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.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Proper 24B/Ordinary 29B/Pentecost 21 October 18, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Within our hearts are both humility and arrogance, respect for others and a desire to outshine them, a desire to serve and a craving to be served. The one you feed wins."

"Stupid Disciple Tricks," Alyce M. McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, Patheos, 2012.

"Maybe Jesus 'buys us back' by showing us a way out of the devastating cycle of looking for glory, joy, and peace on the world's terms by teaching and showing us how to receive by giving, how to lead by serving, and how to find our lives by losing them for the sake of the people around us that God loves so much."

"Glory, Glory," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2012.

"As his disciples flee into the darkness with their swords, he is dragged away by Caesar?s men who come after him with the sword. The sacrificial victim of "civilization as we know it," he bids us to let go."

"On Being a Survivor," William Willimon, The Christian Century, 1986. At Religion Online.

Maker and author of life, in Jesus we have found the path to wisdom.  Let us, therefore, be bold to approach you, not seeking privilege but asking mercy.  Let us live among on another, not seeking to be served but to serve.  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.

So we begin our text with a wonderful interchange between James, John, and Jesus.  I imagine that their response is due to their excitement about his resurrection and the prospect of a new dominion that is about to burst forth from the empty tomb; humans always personalizing the possibilities as they relate to themselves.  Jesus answers twice: what they ask is not his to grant; moreover, the way of discipleship in the new dominion of God is a way of service.

I am so grateful to Joel Marcus for drawing my attention to Daniel 4:17; 7:9ff; 12:2; and Isaiah 53:11ff.  The Gospel theme of sharing the Good News is one always tempered, not by majesty, but by service.  God gives power to the lowliest, and they serve like the Son of Man.  Just as he gives his life for many, bearing their iniquities, so too they are to be like him and serve.  (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 2, 752ff)

Henri Nouwen wrote: 

Can you drink the cup? Can you empty it to the dregs? Can you taste all the sorrows and joys? Can you live your life to the full whatever it will bring? I realized these were our questions. 
But why should we drink this cup?  There is so much pain, so mcuh anguish, so much violence, Why should we drink the cup?  Wouldn't it be a lot easier to live normal lives with a minimum of pain and a maximum of pleasure? 
After the reading, I spontaneously grabbed one of the large glass cups standing on the table in front of me and looking at those around me -- some of whom could hardly walk, speak, hear, or see -- I said: 'Can we hold the cup of life in our hands? Can we lift it up for others to see, and can we drink it to the full?  Drinking the cup is much more than gulping down whatever happens to be in there, jsut as breaking the bread is much more than tearing a loaf apart. Drinking the cup of life involves holding, lifting, and drinking.  It is the full celebration of being human. 
...Just letting that question sink in made me feel very uncomfortable.  But I knew I had to start living with it. (Can you Drink The Cup, Ave Maria Press, 1996)

For Jesus, this cup is one marked not by the empty power of worldly leaders but is marked by the service of others: the holding of others in one's arm like the children; the lifting of others like those  who brought the sick to Jesus; and the drinking with others who no one would dare to drink with because of their uncleanness.  Jesus "radicalizes" his statement, he makes is a horrific idea by using the word "slave".  He offers this radical work of being bound to another as the image of servitude.  Jesus is bound to humanity, he is bound to serve, we are (if we are to be measured and counted followers of Jesus) to be bound to the neighbor and other in our life.

And, in his last words Jesus reminds them that he is bound to them and gives his life as a ransom.  He gives of himself to hostile powers in order that others may be freed from death.  I the dominion of God, in the kingdom of heaven,  life is given to the other and service is the mark of discipleship.  Citizenship is marked by service to others, Jesus teaches. 

So it is that our tradition embraces the understanding that it is important to share the Good News of God's service to his people, his love, and his grace.  It is essential to impart to others the reality of our belief that God in Christ Jesus gives completely of himself for the world and in so doing frees us.  AND, while we share the good news of new life we are also committed to giving people new life through our own service and mission.

Hebrews 5:1-10 "In actuality, the history of the high priesthood was an inglorious one, the office having become highly politicized, especially in the Maccabean and Roman periods that led into the time of Jesus. Opposition to the corrupt priesthood was one of the factors that led to the formation of the dissident Qumran community, locus of the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Commentary, Hebrews 5:1-10, Susan Hedahl, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Why does salvation depend on a high priest who is subject to weakness, who prays in crisis, who learns what the human lot is like? Why does Jesus' service as high priest require his identification with us?"

Commentary, Hebrews 5:1-10, Pentecost 21, Bryan J. Whitfield, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

The author of hebrews continues in this passage with his metaphor of the high priest of Israel and Temple being supplanted by the high priest we have in Jesus.

It is Christ Jesus who is appointed by God to be the one who enters in the gulf between humans and God, he is the bridge, the gate, the shepherd to lead us from our earthly habitation into God's habitation.  Jesus is for the author the one appointed to help us in our weakness. Not unlike the priest of the Temple in Jesus' own day where the priest was the intermediary for the people to God, the author of Hebrews sees Jesus in a similar role.

Rooted in the author's own tradition we inherit in Hebrews the understanding that Jesus in his baptism is appointed for this work of reconciliation.  Like Melchizedek he is a priest forever. Interesting because Melchizedek was an ancient but faithful high priest of the the Canaanite people who comes and blesses Abram.

I would say that knowing what humans do to other humans, and especially to prophets, God in Christ Jesus is faithful even unto the death which is given him. Out of our sin, our greed, our human desire to have us stand in God's place (to be our own high priest) we execute the other - in this case the Son of God. God though uses this and does not allow death and sin to have the last word but instead is faithful to his own cause which is the binding of heaven and earth together - so it is that God redeems us and redeems our actions. In so doing then Christ is raised as a new high priest. 

I think it is important for the author of Hebrews to note that Christ becomes lower than God and the angels to undertake this work; moreover, that Christ is humble and lowly. All of this is in contrast to the priesthood of humans. 

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