Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

You can also search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.


Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 30, 2015 Proper 17B / Ordinary 22B / Pentecost +14

"The question that drove the Pharisees and that motivates some contemporary Christians is an important one: in a religiously diverse culture, how does one maintain Christian identity and integrity?"

"ID Check," Cynthia M. Campbell, The Christian Century, 2006.

"By the end of the passage for today, Jesus has turned the whole notion of consumption that defiles on its head."

Commentary, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23, Elizabeth Webb, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"What seems to have made him angriest was hypocrisy and irrelevance, and thus it is the Pharisees who come in for his strongest attacks, the good people who should have known better. 'You brood of vipers,' he called them. 'How can you speak good when you are evil?'"

"The Longing for Home," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.


Behold, O God, your Christian people, gathered together on this day of the Lord, our weekly celebration.  Let the praise of our lips resound in the depths of our hearts, the word you have sown, the word that has taken root within us to sanctify and renew our entire lives.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Oremus Online NRSV Text

Jesus has just shown his miraculous healing powers and now an argument over doing work on the sabbath begins between himself and the religious leaders of his day.  The argument centers around the eating of ritually clean food by people who are ritually clean.

Rather than answer the questions directly, Jesus changes the question and instead holds up the difference between human tradition and God's word/commandment.  By so doing he has transferred the positive notion of the "tradition of the elders" into a negative one. (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 451).  Jesus' second rebuttal shows the religious leaders and to the reader that instead of the "tradition of the elders" being a positive or necessary expansion of the commandment it is now getting in the way of the commandments of God. It is in fact betraying God's Word - perhaps even working against God's grace. So, while in scripture and guided by scripture it is not of the same authority of God's desire to gaterh in his people.

He then makes a pronouncement about purity.  He states that because the "tradition from the elders" comes from the person (who we believe to be fallen)  it actually corrupts everything that is attempted, including the word of God.  He then (in the passage that we do not read this Sunday) will explain that instead of food being the presenting issue of this corruption, or we might postulate the cleaning of hands/pots/cups/and bronze kettles, it is instead the human heart.  For Jesus the seat of corruption is the human and their heart. (Marcus, 454)

This is a "revolutionary" notion. (Marcus, 456)  It was revolutionary for the disciples who want to hear more, it is revolutionary for us as well.  Just as we might recall the heavenly voice speaking to Peter in Acts about ritually clean foods, Jesus says God made these things, they are of his creation, they are good. What is actually happening is Jesus is himself saying that parts of scripture while important may not have the same validity as other parts of scripture. In a very Anglican way of thinking Jesus is saying that while the bible contains all things necessary for salvation, not everything in the law and in scripture is necessary for salvation

Jesus' teaching in the Gospel of Mark is clear: the human heart is the seat of a lot of bad things.  Joel Marcus says this well when he writes:

"[The] catalogue of human offenses is incorporated into a truly hellish picture, in which the interior of the human being is depicted as a Pandora's box, a cave of malignancy out of which hordes of demon like evils emanate....a wild force that propels people willy-nilly into actions that are opposed to God's will.  Nor is it by chance that, after this global category, the first specific misdeeds to be mentioned are sexual sins; in Hellenistic popular philosophy these sins were the premier example of the chaotic, ungovernable aspect of human nature, which precipitously pursues its own desires and is blind to its own true good, and in Judaism these sins were frequently associated with the promptings of the Evil inclination." (Marcus, 459ff)

The next important piece seems to be the notion that the disciples themselves do not stand apart form the group of humans whose hearts pour forth this evil in the world. (Marcus, 460)  That too is revolutionary.

This passage offers us a glimpse into Jesus' belief that we ALL are fallen creatures. We all suffer from this incurable corruption.  All of us, the religious leaders, the disciples, the first Christian community to which Mark is writing, all of us are naturally about the work of corrupting God's Word.  All of us.

