Monthly Archives: September 2015

18th Sunday After Pentecost, September 27, 2015

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 5:13-20

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.

Mark 9:38-50

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.

girl-850117_1920In 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

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17th Sunday After Pentecost, September 20, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)    

Scripture Readings*: Proverbs 31:10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37

Proverbs 31:10-31

The book of Proverbs ends with a poem in praise of the perfect woman. It is as though the lady Wisdom of the early chapters has gotten married and is now running a home. She is trustworthy, hard working and far-sighted. She is good at business, clever with her hands and generous to the needy. She looks good, speaks wisely and teaches well. Her secret is that she fears the Lord and the outcome is that her family is proud of her.

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Those who think they would make good teachers must show goodness and humility in their behavior. True wisdom isn’t self-centered, bombastic and proud. Those qualities come from the devil. But God gives genuine wisdom, which is selfless, gentle and peaceable.

James stresses that asking from wrong motives leaves us lacking. He then urges his readers to give themselves to God. With God’s help we can defy the devil and receive purity and integrity in heart and life. God himself will give us all we need in status and dignity.

Mark 9:30-37

The disciples ignore Jesus’ talk of betrayal and death and give themselves to dreams of power. They hope for the top jobs in God’s kingdom when it comes. They argue about which of them is most important.

jesus_kidsBut Jesus shows them a little child — someone without any power or influence. The greatness of God’s kingdom is to be found in putting others first. In Aramaic, the word for ‘child’ and ‘servant’ is the same. When we count the weak and powerless as more important than ourselves, we come close to the heart of God.

Take A Seat at the Little Kid’s Table

At almost every family gathering, there’s a grown-up table and a kids’ table. The grown-up table usually has the better decorations, complete with fancy china and linen napkins. If you get a seat at the grown-up table, you’ve made it big.

In light of today’s readings, we might need to rethink where we would find Jesus sitting. He points to a child as the heart of God’s kingdom. A child – one who would rather talk about Sponge Bob Square Pants than politics. A kid who prefers a Capri Sun to a cappuccino. Jesus points out that this kid comes closest to reflecting the priorities of God.

Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our seating chart. Maybe, just maybe, a chair at the little kids’ table is the best seat in the house.

Prayer for Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost– Almighty God, help me to love what You love, choosing heavenly treasures above earthly riches; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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16th Sunday After Pentecost, September 13, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)     

Scripture Readings*: Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38 

Proverbs 1:20-33

God’s call to hearts is not a secret matter; His Spirit invites people openly to come to Christ. Wisdom invites all three classes: the simple, the scorner, and the fool (1:22). Sinners choose not to heed the voice of Wisdom by rejecting God’s outstretched hand (1:24-25). The result of their refusal to receive the voice of Wisdom ends in destruction. Those who listen and heed Wisdom will be secure (1:33)

James 3:1-12

The things we say can cause immense damage. Just as a boat is steered by a small rudder, so the tongue can change a whole life and influence the course of history. But who is able to control it? James believes the tongue is an endless source of evil: the means by which cruelty, rage and lies spring from a wicked and devious heart. But Christians should be a source of pure speech: praise, truth, wisdom and encouragement.

Mark 8:27-38

peter-and-jesusMost people think that Jesus is a great prophet, but Peter declares, ‘You are the Christ.’ It is the most momentous statement he will ever make, for the Christ is God’s anointed king — the Messiah for whom the Jews hope. However, Peter is not comfortable with Jesus’ forecast of pending suffering and death.

Jesus says that those who follow him must share his suffering. They will give up everything for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. They will be disgraced and condemned in the eyes of the world. It may look as though they are wasting their lives — but they will be rewarded with eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Psssst! Listen to This…

There’s a reason today’s readings point to the power of our words. With carefully chosen and well-placed words, nations have risen and fallen. Leaders have changed and shaped the course of history. On a more personal level, marriages often survive or fail because of the words spouses speak to each other. Children blossom or become stunted as a result of the words spoken into their lives.

As we think about the words we say to – and about – others, we can also ask ourselves about the words we say about ourselves and about God. Not only do our words have the power to affect others, they have lasting impact on how we view our Creator and ourselves. Do we affirm God’s grace and forgiveness in our lives, allowing us to try again when we fail? Do we remind ourselves that we are made in God’s image and likeness, worthy of dignity and respect?

The words we speak about God, ourselves, and others have eternal impact. It’s important that our words reflect truth, goodness, and beauty as these are seeds that bring about a good harvest.

Prayer for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost– Holy God, empower Your Holy Spirit to direct and rule my heart so I may speak Your truth in love; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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15th Sunday After Pentecost, September 6, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm 125, James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17, Mark 7:24-37

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

A good name (reputation) is more important than the accumulation of wealth. Because God created all men and women, each person, despite his or her economic status, is treasured by God and is to be respected (verses 1-2).

The author faithfully depicts the facts of life, whether he approves of them or not. He reminds us that wealth can breed power and preeminence, while poverty often leads to trouble and servitude. Cruelty and injustice practiced on a neighbor will result in calamity, because God pleads the cause of the poor and plunders those who oppress the weak (verses 8-9, 22-23).

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 12-17

James reprimands his readers for demonstrating favoritism to the rich who attended their services while ignoring the poor. The partiality the rich displayed was contrary to their own interests, for the rich were actually the oppressors (2:6–7). Such partiality is contrary to God’s law (2:8–10). James reminds us that this inconsistency will be judged (2:12–13), and he warns that a faith, merely spoken in kind words to the poor, without offering them help, is not a saving faith (2:14–17).

Mark 7:24-37

Why is this woman compared to “puppies” under the family table? Jesus’ point is that anyone’s first concern is to feed his family—and the Jews have been God’s chosen people, His special family. The woman is not offended, but delighted. If she is this close to God, then she has a right to the crumbs! How different her attitude is from that of the Pharisees, who are unwilling to say “Lord,” or sit down at the table of truth Jesus spreads!

What’s In A Name?

Kennedy. Trump. Bin Laden. Hitler. Just say the name and instantly, our minds and hearts are filled with a perception and image of a person’s character and ideals. Today’s readings point out the importance of having a good name. God’s name – and what is associated with it – is no different.

256px-The_Hand_(3950973346) (1)In today’s readings, we gain insight into what God wants associated with His name. Mercy. Healing. Reconciliation. Inclusion, regardless of means or wealth. Compassion. These concepts are at the heart of the Gospel because they are the heart of God. As people who bear Christ’s name, we also bear the responsibility to live and act in ways that accurately reflect His name to a watching world.

Are we merciful? Do we bring healing to the lives around us? Are we instruments of reconciliation? Do we equally value the rich and the poor? Are we compassionate? Asking these questions will help us live out the name of God in ways that establish His good name in our world.

Prayer for Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost– Merciful God, transform my heart to reflect Yours, proclaiming Your Son to a world in need; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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