Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We are free...free to risk, to love, to live, to dream..to struggle ...to fail

What would you do if failure didn't matter? What would you endeavor, dare, or try? What mission would you attempt, what venture would you risk; what great deed would you undertake?
Would you, like Bartimaeus in our Gospel (Mark:46-52), shout out for healing even though the people around you try to shush you into silence? I wonder, could it be that Bartimaeus was so used to failure and disappointment that he saw no reason not to try one more time?
Would your cry be for healing? Would it be for justice, or peace, or equality, or any of the things that the world calls idealistic? Or maybe you would volunteer at a food pantry, or help out with Family Promise, or visit an elder who most have forgotten, or reach out to someone who is overwhelmed by grief... even though you don't know what to say?

So often, these things – whether great or small – seem either so hopelessly impossible or so ridiculously insignificant that we just don't even try. Yet the promise of the Gospel is that we are free ... free to risk, to dare, to love, to live, to work, to dream, and yes, free to fail, because we have God's promise that there is no small gesture and there is no impossible deed, and that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will also bring all things – even our failed efforts – to a good end.
So, if you're going to risk anything that matters, "not failing is not an option." Risk entails failure. Change entails failure. Creativity and innovation and experimentation all entail failure. And if we forget that, we will either never try anything that matters or end up sorely disappointed.
(Adapted from David Lose , Working Preacher, Luther Seminary)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There's no such thing as a dumb question...really???

 Throughout our lives, most of us have been told by our teachers that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well, in Mark 10:35-45 James and John blow the lid off that myth. They really did ask a really dumb question at an even more inopportune time. Jesus just finished telling the twelve for the third time, that his fate was all about suffering, death, and resurrection. Yet, immediately following they ask if they can sit on his right and left side "in your glory."

Talk about not getting it! What do you suppose the Zebedee brothers had in mind? They want a piece of the “messianic action,” on either side of Jesus’ throne. James and John think they know what it mean to follow Jesus but they still don’t get it.   

Jesus is, as he tells James and John after their bold request, a servant messiah, and to follow a servant messiah one must become a servant: "whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:44-45).
In fairness to James and John, answering the call to "servant-hood" does not come easy. We are so much like then in many ways, aren't we? We would much prefer to be known as a great "anything" but servant. Yet, when by His grace, we are called to give of ourselves to serve the least of our brethren, we know that we are in God's presence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If I Were a Rich Man...Really?

Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.

In Mark 10:17-31, how could such a command be an expression of Jesus’ “love” for the man or anyone? No matter how we try to soften his words, their penetrating truth can send us away like the rich man, “shocked” and “grieving.”

We know that one of the ancient keys to knowing whether or not you were “blessed” and that God was on your side was success…especially financial success. Perhaps the rich man’s problem is not that he is rich but that he has put his faith in the wealth he has or craves?

Robert Capon suggests that religions are our human attempts to get God on our side and to do something for us. Some religions stress saying the proper words, reciting the correct creed, or proper confessions of faith. Some religions stress worshiping the right (or rite) way. Some religions stress doing or living the right way. Whether it is "creed, cult, or conduct," or all three, religions are our human attempts to get God on our side and to get God to do what we desire. Perhaps this type of "religious" mindset is behind the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life.”

In our text, the answer to "how hard?" is "It's impossible." Whenever we make it "possible" to do with enough work or sacrifice, we miss the radical nature of Jesus' comments: "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." (Crossmarks, Brian P. Stoffregen)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Don't push these children away...

Once again in Mark 10:2-16, the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce "to test" him and once again they misunderstand or misuse the scripture to justify their agenda. They hope their question will expose Jesus as dangerous to families, in light of his scandalous comments in prior encounters.

Jesus turns the conversation with the Pharisees away from the legal foundation for divorce to God's design for marriage. That is, he dismisses the law which permits a man to divorce his wife if he "finds something objectionable about her," (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and cites Genesis 1:27; 2:24, that describes marriage as a unifying bond between two people. Of course, the Pharisees neglect to mention a key piece of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which requires a husband to give the certificate of divorce to his ex-wife. Such a document might provide a divorced woman with a defense against rumor and slander. For a majority of women in that culture, survival depended upon being a member of a household. A woman, perhaps with children, without a husband and without a means of explaining why she was unmarried, could be exposed to great risk. (Commentary by Matt Skinner)
In our day and time and certainly in industrialized cultures, marriage is less about economics and more about people seeking mutual fulfillment. And while divorce still often leads people (especially women) into financial hardship, divorced women today do not always find themselves doomed to the same state that their ancient counterparts did. However, these points do not render this passage irrelevant; rather, they cast light on how Jesus' teaching might protect women (and men) from those who would use divorce to punish, imperil and victimize the "other."

Once again Jesus is unequivocal in citing the “power” of the child as he reminds us that they are often the innocent victims of the hurt and brokenness that come, even when a divorce appears to be the best among all available options.