Easter Study 2006

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Home Study Series

Resurrection hope of the Faith Community: a call to begin again...

May 16

Death before Resurrection

  1. How has your congregation tried to put “old wine” into “new wineskins”?

  2. Next Good Friday, count the number of times “death” (or “dead” or “buried” or “died”) is mentioned in the sermon. Also keep count of the number of times “resurrection” (or “raised” or “risen” or “empty tomb”) are repeated. What is this day about?

  3. Do you personally have advance directives (a living will, medical power of attorney, organ donor card)? Have you made your funeral arrangements? Does your congregation encourage you to talk with clergy and your family and to make your end of life treatment decisions and your funeral wishes known?

  4. If you were the coroner, how would you report the reason for the church dying? Malnutrition? Cancer? Heart failure? Murder? Neglect? Old age? Alzheimer’s?

  5. Why is the church afraid of dying? Does it not trust God? What is the underlying fear?

  6. If it is true that you can’t have resurrection without death, that you can’t put new wine in old wineskins, then how will your congregation go about dying? Is there an obligation to allow a natural death, even to assist that death, so that resurrection is free to occur?

  7. Can you see and hear ways in which your congregation is already grieving? What examples of grief behavior – shock, searching, mitigation, anger, identity issues – have you noticed? How might you foster discussion about this grief?

  8. Discuss each of the suggestions for fostering the dying process and working toward resurrection. Would you be willing to experiment with any of those suggestions? What will happen if you do none of them?

  9. What ceremonial (and celebratory) ways might you devise to mourn the DYING CHURCH? Could you have a wake? A funeral? A planning process? A church dialogue day followed by a celebration?

  10. Imagine that you are standing beside Martha at the tomb of Lazarus. Do you want them to open the tomb? Are you more afraid of the stench, or of seeing the dead body? Or are you really afraid that the body will be alive? What are the implications of this story for the DYING CHURCH and the LIVING GOD?

Our Lady of the X‑Files and Zorba

  1. How does the implication of other life forms in other galaxies affect your understanding of God?

  2. What would it take for your congregation to be “radically inclusive”? What would it take to welcome people of all persuasions? What would it take to integrate people of different ages, sexes, races, abilities (mental and physical), into the church, into the service, into the life of the congregation?

  3. Is your worship service a production that must be “perfect,” or a reflection of those gathered at the Great Banquet – both good and bad, abled and disabled, gay and straight, old and young?

  4. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female...” Could you imagine adding to that, Martian or Venusian? What if God came to us in another life form? How would we know?

  5. How can the congregation that is dying and moving toward resurrection maintain sensitivity to those in its family who still find comfort and sanctuary within the old crumbling walls? How do we make room for people both inside and outside the tent... Do away with the tent? Build a bigger one? Decide that we need a different structure?

  6. Do you agree that our “evolving understanding of the holy” is changing as we change as a species? Or do you think that the Jesus‑revelation is a once‑and‑for‑all‑time definitive revelation? What are the implications of both beliefs? How do they affect your daily life? How do they affect your congregational structure and worship?

  7. List your five favorite hymns. Read the words in them from the point of view of a post‑ Atonement understanding of the Godforce.

  8. Go to a service in a megachurch. Come back and discuss in your group. What is attractive about such a place? What is not? Did you come out feeling full? Empty? Neither? Was nationalism a theme in any part of the service? How did that work?

  9. How could you apply “Christian madness” to your congregation? To your own spiritual life?

  10. Take an imaginary walk (individually or as a group) through your congregation – the church, the service, the meetings, the suppers, the Sunday school – with each of the three goggles and describe to the group what you see. (“X‑ray goggles” allow you to see beneath the surface, into deeper issues, feelings, emotions, and fears. “Night‑vision goggles” allow you to see in the darkness, illuminating truth in lies, and life in death. “Time goggles” allow you to see without constraints of past, present, and future. Virtual reality.)

  11. How has your congregation “gone sane”? What would it take to recall your Christian madness?