Reflecting on Luke 2 36-38 / Acts 2 16-21 / Acts 21 8-9

We are studying three short New Testament texts that specifically mention women’s prophetic gifts – Luke 2:36-38, Acts 2:16-21, and Acts 21:8-9 – for Sunday, January 30. [A few notes on these texts are here.] Here are some questions we might want to reflect on, or discuss:
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All of these texts mention prophecy; Anna is a prophet; the prophet Joel predicts that “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”; Philip has daughters who have the gift of prophecy.

 What do we understand term “prophecy” to mean?

When we think of “prophecy,” do we normally have a positive response, or a negative one, or something in between? Why is that, do we think?

Where have we gotten our understanding of the term “prophecy”? [for instance, reading; the prophets in the Bible; discussions of prophesy in church; secular uses of the term].

What do we think is the importance, or the value, of prophecy as we usually define it or understand it? That is, what are its potential benefits? Its potential drawbacks or dangers?

Would our usual understanding of “prophecy” include the prophet Anna’s speaking about the infant Jesus in the Temple in Luke 2:38? Why, or why not?  

Would our usual understanding of “prophecy” include “speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11)? Why, or why not?

Do these descriptions of prophecy suggest our definition of prophecy needs any changes? What changes? Why?
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Based on the activities that this weeks’ texts label “prophecy,” can we think of activities that people engage in today that should or could be labeled “prophecy” or “prophetic”? What activities are those? What makes them seem prophetic in light of these texts?
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Acts 21 does not mention any specific prophesies attributed to any of Philip’s daughters. Is this important, do we think? Why? What do we think this means?
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All of this week’s texts have been chosen for their inclusion of women as recipients of prophetic gifts. What do these texts tell us about those gifts, would we say? What do they tell us about women’s ministry, would we say?

How do these texts reinforce, or call into question, our ideas about women’s spiritual gifts and women’s ministries? What are those ideas? What else has influenced those ideas, would we say? [for instance, other scriptural texts? Preaching or teaching we’ve heard? Other sources?]
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[More personal] Do we know anyone we think of as “prophetic,” or have we ourselves had experiences of being prophetic? What do we see as the blessings, and the burdens, associated with this status? Why?

How does prophesy benefit the community of faith, would we say? How does it challenge the community, or its faith, would we say? Why?

On balance, which aspect of prophetic giftedness seems greater to us – its blessings and benefits, or its burdens and challenges? Why?

[Possibly more political] What seem to be the most important things to remember when thinking about prophecy, prophetic gifts, and prophetic pronouncements today, do we think? Why is that?
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Degas painting of woman in red hat and man in conversation over papers on a table

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Image: “The Conversation,” Edgar Degas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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