Monthly Archives: June 2015

5th Sunday After Pentecost, June 28, 2015

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

David composed and sang a song in honor of Saul and Jonathan. He expresses hope that the Philistines will not find comfort in Saul’s death, then moves on to praise the two men for their skill and bravery in battle (1:21–23, 25,­ 27), their qualities of character (1:23), and their skill as national leaders (1:24).

David reserves special laments and praises for Jonathan, with whom he had enjoyed a special friendship (1:26). His description of Saul as “gracious” was generous, considering Saul’s relentless efforts to kill him (1 Sam. 18–26).

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Paul was pleased that the Corinthians had earlier expressed a strong desire to support the church. However, the Corinthians needed to carry their intentions through to completion, “according to your means.” This is an important factor in grace giving. Paul said it again. “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

On the one hand, one need not be a millionaire for his or her contribution to be significant. Even the gifts of those who have little and can give little are acceptable. What God is concerned with is the willingness: the love that motivates the believer to share (cf. Luke 21:1–4).

Mark 5:21-43bleedingwoman

Mark’s account of a girl restored to life and a woman healed (5:21–43) is a contrast of faith: a synagogue ruler, a highly respected community member, compared with a now-impoverished woman who lived as an outcast because of her hemorrhage.

The woman “had heard about Jesus” and exemplified faith in daring to touch the fringe of His garment. Her fear of illness and death is surpassed by her awe of the One who had healed her. Jesus’ address “Daughter” brought her into relationship with Him based on her saving faith (5:34). This new relationship makes going in God’s peace possible.

Jairus demonstrates a faith that defies logic. He trusts Jesus to restore life to his daughter… a faith that trusts God, no matter what.

The Greatness of Grace

On the surface, today’s readings have little in common. Look closely, however, and one unifying thread runs through them: God’s grace. It is grace that enables David to speak words of praise for Saul, the man who tried repeatedly to kill him. Paul’s words demonstrate that equal sacrifice and commitment are acts of grace as well, making gifts both large and small significant in God’s economy. Mark’s account of Jesus healing the woman with an issue of blood demonstrates not only physical restoration, but also the healing of relationship between the woman and Himself as well as the larger community.

What does this teach us about our own lives?

The heartbeat of God and the lifeblood of our own salvation is grace. When we are wronged by others, grace matters. Whether we are giving to or receiving from others, grace matters. When we are broken and hurting, grace matters. When we are restored and blessed, grace matters. Grace is both the marker of and magnet for our faith in Jesus Christ.

Prayer for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost– Holy God, give me grace so I can fully serve you and my neighbor; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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4th Sunday After Pentecost, June 21, 2015

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49, Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

1 Samuel 17:32-49

A champion is needed to fight a giant Philistine called Goliath. David volunteers. He goes out to meet Goliath, armed only with faith in the living God — and his shepherd’s sling. This is more than a test of bravery. It is a brave declaration that the God of Israel is greater than all other gods. As David says: The whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s (17:46–47).

This is God’s war! The lad with faith takes on the giant of fear. Goliath stands for all the pride and power of paganism. David and his sling are so puny that victory can only be an act of God.

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In the previous chapter, Paul called on us to stop looking at things from a “worldly point of view.” Here he sets up a series of contrasts. The carnal (worldly) Christian and Paul’s opponents may see him as an imposter, whom they have unmasked. They may dismiss him as poor, sorrowful, broke, and useless. But from God’s viewpoint Paul, who has proven his “servant-hood” by his willingness to suffer hardship, is genuine, vitally alive, full of joy, with access to the spiritual resources that make others rich, and thus “possessing everything.”

Mark 4:35-41735px-Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695

Jesus demonstrated His absolute trust in God by sleeping through the storm on Lake Galilee. The disciples mistook Jesus’ trust for apathy: “Don’t you care?” (4:38). Strangely, their fear is not mentioned until Jesus had quieted the storm (4:40–41). Here faith is courage based on trust in God’s care no matter what. The disciples’ question, “Who is this?” suggests their awe stemmed from the realization that somehow their Teacher did what only God could do.

Sling Shots and Storm Clouds

There’s an old phrase that encourages, “Keep yourself out of harm’s way.” It’s good advice. To the extent we are able, we are to live peaceably – with God, each other, and ourselves. But there are times when danger cannot be avoided. We cross paths with a giant. The clouds darken and the storm becomes ominous. We look at our own resources and find them woefully inadequate. Then, we look to God.

Like Paul, we may find ourselves facing afflictions, hardships, and calamities. But through faith, we can also say, “now is the day of salvation!” Faith gives us the courage to look our giant in the eyes and affirm, “…the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s.”

Take a firm hold on faith. Look your giant in the eyes. Don’t hide from the storm. Jesus, our Savior, makes mighty the sling shot and speaks peace to the storm.

Prayer for Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – Mighty God, give me courage in Your never failing help and the sure foundation of Your Son; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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3rd Sunday After Pentecost, June 14, 2015

Third Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Psalm 20, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17, Mark 4:26-34 

1 Samuel 15:34–16:13

Saul’s work for God had ended, but God’s work would go on. The Lord had already “sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people” (13:14). God sends Samuel to Bethlehem. There he discovers David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse. It doesn’t occur to anyone in the family that this shepherd boy might be a future king. But God sees things differently. In another remarkable statement, Samuel shows his deep awareness of the presence and perception of God: Mortals look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (16:7).

