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Month: June 2015

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Ezekiel 2:1-5

2He said to me: O mortal,* stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation* of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’5Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Many of the books of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) have stories of the prophet’s calling. Here is one of Ezekiel’s.

The name, Ezekiel, means “God strengthens”. “El” means “God” in Hebrew so anytime a name has “El” in the beginning, middle, or end, it is a name that includes God. In this case, the prophet is sent to help the Israelites strengthen their relationship with God and their faith in God. However, in this call, God makes it pretty clear God isn’t expecting much strengthening to be going on with the Israelites.

As God instructs Ezekiel to act prophetically, God says, “and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’” In other words, God is going to give Ezekiel the words to say and indicate the occasions during which to say them, and the proclamation will start with, “Thus says the Lord God…”

If this were my bishop, and I was being told, “I am sending you to a stubborn, impudent people and you shall proclaim God’s word to them thusly…” I would be very reluctant to accept the call. I don’t think Ezekiel had such a choice.

Psalm 123

A Song of Ascents.

1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.

3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than its fill
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

This psalm would serve rather like a “Gathering Hymn” in Temple and synagogue worship. As folks were traveling to a worship service, or at the beginning of the worship service, this or other “hymns of ascent” were sung.

While we pluck produce from displays and place them in our shopping carts, looking to God’s hand to provide for our every need is far from our minds. When we think of giving thanks to God, we tend to wax romantic and “count our blessings”, but this psalm presents a much more austere and immediate view. We look to God to provide everything, even more than a master provides for a slave. We even look to God for air to breathe and life to live.

It is in the last lines of this psalm that we hear the fuller context of the psalmist. This is a person who has been bullies, scorned, abused and looks to God for life, yes, and sanctuary.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

While this passage starts out strangely, it ends with very important theology. Most scholars think that Paul is actually referring to himself when he says, “I know a person…” The whole concept of “third heaven” is foreign to Jews and Christians alike, so understanding Paul in these first verses is beyond modern scholarship.

Paul states emphatically that no visions or miraculous events, even if given by God, are to be used for anything other than growing in relationship with God. One does not use anything to glorify self, but only to present Christ. In this case, Paul presents God’s grace through his own suffering,. What a concept, instead of bragging about the healing that God has brought about, Paul presents his suffering as a vehicle through which God presents his abundant grace.

Mark 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is 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 offence* at him.4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

“You’re getting a little big for your britches there, aren’t you, son?!” a contemporary version of what the folks of Nazareth said to Jesus.

I am aware of the traditional teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that mentioned in this text are Jesus mother, and his cousins, not brothers who are named and sisters who are unnamed. However, there is no precedent in Greek for translating this text in that way. We read Jesus mother and siblings, but Joseph is not mentioned, not at all in Mark, the first gospel written. Mark also tells us that Jesus is the carpenter, not as Matthew puts it, the carpenter’s son.

The fact that Jesus “could do no deeds of power there, except that he laid hands on a few sick people and cured them” intimates that belief in Jesus on the part of the crowd is somehow necessary to facilitate miracles, at least as the gospel writer, Mark, relays it.

Although Jesus is not able to do the work at hand because of his reputation among the home crowd, Jesus does not sit and sulk or curse them,(though he does give them a piece of his mind about prophets and hometowns). Instead, Jesus sends out the disciples. The kingdom of God is at hand! This needs to be proclaimed! If not by teacher, then by the students! But there are conditions under which Jesus sends out these six teams of two. They are to take no money, and no luggage of spare clothes or food. Why? Because the Israelites should be expecting them and should provide for them, as per the tradition stated in the Torah and the Talmud. If their fellow Israelites do not recognize them, honor them, and host them, then a warning is proclaimed and the disciples move on.

Wow! Are we allowed to do that?

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, June 28, 2015

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, June 21, 2015

Job 38:1-11

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

The story of Job is one found in many Middle Eastern cultures during the time when Assyria and Babylon were powerhouses. It is a philosophical and religious debate conveyed in the form of a story which asks the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “How should good people respond?” What makes this story unique as appears in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible is that the final chapter of the book is Yahweh’s response to these questions. The above passage is the beginning of God’s response. Notice that God’s response begins with many questions which can be summed up as “Who do you think you are?!!!”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

This psalm is a song of praise to God and describes a ship load of people who were caught in a storm on the sea but survived and praised God for their safe return to land.

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

As we work together with him,* we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Timing is everything. Paul, in writing to this “problem congregation” in Corinth, is insisting that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah and made NOW the acceptable time. For what?! For the promises of God to be fulfilled. Now the Messiah is making all things new. Now God is saving God’s people. Now God’s grace is visible in Jesus, the Christ.

