Proper 20B (OT 25)

image: 2 Palestinian children watching their house demolished by the Israeli Military taken by Eric Fistler, Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem 2004

 
 

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Artist: Heatherlyn

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


Mark 9:30-37

Initial Thoughts

  • Isn’t there anything you’d rather talk about, Jesus? This is two weeks in a row that Jesus predicts his death.

  • Sometimes Jesus is a real Debbie Downer

Bible Study

  • Second Prediction

    • Mark 8:31 “Jesus began to teach his disciples: ‘The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.’” This was followed by Peter scolding him.

    • Transfiguration, the disciples fail trying to heal a boy.

    • Then, Mark 9:31 “This was because he was teaching his disciples, ‘The Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” This time they “were afraid to ask him.”

    • Fear is a common theme in Mark.

  • Who is greatest gets two answers?  “They had been debating each other about who was greatest.”

    • Their arguing about greatness while Jesus talks about his own death reveals how much about the Disciples’ lack of understanding.

    • Answer One: “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.”

      • Servant leadership is pathway to ‘greatness.’

      • In Kingdom of God, everything is backwards from Roman patronage system.

    • Answer Two: “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me.”

      • “It is surprising and ironic that in a power struggle when the disciples are behaving like children, Jesus unmasks their aspiration to power by putting a real child in their midst and using him as an object lesson.” (Scott Hoezee, The Abingdon Preaching Annual, 2018, p. 118)

      • Not a romantic, idealized version of children.

      • The child is a representation of “The least.”

      • Embracing the child is a demonstration of Jesus’ love of the unlovable.

      • In the next chapter, 10:13 (in lectionary in two weeks) Jesus is blessing children, but the disciples scold them.

      • The path to God’s power is to open your arms to the powerless.

      • “Saying that the way to gain honor is to receive those who are without honor goes against the logic of the ancient society. The Kingdom of God assesses and assigns value differently than the human realm. God will receive those who receive the child. This will give access to true power, the power of the one who sent Jesus.”  Micah Kiel in Working Preacher

      • How can we receive the children?

        • What does it mean to receive children in our churches?

          • Children’s moment an episode of “Kids say the darndest things”? Or a time actually for the kids.

          • PRAYground

          • Kids in worship or in Sunday school?

          • How does the congregation respond to actual kids - or kids that are ‘trouble’?

        • What does it mean to receive children in our communities or schools?

        • What weight do Jesus’ words have as we look at the refugee crisis in Syria, the families at the border, or children hungry in the school down the block?

  • Disciples don’t get it

    • This is a common theme in Mark, repeated twice

      • Don’t understand prediction

      • Argue about who is greatest

      • Disciples’ failure to understand does not bring about rebuke, but deeper teaching.

      • Jesus does not abandon the Twelve in their ignorance.

      • Eventually, they are redeemed, but not until after crucifixion and Resurrection, when it all makes sense.

    • A chapter later, the disciples try to shoo children away.

    • “The real problem with the disciples is that they all too easily become mirrors in which readers see themselves. Their failures and lack of understanding typify the patterns of successive generations, who are slow to get the point and who persist in setting their minds on human things instead of diving things.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 519)

Thoughts and Questions

  • Jesus’ ministry is not easy to understand. The Disciples’ continually fear what is going to happen. They are unsure, and do not understand. In the midst of their fear, they are arguing about who would be greatest. Perhaps they believed that if they achieved “greatness,” then they would also have security. Jesus points to another way of finding security. Their understanding of greatness is the old way. He presents a different way toward greatness, which they just never get. Until after the Resurrection (which in Mark, they still don’t really get). Jesus’ life and way of being, the Kingdom of God, only makes sense through lens of Resurrection.

  • How can we receive the children?

    • What does it mean to receive children in our churches?

      • Children’s moment an episode of “Kids say the darndest things”? Or a time actually for the kids.

      • PRAYground

      • Kids in worship or in Sunday school?

      • How does the congregation respond to actual kids - or kids that are ‘trouble’?

    • What does it mean to receive children in our communities or schools?

    • What weight do Jesus’ words have as we look at the refugee crisis in Syria, the families at the border, or children hungry in the school down the block?