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

Paul’s confidence was realized by focusing on future conditions… not on the “seen”, but the “unseen”. To live this way is to live by faith, not by sight. It is to live in light of the ultimate rather than immediate realities (cf. Rom. 8:24-25). A life of faith obeys God’s commands despite the hardships that obedience they may produce (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:23-29).

Paul was willing to live this way because Christ was his model. Though possessing divine prerogatives, Jesus willingly became incarnate and followed the path of obedience to the cross (Phil. 2:6-8), dying for all (not just the elect, as some suggest; cf. 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). By faith Paul was identified with Jesus in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 2:20). And Paul lived with the same selfless abandon the Lord had. Christ’s love, which had converted him, now compelled him (cf. 1 John 3:16).

Mark 4:26-34

It was common for pagan and Jewish farmers alike to seek divine help for their crops. Pagan farmers relied heavily on sacrifices. This parable reminds us that it is God’s providence, not the farmer’s power that makes the grain grow.

Sinapis_alba_grainesThe debate regarding the mustard seed being the smallest seed misses the point of this parable. The emphasis is that despite its smallness… it yields a large shrub. Jesus is applying an image of growth from such a tiny seed (something his audience would connect with) to illustrate that this is how the kingdom of God would be. That which would begin in obscurity would culminate in glory.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

To see with eyes of faith, stand next to a farmer surveying a barren field. He’s not seeing tangled clumps of roots and mud waiting to be broken up and tilled. He’s not seeing hours of standing in the hot sun, sowing seeds into the ground. He’s not seeing weeds to be hoed or bugs to be thwarted. His eyes are already seeing tall stalks of wheat or corn. A farmer looks beyond the surface and sees the potential. God asks us to do the same.

Does your faith feel small? See it through God’s eyes. Faith, even the size of a mustard seed, eventually produces an exponential harvest – enough for you and those around you.

Prayer for Third Sunday After Pentecost – Merciful God, give me Your steadfast love and grace to both proclaim and cling to Your truth; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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2nd Sunday After Pentecost, June 7, 2015

Second Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Samuel 8:4-11, Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

1 Samuel 8:4-11,(12-15),16-20,(11:14-15)

The people requested a king because Samuel’s judgeship had begun to fail. He was old; and his sons, like Eli’s, were wicked men who perverted justice. Also the people wanted the benefits of a central authority like the other nations had (8:1–5). Although Samuel resisted, God graciously permitted Israel to have a king (8:6–9). Samuel warned the people of the troubles of kingship, but they persisted; so God granted their request (8:10–22).

When God’s people will not accept His best for them, they will get the best they can be persuaded to take and, with the answer to their selfish prayers, will receive also an added judgment.

2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1

The only power in the gospel is God’s power. The contrast between weakness and power was characterized by Paul’s ministry modeled on the sufferings of Jesus that flowed to others (4:7–15). Yet the ministry was a continuation of renewal. Even in the midst of suffering, Paul exemplifies courage. This was possible because he looked beyond the decay of the outer person to the renewal of the new person.

Mark 3:20-35

Religious leaders of the day were trying to brand Jesus’ ministry as being the work of Beelzebub, “the prince of devils.” Jesus refutes their charges, showing his adversaries the absurdity their underlying assumption that suggested that Satan acts against himself (vv. 20-27). In light of the charges of Jesus’ opponents, He issues a stern warning.

While all sins and blasphemies (derogatory words of men against God) are open to God’s forgiveness, blasphemies against the Holy Spirit are not. An attitude of hostile defiance toward God that rejects His saving power toward men and women, expressed in the Spirit-empowered person and work of Jesus… will not be forgiven. Such a persistent attitude of willful unbelief can harden into a condition in which repentance and forgiveness, both mediated by God’s Spirit, become impossible (vv. 28-30).

Finally, Jesus reminds us that Kingdom citizenship does not depend upon flesh and blood, but rather upon a kindred spirit we possess in seeking to accomplish God’s purpose through faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 31-35)

Put On Your Glasses256px-Cashmere_Mountain_Meadow_(3293970519)

We often fail to realize how bad our eyesight has become until a doctor prescribes a new pair of glasses. Suddenly, we see what was there all along – things that had previously been invisible. Today’s readings remind us that we often need corrective action to adjust our spiritual vision.

Samuel’s abilities were failing, yet God’s people could not see that a king would not help. Blinded by their desire to mirror the ruling structures of the surrounding nations, they willingly traded their freedoms for slavery to a king. Conversely, Paul is able to look beyond the deterioration of the temporal to see the lasting beauty of the eternal.

These readings teach us that we have a choice. Like the Israelites, we can cling to our blindness; or, like Paul, we can put on our glasses. We can allow God to correct our vision and help us see life – His creation and the people around us – through His eyes.

Prayer for Second Sunday After Pentecost – Holy God, help me see my life and the lives of those around me through Your eyes; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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