Category Archives: Bible

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Lent.16: Watch

Palm Prints

Mark 13:5-8

Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ They will deceive many people. When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places. These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.

Mark 13:5-8, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This passage makes me think of Grandma Mary.  There was a time when every earthquake and every rumor of famine raised her expectation that Jesus was coming back very, very soon and she could hardly wait.  Curiously, now that she’s 94, she’s hoping to live to be 100.  It seems earthquakes and famines are less about Jesus coming back and more about having another reason to pray.

What if, in the middle of the upheaval, chaos, or uncertainty in our own lives we begin to watch for something new, maybe even something better?  After all, an end has a way of clearing the way for the new.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 16

 

Lent.15: Coming to an End

Palm Prints

Mark 13:1-4

As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”

Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”

Mark 13:1-4, Common English Bible (c) 2011

As I read this chapter of Mark, I tend to picture a white-haired, long-bearded guy carrying a sign that reads “THE END IS NEAR.”

The end is always near.  We do not know from one day to the next how things in our lives will change.  An accident, an illness, a promotion, an encounter with a stranger, a song, a death, a conversation with a friend or hundreds of other things might totally derail our best laid plans, abruptly stop us in our tracks, or simply cause us to pause if only for a moment.

Would we each live differently, I wonder, if we really believed the end was near?

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 15

 

Lent.14: Giving Everything

Palm Prints

Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.[gJesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”

[g] Or two lepta (the smallest Greek copper coin, each worth 1/128 of a single day’s pay), that is, a kodrantes (the smallest Roman coin, equal in value to two lepta)

Mark 12:41-44, Common English Bible (c) 2011

My first thought:  Jesus measures generosity differently.  He is not interested in the accountant’s sum of a contribution.  He cares about the total of the person’s very being that is behind the contribution.

While reflecting on this text, my husband, John Clark, once wrote:

Jesus points out a poor widow who gives two small coins — ‘everything she had’.

Mark’s Gospel is the very model of brevity. It rushes through the story giving a minimum of detail. Yet the author considered this very brief snapshot important enough to be included. What does it tell us about how we are called to deal with our possessions? 

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 14

 

Lent.13: Experts

Palm Prints

Mark 12:38-40

As [Jesus] was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”

Mark 12:38-40, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Beware of those who act one way in public and another way behind closed doors.  It is not just that they are harmless show-offs.  It is that they will take advantage of others – especially those who are unable to defend themselves and who have no avenue of recourse.  Beware, too, of trying to look like a proper, law-abiding, God-fearing citizen in public, while privately fixing things for oneself at the expense of another.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 13

 

Lent.12: Huh?

Palm Prints

Mark 12:25-37

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “Why do the legal experts say that the Christ is David’s son?  David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool.’[fDavid himself calls him ‘Lord,’ so how can he be David’s son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.

[f] Psalm 110:1

Mark 12:25-37, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This feels like an inside joke to me – and I don’t get it.  But the crowd did and they were delighted.  So I turned to the parallel texts, the same story in other gospels (many Bibles list references to parallel passages either in parentheses at the end of the verse or in footnotes at the bottom or side of the page).   Luke 20:41-44 didn’t suggest anything different.   Both Mark and Luke have Jesus asking a rhetorical question – he wasn’t expecting an answer.  But Matthew 22:41-44 says Jesus began by asking the Pharisees a question; the discourse ended with no clear answer.  Alas, I still don’t know what it means.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 12

 

Lent.11: Commanded to Love

Palm Prints

Mark 12:28-34

One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[dThe second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself.[eNo other commandment is greater than these.”

The legal expert said to him, “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.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

[d] Deuteronomy 6:4-5   [e] Leviticus 19:18

Mark 12:28-34, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The greatest command: LOVE.  Love God.  Love others.  (Yes, that implies love yourself.)  Love with everything you are, with everything you are, in every moment wherever you may be.

But what is love?  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 writes about love.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Not jealous.  Doesn’t brag.  Not arrogant.  Not rude.  Doesn’t seek its own advantage.  Isn’t happy with injustice.  Is happy with the truth.  He goes on, but you get the idea.  Love is an action as well as an attitude.  It has everything to do with how we treat one another whether we are together or apart.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 11

Note:  These reflections were written for a ministerial colleague to use in his congregation during Lent as a way to invite church members to read and reflect on scripture every day.  I was writing in February about the same time I was blogging about 1 Corinthians 13 in these posts:  Without Love,  Love is … loves is not…Love does not … Love does …, and Love Never Ends.

Lent.10: Resurrection

Palm Prints

Mark 12:24-27

Jesus said to them, “Isn’t this the reason you are wrong, because you don’t know either the scriptures or God’s power? When people rise from the dead, they won’t marry nor will they be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like God’s angels. As for the resurrection from the dead, haven’t you read in the scroll from Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God said to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?[c] He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. You are seriously mistaken.”

[c] Exodus 3:6, 15-16

Mark 12:24-27, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The Sadducees deny that there is a resurrection, but they’ve just asked Jesus a question about marriage in the resurrection.  It’s a “gotcha” question which Jesus ignores by going straight to the heart of the matter:  resurrection is not what you think (or, in their case, what they don’t think).

God is the God of the living, including but not limited to Abraham (and Sarah), Isaac (and Rebekah), and Jacob (and Leah and Rachel). These ancestors in faith may no longer be alive as we understand earthly life.  Yet they live.  And our God is (not was) their God.

“In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone. Thanks be to God.”  (From “A New Creed” by the United Church of Canada, 1980, included as #887 in The New Century Hymnal)

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day XX