Proper 11, Year B: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56: Jesus as a Healer

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 11, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

The disciples Jesus sent out in the previous passage have returned to him. They eagerly tell him all they had done. But it is so busy with people that they don’t even have time to eat. Jesus tells them they will find a quiet place to rest. So they go on a boat to a place where they expect to be alone, but people follow them there. So many people come that a large crowd is waiting when Jesus gets off the boat. He takes pity on them so he stops to teach them.

The lectionary passage here skips ahead to another landing of the boat. They get out of the boat again and people recognize Jesus and people come in from all over the area bringing the sick to him. Wherever he goes people bring sick people to him and beg that they might just touch even the edge of his cloak. Anyone who touches it is healed.

This is very timely for me (even though I am doing it a couple weeks late. I happen to be sick this weekend and unfortunately I was too sick to serve on the healing prayer team today at church as planned. Our church has had healing services on some Wednesday nights for a while now, but we recently started a ministry of healing prayer during Sunday morning services. A couple of us stand to the sides during the Eucharist and people can come up to us after receiving communion for an individual healing prayer and anointing with oil. We discussed in our Adult Spiritual Formation commission that healing is not just about physical healing and that healing isn’t synonymous with curing. I’ve been reading a book called Healing in the Landscape of Prayer that has some great stories of people being cured after prayer, however, so it can happen. It’s lovely to be involved in a ministry that was so much a part of Jesus’ ministry in his lifetime.

I have spent some time in hospitals with my youngest son, who has a rare genetic disease, KBG Syndrome, which causes a few physical issues as well as some neurological ones. I know the great comfort I’ve had when visited by an Episcopal chaplain or our own priest while my son is sick. He may not have been cured, but we felt a healing effect and the love of Jesus.

Proper 10, Year B: Mark 6:14-29: Kingdom of God vs. Kingdoms of Men

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 10, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

King Herod heard rumors about Jesus. One of the rumors was that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. He was disturbed by this one because he had executed John the Baptist.

He had first just put John in prison to please his wife, Herodias (because she had previously been married to Herod’s brother and John condemned their marriage). Herodias wanted him dead but Herod protected him because he knew John was a holy man and he liked listening to John.

Then Herod had a big birthday party for himself with all the bigwigs from the government and army. His wife’s daughter (seems like she was not his daughter but rather his stepdaughter but then also his niece since his wife was previously married to his brother) danced what was probably a sensual dance, because Herod was so pleased with her that he offered her anything she asked for after her dance.

The girl went to her mother to find out what she should ask and her mother said she should ask for the head of John the Baptist.

So she asked for John’s head on a plate. King Herod felt bad, but felt he couldn’t break the promise he’d made in front of his guests. So he sent a soldier to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. So the head was given to the girl on a plate and she brought it to her mother. John’s disciples heard about it and came to take his body and bury him.

I find it interesting that this rather horrific story is nestled among stories of healing and miracles. This kingdom of Herod (not even a real kingdom as he is a tetrarch ruling on behalf of Rome–a collaborator with the oppressive conquerors) is in stark contrast to the kingdom of God presented by Jesus–a kingdom of healing, acceptance, and love. It’s a kingdom that will be hosting a picnic for 5,000 in the very next passage. It’s a dark foreshadowing of what happens when someone proclaiming the kingdom of God comes into conflict with the earthly powers of Rome as well as a contrast of the kingdoms of men with the kingdom of God.

Even today proclaiming the love of god can be in conflict with the domination system of our day. We must stand up to the domination system and proclaim that there is a better kingdom of mercy and love, and stand against hatred and bigotry.

 

 

Proper 9, Year B: Mark 6:1-13: Ministry of the Twelve Disciples

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 9, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus goes back to his hometown with his followers. He teaches in the Sabbath and people are amazed by him, questioning how he got such wisdom and power to do miracles. They know him as the local carpenter, so they can’t accept him as more than that.

Jesus says that “People everywhere give honor to a prophet, except in his own town, with his own people, or in his home.” He isn’t able to do miracles there other than a few healings, because his local people lack faith.