James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a  

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Many commentators break this section 3:13-4:10 into 4 separate pieces:

    • 3:13-17 - Statement on Wisdom

    • 3:18 - separate aphorism

    • 4:1-6 - warning against violence

    • 4:7-10 - call to repentance

  • However, the lectionary and Luke T. Johnson (NIB 12) both advocate that this should be kept together as one section

    • 3:13 - “who is wise” connects to 3:1 warning about the wise teachers

    • Connection between the two sources of water and their fruits in 3:11-12 and the 2 sources of wisdom and their fruits 3:13-18

    • See Johnson, NIB 12 p. 209 for more rhetorical connections between these sections, but in summation: “3:13-4:6 sets us the indictments and 4:7-10 is the response”

  • 3:13-18 - Two Kinds of wisdom

    • Godly wisdom: gentleness in word and action, peaceable, willing to yield, merciful, bears good fruit, impartial, sincere.

    • Earthly wisdom: envious, self-serving ambition, disorder, wickedness, bad fruits

    • 3:18 - Good wisdom leads to peace and reconciliation (see Proverbs 3:17; 11:30)

    • For the good wisdom James speaks of see Matthew 5:3-11

  • 4:1-6 - Bad wisdom leads to conflict and division

    • Conflict and division come from self-serving ambition and envy

    • Kill to get what you want

    • Argue to get what you want

    • You do not ask (recognition that everything is God’s)

    • When you do ask you ask wrongly - self-serving motives (instead of the Glory of God- love of God and neighbor)

    • Adulterers! - Unfaithful people.

  • 4:7-10

    • Submit, draw near, cleanse and purify - focus on God

    • Double-minded - the ultimate crime is being fractured, distracted, un-whole, not perfect

      • Perfect - teleios, appears 5 times in the book of James (1:4, 1:4, 1:17, 1:25, 3:2) and means whole or intact - not fractured

      • James’ whole focus is to be whole in one’s faith and devotion to God. That your words, actions and faith are all focused on Love of God and neighbor.

    • Draw near to God and he will draw near to you - this is NOT a conditional (if, then) clause (which is very popular in Greek), but rather urges one to draw near to God who is already drawing near to you (R. Myallis)

    • The idea of healing the fractured self, centering oneself, mindfulness, etc has a long tradition in Christianity and other traditions. Unifying (or perfecting) the self is what James is talking about.

      • “It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.” from Psychology Today

      • James is calling us to faithful mindfullness. To be focused on the task of loving God, other and self.

  • Call to humility

Thoughts and Questions

  • The idea of healing the fractured self, centering oneself, mindfulness, etc has a long tradition in Christianity and other traditions. Unifying (or perfecting) the self is what James is talking about.

    • “It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.” from Psychology Today

    • James is calling us to faithful mindfullness. To be focused on the task of loving God, other and self.

  • “Humility is not a false rejection of God’s gifts. To exaggerate the gifts we have by denying them may be as close to narcissism as we can get in this life. No, humility is the admission of God’s gifts to me and the acknowledgment that I have been given them for others. Humility is the total continuing surrender to God’s power in my life and in the lives of those around me.” Joan Chittister, O.S.B., Wisdom Distilled from the Daily)


Proverbs 31:10-31

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Acrostic poem - each line begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet

    • denotes a divine woman - like Wisdom

    • alludes to completeness - A to Z

  • Patriarchy

    • Traditionally used to tell women how to act

    • Used to show women their place

    • Unrealistic call to be a “spiritual Martha Stewart”

  • BUT

    • Wisdom is portrayed as a woman

    • The community of faith is called to be the bride of God or the bride of Christ

      • see Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Revelation, 2 Corinthians, Song of Songs

    • Instruction for all people to follow to be in faithful relationship with God

  • Wisdom literature

    • Not simply a list for women to follow

    • Jewish men would memorize this passage

    • All people of faith are called to follow this example

  • What matters? Not beauty or charm, not the size of your budget, endowment or membership- but your faithfulness to God.

  • What is faithfulness to God?

    • trustworthy

    • works

    • attentive to the needs of the people

    • takes calculated risks

    • good steward of resources

    • cares for the poor

    • prepared for the bad times

    • Makes God known

    • is strong in faith and dignity- “laughing at the time to come”

    • thinks before she talks and speaks kindness

    • is always working intentionally for the goodness of God and community (i.e. does not rest on her laurels)

    • is in awe of God

Thoughts and Questions

  • Explore the “Proverbs 31 woman” as a model for living a Christian life- for all people, not only women. How can we be the capable/virtuous/valorous partner for God?

  • What does Proverbs 31 say to men? What does it say about God and how we respond?

  • If the Proverbs 31 woman is Wisdom, then how do we seek her?

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.