Lesson One, Discussion E

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Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Tara Bernard on Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:56 pm

E. Of the major characters in this story, which whom do you identify most? Why? With whom do you identify least? Why?

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Re: Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Tara Bernard on Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:18 am

I identify with Zechariah the most. (See my answer to Discussion D) because wanting something deliberately and wanting something abstractly (though no less honestly) is something I struggle with. I identify the least with Mary. I WANT to be a Mary (here am I, God, use me as you will) but while I wouldn't doubt that God COULD do what He said he would do, I'd probably want a lot more of "Um. Why, exactly?" than Mary did. Unconditional acceptance of the fact that God sees a bigger picture than I do, that God has a better plan than I do, that God has the means to make His plan a reality whereas all I usually have is the idea, that nothing makes God say, "Oh, wow. Didn't see that one coming!" is an area I have to constantly repent of.
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Re: Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Barbara Alexander on Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:12 pm

Sorry, but I don’t feel a connection to any of these people


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Re: Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Pamela Meyers on Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:15 pm

I also identify most with Zechariah.  Like him, I’m basically a good person, striving to do what is right, to play by the rules, to serve others, and like Zechariah, I have successfully dealt with severe disappointments and accepted very difficult things in my life because that leads to peace and pleases God, in my opinion. In Zechariah’s case, he has accepted that he won’t have kids and still serves God because it makes both him and God happy. Then, when some weird stranger catches him off guard and scares the bejeezes out of him (on this important day of all days!), and then proceeds to tell Zechariah that his desire to have children from years and years ago will magically come true after all, Zechariah instinctively reacts by saying out loud what he must have been telling himself in order to not succumb to wishful thinking (especially when he probably struggled FOR YEARS to honor his childless marriage as being God’s plan for his life). “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” His doubt or initial resistance to this utterly unexpected information is very understandable. But then the proclaimer of the news, who is in a more powerful position than Zechariah (the angel in this case), takes away Zechariah’s voice as punishment for not immediately responding, “Oh, what a delightful surprise! A frightening stranger has broken into the Temple and told me I am going to be a father after all!”—  Or, suppose Zechariah knew without a shadow of doubt that the stranger was actually an angel of God (even though he hadn’t ever seen one before and had no reason to think he ever would see one). The actual appearance of an angel of God would be enough to cause me to question everything! (Heck, the simple appearance of Danny Kay made my mom unable to utter a coherent sentence. The thought of being on stage with Jensen Ackles paralyzed Kelly. Totally understandable!).  Not that I wouldn’t eventually accept what an angel of God said, but it would certainly take time for me to think clearly. -- Frankly, the message here is alarming! It appears that reasonable questioning, or expressing disbelief, or even processing information in your own way and time is wrong, according to this story. What’s the message here? Thinking is sinful? Doubt is punishable?

I least identify with the angel of God who seemed utterly incapable of patience, understanding, or empathy in this particular story. (Then again, I, too, have been utterly incapable of patience, understanding, or empathy. I wonder if Gabriel second-guessed his somewhat harsh response after the fact, as I have at times...)

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Re: Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Tara Bernard on Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:41 pm

Pamela Meyers wrote:I also identify most with Zechariah.  Like him, I’m basically a good person, striving to do what is right, to play by the rules, to serve others, and like Zechariah, I have successfully dealt with severe disappointments and accepted very difficult things in my life because that leads to peace and pleases God, in my opinion. In Zechariah’s case, he has accepted that he won’t have kids and still serves God because it makes both him and God happy. Then, when some weird stranger catches him off guard and scares the bejeezes out of him (on this important day of all days!), and then proceeds to tell Zechariah that his desire to have children from years and years ago will magically come true after all, Zechariah instinctively reacts by saying out loud what he must have been telling himself in order to not succumb to wishful thinking (especially when he probably struggled FOR YEARS to honor his childless marriage as being God’s plan for his life). “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” His doubt or initial resistance to this utterly unexpected information is very understandable. But then the proclaimer of the news, who is in a more powerful position than Zechariah (the angel in this case), takes away Zechariah’s voice as punishment for not immediately responding, “Oh, what a delightful surprise! A frightening stranger has broken into the Temple and told me I am going to be a father after all!”—  Or, suppose Zechariah knew without a shadow of doubt that the stranger was actually an angel of God (even though he hadn’t ever seen one before and had no reason to think he ever would see one). The actual appearance of an angel of God would be enough to cause me to question everything! (Heck, the simple appearance of Danny Kay made my mom unable to utter a coherent sentence. The thought of being on stage with Jensen Ackles paralyzed Kelly. Totally understandable!).  Not that I wouldn’t eventually accept what an angel of God said, but it would certainly take time for me to think clearly. -- Frankly, the message here is alarming! It appears that reasonable questioning, or expressing disbelief, or even processing information in your own way and time is wrong, according to this story. What’s the message here? Thinking is sinful? Doubt is punishable?

