religious institution, a rented space in public libraries, or a private home would serve well. The curriculum is composed of four sessions. The sessions are two hours long, divided into two 55-minute segments, with a ten-minute break in between the segments. Soft drinks and water would be available throughout the sessions. Appetizers that group members bring would be available before and after the sessions. Group members take turns doing the readings. The two facilitators gently keep group members on task and within the time limits. The facilitators participate in the session’s activities. They often would be more knowledgeable about scripture than group participants. Even then, however, they would not take any more time than participants and focus their remarks on the topics at hand. Each session has two or more sets of readings in each of the two segments. Segment 1 is composed of readings from the Old Testament and Segment 2 is composed or readings from the Gospels. Individuals volunteer to do the readings. The structure of each session is as follows. Segment One: First Readings A reading aloud of passages for segment one of the session. Three minutes of silent reflection on the content of the readings.

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Each person has three minutes to share her or his response to the readings. Individuals may pass if they want. No one comments on the responses of others. Three minutes of silent reflection on the responses that group members shared. Each person has three minutes to summarize an overview of the responses. Three more minutes of silent reflection. Each person has three minutes to summarize the summaries. Segment Two: Second Readings The structure of the second part of the session is similar to that of the first, expect that after the summary of the summaries, the first passage is read again. This re-reading of the first passages is followed by three minutes of silent reflection. Each person has up to three minutes to link the first readings with the second. Three minutes of silent reflection. Each person has up to three minutes to link the summaries of reading one with the summaries of reading two.

Readings for Session 1: Love in the Old and New Testaments Segment 1 Deut 6: 4-8 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV) Leviticus 19:18 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (NIV)

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Segment 2 Matthew 5:43-48 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 22: 34-40 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV) Luke 10:25-29 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” John 13:33-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

Readings for Session 2: Justice in the Old and New Testaments Segment 1 Deuteronomy 24: 19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may

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bless you in all the work of your hands. Isaiah 61: 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, If group members would like to, they could read the next two verses of Isaiah 16 which are the following. 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Segment 2 Luke 4:16-19 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.' (Isaiah 61:1) Luke 6:20-21 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. 'Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

Readings for Session 3: Service in the Old and New Testaments Segment 1 Deuteronomy 15:7-11 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this

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wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Psalm 82:3-4 3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Segment 2 Mark 10: 35-45 35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” John 13: 1217 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

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1 John 3:17-18 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Readings for Session 4: Where is the Kingdom of God? Segment 1 Genesis 1: 27 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Segment 2 Luke 17: 20-21 20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

In this curriculum, I have attempted to show connections between themes of love, justice, and service in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. My purpose was to show the sources on which Jesus drew. In so doing, I also wanted to show that Jesus was selective in the themes from the Old Testament on which he drew. For me, as I said in the introduction, the miracle of his life is that he chose the themes of love, justice, and service and left behind constructions of a vengeful, jealous, and sometimes genocidal God. There is much commentary I could add to each of these readings. For example, it could be helpful for those who use this curriculum to know that Jesus was probably a Pharisee and that the Pharisees had beliefs that are present throughout the New Testament, such as the resurrection of the dead and the importance of justice and service to the poor. On the other hand, meeting in small groups to discuss scripture without background information could be enough for many people. As time goes on and interest grows, some people might seek out additional information. In addition, it group facilitators and some group members might have background knowledge. That kind of knowledge could foster some learning. I believe, however, that the curriculum is helpful even in the absence of background knowledge. I have been a social worker for more than 40 years. While there are many influences that led me to this vocation, a major influence was and is the gospel of Jesus. I did the research for the present curriculum because I wanted to see for myself at least some of the Old Testament contexts of Jesus’s life and teachings as it pertained to our common lives and to social work, which is based upon dignity and worth of the person (We don’t say love.), social justice, and

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service. As an undergraduate at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, and a graduate student at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, I studied quite a bit of theology. The courses that interested me the most were on scripture. Here I am, all these years later, taking a close look at parts of scripture that help me to understand my vocation as a social worker and a Christian. I think I am also an evangelist in the sense that I am wondering whether people who are “spiritual and not religious” would be more fulfilled if they could be spiritual and religious in a community or at least spiritual in a community. I want this study guide to invite other people to reflect upon how we live our lives today and the meanings the Old Testament and Jesus’s life and teaching offer.

References Meyers, Robin (2009). Saving Jesus from the church: How to stop worshipping Christ and start following Jesus. New York: Harper Collins. Westermann, Claus (1964). A thousand years and a day: Our time in the Old Testament. Fortress.

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