Wrestling With God

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Scriptures can offer a unique practical and spiritual guidance that can help Riverside navigate through its current transition. Based on this premise, an all-church Bible study would be centered on a single curriculum of Bible readings related to the specific issues Riverside faces. We will meet together as an entire congregation before worship (without any other meetings or classes taking place at this time) to study, discuss and grow together. Coffee will be provided and participants are encouraged to bring snacks to share. We’ll begin our time together with a hymn-sing, a brief teaching on the assigned passage for the day and then break into study groups. This six-week study will be led by a mix of clergy, youth, commissions, and laity. Please mark your calendars now and join us!

Join us on Sundays from February 2 – March 8 at 9:30 am in South Hall.

Weekly discussion questions:

  1. Who or what is being wrestled with in this passage?
  2. What wisdom do you see in this passage for you, our church, and the wider world today?
  3. What questions and insights do you have about this passage?

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February 2: – “Wrestling with Community”

Reading: Jacob Wrestles – Genesis 32:22-32
Sponsored by: Membership Care and Parish Life Commission (MCPL)
Teacher: Rev. Dr. Andrea C. White

Download the curriculumTake the Week 1 survey

Reading: Jacob Wrestles: Genesis 32:22-32  

On the bank of Jabbok River, Jacob wrestles with a stranger until sunrise the next day. When the stranger realizes he can’t pin Jacob, he whacks him on the hip and puts it out of joint.  He then demands Jacob let him go, but Jacob refuses until the stranger blesses him. The stranger asks Jacob’s name, and Jacob identifies himself. The stranger announces that Jacob has been wrestling with God himself.  Because Jacob has prevailed against both humans and God, the stranger renames him Israel, which means “one who contends with God.” 

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Paul writes to the Corinthians, a church he founded, to admonish them about their factionalism. Each of their pastors, Paul says, served (not led) the church, and each received wages for their labors, but only God gave growth. In a church, Jesus and not any pastor is the foundation. Churches based on human leaders and material wealth will not endure. Paul goes on to warn the Corinthians against thinking they’re so smart. To God, their wisdom is mere foolishness. 

Reading: Hebrews 10:19-11:3

In this passage, the letter to the Hebrews affirms the faith of these early church congregants and encourages them to be a church. As a church, they should encourage each other to love and do good in anticipation of the Day of the Lord. 

If, however, they persist in sin after knowing the Gospel and experiencing faith in Jesus, they will be lost. But, the letter then re-emphasizes, faith can be counted upon to save them. The letter goes on to define what is meant by faith.  

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February 9: – “Wrestling with Mystery Through Art

In this lesson we will use art as a way to look at scripture

Readings: Mark 92-13, Matthew 17:1-13, Luke 9:28-36
Teacher: Lakeisha McCoy and Jeremiah Drake

Download the curriculumTake the Week 2 survey

The synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) each present the story of the transfiguration. In each version, Peter, James and John witness a profound experience and wrestle to make sense of it in terms of what they know. 

  • Mark 9:2-13. Six days after Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection and the imminent coming of the kingdom of God (Mark 8:31-9:2), he brings Peter, James and John with him to a high mountain. While there, the three disciples witness Jesus undergo a transfiguration and see him talking with Elijah and Moses. Peter offers to make a dwelling for each of them. Then a cloud appears. From the cloud, a voice announces, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Then the transfiguration event suddenly ends, and Elijah and Moses disappear. Jesus bids Peter, James and John to say nothing about what they saw “until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” The disciples don’t understand what he means and ask Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must return from the dead first. Jesus answers that Elijah has already come. 

 

  • Matthew 17:1-13. Six days after Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection and the imminent coming of the kingdom of God (Matthew 16:21-28), he undergoes transfiguration on a high mountain. With Jesus on the mountain are Peter, John and James. When they witness the event and see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, Peter offers to make dwellings for each of them. A cloud suddenly overshadows them. From the cloud a voice declares, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” The disciples fall to the ground in fear. Jesus, alone now, touches them and bids them not to fear. As they are coming down from the mountain, he orders them to tell no one about what they saw “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples ask why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah will come first? Jesus responds that Elijah has already come but the scribes did not recognize him. For this reason, the Son of Man will suffer at their (the scribes’) hands. The disciples understand that when he is speaking about Elijah, Jesus is referring to John the Baptist. 

