Proper 26B (OT 31)

image: Marcelino Rapayla Jr. "Agape"




Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

FEATURED MUSICIAN& Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Mark 12:28-34

Initial Thoughts

  • One of Jesus’ greatest hits.

  • Task of the preacher is to make this fresh - realizing it is possible some haven’t heard this before.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • “One of the legal experts saw the disputes and saw how well Jesus answered them.” What were the nature of the disputes:

    • Jesus’ parable of the tenant farmers who beat up his managers, and then kill his son.” Legal experts see that this is a story against them, so they “wanted to arrest Jesus.”

    • Traps:

      • Should we pay taxes to Caesar?

      • Who is the woman going to be married to in the resurrection?

    • Then this legal expert seems to ask a genuine question, and has a conversation.

  • Beyond orthodoxy (Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man)

    • The question, “What is the first commandment?” is not a new question, but would have been a central question that scribes would have debated.

      • What is the most important amendment to the constitution?

      • What is the greatest good? (Socrates)

    • Jesus quoting the Shema is not out of the ordinary - Jesus linking Deuteronomy 6:4-5 with Leviticus 19:18 is very out of the ordinary

      • Jesus adds the mind

  • Leviticus 19:9-17 (Myers) - the culmination of a list of prohibitions to keep Israel from exploiting the weak and poor, including:

    • Leaving food for the hungry in the field-gleaning (vv.9)

    • Don’t steal, lie or profane God (vv.11)

    • Don’t oppress your neighbor, exploit employees, or discriminate against the disabled (vv.13)

    • Do no injustice or show partiality in judgment, slander or witness against your neighbor (vv.15)

  • Jesus’ central ideological and theological point: There is no love of God except through love of neighbor.

  • The Scribe Disciple (Myers)

    • While usually scribes were the antagonists - here there is possibility because this scribe sees and hears Jesus. Both are needed to be a disciple

    • Jesus recognizes that the scribe “answered widely” or “is thoughtful” - the Greek is νουνεχῶς which is from the root, nous which means “mind” (Left Behind and Loving It)

    • Jesus recognizes that the scribe has grasped what it means to follow God intellectually - to love God. The scribe gets the orthodoxy, but misses the inseparable orthopraxis - to love your neighbor as yourself.

    • Therefore he is not living in the Kingdom, but is simply near the kingdom.

  • The conversation is familiar, but nuances of Mark are interesting.

    • Scribe asks “What is the greatest commandment?

    • Jesus responds “Love God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

    • Scribe then: “ "Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one's strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices."

    • Jesus saw the man had wisdom and said: “You aren’t far from God’s Kingdom.”

  • Seems like a change from the rest of the chapter, when they are just trying to trap Jesus. This Scribe seems sincerely intrigued, and wants to know more. He and Jesus then have a conversation, in which the man is ‘blessed.’

  • What we see is not a battle of different texts, but a battle over the interpretation of the text. All those in this chapter are referring to the same traditions and same texts. In Jesus answers, he does not go against tradition so much as reinforce an already extant one. One however, that was not the dominant interpretation of the leadership of the time.

    • Each group has a different understanding of the tradition.

    • Jesus’ reading is one that looks at the heart, the motivation, and overarching way of life - and this is the way to the Kingdom of God.

Thoughts and Questions

  • When Jesus says that the man is close to the Kingdom of God, that doesn’t mean the man is about to die. Does this mean the man is about to die. God’s Kingdom is not about where to go when you die. It is about understanding the will of God here and now. To love God and to love your neighbor is the purpose of living. Knowing that means you’re close. Living like that means you are there.

  • The first part of this chapter is more like modern news broadcasting. ‘Gotcha Journalism,’ has become a catchphrase. The religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus with ‘gotcha’ questions. Then the final man has a conversation. He wants to know what Jesus thinks. It seems that there is little time in today’s national discourse for trying to find out what people actually think. It is much easier to construct straw men or pithy memes or tweets. The traps leave Jesus and the leaders as adversaries. An honest dialog ends up with one of the Scribes getting close to the Kingdom of God.

  • Jesus does not present any new teaching here. He does add the part about loving your neighbor as yourself, but even this is from Leviticus 19:18. He is not giving them anything that they didn’t know. The passage he quotes would have been one of the most well known passages of their Bible. So much so, that the Scribes’ response is the other part of the Scripture.

    • Faith in God is equated with Love of God. Love of God is equated with loving neighbor. In order to show your faith in God, it is necessary to love your neighbor.

Hebrews 9:11-14

Initial Thoughts

  • Hebrews continued. Keep big picture in mind:

    • Oct 28, Hebrews 7:23-28 - Eternal nature of Christ’s Priesthood

    • Nov. 4, Hebrews 9:11-14 - Comparing sacrifice of Jesus to sacrifice of priests

    • Nov 11, Hebrews 9:24-28 - Jesus is the sanctuary too

    • Nov 18, Hebrews 10:11-25 - Christ’s role is written onto hearts of believers.

  • More on High Priest (guess what, it’s next week, too)

    • If you’re into sacrificial blood atonement, you’re going to love this. If not, it is at least important to know how this thought process works.

