Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31 This week, at the first service, we have the joy of a baptizing Raelene and two of her children Annie and Billy during the first service. It seems appropriate then that our readings for this Sunday are about how to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. In Deuteronomy, God gives the Shema to Israel, and in Mark, Jesus gives the great commandment. If we hear and follow and live this commandment in our life it will go well for us, and we will praise God with an upright heart. But what happens when we can’t follow even one command? Then we turn to our epistle reading for the week: Hebrews 9:11-14.
There is a simplicity to following Christ that belies the general wisdom on how to better our lives. In our Epistle reading, the author of Hebrews compares the complexity of the temple system of sacrifice: a multitude of priests making a multitude of sacrifices for the people (and themselves); with the efficiency of a singlular, sinless, eternal High Priest, offering Himself one time as a single sacrifice sufficient for the whole world throughout all time. In our Gospel, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, calls out for mercy, leaps up and runs to Jesus when he calls, is healed and then follows Jesus. Bartimaeus recognizes what he needs in the person of Jesus, and in a few brief moments is transformed and accepted into a new life as a disciple of Christ. The core of Christianity is choosing to follow the way God has provided. To accept the one sufficient sacrifice, accept the offering of love we don’t deserve, forgiveness we can’t earn, healing we can’t achieve, and the new life we can’t find on our own.
The Rev. Carole Anderson
Mark 10:35-45
11 mins 53 secs
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In our Gospel for Sunday, Mark 10:35-45, we read of the request of James and John to Jesus. This passage parallels one from Mark 9:33-37 and both deal with the subject of true greatness and both follow a prediction of Jesus' suffering and death. Clearly these disciples have not been listening during the last weeks of their journey with Jesus. Jesus settles the dispute of who's the greatest by gathering the 12 around him and saying, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." In Mark 10, Jesus replies to James and John's request by saying, "You don't know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?" They reply, "we can." When the rest of the disciples heard this, they were indignant, so Jesus gathered them again to remind them that true greatness is not about who sits on the right or the left saying, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all."
What is it that causes us to feel insecure? Many of us have so many insecurities, that we inevitably grasp that which makes us feel secure. It’s so common in humanity. So common, in fact, that Jesus has many teachings on security. The passage from Mark 10:17-31 should leave all of us feeling a little uneasy about where we place our trust. The good news, however, is that Jesus offers to us a more firm security than anything we can muster up on our own volition. Over and against all of our insecure motives, Jesus offers us a chance to rest in the security of His grace.
Our readings this week soar. They describe our creation, who we are as stewards of God’s creation, our ranking compared to the angels, and the high Christology of Hebrews which describe Jesus, the most perfect human ever. And then our view comes crashing back down to painful reality as the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce. What happens when all the beauty and love that God intends for marriage ends in painful places? Actually, not just in marriage, our lives encounter painful places where the mess we make of ourselves impacts the people around us. In our Gospel, Jesus points to God’s original plan and to the consequences and solution to our failure to love.
The Rev. Carole Anderson
Mark 9:38-50
15 mins 14 secs
Views: 4
In our Gospel for Sunday, (Mark 9:38-50) we continue to follow Jesus and his disciples on their journey. From this Gospel we see that they, the disciples, still have a ways to go in learning all that Jesus needs them to know before he dies. John tells Jesus that they have seen someone casting out demons in His name and that they tried to stop him because he was not one of them. Jesus reassures the disciples that this is okay and then points out what the real problem is: how they deal with the sin in their lives. Remember that our sins offend God and we cannot be neutral about them. James tells us how to confess our sins and be forgiven. In the OT reading, the people have a similar problem with Eldad and Medad, who were prophesying in the camp but had not been in the meeting when the others received the Spirit from God. Moses, replies, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" Clearly Moses is a prophet, because that is what will happen to all believers when Jesus dies and is seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
Mark 9:30-37
15 mins 24 secs
Views: 4
As we advance in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus continues to explain what will happen to him… and the disciples continue to miss the point and instead start up a side conversation about which of them was the greatest. Jesus responds that it is His name, not their accomplishments that give them status. That if even a small child is welcomed in the name of Jesus, it is equivalent to showing hospitality to the Creator of the universe. In all our readings the point is made, that the way of wisdom is not in striving for our own safety, status, or wealth, but to be trusting in God, gentle, peaceful and merciful.
This week, we hear a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, in which Peter rightly proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, but then tries to rebuke Jesus when Jesus explains what will happen to the Son of Man. For a moment Peter gets it right, and then so very wrong. To compliment this reading we have the epistle of James explaining the dangers of being a teacher who will be judged with greater strictness if we can’t control our tongue, and in general, the damage we do with our words. Would that we could listen more carefully to who Jesus says He is, and that our lives would flow from that source of living water. “but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
There are some interesting parallels in our readings this week. In our Old Testament reading, Isaiah prophesies about when God will come to save Israel: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” ~ Isaiah 35:5-6 Then in our Gospel, Jesus heals a man who is deaf and dumb. In our Epistle reading, James warns us against showing favoritism in our congregations and having faith without works. Then in our Gospel, Jesus heals the daughter of a Gentile after an exchange about children and dogs, tables and crumbs. It is the Psalm that seems to gather these thoughts together: human power and human princes fail, but the Lord is faithful forever, and heals, feeds, executes justice, and watches over those in need.
In our readings for Sunday, we have completed our journey through John and now move on to Mark. Our readings all point us to a comparison of the Laws given by God to Moses and how Jesus' coming into the world changed how they are applied. God gave Israel the stone tablets on which the law was written. Jesus writes the law in our hearts and our minds when we come to know Him. Israel had to enter the temple to have access to God. Jesus, His Father, God, and the Holy Spirit come into us, when we accept Him as savior, and make their home in us, making each of us their holy temple. Israel in Jesus' time thought it was okay to obey the letter of the law, keeping them outwardly, while breaking them inwardly. Jesus calls us to a total commitment to His Law. It is not what is outside of us that makes us unclean, it is what flows our from our hearts that matters.