Christ the King Sunday, Year B: John 18:33-37: No Earthly Kingship

You can see all the lectionary readings for Christ the King Sunday, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

Today’s passage happens during Jesus’s trial with Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews.

Jesus asks if it’s his own question or did other people tell him about him.

Pilate responds that he is not a Jew and it was his own people and priests who brought him to Pilate. He asks what Jesus has done wrong.

Jesus responds that his kingdom is not of this world. He says if it were, his people would fight to keep him from being handed over. But his kingdom is not earthly.

Pilate says then he is a king.

Jesus says, “You are right to say that I am a king. I was born for this: to tell people about the truth. That is why I came into the world. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.”late said, “So you are a king.”

Of course this is Christ the King Sunday, so we have a passage about Christ’s kingship. Jesus says his kingdom is not earthly, and he has demonstrated that many times in the Gospels. In the kingdom of God love rules instead of power and violence. In the kingdom of God the meek inherit the earth and the last shall be first. It is far different from an earthly kingdom, but it is a kingdom we should all work to emulate. May his kingdom come and his will be done. May love rule on earth as it does in heaven.

Proper 28, Year B: Mark 13:1-8: Trust in God

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 28, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus exits the temple and one of the disciples points out how large the stones and buildings are. Jesus assures him that not one stone will be left on another and the temple will all be thrown down.

Later on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him what will be the sign that these things are about to happen. Jesus says that many will come in his name and claim to be him and lead people astray. He 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. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” 

As we’ve learned in his previous encounters with the temple, Jesus has mixed reactions to the temple. He calls it his father’s house, but overturns the tables of the money changers. He admires the poor widow giving her all to the temple treasury, but criticizes the ostentatious giving of the rich at the same time. He accepts it as the house of God, but rejects the domination system it represents and how it fails to live up to the ideals of God–that it should benefit the poor more than the rich and powerful. So he tells his followers it will be thrown down (and it will be, perhaps before Mark is written–I think there’s some dispute among scholars on the exact date). 

Then some of his followers seek more details. This passage is apocalyptic literature–something that is hard to understand (it’s not about zombies or nuclear destruction like the apocalyptic stories of our own time). There is a sermon on this passage that I find helpful on the Episcopal Digital Network and it includes this:

Apocalyptic literature uses certain vocabulary and imagery, in this case earthquakes, wars, famines, etc., to convey a larger truth. Jesus is telling us to beware and persevere in times of hardship and trial, because no power can prevail against the power of Almighty God.

I think that’s the key lesson to take from this week’s passage. Hard times are going to come but we must trust in God.

Proper 27, Year B: Mark 12:38-44: Giving All

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 27, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus is teaching. He tells the people to beware of the teachers of the law who walk around trying to look important and have the best seats at events. They want to look holy but they cheat the poor. 

He sits near the collection box in the temple and watches as people put in their money. He sees rich people put in tons of money but a poor widow puts in just two small coins.

Jesus calls his disciples to him and tells them that the widow gave more than all the rich people, because they gave out of their wealth and only what they didn’t need, but she gave all she had.

It’s so like Jesus that in a parade of people making ostentations donations, what he notices is the poor woman who quietly gives the very little she has. This carries on the lessons we’ve been learning during this season of Pentecost. To live the love of Christ, we must sacrifice and trust God with all we have. 

Proper 26, Year B: Mark 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandments

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 26, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

A teacher of the law comes to Jesus. He has heard Jesus arguing and giving good answers to the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He asks Jesus which of God’s commands is the most important.

Jesus responds, “The most important command is this: ‘People of Israel, listen! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.”

The man tells Jesus that it’s a good answer. He agrees that those commands are more important than any sacrifices they offer to God.

Jesus tells the man that he is close to God’s kingdom. 

I always think of this passage when I find Christians (or even myself) obsessing over rules of morality. This is the real key to following Jesus and to a moral life–love God and love your neighbor. What more is needed? This is what we always have to keep in mind.

Proper 25, Year B: Mark 10:46-52: Meet Needs With Love

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 25, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus arrives in Jericho, followed by a large crowd. A blind man named Bartimaeus is sitting by the road, where he often sat begging for money. When he heard Jesus was there he began to shout to him for help. Other people tell him to be quiet, but he cries out more, “Son of David, please help me!”

Jesus, of course, asks for them to call him over. Bartimaeus approaches quickly. Jesus asks what he wanted and he asks to see again.

Jesus tells him, “Go. You are healed because you believed.”  The man is immediately able to see again and he followed Jesus down the road.

Once again Jesus has a different view than others. Others are telling the man crying out for help and mercy to shut up, to leave Jesus alone and stay quiet. But Jesus notices him and wants to see him. He doesn’t care that he is merely a beggar. Another popular teacher might be seeking out the rich and famous and trying to make a few bucks off his power and popularity, but Jesus sees the saddest person there in the greatest need. And he sees that person’s belief. Then he meets that person’s needs. His eyes see what others don’t. He sees a need and he meets it with love.

Proper 24, Year B: Mark 10:35-45: Lead by Serving

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 24, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

The brothers James and John come o Jesus and ask him for a favor. They ask that when he is king they can sit at his right and his left in places of honor.

Jesus tells them they don’t understand what they are asking. He asks them if they can drink from the cup he will drink from or be baptized as he will be. Of course they respond enthusiastically (because they still don’t understand).

He tells them that they will indeed drink from the same cup and have the same baptism, but it is not for him to say who will sit by him because God has prepared those places.

