Study Guide: LOOKING THROUGH THE CROSS


STUDY GUIDE

Graham Tomlin, Looking Through the Cross: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2014,
Bloomsbury Academic (2014), Paperback, 240 pages.
Also available from Amazon in Kindle format.

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Chapter 1: The Cross and Wisdom

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Tomlin says that St Paul criticised the Corinthian church for living according to the wisdom of the surrounding society. Does our contemporary church adapt itself too easily to contemporary society?

2. ‘A crucified, shamed and humiliated man is in fact the wisdom and the revelation of the God who made the universe.’ (p. 25) If this is so, what does the cross reveal about God?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Find a crucifix or picture of Jesus on the cross that speaks to you in some way of God’s wisdom. The cover picture of Looking Through the Cross may be suitable. Sit before it in silence without analysing it or using words to pray. Simply be conscious of God’s presence with you.

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Chapter 2: The Cross and Evil

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Can you name evidence for the ‘deep wound in creation that needs healing’? (p. 42) Where can you see such a wound today?

2. Does it make sense for Jesus to be a representative of all humanity? How can that be?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Find the words of ‘Amazing Grace’ by John Newton (Together in Song 129) or Graham Kendrick’s ‘Servant King’ (Together in Song 256) or Thomas Troeger’s extraordinary ‘A Spendthrift Lover’ (TiS 676). Take the words to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and read them through several times as a way of thanking God for the cross overcoming evil.

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Chapter 3: The Cross and Power

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Tomlin describes Albert Schweitzer’s choice to work among the poor of Africa as an exercise of power for the sake of other people. Name other examples of this kind of power. Why is it power to make a choice that the world sees as the way of weakness?

2. ‘When we are loved we are able to change. When we are unloved, we dig in our heels and refuse to budge.’ (p.78) Think of a time when you were empowered because you knew you were loved.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Learn the ‘Jesus Prayer’ by heart: ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Use is to pray for those whom you love by substituting the name of each of these people for the word me. So, to pray for my wife, I pray, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Name, a sinner.’

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Chapter 4: The Cross and Identity

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. In what tangible ways has your Christian faith given you a new identity? Tell the story of the different you that now lives in Christ.

2. How do you feel the pull of your old identity? What keeps pulling you back from full life in Christ?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

When Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope, he chose the name Francis for this next stage of his ministry. What name would you choose for yourself to signify who you are now in Christ? Have fun trying on some different names!

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Chapter 5: The Cross and Suffering

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Can you make sense of the idea that God in Jesus undergoes suffering but God the Father does not? How does this idea help us live with ongoing suffering?

2. When we ‘take up our crosses’ and understand the cross of Christ in a ‘deep, personal heartfelt way’, Tomlin says our hearts are softer. Has he made the right connection? Does choosing suffering increase our empathy?

 

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Pray in silence before the picture of the cross or crucifixion that you used for Chapter 1. Which suffering people in the world today call to you for a response? What is a costly and meaningful response that you can make to alleviate that suffering?

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Chapter 6: The Cross and Ambition

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. ‘Imagine for a moment a culture where everyone’s main aim was to seek the good of their neighbour, where the only social competitiveness was to find ways to bless the person next door.’ (p. 142) What is stopping us?

2. What strategies should we adopt to learn from modern servants (‘cleaners, gardeners and dinner ladies’ p. 145)? Be ambitious to use the strategies you identify.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Make a list of serving activities that you don’t normally do that you could undertake today. For example, I could collect cups and plates and load the dish-washer after morning tea at church. Aim to do them. Tick each one off as you do it. Destroy the list at the end of the day. Repeat the exercise next week.

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Chapter 7: The Cross and Failure

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Is there a sense in which the crucifixion was a failure? Is the crucifixion a phenomenon that looked at from one side is a failure and from another side is a triumph – the means of our coming close to God?

2. Reflect on what you have learned from failure. If you are in a group, consider what aspects of these learnings you can share with the group.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Read John 21:15-19 several times slowly, aloud if you can. Be conscious of your breathing. Put yourself in Peter’s position, remembering that he has returned to Galilee a failure. As Jesus asks the question ‘Do you love me?’ identify what Peter may have felt. Do you feel a transition?

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Chapter 8: The Cross and Reconciliation

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. What walls dividing people in the Australian community should the Christian community be working to break down?

2. What programs or processes does your local church have in place to help people grow in moral maturity?

 

Activity & Prayer Cues:

What three specific actions can we take to make our faith community more of a ‘mother’, a nursery of Christian action and reconciliation (pp. 189-190)?

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Chapter 9: The Cross and Life

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Thinking of the death of your grandparent or parent or other loved one some years ago, what signs of new life do you discern in their dying?

2. Do you agree with C.S. Lewis that we are outside the real world (p. 213)? What does he mean by this image? What does he mean by saying that we shall get in?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Using a simple medium (crayons or coloured pencils), draw seeds being buried, germinating, growing and bearing fruit. As you draw, meditate on the power of new life, the continuities and the discontinuities between seed and flowering plant, the imbalance between the old and the new life.

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