Week of 6 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Noah’s Ark, According to Edward Hicks (1780-1849)

Ready or Not…

FEBRUARY 14, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 (Revised English Bible):

When the LORD saw how great was the wickedness of human beings of earth, and how their every thought and inclination was always wicked, he bitterly regretted that he had made mankind on earth.  He said,

I shall wipe off the face of the earth this human race which I have created–yes, man and beast, creeping things and birds.  I regret that I have ever made them.

Noah, however, won the LORD’s favour.

The LORD said to Noah,

Go into the ark, you and all your household; for you alone in this generation have I found to be righteous.  Take with you seven pairs, a male and female, of all beasts that are ritually clean, and one pair, a male and female, of all beasts that are not clean; also seven pairs, males and females, of every bird–to ensure that life continues on earth.  For in seven days’ time I am going to send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe off the the face of the earth every creature I have made.

Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

At the end of seven days the water of the flood came over the earth.

Psalm 29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;

the God of glory thunders;

the LORD is mighty upon the waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;

the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8 The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forest bare.

9 And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

He asked,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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“Do you still not understand?”–Jesus in Mark 8:21

I know the feeling.  Sometimes, when standing inside a classroom, having chosen to avoid unduly advanced vocabulary words, I find that students still do not understand.  I spoke slowly and enunciated, so I could not have run my words together.  And I spoke up, so volume could not have been an issue.  I sent the message, but some students did not receive it.

God asks the same question repeatedly in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  Many of our forebears, it seems, either did not listen or chose to pretend that they did not understand.  Today’s reading from Genesis comes from the J account of the Noah’s Ark story.  (The cover art for this post reflects P’s version of God’s instructions–two of every kind.  My North American church culture has fixated on P and ignored J in this matter. C’est la vie.)  In this retelling of an older story, God is frustrated with how creation has turned out.  So God decides to preserve a remnant, destroy the rest, and start over.  God prepares to recreate (create again) the Animal Kingdom.  Noah understands what he must do, and he acts accordingly.  I would say that the rest is history, but this is not history.

“Recreate” is an interesting verb in English.  Depending on whether the first vowel sound is long or short, the meaning is different.  Yet both forms derive from the same Latin word, which means “to bring forth again.”  Recreation, as in games, can refresh us.  And recreation, as in creating again, restores.  Both, however, involve bringing forth again.  And sometimes recreation (long e vowel sound) can be recreation (short e vowel sound).  That is a grace.

The Apostles are in need of recreation (both kinds) in Mark 8:14-21.  Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a few fishes and a little bread then berated some Pharisees.  These Pharisees have demanded a sign, as you might recall from yesterday’s reading.  Then Jesus, alone with the members of his inner circle speaks in a metaphor, that of leaven, which, in Jewish culture, denoted evil.  So Jesus said to avoid falling into the evil of the Pharisees and the corruption of the Herodians.  Yet, as the Markan Gospel tells the story, the Apostles are clueless; they think Jesus refers to literal bread.  So Jesus, who is already frustrated with Pharisees, adds his Apostles to the list.

Even worse, they still fail to understand after he explains what he means–without a metaphor.  The Apostles need not worry when they are with Jesus.  Consider how far some fishes and loaves of bread went; there is more where that came from.  And why don’t they understand this yet?

We mortals can, if we cooperate with God, display the transforming love of God to anyone who pays attention and who is within our sphere of influence.  First, however, we have to pay attention to whatever God is saying to us.  God is sovereign, and the divine will is destined to come to fruition.  We humans have enough power and free will to ruin Plan A (and B and C…), for example, but God will triumph, with or without us.  Ready or not, here God comes.  May we be ready.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/ready-or-not/

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