Then he calls his disciples together and sends them out in groups of two to minister. He tells them to take nothing but a stick for walking–not even spare clothes. They are to rely on others for any needs, but if a town refuses to accept them or to listen, they are to leave and “shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them.”

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says that Proper hospitality included offering water for guests to wash their feet; here the travelers’ feet remain conspicuously unwashed.” Shaking the dust off their feet was significant symbolism and a kind of rebuke.

So they headed out to talk to people and call on them to repent and change. They cast out demons and anointed people with oil and healed them.

Here we see Jesus making a major change in his ministry. Prior to this he has been traveling all over and preaching and healing, with his own entourage in tow. Now he sends his disciples out without him to extend his ministry to more places at once. In previous weeks we’ve read about the kingdom of God and how quickly it grows–this is how Jesus began to encourage its growth.

Proper 8, Year B: Mark 5:21-43: Jesus Embraces Impurity to Heal

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 8, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In today’s passage, Jesus crosses the lake in a boat and when he lands crowds surround him. A leader from the synagogue named Jairus comes (apparently not everyone in leadership was opposed to Jesus, at least not when in great need). He bowed down before Jesus and begged him to heal his dying daughter.

Jesus accompanies Jairus, but as he goes he is still crowded by people. A woman suffering from a debilitating illness that caused constant bleeding was among those following him; she thinks that if she can just touch his clothes, she will be healed. As soon as she touches his coat, her bleeding stops. Somehow Jesus felt the power and looked around to ask who touched his clothes.

His disciples are surprised that he is asking about a specific person touching him when he has so many pushing around him, but he insistently looks around until she comes up to him and bows at his feet, shaking in fear. She tells him her story and he tells her she will not suffer anymore.

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains that a woman with such a bleeding condition would be considered unclean and as she pushed through the crowd she would be causing other people she touched to be unclean by the Levitical laws–it may be part of why she was fearful, because she could have also rendered Jesus himself ritually unclean by touching his clothes. Instead she is cleansed and purified. It is significant that he made the act known publicly and did not fear impurity. Jesus meets people in their need with love.

Then some people come from the home of Jairus to report that his daughter has died before they have even arrived. But Jesus told Jairus not to fear, just to believe.

As they entered the house, Jesus asked people why they were crying. He said the girl was only sleeping. Then he had the crying people leave the house and he went to the girl, bringing along her parents and three of his disciples. 

Jesus let only Peter, James, and John the brother of James go with him. They went to the synagogue leader’s house, where Jesus saw many people crying loudly. There was a lot of confusion. He entered the house and said, “Why are you people crying and making so much noise? This child is not dead. She is only sleeping.” But everyone laughed at him.

Jesus told the people to leave the house. Then he went into the room where the child was. He brought the child’s father and mother and his three followers into the room with him.

Then Jesus held the girl’s hand and said to her, “Talitha, koum!” (This means “Little girl, I tell you to stand up!”) The girl immediately stood up and began walking. (She was twelve years old.) The father and mother and the followers were amazed.Jesus gave the father and mother very strict orders not to tell people about this. Then he told them to give the girl some food to eat.

Mark 5:41-43 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Again, Jesus ignores the rituals–touching a corpse could make one even more impure than touching a bleeding person. But Jesus does not hesitate to take the dead girls hand and again, rather than him being made impure, she is brought to life and purity.

Proper 7, Year B: Mark 4:35-41: Expanding the Table

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 7, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus asks his disciples to come with him across the lake in the evening. They left a big crowd behind and got in a boat with Jesus. There were also other boats accompanying them. While they were out on the lake, a huge wind came up and the waves were coming into the boat so that it was getting swamped. Jesus was inside the boat, asleep. His disciples woke him, telling him they feared they would drown.

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and water to be still. The wind stopped and the lake calmed.

He turned to his friends and asked why they were so afraid and why they didn’t have faith.

They were amazed at such a man who could command the wind and waves.

