Friday, January 30, 2015

Epiphany 4 B - Mark 1:21-28

Mark 1:21-28
The unclean spirit who cries out in the synagogue obeys Jesus and comes out of the man. The scribes reject Jesus and on more than one occasion claim that it is Jesus who is possessed. It seems it was always the possessed and the dispossessed that recognized the Christ in Jesus. The Gerasene demoniac, the Samaritan leper, the Syrophoenician woman, the Centurion with a dead daughter, Zacchaeus the tax collector to name but a few. The scribes and Pharisees and teachers of the law only recognize a Jesus who threatens the authority they have claimed for themselves. But the spirit that recognizes the Christ in Jesus comes out because it could not resist the authority of Jesus. Perhaps the spirits that possess us would respond in the same way if we weren’t so good at keeping them from crying out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Epiphany 4 B - 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Differences in theology and practice rarely lead one side to change behavior so as not to offend the other. The more natural course of action is to demonize the opposition and become more firmly entrenched in the absolute truth of one’s own position. Meat sacrificed to idols was a big deal for those who all their life had been taught that destruction follows consumption and God’s righteous judgment could only be appeased by ritual purity. Even the apostle Peter cried, “Heaven forbid” when offered shrimp on the sheet! (Acts 10:14) Paul’s use of the term “weak believers” is not meant to denigrate their faith but merely to point out that their trust in the mercy of God is not quite as free from constraints as is Paul’s and because he sees Christ in every believer, weak, strong and in-between he refrains from practicing his freedom. Maybe if we were to think of each other as family, claimed by Christ for whom and through whom all things exist, we would stop sinning against each other by always insisting on having it our way. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Epiphany 4 B - Psalm 111

Psalm 111
The gracious and merciful Lord is ever mindful of the covenant which is to say God remembers us even if we forget to give thanks to God with our whole heart. Of course the covenant is a two way street even if God does most of the heavy lifting. And while we are always on the receiving end of God’s forever covenant of redemption it is God’s intention that in God’s remembering us we would remember God and grow in grace becoming the faithful and just works of God’s hands. When we practice the beginning of wisdom, which is to recognize God in the everyday and the extraordinary, God rejoices and our whole life is transformed into praise.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Epiphany 4 B - Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Jesus will run into the problem of a prophet raised up “from among your own people” as a “prophet is not without honor except in his hometown.” (Mark 6:4) Truth is a fair amount of people will only hear “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3) so hometown prophets may be tempted to only speak soft words. Other prophets consider the measure of their word by its capacity to offend but maybe they just get off on making people mad. The Lutheran two step of Law / Gospel preaching is meant to convict both people and preacher who are then “driven into the arms of the Gospel.” (Luther) I’ve never shied away from a difficult word because I know it is a word I need to hear and since I always preach to myself I suppose God thought others needed to hear the difficult word as well. And I can tell you I am always desperate for a forgiving word from God so maybe others need to hear that just as much as I do. I believe that is the partnership of prophet and people that God intended so that the people of God might become a prophetic word for the world.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Epiphany 3 B - Mark 1:14-20

Jesus has a one sentence sermon that says it all. The time is fulfilled – which means the future has come into the present. The kingdom of God has come near – which means God has come down to dwell with people and establish the reign of love. Repent – which is to say stop living in ways that deny the forever future reign of God can be realized today. Believe the good news – which means live like you trust it is true. The trouble is we have one foot firmly planted in the world while we tap a toe into the life of the forever future and never fully repenting of the past we never quite live into the future. However, there are moments when random acts of kindness soften a harsh world or times when walking with a loved one right up to the edge death really does make death look like a birth or when we become so convinced of God’s love for us and others that we give ourselves and others a break and rejoice in the wonder of each moment. One sentence says it all. 

Epiphany 3 B - 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

1 Corinthians 7:21-31
I don’t want to question the Apostle Paul’s timeline but did he believe “the appointed time has grown short” would go on for 2000 years or more? And if he thought the “grown short” time was longer than a lifetime would he have encouraged people to live as if the present form of the world passing away was a tomorrow come today? Truth is he got it wrong. But then so did a lot of the early Christians. I suppose we could blame it on the Gospel writers who remembered Jesus saying one generation “shall see my return”. (Not the same thing as blaming Jesus) I don’t know what Paul meant but I think the eminent end time stuff gives people an excuse to not live in the present. And if I could dare to speak for Jesus I think that would tick him off royally – since he is the King who calls us to make a difference in the present. Which means we can live the future in the present and not worry about the things that concern the apostle Paul.