Monthly Archives: October 2015

23rd Sunday After Pentecost, November 1, 2015

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34

Ruth 1:1-18

When a person marries, it is a common understanding that you do not just marry your bride or groom: You marry their family as well. When we take God for our Father, we take His people for our people; even though they may be poor and despised.

Ruth understands: To forsake the family of God and return to the “people of Moab” will ultimately sever communion with God.

Hebrews 9:11-14

Under the old covenant, a provision to remove external pollution (all that defiled a person) was available through animal sacrifices and other familiar rituals (9:6-10). However, under the new covenant, Jesus freely surrendered His life to God as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Unlike the old covenant that offered temporary relief, Jesus’ sacrifice not only cleanses us from all sin, His perfect work purifies our conscience from guilt, which inspires holy living.

Mark 12:28-34sadducees

The Sadducees did not believe in the “afterlife” (12:18-23). However, attempting to catch Jesus off guard, they ask a hypothetical question regarding life after death. Jesus points out that their root problem is ignorance of Scripture and of God’s power (12:24-27). Stumped by Jesus’ response, a scribe then asks Jesus: What laws are the most important ones to keep.

Jesus brilliantly and precisely cuts through all of the confusion surrounding the magnitude of details associated with “law-keeping.” He condenses it to two things: Love God and love others.

 

Live So Others May Learn

Some say, we tend to model what we observe. Children notice the behavior of adults and – over time – reflect similar conduct. Today’s Scriptures reveal adults also learn through observation.

Naomi’s example compels Ruth to embrace a different way of living. For Ruth, the norm of a patriarchal society requires a widow – upon the death of her husband – to rely upon the mercy of her husband’s family. However, Ruth’s observation of her mother-in-law’s love (and the God she loved), constrains her to abandon her known security. Because of her courageous decision, Ruth finds her place among God’s people and the lineage of Christ.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others. Do we live in a way that others are intrigued and compelled to know our God? Like Naomi, our love of God becomes an irresistible influence for others to find their place among God’s people.

Prayer for Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – Merciful God, gift to me Your Holy Spirit; empower me to live a life pleasing to You and a beacon to others; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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22nd Sunday After Pentecost, October 25, 2015

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22); Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Job’s suffering does not contribute any new awareness of God. It does, however, bring Job to a foolish position of challenging God’s actions. God’s self-revelation deepens Job’s relationship with him. Job’s suffering, and folly of challenging God, becomes the context into which God brings revelation that opens Job to encounter a deeper and more personal experience with God. With this new insight, Job humbly repents, not because of a sin committed before his suffering, but due to his critical and judgmental attitude toward God.

After the Lord evaluates Job and his friends, Job is restored and his righteous behavior is confirmed. The view of Job’s friends—that suffering is always a result of sin—is proven wrong by God’s words. Job is not condemned because he had spoken rightly, however he fully recovers from his affliction and lives out his life in good health.

Hebrews 7:23-28

Aaron’s line of priesthood required many members because death prevented them from continuing in office. Although Jesus died, his priesthood continues because his resurrection allows him to live forever. As our High Priest, Jesus knows and helps his people for eternity. Jesus is the perfect accomplishment of all God requires: He is blameless and pure, set apart from sinners, and is exalted above the heavens.

Aaron’s priesthood sacrificed an animal as a substitute for sin. Jesus offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:10).

Mark 10:46-52

Mark’s section on discipleship concludes as it begins; with the healing of a blind man (10:46–52; compare 8:22–26). Bartimaeus models true discipleship. His plea for help, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47–48), is the cry of a dependent, childlike spirit (see 10:15). He asks Jesus not for a “glory seat” (see 10:37) but to see, which all disciples need perceptive eyes (see 4:12). Throwing aside his cloak, Bartimaeus demonstrates his readiness for mission (see 6:9). Following Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, he accepts the way of his suffering Lord. Finally, Jesus has a disciple who could see.

