Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)
Scripture Readings*: Esther 7:1-6, 8-10, Psalm 124, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10
Haman’s execution is a pure example of poetic justice. It’s also an example of an Old Testament law principle found in Deut. 19:19. There it specifies if a witness against (accuser of) another is proven to have lied, “then do to him as he intended to do to his brother.” Haman’s lies about the Jews were intended to bring about their deaths. It was just that he should die instead.
James urged believers to use prayer in all the seasons of life. In times of affliction Christians are to pray to God for help and strength. In times of blessing believers are to praise God instead of congratulating themselves (5:13b). In instances of critical sickness the sick person was to summon the leaders of the church for prayer. Prayer for the sick could result in either physical healing or spiritual blessing. In times of sin and struggle mutual intercession could promote spiritual victory.
Jesus warns his followers that they are responsible for their actions. If they mislead younger believers, or commit any sinful action, they will be punished. It would be better to amputate a hand or foot than use it to do something wrong — and so forfeit a place in God’s kingdom. The choice is right or wrong — heaven or hell.
Jesus’ picture of hell is based on the valley of Gehenna — the refuse dump where Jerusalem’s rubbish is destroyed. Instead of being rotten, Jesus’ followers are to have the qualities of salt: tasty, healing and agreeable.
Love On Any Condition
Look at the beauty of James’ admonition: Come. Are you suffering? Come. Are you joyful? Come. Are you sick? Come. Are you struggling with sin? Come.
In our human condition, we are often ashamed or embarrassed to present ourselves to God. We want to clean up first and look good. We don’t want to admit that we’re struggling and need help. We view sickness and disease as a form of defeat and distance ourselves. Just as dangerous, life is ticking along and we somehow believe we need God less.
But Love calls. Christ whispers, “I’ve seen it all and there is nothing you can show me that will make me love you less. Come. Let me clean your wounds. Come. Let me hold and comfort you. Come. Let me celebrate with you. Come. Let me untangle the mess. Come.”
No matter what our condition, Love invites us to come.
Prayer for Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost– Gracious God, open my eyes to see Your power displayed through Your mercy and grace; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B