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Bible Study One - Violence and Vineyards


"Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not a gift to be shared"- Henri Nouwen

1. Naming the issue
a. Violence occurs in many forms and has many definitions. Often we are seduced by journalism and media that seek only to highlight graphic physical violence and sensational visual images (ie: celebrities or natural disasters). Violence occurs in many forms - we are unfortunately aware of domestic and sexual violence. But what about violence in our language, in our social life, in our economic forms?

b. Look up the dictionary for a definition of violence. How many different ways are there to understand the word? Some interesting ones include:

i. "a distortion of meaning or fact."
ii. "any unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights, laws, promise etc."
iii. "rough force in action"

c. What is the alternative option that Jesus offers? Can you think of stories where Jesus talks about or acts against violence? Share them with the group. Does Jesus offer an alternative to violence as the way of the world, the law of the jungle?

2. Ice-Breakers
a. Using newspapers - where do you see violence in the world? What forms of violence do you see? Why do these happen?

b. Where have you seen violence experienced in your community or in people you know? Why do you think that these things happen?

3. Piece of the puzzle 1
a. Read the story of Naboth's Vineyard in1 Kings 21

b. What forms of violence occur in this story? (hints; look at the details - how is Naboth killed, why is he killed, imagine what his community was like after his death)

c. Who commits violence? How does Ahab, Jezebel, the elders and the nobles all commit violence?

d. Why do they act this way?

e. If property was inherited, or passed on down the generations within the family, how did Ahab end up with the vineyard?

4. Piece of the puzzle 2
a. Read Matthew 20:1-16 as a group

b. Assign each person one of the characters roles and re-read the passage, acting out the roles.

c. How does each person feel about what has happened? Do they feel it was fair? Why do they act the way they do?

d. This story is a parable for the Kingdom of God. What point is Jesus trying to make? For some this is a parable about the nature of grace - or more specifically how we live out grace through radical inclusion. How does the authority figure in this story compare with the authority figures in Naboth's story?

5. Putting it together: Changing Rooms
a. What would happen if we reversed the stories? For example if Jezebel, Ahab and the nobles practiced the radical inclusion that Jesus talks about? How would it be different? Reconstruct the story as you might imagine it. Do the same for the parable from Matthew. What would happen if the owner of the vineyard acted as Ahab and Jezebel had?

b. Go back to the newspaper stories and your experiences from the beginning of the session. What might they look like if you switched them around to include either the radical inclusion of grace, or the authority of power and control seen in 1 Kings.

6. Going Further
Think of Australia's history, and in particular the relationship between our Indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples. Where has there been evidence of radical inclusion, and when has property ownership and violence been the dominant way? What would Australia be like if radical inclusion or grace was the basis for our country?

7. Closing
Violence is a difficult and uncomfortable topic for a bible study. For many of us who live safely it can feel like a distant or abstract topic. The terrible reality is that many of us live with violence of some form within our schools, jobs, family and even our churches. Spend some time praying for the places in which we live and that we might be part of overcoming violence in all parts of our life.

Pray for the different scenes from the newspapers where violence is an everyday reality around the world.

You may wish to light a candle as a reminder that we are called to be a light to the world.

You may wish to place the newspaper articles in the middle of your group

You may wish to take these prayers and thoughts into your next worship time.

More in this category: « Bible Study Two - The Face of Love
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