 

  • Luke 9:28-36. Eight days after Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection and the imminent coming of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:21-27), Jesus takes Peter, John and James to the mountain to pray. There they witness Jesus’ transfiguration and see him talking to Moses and Elijah about Jesus departure, which will take place when Jesus and the disciples reach Jerusalem. Peter and the other two disciples suddenly feel very sleepy but force themselves to stay awake to witness the meeting. Just as Moses and Elijah are about to leave, Peter offers to make dwellings for the three of them. As Peter is speaking, a cloud overshadows the disciples and they are terrified. A voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Then Jesus appears alone, and things are back to normal. The disciples keep silent about what they have seen.

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February 16: – “Wrestling with The Future”

Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Sponsored by: Education Commission
Teacher: Riverside Youth Ministry and Dr. Andrea White

Download the curriculum | Take the Week 3 survey

Ezekiel has a vision in which the spirit of the LORD sets him down in a valley strewn with dry bones. He remarks on both the large volume of the bones and on their dryness. Addressing him as the Son of Man, the LORD asks Ezekiel if such very dry bones could ever live again. Ezekiel answers that surely the LORD himself knows.  

Then the LORD commands Ezekiel to prophesy the word of the LORD to these dry bones. Speaking the words the LORD puts in his mouth, Ezekiel tells the dry bones that the LORD will give them breath, and bring them back to life. Just as he prophesied, the bones start rattling and rise up. They reassemble themselves and grow new sinews and skin. But they lack breath.  

So the LORD commands Ezekiel to prophesy breath. As soon as he does, their bodies begin breathing. They take to their feet and form a great army. Then the LORD tells Ezekiel that these bones are the house of Israel, exiled, hopeless and cutoff. Just as he has prophesied to these dry bones and brought them back to life, Ezekiel is to prophesy to the Israelites so that the word of their LORD can bring them back to life and put them back on their own land (Ezekiel 37:14).  Through this demonstration, they will then know the LORD again.  

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February 23: – “Wrestling with Corruption

Reading: The Temptation of Jesus – Luke 4:14-30
Sponsored by: Mission & Social Justice Commission
Teacher: Rev. Kevin Van Hook

Download the curriculum | Take the Week 4 survey

Jesus returns from the wilderness, where he experienced temptation by satan. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he begins to teach in the synagogues. On one sabbath, he reads Isaiah 61:1, which states that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him because God anointed him to spread the Good News to the poor, proclaim release of the captives, heal the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord. 

After reading, he sits and all eyes are fixed on him. He tells those present that scripture has been fulfilled. At first, his listeners speak well of him, recalling that he is Joseph’s son, one of their own. But Jesus cuts them short.  He declares that no true prophet is welcome in his hometown. He cites Elijah and Elisha, two prophets who did their work not in Israel, where there were widows and lepers enough, but in gentile lands. The listeners in the synagogue get angry and try to throw him off a cliff.  But he passes through their midst and leaves town.

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March 1 – “Wrestling with Courage”

Readings: Esther
Sponsored by: Parish Care Ministry
Teacher: Rev. Michael Livingston

Download the curriculum | Take the Week 5 survey

This book tells the story of Esther, a Jewish orphan who rose to become Queen of the Persian Empire, and Ahasuerus (Xeres), King of Persia. At the time (5th century BCE), the Persian Empire included the lands of the Israelites. Decades before, the Israelites, now known as Jews, were exiled from their homeland and dispersed throughout the Babylonian Empire, the precursor to the Persian Empire. The story portrays Ahasuerus as a not very bright ruler with a very big ego who surrounds himself with corrupt, sycophantic ministers.  

  • Esther 1:1-22 – Ahesuerus deposes his Vashti, his Queen, and imposes patriarchal laws over the Persian Empire. 
  • Esther 2:1-18 – How Esther, a Jew, becomes Queen of Persia. 
  • Esther 2:19-3:15 – Esther’s cousin and adopted father, Mordecai, whistleblows on an assination plot against the king and disses Hamman, the antisemite the king just promoted to prime minister. 
  • Esther 4:1-17 – Upon Mordecai’s petition, Esther agrees to use her position to try to save her people, the Jews, from the genocidal slaughter planned by Hamman.
  • Esther 5:1-6:13 – Esther accepts Mordecai’s challenge and leverages her favor with the king to plan a banquet at which she will somehow reveal Hamman’s evil and save her people, the Jews. Meanwhile, the king inadvertently discovers that the that assassination plot’s whistleblower was Mordecai, a Jew. 
  • Esther 9:1-10:3 – The enemies of the Jews are slaughtered and the Feast of Purim is inaugurated.

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March 8 – “Wrestling with Unity”

In this lesson we will use Lectio Divina to reflect and study scripture

Readings: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16
Sponsored by: Worship Commission

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.