Archive for the ‘Mark 6’ Category

With God There Are Leftovers, Part I   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Four Banquets   2 comments

St. Edward's, Lawrenceville

Above:  St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia, October 19, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Psalm 111

Mark 6:35-44

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He has provided food for his worshippers;

he remembers his covenant for ever.

–Psalm 111:5, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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This is a post about four banquets:  the divine coronation feast in Isaiah 25:6-10a, the sordid feast of Herod Antipas in Mark 6:14-29, the Feeding of the 5000 (Plus) in Mark 6:30-44, and the Holy Eucharist.

The reading from Isaiah 25 speaks of a time immediately after Yahweh has defeated pride, evil, and sorrow, and established the Kingdom of God, in its fullness, on the Earth.  This is a time in our future.  All people are welcome at Yahweh’s coronation feast, to take place on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  All is well, except for those whom God has vanquished, namely the Moabites (25:10).

Our next two banquets, which stand is stark contrast to each other, come from Mark 6.  The first is a sordid event, with Herod Antipas lusting after the seductive Salome (whose name and image come to us via archaeology, not the Bible) and making a hasty promise which leads to the execution of St. John the Baptist.  The Herodian family tree was complicated, for both Herodias and her daughter, Salome, were granddaughters of Herod the Great via different women.  Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great via a third woman, married Herodias, who had been the wife of a half-brother of Herod Antipas.  Thus Salome was the step-daughter and a cousin of Herod Antipas.

I will not attempt to explain the Feeding the 5000 (Plus) rationally, for doing that constitutes seeking an answer to the wrong question.  (And I am more of a rationalist than a mystic.)  Neither will I try to explain Jesus walking on water (next in Mark 6) logically, for the same reason.  No, I am interested in answering the question which compelled one of my spiritual mentors whenever he studied any passage of scripture:

What is really going on here?

The Markan account of the Feeding of the 5000 men (no word about the number of women and children) uses imagery from elsewhere in the Bible.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd feeding the flock.  His feeding of the multitude exceeds Elisha’s feeding of 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44) and Elijah’s miracle of the refilling jug of oil (1 Kings 17:8-16).  The messianic banquet, an echo of Isaiah 25:6-10a, recurs in the wilderness motif in subsequent pseudipigraphal works, such as in 2 Baruch 29:4 and 4 Ezra 6:52.  Two main ideas stand out in my mind:

  1. Jesus is greater than Elijah and Elisha (see Mark 6:15, in which some people thought that Jesus was Elijah), and
  2. Nothing we bring to Jesus is inadequate in his capable hands.  There will be leftovers after he has finished working with it.  We are insufficient by ourselves yet more than sufficient in Christ.  That is what grace can effect.

The eucharistic imagery in Mark 6 points to the fourth banquet, which I, as an Episcopalian, celebrate at least once weekly.  The Holy Eucharist has constituted the core of my spiritual life since childhood.  One reason I left the United Methodism of my youth was to have the opportunities to partake of the sacrament more often.  In the Holy Eucharist I meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine and swear loyalty to him again.  No, I am not worthy on my merit (such as it is) to do this, but I rely on his merits to make me worthy to do so.  The first step to becoming worthy is acknowledging one’s unworthiness.

The contrast between human systems built on the foundation of violence, exploitation, and oppression on one hand and the Kingdom of God on the other hand is clear.  Injustice and artificial scarcity characterize the former, but justice and abundance for all distinguish the latter.  We can experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which is partially present already, but we await the fullness of the Kingdom.  Until then we can, at least, leave the world better off than we found it.  No effort toward this goal is too little in Christ’s capable hands.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Do Not Be Afraid, Part III   1 comment

Christ Walking on the Sea

Above:  Christ Walking on the Sea, by Amedee Varint

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 10:1-14

Psalm 65

Mark 6:45-52

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Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

O Hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the seas that are far away.

–Psalm 65:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

–Jesus in Mark 6:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Among the repeated themes in the Bible is that God is on the side of the righteous.  This might prove difficult to see sometimes, given persecutions and other hard times, but texts acknowledge this reality.  The composite theme holds that being on God’s side does not automatically mean that life will be prosperous, healthy, and easy, but that God will be present with one during good times as well as bad times.  Sometimes, in fact, one will suffer for being on God’s side.

