Tag Archives: IF-5

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!