Mark 3:20-35

Mark 3:20-35
 
With all the various competing wills taunting us to stray from God's will, each of us might be the kingdom or house divided that cannot stand. But the Holy Spirit works in us through the word bringing God's will to fruition. While we may not cast out demons, the good news through which the Spirit calls us, gives us God's own authority to confront the taunting that would lead us into despair and sin. Denying the Holy Spirit's work is unforgivable because this denial rejects the possibility that God wants to save all people from the effects of that first and persistent sin. The sin of believing and trusting the taunts, rather than God's word.
 
Powerful Hope, shore up the foundations of our faith so we might show others your love that leads out of despair. Amen.
 
 
Mark 3:20-35 (NRSV)
 
20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.
21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."
23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.
27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"--
30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.
32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."
33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"
34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Even if we could master and overcome the taunting of the devil and the world, still our own flesh taunts us. As we struggle through the daily dying of the old person and rising of the new person in us, our outer nature--infected as it is by that first sin--strikes at our attempts to be faithful to God's will and word. But the Spirit ,who seals us in baptism, leads us again and again to our cross, so that we might see that the will of the flesh, too, is a slight momentary affliction. The Spirit leads us to our cross so that we might not be punished, but renewed.
 
Blessed Spirit, lead us to the new life you give us in Jesus, and give us faith to carry our cross as we follow you, who cannot be seen. Amen.
 
 
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 (NRSV)
 
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture--"I believed, and so I spoke"--we also believe, and so we speak,
14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.
15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,
18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Genesis 3:8-15

Genesis 3:8-15
 
We could have been taunted by so many things at the beginning--our nakedness, our dependence on the tree of life, our naॖvetच--but that crafty serpent chose the most alluring, telling us we could be like God. We believed that taunt and discovered how that original, corrupting sin leads to fear and judgment. Our fear of being in God's presence drives us to taunt others as we try to escape blame. Yet in God's judgment against the serpent, we hear the foreshadowing of God's intention to defeat the taunting devil.
 
Creator God, you know us, yet you love us still. Free us from the devil's taunts that would separate us from the love and care you want to provide for us. Amen.
 
 
Genesis 3:8-15 (NRSV)
 
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
10 He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate."
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

There's a wideness in God's mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in God's justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heav'n.
There is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgment giv'n.

There is welcome for the sinner,
and a promised grace made good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
in that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

'Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
it is something more than all:
greater good because of evil,
larger mercy through the fall.
Make our love, O God, more faithful;
let us take you at your word,
and our lives will be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

Faber's lyrics come from the mid-nineteenth century, a time during which many were crossing the sea to seek a "better" life. The still new American States as well as the burgeoning colonies of the world's empires in Africa, South America and the Indian subcontinent promised a liberty and freedom unmatched in human history. From the vantage point of the future though, we are able to see that this liberty was a boon to some, while shamefully, a burden for many.

Perhaps Faber has an insight to this discrepancy of justice when he describes the wideness of God's mercy exceeding even that of the mighty ocean traversed by so many desperately seeking that better life. So much so that in verse 3 he appeals to the "broader love of God" that we so often make "narrow" by "false limits of our own." Thus comes the appeal in the final verse that God might make our love "more faithful" and our "thanksgiving" a reflection of God's goodness.

Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, that your wide mercy and broad love may be known through us. Amen.

Mark 2:23 — 3:6

Mark 2:23 -- 3:6
Following the unfortunate event of receiving a speeding ticket, I usually manage to keep a heavy foot off the gas pedal. My willpower doesn't last for long, though--a few days perhaps. Still, shame is a compelling, albeit fleeting force.
 
Jesus didn't stay on the good side of the law for even a few days. Seemingly, on the same Sabbath day as the grain plucking incident, Jesus again flagrantly breaks the law by restoring the withered hand of a fellow synagogue-goer. Again Jesus justifies his actions with an appeal to the inherent righteousness of doing good rather than harm. One would expect Jesus to follow what proper religious practice dictated and ignore the man on the assumption that his gnarled hand was a sign of a gnarled soul. But Jesus is intent on doing good. And for that--for daring to disrupt a system that, while good for some, is calculatedly designed to keep the most vulnerable from receiving even the simplest of blessings--Jesus earns himself a death warrant.
 
Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, and when there is good to be done, help us to do it even if it means breaking the rules. Amen.
 
 
Mark 2:23 – 3:6 (NRSV)
 
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"
25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."
27 Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.
2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward."
4 Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent.
5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Mark 2:23 — 3:6

Mark 2:23 -- 3:6
Technically, Jesus' disciples are breaking the law as they walk through the grain fields on a Sabbath day. Case law had determined that the "work" of plucking violated the command to rest on the Sabbath. But Jesus suggests that a case exists which the lawyers may have failed to consider--that of David and his companions eating the holy bread of the altar while fleeing for their lives from Saul. David, technically, broke the law too. Then again, the disciples' lives aren't in danger. And on any other day it wouldn't be a problem, but there are expectations on the Sabbath.
 