I have had difficulty reconciling the God of battles in Joshua 10 with the God of Jesus, but I must, in all honesty, acknowledge that Revelation is not the most peaceful of books in the Bible and that its depiction of God is not pacifistic.  The truth is that we mortals can never, as much as we might try, remove our biases from our quest to understand God as much as we can, which is quite partially.  May we, therefore, consider our God concepts with humility, recognizing that we are all partially mistaken.

Fortunately, God remains faithful to divine promises and accepts with much kindness that which we offer sincerely.  Mercy flows abundantly.  We come to God with our fears, hopes, preconceptions, and the desire to obey divine commandments, but often our spiritual blind spots prevent us from understanding those commandments fully and recognizing many of our sins.  As in the story preceding the pericope from Mark, we bring all we have–a few loaves and fishes, to speak–and God transforms that which is inadequate into that which is more than sufficient.  May we take comfort in that reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-7-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 25, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Joshua 7-23, Mark 6, Psalm 65

Tagged with , ,

Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

jesus-good-shepherd-ravenna

Above:  A Good Shepherd Mosaic from Ravenna, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 30:25-43 (Thursday)

Genesis 46:28-47:6 (Friday)

Genesis 48:8-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Acts 3:17-36 (Thursday)

Acts 4:1-4 (Friday)

Mark 6:30-34 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The theme for these three days is shepherds.

Shepherds functioned as interesting metaphors.  They were essential to the economy yet were far from respectable and pleasant smelling.  Nevertheless, monarchs were metaphorical shepherds of their kingdoms.  And Jesus, of course, became known as the Good Shepherd.

Jacob/Israel was a shepherd and a trickster.  Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him, so Jacob/Israel returned the favor, won his independence from Laban, and became wealthy.  The patriarch, due to a lie most of his sons told him, mourned one son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead.  Happily, Joseph was alive in Egypt.  Jacob/Israel, reunited with Joseph, blessed his grandchildren via that son, surprising Joseph by announcing that the second grandson’s descendants would be more prominent than those of the first.  The name of Ephraim became synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel (northern), which, like the Kingdom of Judah (southern), had plenty of bad kings.

Many earthly “shepherds,” Biblical prophets proclaimed, fell short of the divinely set standards of proper governance.  A proper “shepherd,” they said, opposed idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  He looks after the interests of people who have nobody else to protect them, the prophets said.

A shepherd needs the sheep at least as much as the sheep need him.  What is a shepherd without sheep?  Who is a leader without followers?  What is a creator without a creation?  Such an interpretation troubles some, I know, but I did not create the metaphor.  No, I merely explore its implications faithfully and intellectually honestly.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has pity on us, for we are like sheep without a shepherd.  We are inclined to go astray easily, so we need the proper guidance.  May we heed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XII: Wonders, Jealousies, Fears, and Violence   1 comment

christ-rescuing-peter-from-drowning

Above:  Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-15 (11th Day of Lent)

Genesis 21:1-21 (12th Day of Lent)

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning–11th Day of Lent)

Psalm 34 (Morning–12th Day of Lent)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening–11th Day of Lent)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening–12th Day of Lent)

Mark 6:14-34 (11th Day of Lent)

Mark 6:35-56 (12th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 18:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

Genesis 21:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-monday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-tuesday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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ALPHA:

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a story which all four canonical Gospels tell.  Here are the citations:

  1. Mark 6:30-44
  2. Matthew 14:13-21
  3. Luke 9:10-17
  4. John 6:1-15

There are five thousand men in Mark.  There is no indication of an estimate, such as “about” or “as many as.”  Neither is there any mention of women and children.

Matthew 14:21 tells us of

about five thousand men…, to say nothing of women and children.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Luke 9:14 has

about five thousand men.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

And John 6:10 mentions

as many as five thousand men.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

So the women and children occur explicitly in the Matthew reading, although the Johannine version implies them.  (I read the text in several translations quite closely and consulted commentaries.) Such details interest me.

BETA:

Sometimes a lectionary becomes too choppy.  I understand the need to avoid placing too much material on one day.  The Lutheran daily lectionary I am following provides for

two readings of 15-25 verses each….one from the Old Testament, the other from the New Testament.

