The aims of these studies are:
To familiarise readers/participants with the core claims about Jesus Christ made in the Basis of Union, focusing specifically on Paragraphs 3 and 4.
To highlight and explain the significance of the “confessing” genre through which those claims are expressed.
To explore the consequences of this confession of faith for the contemporary life and witness of the church.
What the studies are about
This booklet contains an opening reflection and four studies, each of which will focus on one particular claim of paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Basis of Union. Each of the specific claims will be expounded first within its immediate context in the Basis and then in conversation with other theological concerns.
Opening reflection: Confessing Jesus
This opening reflection will provide some of the background to the following studies. In particular it explains why the Basis speaks about Jesus the way it does. It also seeks to set what the Basis says about Jesus in the context of popular beliefs about Jesus. It would be advisable for this to be read prior to the first study. If this is not possible, it would be important for the study leader to give an overview at the beginning of Study one.
Study One: “The church preaches Christ the risen crucified one, and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
This study will highlight the significance of identifying Jesus as the “risen, crucified one,” as well as distinguish this way of speaking of Jesus from other more common ways of speaking about him. In particular, the claims about Jesus in this “confession” of faith will be contrasted with the creedal Jesus, the affectionate Jesus, and the historical Jesus.
Study Two: “Jesus of Nazareth announced the sovereign grace of God whereby the poor in Spirit could receive God’s love. Jesus himself, in his life and death, made the response of humility, obedience and trust which God had long sought in vain.”
In this study, the reference to Jesus of Nazareth will be taken as an invitation to reflect not only on the humanity of Jesus, but more specifically on his Jewishness. The human life which was crucified and then raised by God was the life of a particular Jewish man. Nowhere is his Jewishness so focused as in his preaching about the specifically Jewish idea of the kingdom of God.
Study Three: “The church … confesses Jesus as Lord over its own life; it also confesses Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation …”
This study will examine the cosmic scope and significance of Christ’s work. It is one thing to confess Jesus as Lord of the church; it is another to affirm him as head of all things, and yet another to claim he is the beginning of a new creation. The issue here, however, is not just the scope of Christ’s work, but the fact that Christian salvation involves the restoration of creation, not any escape from it.
Study Four: “… Christ reaches out to command people’s attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord; in his own strange way, Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church.”
This reference to Jesus’ “strange way” is a reminder that Jesus and the ways of God revealed in him cannot be contained by religious or spiritual convention. This study will describe this strangeness in theological terms, developing the link which exists here in the Basis between Jesus’ strange way, the call to discipleship, and the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
Guidelines for the leader
Leading a group to use these studies requires no special skills. The material can simply be worked through in the order it appears. The leader should invite different people to read several paragraphs each, pausing from time to time to invite brief comments or observations, without allowing these to deflect the group from the flow of the material.
When it comes to the questions, divide into groups of no more than five or six people. Invite each group to bring back to the larger group two or three insights they found particularly refreshing or helpful. These will need to be brief.
Please feel free to adapt the material to the needs of your group.
Allocate about 90 minutes for each study. People will expect you to keep fairly strictly to this time.
The structure of each study
Each study has been built around a suggested common structure:
An opening prayer.
An initial brainstorm on the relevant quotation from the Basis.
An extended engagement with the exposition of the Basis, including some discussion questions. (The leader should give some thought beforehand to how this could be broken up and discussed in ways most appropriate to the group.)
A “Going deeper” section with some further helpful, but optional, background information.
A brief biblical reflection which invites dialogue between the Bible and the Basis.
A closing prayer.
A comment for people to reflect on as they go away from the study.