Tag Archives: Faith

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

 

Lent.09: Marriage

Palm Prints

Mark 12:18-23

Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a widow but no children, the brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.[b] Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman; when he died, he left no children. The second married her and died without leaving any children. The third did the same. None of the seven left any children. Finally, the woman died. At the resurrection, when they all rise up, whose wife will she be? All seven were married to her.”

[b] Deuteronomy 25:5; Genesis 38:8

Mark 12:18-23, Common English Bible (c) 2011

As a pastor I have had the great privilege of working with couples as they plan their wedding.  When I ask a couple to define marriage they inevitably talk about the relationship between two people: mutual caring, wanting to be together through the ups and downs of life, having a partner who brings out the best in them.  Without exception, the couples described marriage in terms that apply to any couple – LGBTQ included – thoughtfully, lovingly preparing to say “I do.”

Unlike the Sadducees in this reading, the couples do not define marriage in terms of possession.  The wife is not the property of the husband to be passed along to the next of kin when the owner dies.  At best, the law Moses gave was to ensure that a widow was not thrown out of family, left to fend for herself in a patriarchal society.  At worst, it teaches the idea that women are “owned” by men (which was the custom in that time and place).

How do you define marriage?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 9

 

Lent.08: Taxes

Palm Prints

Mark 12:13-17

They sent some of the Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you’re genuine and you don’t worry about what people think. You don’t show favoritism but teach God’s way as it really is. Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay taxes or not?”

Since Jesus recognized their deceit, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a coin. Show it to me.” And they brought one. He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” His reply left them overcome with wonder.

Mark 12:13-17, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I believe I am to be a good steward of what I have because it all belongs to God.  We are, like Abram and Sarai (see Genesis 12:1-3), blessed to be a blessing.  In my better moments I live that way: aware of the abundance in my life, on the look-out for opportunities to share, erring on the side of generosity.

Tax day is a month away.  It is a reminder that we live in community and are called to care for each other.  In my better moments, I pay taxes with gratitude for public education, for police and fire protection, for good roads and road crews.  What would you add to the list?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 8

 

Lent.07: Parable

Palm Prints

Mark 12:1-12

Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”[a]

They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

[a] Ps 118:22-23

Mark 12: 1-12, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This is a parable.  It is “a metaphor drawn from common life, arresting the hearer by its strangeness and leaving the mind to doubt its precise application so as to tease it into active thought.” (C.H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, used by Stephen Patterson in his book The God of Jesus.)

While the first audience (chief priests, legal experts, elders) is clear that the parable is told against them, I’m not so sure.  Could Jesus be talking to us when we hang on tightly to a tradition or a particular practice because we’ve always done it that way?  Could the parable be addressing us when we ignore the voices of children or newcomers?  Could the story be a warning about grabbing what is not ours to have?

So, what do you think?

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 7

 

Lent.06: Authority

Palm Prints

Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem again. As Jesus was walking around the temple, the chief priests, legal experts, and elders came to him.  They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”

– Mark 11:27-33, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I turned to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for a definition of “authority.”  Turns out old Webster would be an example of the first definition:” a source of a citation used in defense or support.”  The second dictionary definition – “power to influence or command thought, open, or behavior” – is likely what Mark has in mind.  Jesus can influence people in ways they could believe only because they were seeing it.  Jesus’ authority was in conflict with the authorities, the “persons in command” (Webster’s third definition).  At least the persons in command thought so.

What authority do you trust?  When one is in conflict with another, how do you decide which to heed?

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 6