Lutheran Service Book (2006), page 299

Yet this system divides the passage describing the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) in Mark into two readings across as many days.  One of my methods in composing these posts is combining days of material as necessary to maintain a certain degree of textual unity, not that I need to defend myself in this matter.  This is a purely procedural notice.

We read today of wonders coexisting with sad news.  Abraham and Sarah become parents in their old age yet expel Hagar and Ishmael, victims in the narrative.  Our Lord heals people, feeds five thousand men with a small amount of food, and walks on water.  Yet Herod Antipas, the man responsible for the death of John the Baptist, wants to meet Jesus.  The wondrous and the unfortunate rub shoulders with each other.

That is the nature of the world, is it not?  The Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth.  His life was at risk before he was born and remained so after his birth.  And the Roman Empire executed him–not for being a nice guy who told people to love their neighbors, by the way.  Authorities perceived him as a thread to their power.  And he was, but not in the way in which zealots would have preferred him to be.

Jealousies and fears arise within us, bringing out the worst of our natures.  Sometimes we project them onto God and convince ourselves that God commands us to expel or execute those who, by their existence, threaten our positions, status, or ego.  May God forgive us, regardless of whether we know what we do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XI: Rejection   1 comment

nazareth-1934-1939

Above:  Nazareth, Palestine, 1934-1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004003044/PP/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 16:1-9, 15-17:22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 6:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 16-17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/second-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

Luke 4 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/prayer-for-the-second-sunday-of-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

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If you, O reader, are very observant regarding the Book of Genesis, you have noticed something about Chapter 17.  It reads as if Chapter 15 does not exist.  Do not take my word for it; read the texts for yourself.  There is a simple explanation:  15 comes mostly from J and 17 from P.  Thus we have two accounts of the Abrahamic Covenant.

While I am discussing textual differences, I turn to the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  Here are some facts one can confirm with just a little effort:

  1. The rejection occurs in Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:53-48, and Luke 4:16-30.
  2. The tempting of Jesus in the wilderness occurs in Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13.
  3. Thus Mark and Matthew place more chronological distance between the two events than does Luke, who separates them with two verses.

Now you know.

Now for my main point:

Jesus could not work well among those around whom he had grown up.  Yet his Apostles performed wonders among strangers, who had no preconceived notions about them.  Speaking of preconceived notions (yes, a pun), Sarai/Sarah had a bad attitude toward Hagar.  Sarai/Sarah was of two minds about Hagar’s proper relationship to Abram/Abraham, and therefore to her.  The second mind–that of scorn and rejection–triumphed.

Sometimes we humans ponder those closest to us genetically, emotionally, or geographically and think that we know more about them that we do.  So misunderstandings and jealousies arise, creating unfortunate results–perhaps estrangement.  Relationships can be difficult.  Actually, some of my best relationships have been to cats, not people, so I am hardly a candidate for dispensing much helpful relationship advice.  But I do offer this nugget:  May we begin by admitting to ourselves how little we know about others.  Disappointment is relative to expectation, which are frequently erroneous.  May we deal with people as they are, not as we expect them to be.  Doing that will help a great deal and be better for all parties involved.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Jesus, Who Contradicts Many of Our Assumptions   1 comment

Above:  Christ Carrying the Cross (1580), by El Greco

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ecclesiasticus 36:1-2, 5-6, 13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Look on us with pity, Lord God of all,

and strike fear in every nation.

Let them learn, as we ourselves have learned,

that there is not god but you, O Lord.

Renew your signs, repeat your miracles,

with glory for your mighty hand and right arm.

Show mercy to the city of your sanctuary,

to the city of Jerusalem, your dwelling-place.

Fill Zion with the praise of your triumph

and the temple with your glory.

Acknowledge those you created at the beginning

and fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name.

Reward those who look to you in trust;

prove your prophets worthy of credence.

Listen, O Lord, to the prayer of your servants,

who claim Aaron’s blessing on your people.

Let all who live on earth acknowledge

that you are the Lord, the eternal God.

Psalm 79:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10 Why should the heathen say, “Where is their God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servant’s blood.

11 Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12 May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13 For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Mark 10:32-45 (Revised English Bible):

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe, while those who followed behind were afraid.  Once again he took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to him.

