Archive for the ‘Mark 6’ Tag

Week of 4 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:   Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Bruggen, c. 1627

Missing Grace–Or Not

FEBRUARY 3, 2021

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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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Hebrews 12:4-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortations which address you as sons?–

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor lose courage when you are punished by him.

For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Psalm 103:1-2, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower in the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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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The 1972 revised edition of the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English states in Mark 6:6, “…their lack of faith astonished him.”  In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus has done astonishing deeds of late.  He has exorcised a legion of demons, doomed a herd of swine, raised a girl from the dead, and healed a woman afflicted with a menstrual hemorrhage.  Jesus has been welcome in most places, except the town where he cured the man with the legion.  Jesus has astonished people, some of whom have rejected him because, not in spite of, what he has done.  And now, in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus encounters a lack of faith and works few miracles.  Townspeople recognize who he his and what he has done, but they cannot reconcile the cognitive dissonance between knowing Jesus as a younger person and hearing about what he has been doing recently.  And Jesus was the astonished person.  He found their lack of faith astonishing.

A cliche states that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  This is true much of the time, but I propose that we are often not as familiar with others as we think we are.  Certainly, the denizens of Nazareth did not Jesus as well as they thought they did.  And note the tone of hostility; they called him a “son of Mary,” not “of Joseph.”  There were long-standing rumors of Jesus’ paternity, and I wonder how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stood it all those years.

Hostile and faithless residents of Nazareth missed grace when grace stood in their midst.  They saw it yet failed to recognize it.  They were too busy clinging to whispered rumors and old memories.

Genesis 25:28-34 an 27:1-39 tells how Esau, who had sold his birthright for a meal, realized the depth of his error yet failed to reverse it.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews makes the plain point that Esau, who had put the needs of his body first, had thrown away a great promise.  Later he sought an opportunity for repentance–literally, turning around or changing one’s mind–but he had to live with the consequences of his actions.  He was not beyond forgiveness, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube.  That was that.  So Esau, by his own bad decision, missed some grace.

Each of us has missed some grace because of bad decisions.  Yet we remain within the bounds of forgiveness, if we ask.  We can learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Furthermore, repentance remains an option in many circumstances.  So let us focus on the positive, on the possibilities for living in grace.  But this requires faith in God.  The townspeople of Nazareth saw Jesus among them yet rejected him.  I write nearly 20 centuries later, and I choose each day to continue to accept him.  I hope that, in my familiarity with the Bible and other traditions of Christianity, I do not miss something essential.  Maybe I do not know as much as I think I do.  May God, by grace, help me to see more clearly.

I know for a fact that I see more clearly today than I did just a few years ago.  The discipline in Hebrews is suffering.  I have made some bad choices, mostly out of ignorance.  I have been too trusting sometimes.  In 2007, I faced potential legal ramifications (which did not come to pass) and suffered emotional and spiritual distress because of certain past associations.  I learned immediately to be less trusting of some people.  And I learned, through suffering, to be more patient with others, less judgmental toward others, more humble with regard to myself, and more trusting in God.  Discipline accomplished its goal, and I am a better person for it, but I have no desire to repeat the process.

This discipline was simply the consequences of my actions, not God, like Zeus, throwing a thunderbolt in my direction.  Actions have consequences, and they must play out.  How we handle the situation determines whether we fall into the same category into which the author of Hebrews placed Esau.  He spent the rest of his days weeping over his loss.  May you and I gain more than we have lost and find discipline to be the beginning of a new, better start in Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/missing-grace-or-not/

Fourth Day of Epiphany   9 comments

Fear

Image Source = D. Sharon Pruitt

No Fear

JANUARY 9, 2022

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1 John 4:11-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

if God loved us so much,

we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God,

but as long as we love another

God remains in us

and his love comes to its perfection in us.

This is the proof that we remain in him

and he in us,

that he has given us a share in his Spirit.

We ourselves have seen and testify

that the Father sent his Son

as Saviour of the world.

Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,

God remains in him and he is God.

We have recognized for ourselves,

and put our faith in, the love God has for us.

