pentecost 15, labor day weekend, connecting hope begins this week
Jesus protests against human customs being given the weight of divine law, while the essence of God’s law is ignored. True uncleanness comes not from external things, but from the intentions of the human heart. Last week Jesus told us “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Now James says God has given us birth by the word of truth. We, having been washed in the word when we were born in the font, return to it every Sunday to ask God to create in us clean hearts.
pentecost 16, BLAST begins
James tells us to stop showing favoritism in the assembly, treating the rich visitor with more honor than the poor one. Jesus himself seems to show partiality in his first response to the Syrophoenician woman in today’s gospel. Was he testing her faith in saying Gentiles don’t deserve the goods meant for God’s children? Or was he speaking out of his human worldview, but transcended those limits when she took him by surprise with her reply? Either way, the story tells us that God shows no partiality. Everyone who brings her or his need to Jesus is received with equal honor as a child and heir.
pentecost 17, Welcome to Confirmation
Three weeks ago we heard John’s gospel’s version of Peter’s confession of faith. This week we hear Mark’s version, when Peter says, “You are the Messiah.” In John, the stumbling block is Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh, given for the life of the world. In Mark too the scandal has to do with Jesus’ words about his own coming death, and here Peter himself stumbles over Jesus’ words. But Jesus is anointed (the meaning of “messiah”) in Mark only on the way to the cross (14:3); so we are anointed in baptism with the sign of the cross.
pentecost 18, first day of autumn
Today we hear James warn against selfish ambition, while the disciples quarrel over which one of them is the greatest. Jesus tells them the way to be great is to serve. Then, to make it concrete, he puts in front of them an actual flesh-and-blood child. We are called to welcome the particular children God puts in front of us, to make room for them in daily interaction, and to give them a place of honor in the assembly.
pentecost 19, Women's Retreat this weekend
Someone is casting out demons in Jesus’ name who isn’t part of Jesus’ own circle, and the disciples want him stopped. They appeal to Jesus, as Joshua did to Moses about the elders who prophesied without official authorization. Like Moses, Jesus refuses to see this as a threat. Jesus welcomes good being done in his name, even when it is not under his control. The circle we form around Jesus’ word must be able to value good being done in ways we wouldn’t do it, by people we can’t keep tabs on.
Today’s gospel combines a saying that makes many of us uncomfortable with a story we find comforting. Jesus’ saying on divorce is another of his rejections of human legislation in favor of the original intent of God’s law. Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples who are fending off the children should challenge us as well. What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God as a child does?
The rich man who comes to ask Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life is a good man, sincere in his asking. Mark’s gospel is alone in saying that Jesus looked on him and loved him. Out of love, not as judgment, Jesus offers him an open door to life: sell all you own and give it to the poor. Our culture bombards us with the message that we will find life by consuming. Our assemblies counter this message with the invitation to find life by divesting for the sake of the other.
Pentecost 22, drivers license milestone
Today’s gospel starts with disciples obsessing over who’s number one, which leads Jesus to say something about God's take on importance and power. Here Jesus makes it explicit that the reversal of values in God’s community is a direct challenge to the values of the dominant culture, where wielding power over others is what makes you great. When we pray “your kingdom come” we are praying for an end to tyranny and oppression. We pray this gathered around the cross, a sign of great shame transformed to be the sign of great honor and service.
reformation sunday, trunk or treat
On this day we celebrate the heart of our faith: the gospel of Christ—the good news—that makes us free! We pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to unite the church today in its proclamation and witness to the world. In the waters of baptism we are made one body; we pray for the day that all Christians will also be one at the Lord’s table.