The Old Testament ($3.95)
Six-Week Meeting Guide for Small Groups
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Each “Gathered In His Name” meeting guide includes the prayers, commentaries, and reflection questions for a six-week series of meetings. The books are in an 8-1/2x11 paperback format. Each participant will need his/her own booklet.
The meetings are designed as two-hour sessions, with the first 90 minutes for welcome/gathering time, opening prayer, two commentaries with reflection questions, Gospel reading and discussion, ideas for "Connecting Faith and Life" that are related to the meeting’s topic, and a closing prayer. The last 30 minutes would be reserved for socializing and treats. The commentaries are meant to be read aloud, and the small church community is encouraged to break into "smaller groups" of two or three to answer the reflection questions.
Synopsis and Sample Reflection Questions
Meeting One: The Old Testament
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Second Vatican Council, 1964) said the purpose of the Old Testament was to prepare for the coming of Jesus and to “provide an understanding of God and humanity…” The overwhelming image of God in the Old Testament is a caring, faithful, compassionate and forgiving God. The Old Testament includes 46 books, written by many different authors. The earliest books of the Bible were written down centuries after the events they described, or were attempts to explain the basic mysteries of life. All books of the Bible are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We must approach them, not as books of science or history, but as books of faith, designed to deepen our understanding of God and humanity.
Sample reflection question: Who first taught you about God? How did that person teach you?
Meeting Two: The Treasure of the Torah
The first five books of the Bible are called the “Torah” (“Law”) or the “Pentateuch” (“five books”). Genesis includes two different stories of Creation, stories that show us a God who is loving, extravagant and generous, and who knows what he made is good. The Torah includes the first “covenants” between God and his chosen people. Abraham is the first Old Testament person who can be placed in history, about 1850 B.C. He is the first of four generations of “Patriarchs” who helped establish the Jewish people under the guidance of God. The second book of the Bible, Exodus, tells the story of Moses. “Holy, courageous and passionate, Moses can be a guide for each of us in our lives of faith.” The Exodus from Egypt is one of the two central events in the history of the Jewish people (the other being the Exile into Babylonia); the Passover supper is still celebrated by people of faith. Other books of the Torah include the beautiful blessing found in Numbers and the “jubilee year” passages from Deuteronomy that were cited by Pope John Paul II for the millennial celebration in 2000.
Sample reflection question: Share a story about a geographical or spiritual journey you took that made a difference to you.
Meeting Three: The Historical Books
Many of the historical books of the Old Testament were written down more than one thousand years before the birth of Jesus. The first non-Jewish histories were written in Greece in about 440 B.C. The Jewish authors kept a fairly continuous account of the leaders and events that shaped them as a people. Still, these are not “history” in the current sense of the word – they are books of faith, written to “show a loving God working in the individual lives of men and women and in the dynamic progress of his chosen people.” The Israelites believed that a knowledge of their roots was valuable because history was not cyclic. “They believed in progress – their progress as a people bound to God and their individual potential for improvement.” The First and Second Books of Samuel and Kings trace the development of the Jews from a tribal society to an integrated kingdom, especially focusing on King David (c. 1010 to 970 B.C.) and the “golden age” of his kingdom. The historical books reveal a loving God working with and within people.
Sample reflection question: Share a story from your family’s history that has passed down from one generation. Has anyone written it down? How will you keep it alive?
Meeting Four: The Wisdom Books
These rich and beautiful books include the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Wisdom and others. “The Wisdom books speak to human experience unfettered by time or place.” There is tremendous variety in the literary form and style of these books, which were written over a period of about one thousand years. Doctors and saints of the church have taught that the Spirit was not only present to the author of a book of the bible, but continues to be present to the reader of the Bible to help our growth in understanding. Job, written in the form of a short story, penetrates the mystery of suffering. “The Psalms are the crowning glory of the wisdom book, and indeed, of the entire Old Testament.” Many came from Jewish liturgies; others were written by King David and later writers. They “speak directly to our hearts, and they voice in their beautiful images and cadences the dreams and memories and experience of all people of all times.” Their primary messages are praise and thanks, but “it is said that all of the Old Testament may be found in the Psalms.” The meeting concludes with everyone reciting together the “For everything there is a season…” passage from Ecclesiastes.
Sample reflection question: What “season” is it in your life right now?
Meeting Five: The Prophets
The Rev. Martin Luther King is honored as a “prophet” in our time. The content and style of his “I have a Dream” speech were in the great tradition of the Old Testament prophets. The prophets, who first emerged about 800 years before the birth of Christ, were remarkable for the power of their messages during a time of crisis, the period before and during the Babylonian Exile in 587 B.C. The job of a prophet was not to foretell the future, but to speak for God. Being a prophet was a difficult and unpopular calling. Yet prophets cannot contain the words they had been given by God, and call for individual repentance and political reform to restore “right relationships” with God and neighbor. Social justice is a constant theme. The meeting concludes with sample passages from four prophets. “For the prophet is the conscience of his age, and the voice of a faithful God.”
Sample reflection question: Who is a prophet in your life, helping you to see the truth? Share a time when you think you were a prophet for someone else.
Meeting Six: The Messianic Prophecies
Today, Christians consider the messianic prophecies to be among the most beloved and significant parts of the Old Testament. We hear some of them during Advent and the Christmas season, and Isaiah’s “suffering servant” songs during Lent and on Good Friday. These prophecies are very deep and telling, since they tell us what kind of person the Messiah will be (and therefore what kind of people we should be), and describe the kingdom of God. “As followers of the Anointed One we know our mission is to keep building Christ’s kingdom on earth… It is what we work for every time we create a little more peace, justice, compassion, healing and hope…” Series conclusion: “The Old Testament teaches us much about our God. Always faithful, always close, always caring, God has led the chosen people… from death to life. He promises to do the same for each of us in our own journeys of faith…. For God has made a covenant with each one of us, writing it on our hearts….”
Sample reflection question: Which of these readings about the Messiah (from the passages read during the meeting) particularly speaks to you now?