Open Your EyesJesus-healing-Bartimaeus-cropped

As we journey through Ordinary Time, it’s easy to become blinded by the dust, the sweat, and the heat of the day. Our eyes strain to see the destination on the horizon. Our sight grows dim and our souls can despair.

Hope can be found in today’s reading from Mark. Bartimaeus doesn’t let his blindness or the voices of the naysayers keep him from calling out to Jesus. And Jesus doesn’t let Bartimaeus’ affliction keep Him from answering this man’s call. He not only answers, He restores his sight; calling him to renewed action in the simple word, “Go.”

In seasons when our sight grows dim, Jesus is waiting to restore our vision. In the presence of Jesus, we see clearly again. We hear His voice answering our prayer and sending us back on our way with the word, “Go.”

Prayer for Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost – Gracious God, renew in me your gifts of faith and hope, that I may love Your commands and see clearly Your purpose; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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21st Sunday After Pentecost, October 18, 2015

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

“Where were you when I made the earth?” God declared that Job had spoken “ignorant words.” He then began a series of rhetorical questions to show Job how little he knew about the world. For one thing, Job knew little about the creation of the world since he had not been there at the time (vss. 4–7).

Job did not know what caused light and darkness (vss.19–20), or what the dimensions of the earth were (38:18), or what caused various weather patterns (38:22–30). He did not comprehend the complexities of astronomy (vss. 31-38). Job’s response to all of this should have been to acknowledge God’s dominion over all (38:33). Though Job did not understand the causes behind these natural phenomena, God spoke to him as one well acquainted with the basic facts of creation and laws of nature.

Hebrews 5:1-10

God called Christ to serve as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Just as God appointed Aaron as a high priest to represent people before God, Jesus – as our great High Priest – represents us in God’s very presence.

Because Aaron was surrounded with weakness, he was able to have compassion on other weak, sinful people. Christ also faced hardship, and learned the value of obedience by His commitment to God’s will.

Sons_of_ZebedeeMark 10:35-45

An argument has arisen about greatness. James and John want the best seats in the kingdom (v. 37). They see leadership in terms of status and privilege. However, they fail to understand that in the coming days the only throne Jesus is to mount is a wooden one, and the only crown he will receive will be of thorns. The only ones who will be at his right and left will be crucified thieves.

Despite their lack of perception (and ours), Jesus teaches them (and us) that in his Kingdom, greatness is about service and humility. He reminds us that the baptism we are offered is to be buried and to be raised with Christ. The cup Jesus offers is one of suffering.

Follow the Leader

“Pick me! Pick me!” This is a common cry heard on playgrounds everywhere. We want to be first. We want to be noticed. We want to be important. We want to be the leader. We want to be included.

To be a leader in God’s kingdom requires a different cry – one that seldom occurs without suffering and sorrow. Prepare me. Lead me. Preserve me. Strengthen me. Help me.

Like James and John, our voices are sometimes too common with those on the playground. As our High Priest, well acquainted with our human weaknesses, Jesus listens with compassion. He is ever-present as trials and sorrows serve to mature our voice until it echoes His own… “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…”

Prayer for Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost – Holy God, pour out Your mercy on me so that I may persevere in good works and deeds; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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20th Sunday After Pentecost, October 11, 2015

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

“Oh, that I knew where I might find him.” The heart-felt cry of Job comes forth as a longing to be vindicated. If only Job could gain access to God, he will be justified! Job knows that God will not be violent with him, but will listen to his assertion of innocence (6) and acquit him (7). But where is God? Why is He inaccessible?

Although Job longs to meet God, he is desperately aware of God’s absence. However, Job also knows that if he cannot find God, God can find him; “he knows the way that I take” (10). Job is confident that if God chooses to put him to the test, he will come forth as gold, declared innocent (10–11). But God is not acting fairly or legally; he does whatever he pleases (13), and that is only for Job’s suffering. Job is fighting in the dark against an unassailable and an inaccessible opponent. However, Job will go on fighting (17).