Jesus' perspective though is that the law (in this case the Sabbath law) is intended primarily to edify and encourage. Keeping the Sabbath law and resting from the work of the world is to allow ourselves a respite amid a punishing regiment of stress, deadlines and exhaustion. We don't need to be actually fleeing a maniacal tyrant like Saul to understand that.
 
Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, and give us peace when our lives get hectic in this busy world. Amen.
 
 
Mark 2:23 – 3:6 (NRSV)
 
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"
25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."
27 Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.
2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward."
4 Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent.
5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

2 Corinthians 4:5-12
 
Clay jars break, as every archeologist knows. Modern bottles break too. So ordinarily, we pour from fragile vessels in the manner for which the bottles are designed, carefully, so that none of the treasure is lost. It would be foolish, messy and dangerous for us to allow the bottle to break. But on some particular special occasions, for example the commissioning of a ship, we smash the bottle instead, letting the treasure held inside burst forth extravagantly. The ritual of breaking a sacrificial bottle of champagne on the bow of a ship or boat is one that expresses joy and thanksgiving, but also a preemptive blessing of safety and peace during times of troubled water that will inevitably come.
 
Perhaps God has poured the treasure of the gospel into the clay jars that are you and me for the very reason that it might burst forth when the jar is broken, so blessings might overflow. And these bodies, souls and minds of ours into which God has entrusted the gospel will break. But in our brokenness, God will commission a ship called grace that will sail to the ends of the earth.
 
Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, and remind us that in our brokenness, you heal the world. Amen.
 
 
2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (NRSV)
 
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.
6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Psalm 81:1-10

Psalm 81:1-10
 
It's interesting that today's reading focuses only on the first half of this psalm--the half that recalls God's blessings and promise of grace to come. The final six verses that we pass over describe a God who is grieved by children who have not received with joy the gifts offered to them.
 
I got a pair of argyle socks from my grandmother one year for Christmas. I was 12. They were unceremoniously pushed to the back of the sock drawer. But when Grandma came to visit, my mom made me find them and wear them to church. Not only was Grandma pleased, but I discovered that other people (grown-ups and kids) thought they were cool.
 
God gives gifts that are meant to be used and enjoyed. Like the gift of Sabbath rest, God's blessings are for the enrichment of our lives. When we push those gifts to the back of the drawer, God responds, "Use what I've given you, you might be surprised how it'll change your life!"
 
Make us thankful for your gift of rest, Lord, and remind us to cherish all your blessings. Amen.
 
Scott
Psalm 81:1-10 (NRSV)
 
1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
2 Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.
4 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known:
6 "I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. (Selah)
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

In my particular Bible, the "heading" for this week's psalm, which we'll look at tomorrow, is "God's Appeal to Stubborn Israel." Indeed the commandments, and all of the law, are for the purpose of mitigating bad behavior which results from our stubborn, "I'll do it my way, thank you," attitudes. Like a mother reproaching her child, "Don't sass me," God needs to break the bad out of us and make us ready to enter polite society.

But the commandments, like the best understanding of a mother's instructions, are perhaps better received as gift. "Observe the sabbath day" urges us not only to "get our lazy bodies out of bed and go to synagogue," but reminds us of the blessing that we can be to one another. Days of work are necessary and beneficial, but so is the opportunity to connect with others, even strangers. Perhaps, like Jesus, we can do good for them.

Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, and remind us to share our lives with others. Amen.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (NRSV)

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work--you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,”

"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," ELW 631, verses 2-4
 
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav'n, to earth come down!
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter ev'ry trembling heart.
 
Breathe, oh, breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev'ry troubled breast;
let us all in thee inherit;
let us find thy promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.
 
Come, Almighty, to deliver;
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
 
Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav'n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!
 
What is it like to be lost in the wonder of Jesus? I love eccentric types because they seem to be lost more often than not in their own passions and tend not to care about anything else besides their current curiosity.
 
The Bible is filled with eccentric types--people who are lost in living and lost in the wonder of God. Take time to get lost in the Alpha and the Omega, the Chi and the Rho and the word made flesh. Spend time in scripture, prayer and service. In 1945, right before Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at Flossenburg, Germany, his last words were, "This is the end--for me, the beginning of life."
 
Take this Sunday to try to lose yourself in wonder, love and praise of Jesus.
 
O God, help us to get lost in your love, peace and beauty. Help us recognize Jesus in our world and share this gift of pure love with others. Amen.