Tag Archives: Bible

Monday Musing: Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me.”
– John 10:14 Common English Bible

Good Shepherd Sunday.  The Fourth Sunday of Easter.  (Did you know that Easter Season in the church lasts 50 days?)  Every year there is a reading from John 10. 

“I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen.  I must lead them too…there will be one flock, with one shepherd.”
– John 10:16 Common English Bible

Although it wasn’t part of the reading this year, I found myself thinking about the “other sheep” mentioned in verse 16.  It may be my favorite line in John 10.  Jesus has other sheep.  I find that strangely comforting.

Jesus’ fold is ever so much larger than what I see in any of the communities in which I worship.  People – Christian and non-Christian – who don’t believe as I believe.  People whose faith experiences are unlike mine.  People who worship God in ways foreign to my experience, who call God by other names, who follow entirely different religious paths.  People who don’t look like me or dress like me or think like me or speak like me or  (fill in the blank)________________.  I cannot, must not count anyone out.  Jesus counts them all in.  One flock with more variety than most of us can imagine.

“The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing …
“You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.”
– Psalm 23:1, 5a  Common English Bible

Here’s the thing about this table in front of our enemies: our enemies are at table, too. And they’re probably not at another table.  There are no clear lines of separation; there is no segregation.  The Good Shepherd is host; friend and foe alike are all seated at the same table.

“Yes, goodness and faithful love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the Lord’s house
as long as I live.”
– Psalm 23:1, 5a, 6  Common English Bible

Good Shepherd Sunday and Mother’s Day coincided this year here in the U.S.  It reminded me of Bobby McFerrin’s beautiful version of Psalm 23 – a tribute to his mother.  Here’s one I found in cyberspace.

 

Monday Musing: Alpha and Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come,
the Almighty.
– Revelation 1:8 New Revised Standard Version

Sometimes, in the space where I’m drifting off to sleep,
texts I’ve heard recently,
words I’ve just read,
and songs I’ve sung in the past
meet up in my mind.
They’re a bit shy, a little nervous,
not sure they should be in the same place at the same time.

That summer was a new beginning, a new end.
When I look back, I remember my slippery
hands of paint and the sound of Papa’s feet
on Munich Street, and I know that small
piece of the summer of 1942 belonged to only
one man.  Who else would do some painting for
the price of half a cigarette?  That was Papa,
that was typical, and I loved him.
– Markus Zusak, in The Book Thief

Alpha and Omega.
First and Last.
Before the beginning and beyond the end.
Always there.  Always here.
Always now.
Past.  Present.  Future.

Yet we measure time in discrete bits, distinct seasons.
That was then.
A new beginning.  A new end.
This is now.
Also a new beginning and a new end.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
– Natalie Sleeth, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower,” verse 3

Linear.  One thing after another.  Never to go back.
Circular.  One thing after another.  Back at the beginning again.
Timeless with God.

Easter

Worship - Faith - Cross and Window

Second Sunday of Easter, Faith United Church of Christ, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/7/13.

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!)  Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled.

But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[aHe has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[b]

[a] Or the Crucified One         [b] In most critical editions of the Gk New Testament, the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8.

Mark 16:1-8, Common English Bible (C) 2011

That’s a wrap.

In the most ancient editions of the Gospel of Mark (which was the first gospel written), it all ends here:  an empty tomb, terror and dread.  No sighting of Jesus.  No sign of the rest of the disciples.  No more words.

To end on a note of fear is neither uplifting nor hope-filled.

And yet it’s my favorite ending.  It leaves so much to the imagination.  It recognizes that whatever happened and whatever comes next cannot be fully explained.  It is a matter of faith.

Clearly the woman talked about what they saw and heard at the tomb.  Jesus must have met them and the other disciples – including Peter – in Galilee.  Otherwise there’s no story.  Jesus would have been forgotten like the now unknown traveling preachers, teachers, healers, magicians, and story-tellers of his time.

The tomb is empty.

Jesus is risen!

Now what?

No matter where you are on life’s journey of faith or non-faith, from whatever religious or cultural tradition of your past or your present, may you have peace in your life this day and every day,  Teressa

Lent.40: Joseph of Arimathea

holy week

Mark 15:42-47

Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried.

Mark 15:42-47, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Isn’t the description of Joseph from Arimathea intriguing? A prominent council member.  Eagerly awaiting God’s kingdom.

Best of all: he was daring.  It is not that he was extraordinarily brave.  He dared.   Dared to screw up the courage needed to approach Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.  Dared to willingly risk his reputation among his colleagues on the council.  Dared to live out his convictions and commitment to the ways of God.  Dared to act.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 40

 

Lent.39: Jesus Dies

holy week

Mark 15:33-41

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”

Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.

Mark 15:33-41, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The women may have watched from a distance, but at least they were there.  They did one of the most important things we can do in the face of death: show up.  Be there to comfort the grieving, to support one another, to hold a hand or to offer a shoulder to cry on.  Being physically present for another is an act of grace, an act of love.

Many of the people who serve Jesus go unnamed and unrecognized.  The quote “do little things with great love” (St. Therese of Lisieux, a.k.a. “The Little Flower”) comes to mind.   Small deeds and random acts of kindness do make a difference – even when no one notices.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 39

 

Lent.38: Crucifixion

holy week

Mark 15:22-32

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.[c]

People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself and come down from that cross!”

In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him.

[c] Mark 15:28 is omitted in most critical editions of the Greek New Testament The scripture was fulfilled, which says, He was numbered among criminals.

Mark 15:22-32, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I would like to think that I would not have joined the crowd in mocking Jesus.  I cannot imagine intentionally yelling cruel and hateful things to one who is suffering – especially one who is so clearly unable to respond in any way.  But maybe that is what allows people to open their mouths.  When the ruling authority has declared someone guilty and that person is securely tied up with no chance of escape, it seems pretty safe to say terrible things.  With a few choice words, just one person can turn a crowd into a hateful mob.

What if I do not join in, but just walk away?  Is it enough to be silent?

Speaking up and working against injustice is often the more difficult and the more faithful response.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 38

 

Lent.37: Torture

holy week

Mark 15:16-21

The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters,[aand they called together the whole company of soldiers.[b] They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!” Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Simon, a man from Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus’ father, was coming in from the countryside. They forced him to carry his cross.

[aOr praetorium    [b] Or cohort (approximately six hundred soldiers)

Mark 15:16-21, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I remember when Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” first came out.  One of the boys in our Confirmation class went to see it for his birthday.  I asked if he thought I should see it.  After a thoughtful silence he said, “No.  It’s pretty gory.”

More than one confirmation student has been surprised at the gruesome details of the crucifixion – especially if we watch a reenactment of some sort.  Do you remember first hearing the details?

On another note, who do you suppose Alexander and Rufus were – besides the sons of Simon from Cyrene?  Why are they mentioned?  My best guess is that they were part of Mark’s community whom people knew and respected.  If you need to check out the veracity of the story, they are the guys to contact.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 37