Hebrews 4:12-16

The author of Hebrews reminds us that God’s word is trustworthy and full of living power. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword, able to cut into our deepest thoughts; exposing us for who we really are.

Returning to the theme of Christ as our High Priest, the writer speaks at some length of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood (4:14–10:18). Because Jesus endured all the temptations we endure, he is fully dependable. We can rely on him to supply every grace we need (see 2:17–18).

Mark 10:17-31Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler

How is it possible to be so close and yet so far away? The rich young ruler asks Jesus how he can earn salvation. Jesus tells him; however, the possessions of this good man kept him from responding (10:17–22). This sad incident is an object lesson for his disciples – and us: Wealth can keep us from seeing our need for God (10:23–27). Both present blessings and eternal life belong to those who forsake all to follow Christ (10:28–31).

Tyranny of the Dailyness

It is not a coincidence, that Ordinary Time is the longest season of the Church year. True character is seldom revealed in times of celebration. The essence of who we are and what we believe comes through as we struggle with the “tyranny of the dailyness.”

As we battle fatigue from set backs, disappointments, and challenges, we find ourselves commiserating with Job, searching for glimpses of God; wondering where He is. In times of complacency, we catch ourselves identifying with the rich young ruler, hesitant to give up comfort and security in order to follow God.

In the ordinary times of life, God’s Word reveals the truth about our character. More importantly, it shows us our continual need for a Savior who has experienced the “tyranny of the dailyness” and has overcome it through His death and resurrection.

Prayer for Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Merciful God, make me aware of Your grace that surrounds and guides me, empowering Your good works within me; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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19th Sunday After Pentecost, October 4, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B) 

Scripture Readings*: Job 1:1; 2:1:10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Disappointed that Job remained faithful to God, despite the loss of his children and wealth, and convinced that just a little more suffering will defeat him, Satan asks permission to cause bodily suffering to Job. God permits Satan to afflict Job, as long as the suffering is not fatal.

Job’s helpmate is no help. His wife, full of great sorrow herself, is unable to give Job any moral support. Rather, she invites him to share her bitterness toward God.

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Long ago, God spoke through intermediaries; prophets (1:1) and angels (see 2:2). The author of Hebrews boldly declares that God now speaks directly, through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is a part of the Godhead. Jesus is both Creator and Redeemer (1:3) and is at His rightful place at God’s right hand (1:3).

God placed the world under our control (2:5–8; see Gen. 1:28). However, because of sin and rebellion, we lost this noble position (2:8; see Gen. 3:6, 17–19). However, there is hope for us, because “we see Jesus” (2:9), who, being made “lower than the angels;” by becoming human (2:14; compare 2:7 and 2:9), has – through his death and resurrection become “a perfect leader” (2:10) and the “High Priest” who is able to completely forgive our sins (2:17–18).

Mark 10:2-16

Jesus reminds us that marriage is a divine institution. Because this is true, we are obligated to faithfully observe, honor and protect this covenant relationship. The marriage bond, which God ties, is not to be lightly untied.

Though Jesus’ disciples were nervous – and irritated – about all the boys and girls clamoring to touch Jesus, our Lord chose to use this moment as a stern reminder to his disciples, and us: The kingdom of God will only be received in our hearts if we manifest the same humble resignation of a little child.

Hard Truths

Truth is sometimes difficult to hear. Today’s readings remind us that suffering in life is inevitable. Like Job, trials may come despite living with integrity. In Hebrews, we see that sorrow and suffering happens in a fallen world.

cross-220004_1280When we suffer, it helps us to remember the ultimate Truth: Jesus took on human flesh, becoming “lower than the angels” with us. He entered our brokenness to give us both comfort and hope – hope that all things will one day be made right through Him.

Prayer for Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost– Almighty God, give me grace to bring to You all of life, trusting that You will give more to me than I desire or deserve; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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