Ragamuffin thoughts and faith in the raw.
A United Methodist Certified Lay Servant (aka Speaker, aka Preacher) blogging the Revised Common Lectionary as a spiritual discipline, with other random thoughts thrown in.
On Twitter: @thenakedalien.
On this Rock, in His home, the Lord will make a feast for every soul. A meal full of sugars and fats, salt and carbs, with rivers of the finest wines! A wine aged to perfection - wedding feast wine.
The pall that lies over humanity shall be lifted. The veil that blinds the nations shall be torn asunder. Death shall die.
God the Mother will wipe all our tears. God the Father will remove all our sins and heal all our wounds. The Word can not be unspoken.
All the world will say: "This is what we've been waiting for. This is what has been missing. This is our hope - redemption, restoration, repatriation. Now this is the God that we dreamed of. Let us be glad and rejoice in Him."
They were leaving Jericho, the city that was never supposed to be rebuilt. A blind man was begging on the side of the road out of town. He was so poor that he didn't even have his own name - just "bar Timaeus". What was his story? Was his father dead? Was he rejected and thrown away by his family, friends, and neighbors? Where was his safety net? When he heard from the crowd that the Rabbi from Nazareth was passing by, he started yelling over and over again at the top of his desperate lungs: "Jesus bar David! Have mercy on me!"
Those around him tried to shut him up - dirty worthless bum should not be making such a spectacle in front of such a respected man. And calling him the Messiah? He was making the city look bad! Jesus stopped dead in his tracks. He turned to his students: "Call to him. Ask him to come to me." "Take heart!" they called to Timaeus' nameless son, "He wants you."
Throwing aside his only possession, his dirty cloak, he jumped up and ran toward their voices.
There in front of the crowd, Jesus spoke to this bum like an equal: "What do you want me to do?"
"My Teacher, let me see!"
Jesus smiled. "Go; by your faith you are made whole." But the man did not go - as soon as he could see again he followed Jesus down the road.
Job answered God's riddle-me-this cross-examination. "I know that You can do anything, and that I can nothing to stop You. You ask me why I think I know You, yet am a such a tool? I guess I spoke without trying to understand about things too big for me to fully grasp. You told me to listen to You - I'd heard of You, but not listened to You. I hate what I was, and I repent of it."
When Job prayed for his "friends", his trials ended. His scarcity was turned into abundance. The family that had spurned him reunited: "We knew all along that you weren't a sinner - God was unjust!" Each shared with him to help him get back on his feet. And God blessed Job.
God blessed Job more in the end of his days than He ever had when Job thought he was being blessed. Job's herds were bigger than ever, and so was his family. He had seven sons. But best of all, he had three daughters: Jem; Kez; and Keren! He thought they were the most beautiful women in all the world, and he loved them just as much as his sons. He treated all his children as equals, and saw to their futures.
Not only did he see to their futures, he saw their futures - he lived 140 more years after his ordeal! He enjoyed being surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. When he died, he went on a happy man.
James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”
“What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”
“Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”
Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”
“Sure,” they said. “Why not?”
Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”
When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”
(Mark 10:35-45; The Message)
1. Were James and John being presumptuous or had they perceived a promise in Jesus' words?
2. Were the other disciples mad because the brothers asked for glory, or because the brothers asked first?
3. Do we really internalize what it means to drink the cup or carry the cross?
4. When someone in our church does a bone-headed (aka human) thing, do we step forward to settle things down?
5. In a plutocratic meritocracy, is Jesus' call to servant leadership less relevant or more?
Each pastor chosen from among us is given authority over holy things, to take up offerings, and to atone for sins. They are able to deal with us with grace and understanding only because they themselves are vulnerable to the same weakness as we. Therefor, they pray, sacrifice and strive to pay not only our sin-debt, but their own as well. None must presume to take up this mantle on their own, but only when God calls them to it. Christ did not glorify himself and become the High Pastor on his own - he was appointed to the position by the One who said: "My Son, today I have given birth to you. You are the world's High Pastor; forever."
While incarnate, Jesus offered up prayers of supplication and intervention, in both joy and sorrow, to the One who could take his cup away. God heard, but did not answer as we would have wished. Although the Son of the Father, Jesus learned obedience and sacrifice through his suffering and was perfected through it. He is our source of salvation, for he has been appointed as our eternal High Pastor.
As they were about to hit the road, a stranger dashed up to kneel before Jesus: "Good Rabbi, teach me how to live forever!"
"Why do you call me 'good'? No one is purely good except God. We follow His commandments that help us to try to be good: don't take an other's life; don't take an other's mate; don't take an other's possessions; don't take an other's name and honor; don't take away your parents' dignity and respect."
"No problem Rabbi! I have never taken anything from someone else."
