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)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Proper 20B/Ordinary 25B/Pentecost 17 September 20, 2015

"In our own time, no one wants to look uninformed, confused, or clueless. We withhold our toughest questions, often within our own churches and within Christian fellowship. We pretend we don't have hard questions."

Commentary, Mark 9:30-37, Amy Oden, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"...once again Jesus is challenging us to reverse long-standing, ingrained, human habits. To set aside our common human understanding of how to win fame and glory, and instead learn from Jesus God's deep hospitality and honouring."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 9:30-37, David Ewart, 2012.


O God, whose hand shelters the just and righteous, and whose favor rests on the lowly, banish hypocrisy from our hearts and purify us of all selfish ambition.  Let your word sown among us bring forth a harvest of peace.  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.

Jesus is teaching and teaching and teaching.  The opening verses tell us that this one not a one off kind of teaching but regular occurrence. So the disciples have been listening to him teach over and over again and for days.

What is he teaching?  He is telling the disciples, and anyone who will listen, that he has to be turned over to suffer and die.  Prophets of God do this regularly of course, but Jesus is saying something different. Jesus is saying this is the way of the kingdom. I am going to be turned over to authority and I am going to suffer and die. But there will also be resurrection.  It is a "reversal of the way it ought to be." (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 2, 669)  And, no matter how you look at this first part of the text it is clear that there is "apostolic silence" and a complete disengagement with the message. (Ibid, 670).

It just isn't the way it is supposed to be.  The disciples with clarity continue to manifest an understanding of Messiahship that will bring them power and authority.  This is shown with clarity as Jesus confronts them about their discussion on who gets to sit where in the new kingdom. 

Now here is what I found interesting about Jesus' engagement with Peter, and what is interesting about Jesus' engagement with the disciples: he doesn't shame them or belittle them for not getting it. 

Instead, Jesus continues teaching.  Jesus seems unfazed or at least disinterested in convincing his most intimate followers. He is teaching and teaching and teaching.  He offers instead of a rebuke an image. 

Jesus picks up a child (though the word may also mean slave) and puts the child in the middle of the circle and embraces the child.  (Marcus, 681)  The image is certainly about receiving others (the child/slave) means receiving Jesus, and receiving Jesus is about receiving God. 

Now here is what is most fascinating.  How many sermons have you heard where the topic is about receiving Jesus like a child?  Thousands, millions, billions?  That is right...BUT that is not what the text says.  Jesus is saying receive the child/slave receive me.

The text says that when one receives another human being, embraces that human being, one welcomes and embraces Jesus and thereby the Father who sends him.  Moreover, that those in their midst who have no standing, no wealth, no voice, no value (the child/slave) are the ones we are to embrace.

How quickly we, like the disciples, skip to our place next to Jesus.  In the Gospel of Mark it is clear that if we are to come to God in Christ Jesus we must do so by embracing the child/slave and the outsider.

James 3:13-4:8

"Envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else as unsuccessful as you are."

"Envy," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"After several chapters of warnings and vivid illustrations of the consequences of living contrary to the plan of God, James moves in this passage to describe the good life and give some positive guidance for pursuing it."

Commentary, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Sandra Hack Polaski, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"The kind of wisdom the Scriptures envision is a way of life that is born of walking humbly with God. It is a way of life that is inspired by the presence of God’s Spirit. When you live in such a way that you are consciously aware of God’s presence, it tends to create a sense of inner strength; but it is always a strength that manifests itself in gentleness, in humility, in self-sacrifice, and in kindness."

"Gentle Wisdom," Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer, 2009.

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

The author of James begins to pull and tug at a sin he believes is found in all Christian community: boasting in one's self.  

Christians can be very proud people. We can be proud in our traditionalism, our conservatism, our biblicism, our purity, our liberality, our generosity, our correctness, and even our justice making. 

We Christians are good at boasting about ourselves and shaking our fist at the others. Why, I even have known Christians who have proudly proclaimed their suffering. 

The author writes:
But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
Christians and their communities are instead to be known for something quite different. The author writes:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
Here is a key to understanding the work of reconciliation. We are to be at work healing history, celebrating and honoring our difference, and we are to create a peaceful commons. Only in peace may we find righteousness. 

We as Christians and as Christian communities are to be known not for our violence against others or the world, but for our peacemaking.

It is clear to the author, but I say it is clear to the world and to God, that when we are not peace makers we are not of Christ who is our peace maker. We are showing the world an marred vision of the reign of God. We are in fact not fooling anyone. The author says it is clear:
4Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.
What is so very true is that we cannot be in love with ourselves or our stuff, we cannot be in love with what we have and fear what we might lose. We are not as Christians to worry or hold tightly to the things of this world because we are to be people of a different place, a peaceful place, a place where God's love reigns. This is not courtly or Victorian idea of love either - this is a sacrificial love. This is a love which brings peace (not because another makes the sacrificial offering) because we make the sacrificial offering of ourselves, our security, our truthiness, our rightness. 

It is no wonder that most Christians don't want to spend much time on James. The author holds up a mirror to our Christian way of life and reveals a very earthly and sordid affair that is in much need of a house cleaning.

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