We are now going up to Jerusalem,

he said,

and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and spat upon, and flogged and killed; and three days afterwards, he will rise again.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said,

Teacher, we should like you to do us a favour.”

He asked,

What is it you want me to do for you?

They answered,

Allow us to sit with you in your glory, one at your right hand and the other at your left.

Jesus said to them,

You do not understand what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

They answered,

We can,

Jesus said,

The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism that I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit on my right or on my left is not for me to grant; that honour is for those to whom it has already been assigned.

When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them to him and said,

You know that among the Gentiles the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and the great make their authority felt.  It shall not be so with you; among you whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The readings from Sirach and Psalms come from circumstances of national distress.  Psalm 79 comes from the aftermath of the Chaldean (Babylonian) destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E.  Sirach comes from the time after the return from this exile.  The Jews were home, but they were still subject to foreign nations.  And the descendants many Gentiles who had settled in the Jewish homeland remained.  Gentiles lost their land claims.  Religious, ethnic, and cultural conflicts erupted, of course.  So it is not surprising that the full texts of Psalm 79 and Sirach 36 contain much anger toward foreigners.

These readings contain pleas for divine mercy during such difficult times.  It was certainly a feeling that many in First Century C.E. Palestine understood.  Here were Jews living in their homeland, but under Roman occupation and with many Gentiles settled among them.  National glory was something from a past nobody remembered firsthand.  And was not the Messiah supposed to expel all those foreigners?

Speaking of the Messiah, Jesus did not expel any foreigner.  No, he even found great faith among some of them.  Jesus is like that:  not what many people expect or want him to be.

When reading the Gospel of Mark, it is very important to pay close attention to how material is grouped.  For example, this day’s reading flows directly from recent readings about children, a camel passing through the eye of a needle,  and predictions of our Lord and Savior’s death and resurrection.  It seems that some Apostles have not been paying enough attention.  The author of Mark has James and John, sons of Zebedee, ask for glorious positions relative to Jesus.  Note, however, that, in the parallel reading in Matthew 20:20-28, their mother makes the request.  The two are versions of the same story, based on a close reading of them.  (Read them for yourself.)

The other Apostles are angry with James and John, probably because they were jockeying for position, too.  “How dare you two get there first?” the other seemed to ask.  At least that is my interpretation.

Anyhow, Jesus says that the first will be last, and the last will be first.  Anyone who wants to be the greatest must be the lowliest servant.  And, by the way, he will suffer, die and rise again.  I have read this before in Mark.  But here we have these statements repeated.  We humans do not always listen closely enough often enough, do we?  Sometimes “our tapes are running,” so we hear but do not listen.  Jesus says something plainly, but we do not understand, so he has not communicated with us.  The fault is with us, not Jesus.

I propose that the communication breaks down at our end because Jesus contradicts many of our assumptions.  He cannot mean what the words seem to indicate, can he?  Yes, he can.  How often do we need him to repeat himself?  How dense are we?

The Kingdom of God is an inverted order relative to the traditional social arrangements.  According to Matthew 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-26, the physically hungry will be filled.  Those who are spiritually impoverished will have spiritual abundance.  Those who mourn and weep will laugh.  The meek will inherit the earth.  The merciful will not get run over and taken advantage of; they will receive mercy.  The peacemakers will not be marginalized in a militaristic and angry society; they will be called sons and daughters of God.  The persecuted will triumph in God.  Those reviled for the sake of righteousness will rejoice.  The rich have received their consolation, the well-fed will be hungry, and those laughing now will mourn and weep.  And being well-regarded in polite society does not indicate favor with God.

And, as we have read today, the first will be last, and the last will be first.  Anyone who wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all.  I know that this is repetitive, but so was Jesus.  Some statements bear repeating.

So, after almost 2,000 years of repetition, why have we not understood yet?  Why are so many of us who claim to follow Jesus so dense?  We are invested in and acculturated to the dominant social arrangements.  It is not that the Kingdom of God is upside-down; we are.

Lord, have mercy.

We need to be right side-up.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHRISTIAN FREDERICK HEYER, BARTHOLOMEW ZIEGENBALG, AND LUDWIG NOMMENSEN, LUTHERAN PASTORS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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