In verses 7-10 Paul acknowledges all the dichotomies this proclamation contains. All of the promises of God in Jesus look false, and yet are true. The Israelites are captives of Rome, yet free in God’s grace. Followers of Jesus have eternal life, yet die and are being buried.

Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

After Jesus spent the day teaching the crowds and the disciples with the twelve, Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds so he had the disciples ready boats for the quiet of the open water. Since I have become a pastor, I have had a small taste of how exhausted Jesus must have gotten after teaching the crowds and his followers all day. Finally getting a nap and sleeping so soundly that a storm would not wake him no longer seems out of the question.

Some of the disciples, being fishermen, were seasoned boatmen but this storm frightened them. To wake Jesus seemed a more than reasonable thing to do to them, but they are chastised for their pleas for help. This is not the first or last time that the disciples play the buffoons in the gospel of Mark. Not only will Jesus save them from perishing on the water, but also in all of life, but they never quite comprehend this in Mark’s gospel.

Starting in the first verses of Genesis, water is a symbol of chaos for Hebrews. Prior to the Babylonian captivity, Israelites regularly worshiped gods and goddesses that ruled over water, whether falling from the sky or coming up from the ground. It is for this reason, the worship of false gods, that Yahweh allowed those ancient Hebrews to be conquered by Assyria and Babylon. When they returned from captivity, they left their idols behind but still did not completely trust God, especially when it came to the elements. Jesus stilling the storm connect this Word Made Flesh to Yahweh at that first moment of creation, in control of air and water and all that is.

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord God:

I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23 On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24 All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.

Ezekiel is a prophecy written while Israel is in captivity to Babylon. Because the Israelites abandoned God and worshiped other gods: Baal and his concubine, Ashera/Astartes, Degon, and others, God allowed Judah to fall to Babylon. Isaiah and Jeremiah both write that God hopes that the people will return to him while they suffer, and God will restore them.

The beginning of this chapter of Ezekiel has an allegory which describes two great eagles. The first eagle is the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who plucks from the top of a cedar tree, Lebanon, a tender sprig, the King of Judah, carries it to a new land and drops it in soil with good water where it grew into a vine pointed to the great eagle. God used the Babylonian king to protect Judah from itself. The king of Judah, Zedekiah, vowed fealty to Nebuchadnezzar in the name of Yahweh. Then another eagle, the Egyptian Pharaoh, came and the vine changed its direction and grew toward the second eagle. Behind Nebuchadnezzar’s back, Zedekiah sent a request to Egypt’s Pharaoh for chariots and armor with which to throw off Babylon.

Then comes the above passage. Forget the eagles, God will plant the king of Israel where God wants him, in Jerusalem, on Mt. Moriah, in order that all Israel may bloom and grow, creating food and shelter for the inhabitants of the land. God alone will deal with the great and strong, drying up and bringing low those who abuse their power.

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

This psalm is sung to the fellow faithful and God on the sabboth. Again we see the metaphor of the cedar of Lebanon, a symbol of strength and uprightness.

2 Corinthians 5:6-17

So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.

We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

In this passage St. Paul continues his dialectic between the body we have now and the body we have in eternity, life on earth here and now and life in heaven with God face to face.

“For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” At first reading, this sounds like the classic Hollywood movie scene or comic strip where a person freshly dead appears before the throne of God and his/her life flashes before her eyes as he/she tries to make excuses for bad deeds and avoid the express ride down, down, down, down…. Try to set those images aside and merely read what Paul writes. What does the Apostle mean by “recompense”? Paul immediately follows this sentence with words of hope that “we are already well known to God.” Somehow that creates hope instead of fear of Christ’s judgment. This is not the first time Paul mentions Christ’s judgment. In other places Paul mentions how he is the chief of sinners because of his earlier persecution of the church but that Christ has forgiven him and called him to be an evangelist instead of a condemned man.

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, “The Kingdom of God is as if someone scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Last week Jesus went home. The home town crowd didn’t know what to make of Jesus’ teaching and healing. Mother Mary and siblings tried to nab Jesus and haul him home, as they thought he had lost his mind and needed to be silenced. So Jesus moved out to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the crowd followed him out there. After a good sermon, including the parable of the sower, Jesus and the disciples and the 12 moved on. Jesus explained the parable of the sower to them and then gave them several metaphors for the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God should not be understood as synonymous with heaven. The Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven in the gospel of Matthew, seems to be that which is of God and is alive and working in the world.

The first parable tells the hearer that the Kingdom of God is something that is scattered/planted and yields fruit which can be harvest, but it bears fruit almost mysteriously and without the help of the one who planted/scattered. The second parable tells us that the Kingdom of God is like something very small that grows, bears fruit, and grants shelter to those around it.

Why all the parables? Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say what he meant?! First, this is the teaching style of the day. Second, Jesus is trying to describe God’s relationship with humanity and humanity’s relationship with God, a thing so indescribable that parables are necessary.