Certainly, we then might respond that such a group of reprobates as the human race have no hope; so what does it matter anyway. Isn't this just an invitation to "moral disorder." (Marcus, 461)  Here I would pause and first say that the key message of Jesus is that all are saved in his work of the cross.  We must remember that every footstep, every word of Jesus, is walked and spoken on the way to the cross.  We ourselves are on our way to this dying.  Joel Marcus too, offers us a thought that defies tradition, logic, and law when he writes that Jesus wants us to understand that transformation lies in seeing the creation, the society, our religion through Jesus' eyes. (Marcus, 461)  In these two notions is our hope and salvation.  In these two critical pieces do we receive grace and learn a new transformational way of life.

All of this is uttered in the physical geography between the worlds of biblical Israel and the world of the Gentiles.  (Marcus, 461)  So this week as we ponder our inability and the root of our corruption, we might also ponder the notion of a new kind of religion.  Perhaps we might imagine a religion (lets say the Episcopal Church for instance) that steps out onto the boundary that lies between our church steps and the world and proclaims grace from our Lord's cross and simultaneously looks at the world with the eyes of Jesus, and in so doing does miraculous work. 

A Little Bit for Everyone

Oremus Online NRSV Text

"Glib pieties do not suffice purify the heart of a believer; if one thinks oneself secure simply for praising the Lord and carping at sinners, one has not made spiritual progress but is half-heartedly trying to hold on both to God and to sinful desire."

Commentary, James 1:17-27, A.K.M. Adam, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"Perhaps, if we as Christians were to follow James's precepts, we would do a lot less talking and a lot more listening."

Commentary, James 1:17-27, Sandra Hack Polaski, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Why do I find James -- at least in this instance -- so attractive? Because it reminds us of two incredibly important things: 1) faithfulness does not need to be heroic; 2) Sunday is not the most important day of the Christian week."

"Ordinary Saints," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2012.

This is the first time we have had the opportunity to read the letter attributed to James in a long time! It is described, and many people think of it, as a letter.  However, it is really more of a description or encouragement concerning the conduct of a disciple of Jesus. It is probably given the name of the brother of Jesus in order to give it teaching authority in the midst of the late first century Christian community.

The premise of the letter is very much a dualist one. The Christian is a good the world is bad. The Christian is moral and the world is evil. The faith that Christians are called to then is to be a witness in this world.

Blogger Chris Haslaam (found here) describes it this way:
In a situation where trials and tribulations abound, and where the poor suffer at the hands of the rich, the author exhorts them to joy, endurance, wisdom, confident prayer and faithful response to the liberating word of God, as they await the second coming of the Lord. The recipients appear to be a group of Jewish-Christian communities outside Palestine. 
In our passage for this Sunday the author is encouraging people to be wary and to not be deceived by the teachings of others or the world. God has given a perfect gift in Christ Jesus. Just as he has given abundantly in the very act of creation, so God has continued to give and to creation. Christ is the first fruit of a new creation - a reordered creation.  

The reason is that followers of Christ are to be examples of God's recreative act. We are, through our own offering of ourselves, to be about the work of God in the world. We are to do and act out our following of Christ Jesus. 

Here then is that great passage: we are to be doers of the word and not only hearers of the word. Once we are baptized, once we accept the great gift of Christ, the all powerful all forgiving act of Christ, we are then to respond. This is very important.

God does the saving. It is to this saving grace filled action of recreation that we are to respond. How are we to respond. The author says we are to hold up our lives to the Gospel. We are to be quick to listen to God and the Gospel. We are to be slow to anger or speak. So we are to listen to God and ponder what we hear. The follower of the Christ is to care for the poor especially orphans and widows. We are to be active in the betterment of the world by caring for other people.

For the author of this passage it is clear that the world does not care for the poor, for the orphan, for the widow. The world does not intend the transformation of the world as a sustainable creation. the world is filled with anger, deceit, and self-care. 

The author is clear, the follower of Christ Jesus is not any of those things. The follower of Jesus is one who is other centered and focused in their life and in their ministry - not just their ministry alone. The work is to be as Christ was for the world.

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