Jesus looked down with love: "You only lack one thing then - give everything you have to those who have nothing! Then you'll be rich in eternal life. Come. Follow."
But the shocked stranger was not free to follow Jesus because of the heavy chains of wealth.
Afterwards, his students were confused. If someone who was so obviously blessed by God with riches couldn't get in to the Kingdom, who could? He answered them: "It is impossible to save any of you, but God does the impossible."
Peter said: "Yeah, but we gave up everything and followed you!"
"All those who leave behind home and family to follow me and to share my good news with others will indeed be blessed with a global home and family here and now, and be graced with eternal life in the Kingdom. But it won't be the life you expected. Many of those on top now will be on the bottom, and those who are now stepped on will be lifted above them."
All that I have left is bitterness. Your hand lies heavy upon me! If only I could find You, we could get this all cleared up. I'm as righteous as they come - surely this is all a colossal mistake. I can no longer see You in my future or my past. I can no longer see you surrounding me.
O God! Why have You abandoned me?
Why are You no longer near by? Why can't You hear my pain? I cry day and night, but there is no peace for me. You are Holy, sitting in the Throne of Praise. My ancestors trusted You, and You delivered. They cried to You, and You saved.
They were scorned and mocked. I am scorned and mocked. My friends tell me that this wouldn't have happened if I had just been righteous enough. You have guided my entire life, so why am I suffering? Don't be distant! Trouble is nigh and I am in desperate need. I'm surrounded by hungry monsters. I am an emptied jug. My bones quake inside. My heart is gelatin. My mouth is a desert. I am terrified.
You. You have buried me in the dust of Sheol!
Well then. Let the darkness come. Let the pall of death cover my face.
(Taken from Job 23:1-9, 16-17 and from Psalm 22:1-15)
The proud religious law-keepers came to Him. They tried to trap Him and asked, “Does the Law say a man can divorce his wife?” He said to them, “What did the Law of Moses say?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife, if he put it in writing and gave it to her.” Jesus said to them, “Because of your hard hearts, Moses gave you this Law. From the beginning of the world, God made them man and woman.Because of this, a man is to leave his father and mother and is to live with his wife. The two will become one. So they are no longer two, but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.”
In the house the followers asked Jesus about this again. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is not faithful to her and is guilty of a sex sin. If a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she is not faithful to her husband and is guilty of a sex sin.”
They brought little children to Jesus that He might put His hand on them. The followers spoke sharp words to those who brought them. Jesus saw this and was angry with the followers. He said, “Let the little children come to Me. Do not stop them. The holy nation of God is made up of ones like these. For sure, I tell you, whoever does not receive the holy nation of God as a little child does not go into it.” He took the children in His arms. He put His hands on them and prayed that good would come to them.
(Mark 10:2-16; New Life Version)
1. What does it mean that God allowed Moses to alter the Law on divorce to adapt to the evolving understanding of marriage?
2. This text is about divorce and only references a definition of marriage. If Moses could redefine the meaning of un-marriage, can we redefine marriage?
3. Is it significant that Jesus' teaching is the same for men and women?
4. Note that Jesus emphasizes a faithfulness between couples that extends beyond marriage.
5. People say that the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. Here, Jesus is saying that re-marriage after divorce is also a sin. How does this affect my thinking on marriage?
6. Why does Mark insert the treatment of children into the discussion of marriage?
Once there was a man, a man from Uz, his name was Job. He was perfectly upright and uptight. He feared the wrath of God and so avoided any un-God-liness.
One day, all the beautiful, perfect heavenly beings gathered before the Lord. Among them was one called Satan. The Lord said: "Where've you been Satan?" (As if He didn't already know the answer...)
"I've been on a walk-about on the planet Earth," he answered his Lord.
The Lord probed: "Did you happen to see my faithful servant Job? There is no one else on earth that can compare. He always maintains his integrity in the face of evil - even though you tried to incite him to rebel against me and worked for his destruction without permission or cause..."
Trapped, Satan lashed out. "Screw you! These human pets that you are so fond of? Every single one of them will give anything and do anything just to continue their miserable muggle lives! Reach out and touch him where he lives and he'll spit in your face!"
"You're on! He is yours to play with Satan - just make sure you don't kill him."
So Satan went back to Earth and plagued Job with gross oozing sores. The sores itched so horribly that Job tried using broken pieces of pottery to scratch and scrape them, and then tried stopping them from oozing with a wood ash poultice. His wife was suffering her own pain from the loss of their children, and spoke out in that hurt: "Why do you still hold on to your self-righteousness? Curse the cruel unfeeling "god" that did this to us. Death would be far better than this!"
"Don't be a fool woman! Should I accept the good without the bad?"
Job still sinned not with his lips - but in his mind... ?