I least identify with the angel of God who seemed utterly incapable of patience, understanding, or empathy in this particular story. (Then again, I, too, have been utterly incapable of patience, understanding, or empathy. I wonder if Gabriel second-guessed his somewhat harsh response after the fact, as I have at times...)

It is reasonable to assume that Zechariah and Elizabeth have stopped praying for a child, realizing that they are past childbearing years (tho, I have to admit, I have asked God for things that are not "possible" a time or two, myself), but we don't KNOW that they did. It is reasonable to assume that they have also made their peace with this state of affairs, as they remain "righteous" and "blameless," but again, we don't KNOW that they did. It is also reasonable to assume that Zechariah is at least comfortable with the idea of an angel coming around and making an appearance, he is, after all, a priest. But again, we don't KNOW that.

So, where I would personally disagree with your response, Pamela, is that a) I don't think the taking away of Zechariah's voice was punishment for not accepting the news. I think it was a rebuke for not accepting that it was something God could do. Neither Zechariah (via Elizabeth) nor Mary was in a physical position to become a parent, Elizabeth because she was well past menopause and Mary because she was a virgin. So, the distinction Luke is trying to point out here is that Zechariah essentially said, "If you want me to believe this, you're going to have to give me some sort of a sign" and Mary said, "Wow. Okay. I believe it, but how will he work it out?" Zechariah asked for a sign, he got one. B) Another thought...the local populous were probably needing a sign, too, to believe that John was, indeed, something special. Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, Zechariah prepared the way for John. And on those lines, nobody could hear Zechariah unless they listened with something other than "ears", same with John. C) Gabriel says he is making John mute because he didn't believe. A rebuke, yes, and a lesson, too. You think God can't do that? What about this, can God do this? I don't know, I just don't feel like Gabriel was being unfair to Z.
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Re: Lesson One, Discussion E

Post by Pamela Meyers on Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:35 pm

Tara Bernard wrote:
It is reasonable to assume that Zechariah and Elizabeth have stopped praying for a child, realizing that they are past childbearing years (tho, I have to admit, I have asked God for things that are not "possible" a time or two, myself), but we don't KNOW that they did.  It is reasonable to assume that they have also made their peace with this state of affairs, as they remain "righteous" and "blameless," but again, we don't KNOW that they did.  It is also reasonable to assume that Zechariah is at least comfortable with the idea of an angel coming around and making an appearance, he is, after all, a priest.  But again, we don't KNOW that.  

So, where I would personally disagree with your response, Pamela, is that a)  I don't think the taking away of Zechariah's voice was punishment for not accepting the news. I think it was a rebuke for not accepting that it was something God could do.  Neither Zechariah (via Elizabeth) nor Mary was in a physical position to become a parent, Elizabeth because she was well past menopause and Mary because she was a virgin.  So, the distinction Luke is trying to point out here is that Zechariah essentially said, "If you want me to believe this, you're going to have to give me some sort of a sign" and Mary said, "Wow.  Okay.  I believe it, but how will he work it out?" Zechariah asked for a sign, he got one.  B) Another thought...the local populous were probably needing a sign, too, to believe that John was, indeed, something special.  Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, Zechariah prepared the way for John.  And on those lines, nobody could hear Zechariah unless they listened with something other than "ears", same with John.   C)  Gabriel says he is making John mute because he didn't believe.  A rebuke, yes, and a lesson, too.  You think God can't do that?  What about this, can God do this?   I don't know, I just don't feel like Gabriel was being unfair to Z.  

Did priests see a lot of angels back then? I am not sure Zechariah had before, but perhaps. I guess even if I was expecting that an angel might someday pop up out of nowhere and told me that Elvis wasn't really dead, I'd still be pretty shook and probably not trust him. My question now is, if taking away Z's voice was not a punishment, what is the difference between a punishment and a rebuke? --Next, suppose Z's words of "How can I be sure of this since I am old and my wife is, too?" translates into "Show me a sign". Could the sign not have been a burning bush? (I know, so passe, but certainly something Z would recognize!). I do see what you mean about the difference between "How can I be sure?" and "How can this be?". Thanks.

Thinking of the difference between a burning bush and taking away someone's ability to communicate: It has come to my attention that I find it deeply troubling to live in a world where I view God as a vindictive God... or one who punishes... even to teach a lesson. I just don't think it works that way. At some point, our children grow up. When they make poor choices as adults, we don't spank them. We hang in there with them when the shit hits the fan and let them know we're sorry that it's so hard and make sure they they aren't suffering alone. I can accept that bad things happen in life, but only when I trust that God is not orchestrating difficult things on purpose like a child dying or physical abuse or oppression as a means of "teaching us a lesson." I believe when bad things happen, God is sad with us and for us, and He is therefore comforting to me. I don't think God slaps us to teach us a lesson and then says, "Come here, honey. Say you're sorry and I'll make it better." I just don't think it works that way. I think it's a sinful waste of the life God gave me to walk around in fear that something terrible will happen because somebody somewhere needed a lesson from God in not doubting.

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