Bible Tuesday for June 7, 2015

Bible Tuesday for June 7, 2015

Genesis 3:8-15

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ 10He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ 11He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’12The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ 14The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’

Whereas God is not described in Genesis 1,—“And God said… Let us make humankind in our image…” is all the description given in that first chapter of the Bible—Genesis 2-4 tells of God walking through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening breeze, forming Adam from adamas (soil) and Eve from Adam’s rib. This second story of creation stands alone as it describes the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and God’s prohibition of its fruit, and of the Tree of Life.

But Eve is enticed to eat the unspecified fruit of the prohibited tree, and Adam shares that piece with Eve, and then all hell quite literally breaks loose. In Penteteuch class, Rev. Dr. Ralph Klein called this section of the creation stories, “The Curses”: women will desire their mates while their mates will desire will be for dominance over women, and vocation, men will only gain food by the sweat of their brow and their bodies will return to the adamas from which they were formed, and lastly, our above text, enmity will be between humans and snakes, biting and striking between them.

In other words, God’s will for humanity’s and all creation’s harmonious living was destroyed through lies and willful disobedience. The curses seem not so much punishments as ramifications of deviation from God’s will.

Psalm 130

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

This psalm is titled “A Song of Ascents”. The author may or may not have written it originally as a piece of liturgical music, but it was used as such by the time the book of psalms was compiled. King Solomon built the original Temple on a hill called Mount Zion. The subsequent Temples were constructed on that same site. To get to Jerusalem, and then to Mount Zion, from the surrounding country, one had to go up topographically speaking. In addition, the Temple had many steps at most entrances. So whether coming from surrounding country into Jerusalem, or coming into the Temple from elsewhere in the city, once ascended to the worship place of God. Pilgrims and worshipers would have sung this hymn as they climbed to worship God.

The psalmist states that he/she is down low, in the depths, crying to God who is enthroned above. Slowly, as the supplicant gains a few steps toward the Temple court, he/she says “If you keep track of our sins we cannot survive. But (because I am still climbing) you must be forgiving us, which gains you great honor. “ As the pilgrim nears the great courts of the Temple with its colonnades and golden doors, breathless, “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning” pant…pant. Then, at last, the top step is reached and the marvel of the Temple stretches on all sides. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities!!!”

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

5For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

One of the real challenges of the Christian faith is the constant claim of “Those who believe will have life everlasting,” and yet there is not any Christian who is older than 120. Where is eternal life?! The first Christians dealt with the same issue. Paul writes his letters to the Corinthians and others, in part, to respond to the questions they were posing, “How can the promise of eternal life you and Jesus make be real when devout Christians are dying and being buried every day?!” Paul says that Jesus has not returned yet, “For your sake, so that grace extends to more and more people…” Sure, our bodies are aging and dying but that is just the outward self. The inward self, or as St. Paul calls it, the spiritual self, “is being renewed day by day.” While this is a total mystery, because of faith into Jesus, given by the Holy Spirit, “we do not lose heart.”

Mark 3:20-35

0and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The first question a Bible reader should ask when the pericope begins with “and” is “What came before this?” The beginning of Mark 3 is Jesus teaching and healing in front of the Pharisees. Because they Pharisees are not enthralled, Jesus and his disciples (many people of both genders and all ages) depart by boat. When they land, crowds from “Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, the east side of the Jordan and Tyre and Sidon” crowd to Jesus to hear him and be healed by him. Once again, Jesus casts out demons who identify him as “the Son of God!” Jesus tells the disciples to ready the boats, as the crowds press him tighter and tighter. Once off again, away from the crowds, Jesus gathers his disciples and selects twelve men to be apostles. Disciples=students, followers. Apostles= sent ones. Then the above pericope begins.

Jesus and his disciples and apostles (aka: the twelve) are now so busy with the regathered crowds that they don’t even get time to drink or eat (or use the bathroom. Those with small, high maintenance, demanding children will know exactly what this is like.) Jesus family come out and try to get Jesus to get real, give up these shenanigans and come home, where he belongs!!! Mary and sons honestly believed Jesus was mentally ill, suffering from a Jesus complex or something! Temple authorities came to scrutinize Jesus. Threatened by Jesus’ powers of healing and teaching, they accused him of channeling the Devil. The gospel writer is making a dark humor pun here. In this whole gospel, only the demons, as they are being cast out and chastised by Jesus, correctly identify Jesus as “the Son of God.” Yet here Jesus is being accused of working for and with these same demons.

Still Jesus’ mother and siblings try to silence Jesus and drag him home. Here is God in the flesh come to save the world and the only beings who will truly listen to him and believe in him are the minions of evil. Not even his family or his followers recognize and truly support him. At least…not yet.