The Rev. Carole Anderson
Luke 21:25-36
10 mins 43 secs
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This Sunday, we celebrate the beginning of our Advent season, literally, "the coming of Christ." It is also the church's new year. As we heard from Rev. Cindy last week, Jesus' death on the cross for sins was his coronation ceremony if you will. It was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel and their Messiah. It was also the end of the temple worship as Israel knew it. God would now dwell with His people and they would be his temple. Our readings reflect God's promise for Israel and us beginning in Jeremiah: Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness." But as usual, the disciples want to know what the signs will be when all these things come to pass. So Jesus takes them aside and tells them what to expect. The bottom line of the message for them -and us- is this: Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. So as our Advent season begins, let us prepare the way for our King, Jesus, and stay awake or alert because we do not know when He will arrive.
In the past several weeks, while our Gospel readings have been progressing through Mark, our epistle readings have been in Hebrews, focused on Jesus as our great high priest. This week, we turn instead to John, Revelation, and Daniel to look at Jesus as our King. Since we live in a secular democratic republic, where leadership is messy and temporary, it is hard for us to relate to “king.” At best, to our ears, “king” can sound like something from a storybook, or like a celebrity figurehead, and at worst, an usurping dictator, rather than a noble, rightful holder of power. As usual, Jesus’ view is deeper and not quite expected. He is king above all kings, but his kingdom is one of truth, not of geography. Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family and friends; enjoy the amazing and much needed rain - but don’t drink the rainwater, and please continue to pray for those who have lost their homes and are in need of shelter during this rain.
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
Mark 13:1-8
14 mins 56 secs
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Our lives are filled with transitions, endings, and changes, which we’d rather avoid. The news is filled with fires and impending disasters, and impending dooms of various sorts, and it can be exhausting, overwhelming and discouraging. But this week our readings all look to our hope and peace as “The Day” approaches: Daniel speaks of a time of anguish in the future of Israel, but that even then, those who are wise shall shine like the stars in the sky. The psalmist prays for protection, promises to choose only the Lord, and says “Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.” In our Gospel, Jesus speaks of the temple being destroyed and dismantled, but also says: “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.” Finally, the New Testament reading concludes with: Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25
This week is Stewardship Sunday and our readings seem appropriate. Our Old Testament reading is about God’s miraculous provision for Elijah, a widow and her son the midst of a drought. She gives her last flour and oil for the prophet and her jar never runs out until the rains come again. Our Psalm is about putting our trust in God who watches over strangers and widows instead of in princes. In our Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to beware of the scribes who enjoy the honor and respect they receive as men of God, but “devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” They enjoy the attention of men, but their hearts and lives are not aligned with the priorities and concerns of God.
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
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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.