Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pentecost 6 B - Mark 6:1-13

Mark 6:1-13
The home town crowd is astounded at Jesus’ teachings and deeds of power. Jesus is astounded that it doesn’t make a difference.To the town-folk he is still the simple carpenter, the son of Mary, even if he can cast out demons and heal the sick and speak with wisdom which defies explanation. To be fair Jesus is asking neighbors and relatives to suspend logic and move beyond anything they could imagine about him. That is the difference between knowing and believing. They can see that there is something different about him and even name it but they cannot (or will not) believe he is more than the Jesus they have always known. That is what happens to the twelve sent out two by two as well. Called and commissioned to proclaim “the kingdom come” they do the things that Jesus does, casting out demons, healing the sick and preaching the Jesus sermon. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” And they receive the same reception as Jesus does. Aren’t you James and John, the fishermen, the sons of Zebedee? There is no indication that Jesus did any dust shaking when rejected so perhaps the instruction to shake the dust off their sandals has as much to do with the disciples not being discouraged as it does with the house that will not welcome them. But like the disciples sent out the message received is meant to move one from knowing to believing to doing. We might know a thing or two about Jesus and be able to recite the tenants of the faith as described in creeds and catechisms. Faith calls us to move beyond what we know in order to believe what cannot be known. Or in other words what you know becomes who you are and who you are becomes what you do and what you do looks more like the Jesus you know.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pentecost 6 B - 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

2 Corinthians 12:2-10
“Power made perfect in weakness” is not a pleasant sort of life even if Paul is content to boast of his long list of calamities. Indeed it would seem that the thorn in the flesh is the least of his worries. But then the lesson to be learned is that the ability to endure all things does not come from a position of strength as if all one had to do was double down on spiritual steroids or stoically channel your inner Norwegian - if you happen to be Lutheran. No. It is grace that allows weakness to be strength. That means one can be content and still lament of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” (aka - channeling the inner Dane) It means that even though you pray for what you want (three or more times if you like) there comes a day when you accept what is and there is some measure of contentment in acceptance. But that is not the end of the story. The grace that is sufficient points us to the “things that are not to be told” so that the future balm for present woes might be applied to the wounds made by thorns in the flesh. In that way “my grace is sufficient for you” transcends whatever keeps us from being too elated with the promise of whatever waits for us in the paradise “God knows”. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pentecost 6 B - Psalm 123

Psalm 123
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, for we have had more than enough contempt from the proud and those who are at ease except that in our context “we have met the enemy and he is us.” (Pogo) Not that we are the “indolent rich” only that in comparison with the vast majority of those who inhabit the planet we have won the lottery a few times over. So if we were to translate the lament of the psalm it might be that we have had more than enough of lusting after the lifestyle of the rich and famous (Robin Leach) Or keeping up with the Joneses. Or competing to be the “winner is the one who dies with the most toys.” But when with eyes lifted up to the heavens we search for God’s mercy we are set free from the allure of possessions and the siren song of power. In that way we have had more than enough of the ways of this world and long for the day when with eyes lifted up we shall see the salvation of the Lord.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pentecost 6 B - Ezekiel 2:1-5

Ezekiel 2:1-5
This is not the sort of job description one wants to receive but then it seems to be the prophet’s lot. Ezekiel is sent to speak truth to a nation of rebels, obstinate and stubborn. Isaiah is sent to a people “ever hearing but never understanding… ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Isaiah 6:9) Jeremiah is made to be a “fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall” to stand against the kings of Judah, the officials, the priests and the people of the land. (Jeremiah 1:17) I’d prefer to be a kinder, gentler prophet like the “Comfort, comfort, ye my people” Isaiah (40:1) or the “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord” Jeremiah. (29:11-13) But the healing words cannot not be heard unless harsh ones till the soil of stubborn souls in the same way that the “Thus says the Lord” truth to be told about us makes us receptive to the good news of the Gospel. “Come let us reason together. Though your sins are scarlet they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18) Bad news becomes good news when we receive the corrective word of the Lord as an invitation and not a condemnation. Or as Ezekiel will say much later  ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (33:11)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pentecost 5 B - Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:21-43
It is a story of two women healed (even if one is girl). Both are anonymous – one named by a condition – the other by a relationship. The bleeding woman is as dead as Jairus’ daughter will soon be. She is cut off from the community by her unending flow and has been impoverished by physicians whose skills have failed her. She would have been invisible to those who did not know her and those who did would have shrunk back for fear of contact contamination. In her desperation she doesn’t care. “If I but touch the hem of his robe…” I imagine through twelve years of bleeding she’s had faith in other options. The reputation of the Mayo Clinic of her time, a perfect sacrifice offered in the Jerusalem temple, the dedication of her first born if God made it possible, etc. etc. That is until they failed to live up to her hope. That means the faith of this moment has less to do with her and everything to do with the One in whom she has placed her trust. The faith that follows and is more remarkable than a desperate act is that after having been made well she is free to walk away without anyone being the wiser but instead steps forward and admits to touching a man in public while she was bleeding and that Jesus did what no one else had been able to do in twelve years of trying. The daughter of Jairus has been alive as long as the woman has been bleeding. Her father shows the same sort of courage born of desperation that the woman did. No doubt members of the synagogue have heard of the Galilean preacher and wonder if their leader has lost his mind but Jairus believes Jesus is his and his daughter’s only hope. Even when the dreadful news reaches Jairus he listens to Jesus (who by the way is now unclean by virtue of the woman’s touch) and no doubt urges him on, “hurry then!” Jesus passing through the wailing crowd, ignoring the ridicule of their prognosis, takes the hand of “the little girl” and speaks life into her dead body.  So it will be with us, maybe in the here and now if God chooses to gift us with healing of earthly aliments but most certainly in the life to come when with our hand in his he will say, “get up!” And so we shall.