my miscellany

Pentecost 8, 2018 — 15 Jul 18

Pentecost 8, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 10
Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Saint Mark 6:14-29

When you think about it, the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. King Herod hears of Jesus and his disciples, the Gospel begins.[1] And then we hear the story of the death of Saint John the Baptist by way of the rumor that Jesus is Saint John risen from the dead.

The Gospel really concerns Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus and a major messenger of God. As God’s messenger, John has told Herod that it is not lawful for him to take his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own wife. For this message from God Herod throws John into prison, and Herodias bears a grudge against John. She satisfies that grudge by suggesting to her daughter that she ask for John’s head on a platter, since Herod has offered to give her anything she wants. Herod keeps his promise, and John is beheaded. And we see what happens to God’s messenger.

Something similar happens to Amos when he delivers God’s message about King Jeroboam. Amaziah misrepresents Amos’ message to Jeroboam and runs Amos out of town, commanding him to earn his daily bread in Judah not Israel. Prophesy there, why don’t you? If Amos and Saint John’s stories resemble the truth, being God’s messenger isn’t such a cushy and hotsy-totsy vocation after all.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t kill the messenger.” But that expression is current, because it tells the truth. People kill messengers often enough to give the expression full meaning.

I began by saying that the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. John and Jesus are God’s messengers, and people kill them both because of their identity as God’s messengers.

Which brings me to the heart of the Gospel today. You and I work both sides of the message street. We claim to be part of the Jesus Movement, as the Presiding Bishop likes to call it. And, at the same time, our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Part of what it means to be a foot-soldier in the Movement is a certain ambivalence about the Movement. We see nothing ambivalent in Amos, in John, or in Jesus. And yet we want to stay on both sides of the street. My prayer for you and for me is that we all grasp our calling a little more fervently and a little less ambivalently. For to do that is our journey, a journey leading to salvation. God help us along the way.

[1] Saint Mark 6:14

Pentecost 7, 2018 — 8 Jul 18

Pentecost 7, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 9
Ezekiel 2:1-5, Psalm 123, II Corinthians 12:2-10, Saint Mark 6:1-13

For thirty-one years of Ordination as a Deacon and as a Priest, I have been getting ready for the sermon today. More about that later.

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus declare to the woman he unknowingly cures, “your faith has made you well.”[1] And also I said that Jesus could well have said to Jairus, “your faith has brought your daughter back to life.” Against that background, we hear today Saint Mark comment in the Gospel today, “And [Jesus] could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”[2]

One Bible I use for study glosses that verse thus: “[a]ccording to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith.” And I say to you that our coöperation is important, if not necessary, to the coming of the kingdom, as in “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”[3]

The thought first crossed my mind many years ago. But I have hesitated to say it in a sermon until today. Then I was in college and a member of a group called Young Life. We had Bible Studies often, and we used J. B. Phillips’ translation of the New Testament. I read it fervently and carried it with me wherever I went.

The lesson I learned then and suggest to you today is this. Our prayer, our faith, is an ingredient God uses to work his will. Every prayer we offer, however formal, however informal, has an effect upon the coming of the kingdom. Every prayer we offer brings a substantial consequentiality, perhaps unseen and perhaps unknown, but consequential nonetheless.

It seems, then, that being made in the image of God involves this coöperation. Our faith is an ingredient to God’s will being done on our behalf. An assent of our will, as in praying, the Our Father, opens the door to God’s complete and perfect will being accomplished in us. We must never discount this possibility until the Day he tells us one way or the other.

And so what we are doing today is important. Worship may indeed be the most important thing we do, for when we express our faith, when we place our faith in the hands of the true and living God, wonderful things come to be.

[1] Saint Mark 5:34.

[2] Saint Mark 6:5.

[3] The Book of Common Prayer, page 364.

Pentecost 6, 2018 — 1 Jul 18

Pentecost 6, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 8
Wisdom 1:13-15 and 2:23-24, Psalm 30, II Corinthians 8:7-15, Saint Mark 5:21-43

Living in Alexandria about one hundred years before Jesus and writing in Greek, the author of Wisdom seems to be quoting or referring to the Prophet Ezekiel who proclaimed, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.”[1]

We should be well aware of God’s preference for life, and we should live accordingly. We are free to discover, to adapt as may be necessary, and to choose to follow God in everything we do. This is the example Jesus has given us in his ministry and in his death and resurrection.

Moreover, the example is given to us in the Gospel by Jairus and the woman whom Jesus unknowingly cures. They exemplify life lived according to Jesus’ example.

Jairus leads the synagogue, and I like to think he knows well God’s preference for life. He implores Jesus, “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.”[2] The faith that Jairus has that Jesus indeed can make his daughter well, the faith that God indeed prefers life, is about to be tested twice. First, that his daughter might be cured, and second, once his daughter has died, that she might be restored to life. Jairus’ faith passes both of these tests. He truly believes that God, that Jesus, prefers life.

The crowd has a different reaction. When Jesus says that the child “is not dead but sleeping,”[3] they laugh at Jesus.

That difference between Jairus and the crowd is the difference of life itself. The crowd is not quite sure where God and Jesus stand on this question. But Jairus knows and has faith. He has an exemplary faith.

When the woman Jesus unknowingly cures explains herself, Jesus tells her, “your faith has made you well.”[4] Jesus could well have said to Jairus, “your faith has brought your daughter back to life.”

We do ourselves a favor and a service when we find it within us to let God be God. The Scriptures and Jesus witness repeatedly who God is and what God prefers. And certainly the best thing we can offer to God in thanksgiving for everything he is is our will poised to do his will. Some conversations can develop in only one direction, and so it is in our conversation with God. We grow, we develop, and we mature when we are ready to do his will in every circumstance we know.

[1] Ezekiel 18:32.

[2] Saint Mark 5:24.

[3] Saint Mark 5:40.

[4] Saint Mark 5:34.

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