my miscellany

Pentecost 19, 2018 — 30 Sep 18

Pentecost 19, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 21
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, and 24-29, Psalm 19:7-14, James 5:13-20,
Saint Mark 9:38-50

How do you like those disciples? “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”[1] Do you get the picture? Jesus’ disciples thought they were given the franchise, and they found someone else targeting their clients. It’s as though McDonald’s woke up to discover Burger King.

And in the face of the disciples’ jealousy and competition, Christ teaches a lesson, a lesson in tolerance: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”[2] The disciples had taken too much on to themselves. They thought they had a license, an exclusive product. And to them, Christ seems to be saying that more than one pathway leads to God. Each of you is on a pathway that leads to God. Each of you is on a pathway that you can follow to God. Christ himself claims to be the truth, by which he means that he draws a big, inclusive circle, not a little one. “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

We should draw big circles, too. It goes against this teaching to give a cup of cold water and not to see the one who receives the water as a child of God. We cannot share simply by giving away what we have. We are to recognize that a spiritual unity binds us all together despite differences of opinion and ways of reaching our goals. Evangelism, renewal, mission, ministry—all have the starting point of recognizing God’s presence in each other, and allowing it to lead and guide us all in his service. We cannot consider elbowing others out. We have to find ways to draw them in, just as Christ would have us do. And just as Christ did.

[1] Saint Mark 9:38.

[2] Saint Mark 9:40.

Pentecost 18, 2018 — 23 Sep 18

Pentecost 18, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 20
Jeremiah 11:18-20, Psalm 54, James 3:13–4:3 and 7-8a, Saint Mark 9:30-37

This week I had lunch with a retired officer of the Philadelphia Police Department who also is the Treasurer of his Methodist Church. Among many other things, he said something very like this to me:

“Now, let me get this straight. This whole world, that we can barely understand, is either an accident or the work of an intelligent designer? There were sub-species of primates disallowed from evolving into human beings, or our evolution is all an accident? There are dna and chromosomes in us that produce an opposable thumb in just the right place and not on a back or on a forehead in human being after human being, or that thumb is all an accident? Or, there are plants and animals beyond number and beyond our ability to catalogue and classify, or the whole interlocking combination of species is just an accident, just Mother Nature having her way with everything that is? All of these things could just be an accident? I cannot believe it!” He was quite moving when he said all these things. Even for a police officer, he was arresting.

People yearn to hear the story, the story of a loving and merciful Creator whose creative act brings meaning and purpose to the world and to our lives. People long to know that who they are and what they do contribute to bring meaning and purpose to a tough and sometimes mysterious world.

But that’s the story we Christians have to tell. A sliver of the story is the Gospel today. For the second time Jesus predicts the magnanimous gift of himself for the redemption and the salvation of the world. He tells his disciples that he will give himself beyond the point of death to save us and all who put their trust in him, and including all of those in his resurrection.

God made us and redeemed us through the love of Jesus Christ and sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit. And these extravagant acts of God mean that our lives have meaning and purpose. We are here, and that’s no accident. We have the opportunity to witness, and that’s no accident. We live and love in the image of God, and that’s no accident. We are Christ’s and Christ’s forever, and that’s no accident.

Pentecost 17, 2018 — 16 Sep 18

Pentecost 17, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 19
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 116:1-8; Saint James 2:1-5, 8-10, and 14-18;
Saint Mark 8:27-38

A military general[1] once was talking to his staff about taking a difficult position from the enemy.  One of his advisors said that taking the position would only cost a few lives.  And the general asked, “Are you willing to be one of the few?”

Christ is willing to be one of the few.  You cannot think about calling him a coward.  He’s willing to take up his cross—to be considered a criminal—and he’s willing to die by what he carries.  That’s an amazing thing to recognize about our Lord and our Master.  His words and his actions perfectly coincide.  And he so perfectly practices what he preaches, that he wouldn’t consider asking you to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself.  That’s amazing, too.  He’s not the sort of leader to send you ahead to face the fire yourself.  He sends himself, and he sends himself so bravely and resolutely that you want to follow him yourself.  He hasn’t lured you or tricked you.  He just has spoken to you so plainly about what it’s like to live that you want to live the way he does.  And that way of living is offering and sacrificing yourself, your time, and your money in his service.  “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves.”[2]  That’s a realistic suggestion, simply because some things are kept by giving them away.  Your life is that way.  If you want to have meaning and purpose in life, you’ll find them through dedication and commitment to a person or a cause or a goal.  And Christ it is who lives this truth most fully, to give us the example we need to do the same.  He’s always been waiting to see if we shall follow.  What more could you possibly want from a leader?

[1] Quintus Fabius Cunctator.

[2] Saint Mark 8:34.

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