 

I’ve read some commentaries on this and find it compelling that when Jesus takes his disciples across the lake, it means he’s taking them toward the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. The Christians in Mark’s time are figuring out how the Gospel changes when Gentiles come to it–many Jewish Christians were still following Jewish dietary laws and insisting on circumcision, but obviously that changed over time as more Gentiles came to faith. So they head out across the lake and when a storm comes up, they are afraid. They maybe fear how Jesus brings his love and truth to the world, and not only to those like themselves. Jesus was always expanding the table (I love this analogy in A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz).

Proper 6, Year B: Mark 4:26-34: Love is the Seed

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 6, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In today’s passage we have two parables about the kingdom of God.  God’s kingdom is like a man planting seeds and the seed grows night and day. The man doesn’t understand it but the seed grows and grows into a plant and when it’s ready, he harvests it.

The kingdom of God is also like a mustard seed, which is so tiny but grows into a large plant where birds can be protected from the sun.

So the kingdom of God grows and grows and we don’t always understand it.

 

Interestingly, the passage ends by saying that Jesus often used stories to teach people but explained more to his disciples. I sometimes wish a few more explanations had been included in the scriptures.

 

My own interpretation for today is that we can go plant those seeds with love. Love is the seed of the kingdom of God–what else could grow so beautifully?

Proper 5, Year B: Mark 3:20-35: Calling Good Evil and Calling Evil Good

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 5, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s passage can seem kind of weird. Jesus is in his hometown and he’s surrounded by so many people that he and his followers can’t even eat. Then his family head to get him because people are saying he is crazy. Meanwhile some teachers of the law from Jerusalem claim he is using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Jesus points out what a nutty idea that is–saying there’s no way Satan would cast out demons–it would be like fighting against himself.

“I want you to know that people can be forgiven for all the sinful things they do. They can even be forgiven for the bad things they say against God. But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. They will always be guilty of that sin.” 

Mark 3: 28-29 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Forgive me for mentioning both politics and Facebook (sometimes there is just too much of both), but my politics are deeply informed by my being a follower of Jesus, so I can’t help that they sometimes intersect. I recently posted this on Facebook, and it seems relevant to this scripture passage.

I’ve been thinking about blasphemy. As a young evangelical, I thought blasphemy was putting a cross in urine or maybe dressing up like Jesus and doing the polka. But now I believe blasphemy is to proclaim God while doing evil–like Jeff Sessions smirking as he quoted the Bible to defend yanking children from their parents. I also remember that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” seemed to mean you shouldn’t say “Goddamn” or “Oh my God!” (Honestly it was still hard to type that.) But taking the Lord’s name in vain is more likely to mean saying God is on your side when you are oppressing people and trampling the poor.

I had forgotten that I just heard this in the Gospel reading a couple weeks before I wrote that, but maybe that was part of why it was somewhere in my mind.

So here in the original passage it was that the teachers of the law were calling the good Jesus was doing in the name of God evil instead. I still think the reverse is also true–doing evil and calling it good and Godly.

Proper 4, Year B: Mark 2:23-3:6: Rules Made for People

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 4, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

This week will be a little different, because on this week I did the homily for our church’s family service, so I’m going to copy over the written version of my homily.  I write everything out in Word and check how it reads aloud. Then I make note cards with just a few words on them to glance at while I’m speaking. I have not yet found the confidence to talk without the notes, but what I end up saying can vary a lot from this original written version. But here it is, anyway.

Let me tell you about the only two rules we have in my house.  OK, there are more than two, but I tell my kids these are the main rules that all the other rules fall under.  The #1 rule is Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.  That makes sense, right? That’s a good rule for everywhere, not just in my house. And the #2 rule is, Don’t make a mess your mom has to clean up. I do a lot of cleaning of bathrooms or laundry or washing dishes, but this is specifically about them not making a bigger mess and leaving it behind when they’re done playing. I think that’s a good rule because I have a lot to do and I don’t need more work.

What are some good rules you can think of that you have to follow at home?

Is it ever ok to break a rule?

What if we had a rule that no one should get up and come up here in the middle of the service? (we don’t really have that rule but let’s imagine).  Then what if I was up here speaking and I tripped on the stairs (this could totally happen as I’m pretty clumsy—I’ve ended up in the emergency room after just slipping on the sidewalk).  So there I’d be lying on the floor and maybe I need help to get up—but the rule is no one gets out of their pews. Is it o.k. for someone to get up and come help me up off the floor?  Of course it is! It would be silly to follow the rule at that moment if someone needs help.

