Category Archives: Bible

Blessed to Bless

For those looking for a youth (middle school or high school) resource that would be adaptable for “distance learning” for the coming program year, Blessed to Bless: An Introduction to the Bible by Tim Sean Youmans (Church Publishing, 2020) may be an answer. Paired with watching videos from The Bible Project, this 300+ page book offers enough content for 86 sessions, broken down into four sections of two units each. BVC (Bible Vocabulary Concepts) are scattered throughout, helping to build up competency and biblical literacy that was once part of a common core education. Learn the origins of phrases such as “the patience of Job,” “Am I my brothers keeper?” and having a “Damascus Road experience.” Understand how scripture can be read literally, symbolically, or a mixture of both.

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. 
    I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.” ––Genesis 12:1-3

Each chapter begins with a reading assignment from the Bible, followed by Tim Sean’s commentary and a few questions to consider and/or discuss. If you read two chapters of Blessed to Bless alongside your Bible, you will complete this survey of the Bible in about one year’s time. It’s written at an eighth-grade level and was inspired by Tim Sean’s students at Casady (Episcopal) School in Oklahoma City who are between ten- and fifteen-years old.

Tim Sean offers the following:

If you are a Christian and want a basic introduction to the Bible, this book is for you. If you are not religious but you want to have a sense of what the Bible contains and what it means to Christians, this book is also for you. It can be read together as parent and child; it can be sues with a group of parents reading the Bible together with their children, and it can be used for a Sunday school class for teens or adults. It’s for all types of beginners as well as those who want a refresher of the scope of our salvation story.

I can see young people being mailed a copy of the book along with a Common English Bible, which is the translation used in the text. Assignments to read a portion of scripture and a chapter in the book followed by a Zoom-session to watch a video clip together followed by discussion could be a feasible model during these times of social distancing. Most likely formation classes will not resume “in person” across the U.S. this September as churches will be focused on making worship in person a priority first.

Christine Hides of Bless Each One offers the following comment on Blessed to Bless:

Just as a cry for justice arose in our nation and religious leaders encouraged us to turn to scripture, Blessed to Bless: #AnIntroductiontotheBible by Tim Sean Youmans appeared as a surprise in my mailbox. From time to time Church Publishing sends me preview copies of books to review. This one receives my recommendation for two reasons. First, I am regularly asked for resources to help make sense of the Bible, especially the Old Testament; this book offers a wide and deep guide to approaching sacred texts. The two page chapters are an excellent accompaniment for those who wish to read the text critically and constructively. Additionally, the author has a unique perspective, as an Episcopal priest who grew up in the evangelical tradition. He pitches a large and theologically sound tent that “cultivates the best of sacramental ritualistic Christianity with the heartfelt spirituality of the evangelical tradition.”

Header photo by James Coleman on Unsplash. “Jesus blessing” photo by Mauro Shared Pictures on Unsplash.

Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations) in Jerusalem, June 2019 (c) John Pearson

Churches are scrambling to find creative ways to mark the events of Holy Week while we are unable to gather in person. Attending Holy Week services daily from Palm Sunday thru the Easter Vigil is something I have never missed, at least in my adult life. I’ve been wondering how to help folks connect to the deep readings our lectionary offers on these days, so I went back to look what I have posted on my other website, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Based on the book (3rd edition) that I edited and updated with Robyn Szoke, for many years I posted a weekly reflection based on the Sunday’s lectionary readings. All three years are now online, so the website simply sits there for folks to tap into.

So, I thought it might be helpful to link the posts from Holy Week for Year A here for easy access without having to use the website’s search engine. Hope these are helpful for any groups via Facebook Live or Zoom or simply for your own personal Bible study and reflection.

Continue reading Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Pilgrimage Reflections: Miracles with Outcasts

Sandwiched between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south, the region of Samaria figures prominently in the history of Israel in both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament. The city of Samaria was founded by Omri, King Ahab’s father, as the capital of Israel in 870 BCE. According to tradition, John the Baptist is buried there. It was also known as an area that worshipped Baal and other gods as well as its people “intermingling” with other tribes in the region. Today is it a dry, but green, land of single mountains, hills, and fields.

Why were Samaritans considered people to be avoided in Jesus’ time? There is an interesting article here about the causes of prejudice in Samaria. They worshipped God at Shechem on Mount Gerizim just as in the time of Joshua, as opposed to the Jews who worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans furthered the rift by producing their own version of the Pentateuch. This is probably why Samaritans were considered people to avoid in Jesus’ time. Even Jesus confronted the woman at the well while passing through this area. Rivalry with the southern kingdom (Judah) and the northern kingdom (Israel) continued through the first century.

Burqin: Luke 17:11-19

On his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth, Jesus passed through the village in Burqin where he heard cries for help from ten lepers who were isolated in quarantine in an underground cave, a common practice at the time for people afflicted with this disease. Today the majority of Burqin’s residents are Muslims and it was reported that only ten Christian families now live in the town. Located on a high hill in the village, Burqin Church (also known as St. George’s or Church of the Ten Lepers) it is the fourth oldest church in the world built in the fourth century. Since the miracle of healing the ten lepers, Christian pilgrims have visited this site as St. Helena asked that a church be built here.

Continue reading Pilgrimage Reflections: Miracles with Outcasts

Pilgrimage Reflections: The Galilean

Jesus spent most of his ministry around the shores of Israel’s largest freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee, now peppered with ancient synagogues and Christian pilgrimage sites. Known as Kinneret in Hebrew (also called Lake Tiberias, and the Sea of Chinnereth or the Lake of Gennesaret in the Old Testament), it is 13 miles long, 8 miles wide, and about 720 feet below sea level. Today it reminds me of a beach destination, with families coming to swim or boat, with schools of young people learning how to wind surf.

But surrounding the Sea of Galilee are places where Jesus taught and healed. Jesus most likely came here after his time in the desert (following his baptism in the Jordan River). Galilee is a region of Israel/Palestine north of Judea, separated by Samaria and south of Lebanon. Herod Antipas, (21 BCE—39 CE), son of Herod I the Great (read about the Herodium) became tetrarch of Galilee and ruled throughout Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry. Jesus is reported as having referred to him with contempt as “that fox” (Luke 13:32).

Continue reading Pilgrimage Reflections: The Galilean

Pilgrimage Reflections: The Judean Desert

Wadi Qelt: Psalm 23

From the viewpoint on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, you can easily see the vastness of the Judean Desert to the north and west. Leaving before dawn, we left Jerusalem for Wadi Qelt, a short drive from the heart of the city. The stark change in scenery is impressive, changing from a vegetative, mountainous, urban landscape to a yellow, rocky, desert scene almost instantly. A riverine gulch in the West Bank, once perhaps used to travel between Jericho and Jerusalem by individuals such as King David, Wadi Qelt eventually runs into the Jordan River near Jericho and the Dead Sea.

Stumbling out of the bus, we followed a dirt path up the hillside in silence. We gathered for a brief prayer and a reading of Psalm 23. Given almost an hour for our own time of prayer and reflection, we scattered to find our own ways to await the sunrise and listen for God, the air still cool. For those who climbed up to the top of the hillside, far in the distance was Jericho to the west, the oldest city in the world dating back 10,000 years, almost 900 feet below sea level. In July, there was no water running into the Jordan – no green pastures, no still waters, only valleys of shadow. And while this is a small desert in comparison to many others in the world, being in the midst of it was truly humbling.

Continue reading Pilgrimage Reflections: The Judean Desert