God is love,

and whoever remains in love remains in God

and God in him.

Love comes to its perfection in us

when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly,

because even in this world

we have become as he is.

In love there is no room for fear,

but perfect love casts out fear,

because fear implies punishment

and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love.

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Psalm 72:1-2, 10b-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

so that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;

all kings will do him homage,

all nations become his servants.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him,

and the poor who has no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,

and saves the needy from death.

Mark 6:45-52 (New Jerusalem Bible):

And at once he [Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side near Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away.  After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray.  When evening came, the boat was far out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  He could see that they were hard pressed in their rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea.  He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke to them and said,

Courage!  It’s me!  Don’t be afraid.

Then he got into the boat with them and the wind dropped.  They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Fear can have certain advantages.  For example, I fear the negative consequences of touching hot objects.  So fear protects me in such cases.  Yet fear, when turned against self and others, can cause great harm to self and others.

When I grew up my father imparted pearls of wisdom.  Among them was this:  We fear what we do not understand, and we hate what we fear.  History confirms this.  I point, for example, to interreligious strife rooted in misconceptions, as well as to how many parents and students mistreated Ryan White in the 1980s, the early years of AIDS as a major news story.  The scientists had determined how one does and does not contract AIDS by then, but this fact did not prevent people from acting cruelly toward a hemophiliac teenager and gentle soul.

Out of fear agents of my nation have tortured people, an immoral act which endangers the United States further.  Out of fear people have overgeneralized and blamed innocent people for the crimes of others.  On September 11, 2001, I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.  Campus police officers had to protect exchange students from certain nations, for these pupils were potential targets of revenge attacks.  They had done nothing!

But love casts out fear.  God casts out fear.  Let us follow the path of love and God.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/no-fear/

Third Day of Epiphany   14 comments

Above:  Head of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, South America

Love in God

JANUARY 8, 2022

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1 John 4:7-12 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

let us love one another,

since love is from God

and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

Whoever fails to love does not know God,

because God is love.

This is the revelation of God’s love for us,

that God sent his only Son into the world

that we might have life through him.

Love consists in this:

it is not we who loved God,

but God loved us and sent his Son

to expiate our sins.

My dear friends,

if God loved us so much,

we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God,

but as long as we love one another

God remains in us

and his love comes to its perfection in us.

Psalm 72:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

Mountains and hills,

bring peace to the people!

With justice he will judge the poor of the people,

he will save the children of the needy

and crush their oppressors.

In the sight of the sun and the moon he will endure,

age after age.

Hew ill come down like rain on mown grass,

like showers moistening the land.

In his days uprightness shall flourish,

and peace is plenty till the moon is no more.

His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,

from the river to the limits of the earth.

Mark 6:30-44 (New Jerusalem Bible):

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.  And he said to them,

Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while;

for there were so many coming and going that there was no time for them even to eat.  So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.  But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them.  So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.  By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said,

This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so sent them away, and they can go to buy themselves something to eat.

He replied,

Give them something to eat yourselves.

They answered,

Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?

He asked,

How many loaves have you?  Go and see.

And when they had found out they said,

Five, and two fish.

Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties.  Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and began handling them to the disciples to distribute among the people.  He also shared out the two fish among them all.  They all ate as much as they wanted.  They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish.  Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The love of God exceeds the bounds of human imagination and definition.  It knows no limits and the full reach of grace, part of the love, can be scandalous.  This love entails self-sacrifice (witness Jesus), and we Christians have the vocation to reflect the love of God to others.

Yet sometimes, in the name of God (and Jesus), we hurt each other emotionally, without any redeeming purpose.  As I write these words I know that I am (and have been) on the receiving end of such attitudes born of a spiritual conversion (in another person) gone horribly wrong.  The other person, although sincere, has engaged in actions which have prompted emotional pain.  So a relationship has ended.  I have determined that no relationship is better than a dysfunctional one, but that a functional one remains a possibility and a favored goal.  The relationship in question can find restoration through the mutual and demonstrated love which comes from God alone.

May it do so.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/love-in-god/