Today’s gospel story is about Jesus breaking a rule.

What do you know about the Sabbath? It’s often Saturday but in our church our Sabbath is on Sunday. The Sabbath is a day to worship God and to rest. We don’t have very strict rules in our church but in Jesus’ culture and in some religions today it’s very serious and strict. Certain leaders didn’t like that Jesus let his disciples pick some grain on the Sabbath (because it was like a form of work) and they really didn’t like it when he healed a man on the Sabbath. Do you think the Sabbath was made just to give people a hard time and a rule to follow? I don’t think so—I think it was designed to teach people to rest and set aside a time to spend with God.

So let’s talk about the Sabbath (bring out poster).  For us it happens to fall on Sunday, the same day as the Resurrection. I’ve thought of some good things to do on a Sunday that are about spending time with God and resting. Go to church. Pray. Have brunch.  Spend time with your family. What are some good things to do on a weekday—write them. How about on a Saturday? Now, what’s a good day to do a good deed—like Jesus healing? ANY DAY. Does it make sense to say you can’t do a good deed on Sunday because that’s not worshiping God? What would God love more than us helping other people? Showing love to people could happen on any day. (Draw in a cross or a heart in each day of the week.)

Now this part is really for the adults. We have a real problem with this in our country, even though we don’t have the same rules they had in Jesus’ time. People are being mistreated every day and many times the mistreatment is justified by some arbitrary rule. But Jesus said the rules are made for people and the people are not made for the rules. If rules mean that people are often imprisoned for years for minor offenses and if those people are disproportionately people of color, something is wrong with the rules. If our rules mean that parents are separated from their children just for wanting to enter our country, then something is wrong with those rules. If rules are made about how people protest, and nothing is done about what those people are protesting, something is wrong with those rules. The rules are best when they help people and we should rewrite them if they are hurtful or we should elect new rule-makers. I was talking to my husband Brian about this subject and he put it very well: “Don’t miss the principle of ‘loving your neighbor’ by blindly following a rule.” The bottom line is to love your neighbor.  Love the people and not the rules.

Trinity Sunday, Year B: Romans 8:12-17: Abiding in the Trinity

You can see all the lectionary readings for Trinity Sunday, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Epistle of Romans because I already wrote about the Gospel during another Sunday during Year A.

This is a lovely passage that begins with an exhortation that we not be ruled by our sinful selves or by the flesh as some translations call it. It is spiritual death to live only by fleshly desire. He says you can have true life with the Spirit’s help.

This is not a dichotomy between two parts of our personality (like the idea of mind over matter), but instead about the work of the Spirit in our lives to help us overcome the desire to sin.

Paul says that the true children of God let God’s Spirit lead them. My favorite part is that he says this spirit does not make us slaves and cause us to fear. The Spirit makes us God’s children. He says with that Spirit we cry out, Abba, Father.” and the Spirit advocates on our behalf and speaks to our spirits. 

How lovely that we are the children of a loving Father and a Spirit to lead us to be more like Christ. That’s abiding in the Trinity of God.

Day of Pentecost, Year B: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15: The Advocate

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Day of Pentecost, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John. I already wrote about the Acts passage for the Day of Pentecost, Year A.

In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is telling his followers about the coming of the Holy Spirit, whom he calls the Advocate and the Spirit of truth (at least in the translation in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible).

He says that the Advocate will testify (or in other words, advocate) on his behalf. His followers are also to testify about him. He explains that he didn’t tell them this before because he was with them, but now that he is returning to the one who sent him, he sees that they are full of sorrow. He tells them if he does not go, the Advocate will not come to them, but when he goes, he will send the Advocate to them. He says the Spirit of truth will guide them into all truth.

He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16: 14-15

This is a rather complex passage for me. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible talks about the meaning of Advocate and testifying in relation to courts and legal matters, which makes some sense. As an advocate to speak on legal behalf of a client, the Holy Spirit is like an advocate–working in the hearts of Christians to help them know and follow the way of Jesus.