Bible Study

  • How much more? (Examples given by Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B)

    • “God clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today…” (Matthew 6:30)

    • “Who among you would offer your children a stone…” (Matthew 7:9-11)

    • Paul’s argument about Jesus versus Adam (Romans 5:12-21)

    • Here, if High Priest offered atonement, even though he was sinful, “how much more” atonement will Jesus provide who is perfect?

  • Christ the perfect sacrifice

    • High priest makes a blood sacrifice to God, but Jesus is a more perfect High Priest because he used his own blood.

    • If the blood of animals worked, how much more will Jesus’ blood work?

    • There is no intermediary between the people and God.

    • Jesus, in becoming human, bridged the gap between God and humanity, so he is able to restore the relationship in ways that nothing else can.

    • There is no need for sacrifice or any more because in Jesus, our restoration was made complete.

  • Incarnation is at the heart of this, and could be the way to go if you think of atonement in other ways.

    • The heart of what the High Priest did was to encounter God. Now we are able to encounter God instead of the High Priest doing it on our behalf

      • “This is the problem with religion that is confined to the outer tent, a religion that bustles with activity but lacks real holy encounter, is that which people finally grow weary and lose hope, so much hard work, so little real worship.” (Thomas Long, Interpretation: Hebrews, p. 95-96)`

      • To experience Jesus is to experience God - this is what is much greater than the experience with the High Priest.

      • It does not have to be about the blood. It can be about the encounter with the Divine.

    • The purpose of the sacrifice is twofold:

      • Make us spiritually clean

        • “Clean from dead works” is not about Paul or James’s idea of “dead works.” It was works that led to death, or things we do that are not of God.

      • Allow us to “serve God” in Common English. Allow us to “worship God” in NRSV

        • Both work, and both can be lifted up because the way to “Know God” is to worship AND serve.

Thoughts and Question

  • If you are into the blood atonement, you have plenty to go on. If not, then this is about incarnation and experiencing the Divine. Jesus gives us a chance to experience God in a way that is more powerful than someone who intervenes.

  • “Now God has reached back and tekn their hands. They were children of the promises toiling under the old covenant, and now the God who made those promises keeps them. Because of the death of Jesus, the link to the living God they were straining toward and hoping for but could not themselves forge has been given as a gift. They have received the ‘promised eternal inheritance’ and been redeemed ‘from the transgressions under the first covenant.’ The Christ-event has not replaced Old Testament promises, and the church has not replaced the people of Israel. The people of God from beginning to end form a great chain of faith…” a chain which Jesus has anchored onto something Holy. (Thomas Long, p. 98)

Ruth 1:1-18

Initial Thoughts

  • The Book of Ruth

    • Critique of the homogenization and purification of Israel in the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah - both of which speak out against foreign wives

    • Ruth is foreign- Moabite (the worst of the worse), but will exemplify what it means to be faithful (caring for the widow) and the savior of Israel (keeping the family line alive and active- resurrection)

    • Ruth is David’s great-grandmother and is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)

  • While often read at weddings- this is about a different kind of fidelity and love

Bible Study

  • Wordplay abound

    • Naomi = pleasant, yet she becomes bitter (vv.20-21)

    • Ruth = friend

    • “Lodge” - can also mean to complain

  • Ruth is an unlikely faithful companion: foreign, widow, woman, enemy of Israel

    • Ruth is repeatedly referred to as “Ruth the Moabite”

    • v. 14 Ruth “clings” to Naomi - harkens back to Genesis 2:24 “therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife”

      • A new “nontraditional” family is created by this union of friendship, love and loyalty

  • Ruth’s pledge of loyalty

    • abandons gods, family and country to be faithful to Naomi- a HUGE risk

    • “Lodge” - can also mean to complain

      • Ruth accepts the hardship of what is to come and will live in the messiness of life with Naomi

  • God at work

    • No question of why God has caused such tragedy to happen or even where God is- only a faithful response.

    • God works through the unlikely - common theme in the Bible

      • Noah the drunk

      • Abraham and Sarah - old and barren

      • Jacob the trickster

      • Joseph the dreamer

      • Moses the stuttering murderer

      • Hebrew nation of slaves

      • David the little boy

      • David the adulterer and murderer

      • RUTH - woman, widow, alien, enemy to preserve the line of David

    • God is not the main character but is subtly working through Naomi, Ruth Boaz and others to bring about new life and hope in the midst of death and bitterness

Thoughts and Questions

  • During a time when immigration of Syrian Refugees is forefront in people's mind- perhaps it is time to remember and lift up how God works through the unlikely and unwanted (at least unwanted according to Ezra and Nehemiah). How have the unwelcome and unlikely been the saviors of a people?

    • The poor living on the lakefront wharves and beaches welcoming the rich during the Chicago fire

  • Are we willing to accept the companionship of others? Naomi is returning home with the constant reminder of her tragedy and with an enemy woman to explain (Katharine Sakenfield, NIB vol 2) Sometime accepting help and companionship is as difficult as offering it.

  • Are we willing to live with people in the wilderness of life. Not trying to fix or change them, but simply to be with them as Ruth pledges to “lodge” (or complain or suffer) with Naomi

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@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.