Category Archives: Illuminating Faith – Lenten Studies

Illuminating Faith – Our life together: reflections on the Basis of Union

This resource is Uniting Church-specific – a recent five-session study on the Uniting Church’s Basis of Union prepared by Geoff Thompson at Pilgrim College, Melbourne.

A PDF version of the study is available here.

Illuminating Faith – Lenten Study: Meeting God in Mark

This is not an original Illuminating Faith study but a recommended resource for a Lenten series from Rowan Williams: Meeting God in Mark.

This book has only short but nevertheless illuminating chapters. Williams also offers a structured reading of the whole of Mark’s gospel over the season of Lent.

This book could be used for studies at any time or in any Lent, although they would be particularly useful to lectionary-linked churches during the ‘Year A’ cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary, within which Mark’s gospel features as the set gospel for most Sundays in those years (2021, 2024, 2027, etc.)

Consider the timing of your study series. If using the studies for Lent, there are 6 weeks across which the studies could be conducted (including the week of Ash Wednesday and excluding Holy Week). Williams’ suggested plan for reading Mark’s gospel begins on Ash Wednesday. If the studies were not commenced in that week, participants should be encouraged to begin reading the gospel before the studies commence.

Order hardcopies of the books early enough for delivery! Paperback copies are available from about $AU14 and instantly available electronic copies (including Amazon Kindle) from about $AU6 (2020 prices).

A very brief summary of the three chapters is given below. In addition to whatever questions might arise in your study groups, Williams proposes several questions for reflection on each chapter.

Chapter 1.

  • Williams’ first chapter addresses questions of the What, Who, Where, When and Why of Mark’s gospel.
  • Of particular importance in this chapter is Williams’ invitation to discover more in Mark than simply a collection of stories to believe or not believe. This is the invitation of Mark’s Gospel itself: to allow ourselves to be addressed by the central figure in the story and to enter into the changed state of affairs which his story is said to bring about.

Chapter 2

  • Williams’ second chapter addresses the themes of secrecy, openness and understanding – all important tools in Mark’s telling of the gospel. He writes also about the significance the miracles and teachings of Jesus have (and, perhaps, don’t have) in Mark’s account.
  • Of particular importance in this chapter is Williams’ conclusion that the very substance of the gospel might itself require that we cannot be too precise or clear about what is seen and heard without reducing Jesus to something which less than his whole self and significance. What is at stake here cannot be reduced to simple observations and conclusions.

Chapter 3

  • The final chapter of the book looks at Mark’s account of the death of Jesus, with particular attention given to the unsettling nature of that story and the requirement that we return to it again and again in order to be reminded of its challenge to the easy assumptions we tend to take on about ourselves, others and God.

Illuminating Faith – Lenten Studies on Isaiah’s Servant Songs

These studies focus on Isaiah’s ‘Servant cycle’ readings, within Isaiah 42-53.

The interpretation of the Servant cycle has been much contested through history and still is today. The studies do not do in-depth analysis of the set texts or to present a sure conclusion as to their meaning but are rather in the form of Christian ‘meditations’ or reflections on one aspect of the particular passage. These meditations were originally sermons, and were preached at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, Lent and Easter 2019. As such, this crisis is reflected in some of the studies.

These texts have been very important in the church as lenses through which to view Jesus but appear in the Revised Common Lectionary used by many churches in the Holy Week readings, meaning they do not get a lot of direct attention in Sunday preaching. These studies may help to address that deficit a little.

The topics of the five studies are:

  • On seeing what is there
  • The flickering Servant of God
  • Love’s new creation
  • Sin-Sick
  • The God of COVID-19

The studies are intended for use as a read-and-discuss study series but can, of course, be used by individuals. The questions for reflection at the end of each study are guides only; the discussion can follow the interests of the group; and a psalm and confessional prayer response is suggested at the end of each study.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – The Apostles’ Creed – A lively text in a world made strange

 

Bruce Barber’s The Apostles’ Creed is a reading of the Creed for today, with particular focus on the assumptions the modern mind brings to the Creed and how the Creed, and the faith it symbolises challenge those assumptions.

The study is supported by guiding questions and is suitable for personal or small group use; it could be comfortably be covered in a 7 week study series, although groups may find they want to move more slowly through the material.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – The covenanting God draws near

These studies will assist small groups in a local congregation to reflect together on the set texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for the first five weeks of Lent in Year C.

If Sunday’s preacher is a member of such a group, she or he will also be assisted by hearing our others in the group react to the readings, and so suggesting how they might be handled in the sermon and liturgy.

The study booklet contains the full text of the RCL readings for each week and some questions to guide groups into reflecting together on the texts.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – The Spirit in the Desert

‘The Spirit in the Desert’ is the title of a series of talks by Rowan Williams, available on YouTube. This IF study is an unofficial guide through those talks. The talks can be complemented by Willams’ book on the theme (‘Silence and Honey Cakes’), which is recommended supplementary reading.

The studies introduce the thought of the early Christian ‘desert fathers’, and invite modern believers to be more aware of their own calling to be Christians in the place they find themselves, with the people with whom they’ve been placed.

The series requires minimal preparation by group members – you can just turn up and listen to the audio – and would serve well as a Lenten study, or at any other time of the year.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – Called to Holiness

A valuable resource for congregational study is aCalled to Holiness 1 publication coming out of the Australian Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue, Called to Holiness in Australia.

The document is available here. It lends itself particularly to a Lenten series over 4 weeks but could be used at any time.

Illuminating Faith – The Lord’s Prayer – Prayer for those who can no longer pray

Bruce Barber’s The Lord’s Prayer is an introduction to this Prayer – and to Christian prayer generally – as specifically Christian prayer. After framing the problem of prayer for the modern mind – believers and non-believers alike – Barber unpacks the Prayer line by line, drawing out its specifically Christian nuances. The study is supported by guiding questions and is suitable for personal or small group use; it could be comfortably be covered in a 4 to 6 week study series, although returning to the material again and again will be rewarding.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!