This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the “Prince of Peace” rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program. It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:
· A historical context for understanding the Bible story.
· A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.
· The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.
In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation. This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts. It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grown in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.
It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
· Begin the Bible study by asking for prayer concerns and praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.
· If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.
Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud. Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study. Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.
The Book of Isaiah
Isaiah was probably written in four stages over hundreds of years:
· First Isaiah
Chapters 2-11; 28-32 written by Isaiah ben Amoz perhaps during the reign of Ahaz (735-716 BCE) or Hezekiah (715-687 BCE) in Judah and before the defeat and exile of Judah (587-515 BCE).
· Second Isaiah
Chapters 40-55 written in the mid-sixth century, during the Babylonian exile.
· Third Isaiah
Chapters 56-66 written in the late sixth to early fifth century, during the return from exile
· Redaction (editing) into canonical form, during the rebuilding and restoration of the Jerusalem.
The Reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah
Of Ahaz: “He did not do what as right in the sight of the Lord his God” (2 Kings 16:2):
· Built altars to other gods in the temple
· Made political alliances with Assyria in the face of invasion by Damascus and Israel
Of Hezekiah: “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him or among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5):
· Religious reform: removal of the high places and purification and restoration of the temple
· Rebelled against Assyria
The book of Isaiah is full of judgment upon the people of God for not obeying the commandments of God to “See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help those in need.” Some of the theological themes expressed in Isaiah include:
· God is sovereign of the universe and has a plan for all nations of the earth.
· God judges the nations when they do not uphold their obligations to do justice to the poor, needy, widows, orphans, and strangers. Sometimes this punishment comes at the hands of political enemies.
· But God also has a plan for peace and just as it is possible for us to be judged by God, so is it possible for us to fulfill God’s plan for peace and justice.
This is the hope of Isaiah 9:2-7: a vision of justice and righteousness here on earth.
From Isaiah to Jesus
How did this text come to be so closely linked with Jesus? It is quoted in Matthew 4:15-16. The Gospel writer saw Jesus’s preaching tour in Galilee as fulfillment of this text from Isaiah. The church has understood Christ to fulfill this entire passage, and particularly the title “Prince of Peace,” because Jesus came to bring “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).
Mary sees the promise of her coming child as a promise that God will fulfill the vision of peace, justice, and righteousness. Note the “reversals” in Mary’s song of praise:
· Scattered the proud
· Strong rulers dethroned; the humble empowered
· Hungry eat
· Rich sent away
These themes of reversal are a prophetic announcement of a new age of justice and righteousness. As in Isaiah, the vision of justice and peace in Mary’s song is a concrete vision of peace in this life, not just a future hope, but something that can be attained and has effects here and now.
From Jesus to Us
In teaching this lesson to our children at this time, we hope to empower them to know that there are concrete ways that they can work in the world for peace, even at a time when a peaceful life seems distant and unattainable. We want to instill in them some of the hope of Isaiah and Mary that God’s will for the world is peace and that even though they are very young, they can be a part of that plan for peace. This is why we have chosen as our memory verse the blessing fro the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop. As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces. Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.
God wants us to live in a world of peace and justice.
God has a plan for peace.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
Jesus came to earth to teach us about peace.
God wants us to work for peace and justice.
Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour. Have they been answered? Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?
Teaching is about sharing our faith with children. We share the faith by:
· Sharing scripture
· Sharing our theological tradition
· Sharing our own experience of faith
Workshop leaders have a unique opportunity to share their own experience of faith because they have five weeks to dwell with the story just as the children do. If you have time at the end of the hour, give workshop leaders an opportunity to share their own responses to the story in the following lectio divina exercise:
1. Read Isaiah 9:2-7, listening to the text and savoring a word or phrase that beckons you, something that addresses you personally, stirs you, unnerves you, comforts or disturbs you. Dwell with the word a few minutes. Use mutual invitation (see below) to briefly share the word or image.
2. Read Isaiah 9:2-7 a second time and think about what it means for us to be disciples of the Prince of Peace in these times of great fear and conflict. Try to remember times when you were called to be a peacemaker. Try to relive that experience in your imagination. Use mutual invitation to briefly share the experience.
3. Read Isaiah 9:2-7 a third time and discern how the word or the image, memory, or feeling evoked by it relates to your current situation. How does it connect with your life right now, your home, work, community, or the world? Reflect for a few minutes on this connection. How is God present to you in this scripture? What is God like for you through this scripture? To what is God calling you through this scripture? Use mutual invitation to share your response.
Mutual invitation is a process of community Bible study developed and explained by Eric H.F. Law in The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1993).
In order to ensure that everyone who wants to share has the opportunity to speak, we will proceed in the following way:
The leader will share first. After that person has spoken, he or she invites another person to share. Who you invite does not need to be the person next to you. After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another to share. If you do not want to say anything, say “pass” and proceed to invite another person to share. We will do this until everyone has been invited.