The other disciples were angry at James and John for their lobbying tactics. Jesus called them together and explained that they would not function like the rest of the world and its rulers.

Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant.Whoever wants to be first must serve the rest of you like a slave. Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.

Mark 10:43-45 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Again Jesus is teaching us how to follow him, and it flips the script on society’s norms (the society of his time but also ours). Even a couple thousand years later, his words are revolutionary. Serve to lead; lead by serving. There’s no looking out for number one or grabbing all you can to get ahead. Live by love and live for others. How would it change your plans for today and the days to come if you lived by these words?

Proper 23, Year B: Mark 10:17-31: Sacrificial Love

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 23, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

A man approaches Jesus asking him how he can gain eternal life. He calls him “Good Teacher”.

Jesus asks why he calls him good, when only God is good. He repeats some of the ten commandments, but the man interrupts to say he has always kept those commands.

Jesus responds in this way:

Jesus looked at the man in a way that showed how much he cared for him. He said, “There is still one thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me.”

Mark 10:21 (Easy-to-Read Version)

I love that he looks at the man with love before he gives him a difficult answer. I so wish I could love like Jesus.

The man can’t accept this teaching and goes away sad. Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them ti will be hard for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. They are amazed–perhaps like is often seen in our own time, the rich are respected and it is assumed they must be righteous to be so blessed. Jesus gives his famous line about how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.

The disciples are shocked and ask who can be saved. Jesus tells them it is not something people can do, but God can do it.

Jesus says that those who sacrificed much for him will be rewarded. The first will be last and the last will be first.

I think this is not so specifically and literally about money, but about what stands between us and following Christ. It doesn’t have to be millions of dollars that we value above his love. It could be as simple as our preconceived notions and prejudices preventing us from loving. What holds you back from following Jesus?

Proper 22, Year B: Mark 10:2-16: Love Rules

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 22, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Again Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus with weird questions. They ask him about divorce and he asks them what Moses commanded. They answer that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus says that Moses made that command because they didn’t accept God’s teaching.

Later his disciples ask Jesus about divorce and he tells them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman has sinned against his wife. He is guilty of adultery. And the woman who divorces her husband and marries another man is also guilty of adultery.” What’s really interesting here is that he includes the idea of a woman divorcing her husband. That may not read like much in today’s world and in a more open-minded church, but that was significant for the time–no teacher at that time would bother with a view for women in that way.

People are bringing children to Jesus so that he could bless them, but his disciples are trying to prevent it. Again, they are thinking of their current social beliefs–children were of even less importance than women. Jesus told them to let the children come to him and he said that God’s kingdom belongs tho people who are like little children. He opened his arms to hold the children, laid hands on them, and blessed them.

Time and time again, the people of his time (and ours) fail to see his radical love for what it is. It’s not constrained by the rules of their kingdom but it is open with the rules of God’s kingdom, sometimes hard to understand, but always on the side of love and inclusion.

Proper 21, Year B: Mark 9:38-50: Stay Salty

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 21, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus’ disciples are upset that a man was using the name of Jesus to exorcise demons. Jesus told them to let him be–if he is not against them he is with them.

The disciples were offended because this guy was not part of their group. They don’t like someone working in the name of Jesus who is not like them. How much this reminds me of certain churches who think they are the only ones who really know Jesus and that they can’t work with other churches! Jesus, though, is not trying to exclude people. He welcomes anyone, as we should.

The next part is hard to paraphrase, so I will just put it here:

“If one of these little children believes in me, and someone causes that child to sin, it will be very bad for that person. It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be drowned in the sea. If your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to lose part of your body and have eternal life than to have two hands and go to hell. There the fire never stops. If your foot makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to lose part of your body and have eternal life than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye makes you sin, take it out. It is better for you to have only one eye and enter God’s kingdom than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. The worms that eat the people in hell never die. The fire there is never stopped.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.

“Salt is good. But if it loses its salty taste, you can’t make it good again. So, don’t lose that good quality of salt you have. And live in peace with each other.”

Mark 9: 42-50 (Easy-to-Read Version)

This passage strikes me as poetic, full of hyperbole–drowning, cutting off body parts, fire, etc. It can be hard to understand, especially for someone like me who is trying to get beyond the literalism I grew up with. I read in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible that “Priests salted some sacrifices as well as cooked them”. So perhaps this is a call-back to previous passages about sacrifice and service. We are to offer ourselves to God, wholly committed and salty. We don’t have to be part of a certain group (listen up, disciples and those like them) or act a certain way–we gotta stay salty. And we are to live in peace with each other–not excluding others.

Proper 20, Year B: Mark 9:30-37: Serve Others

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 20, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus and his disciples are traveling through Galilee, but they are avoiding people because Jesus wants to teach the disciples privately. He tells them that the Son of Man will be handed over to the authorities and will be killed, but he will rise again. The disciples are confused, but afraid to ask more.

They arrive at a house and Jesus asks the others why he heard them arguing on the way. They didn’t want to answer, because they were arguing about which of them was the greatest. Oh brother, this is one of those points reading scripture when I just shake my head at the disciples being dumb.

Jesus knows what their nonsense was about. He tells them that whoever wants to be the greatest must make themselves the least and be a servant. Jesus loves to flip the script on his not-always-bright followers–and on us–we are not always bright either.

Then Jesus brings a small child in front of the followers. He tells them that anyone who accepts children in his name accepts him and anyone who accepts him accepts the one who sent him.

As in previous passages, the challenge is passed on to us–the paradox of the least being the greatest. Our command is to serve others and not to exalt ourselves.