Where’s the beef (or quail)?

BCP Proper 21 Year B

Numbers 11:4-29 (with various verses omitted)

Psalm 19:7-14

James 4:7 — 5:6

Mark 9:38-48

Both the passage from Numbers and the passage from Mark’s Gospel are confusing, and seem disjointed. On the face of it, they seem to be saying the same thing — God’s Spirit and power will pop up where it will. Eldad and Medad prophesy even though they weren’t at the tent of meeting, and some unknown person is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But from there, things just get stranger. Continue reading “Where’s the beef (or quail)?”

The suffering righteous one

The passage from Wisdom appointed for this Sunday is an instance of the literary trope which scholars sometimes call, “The suffering righteous one,” or “The Wisdom Tale.” The basic plot outline of the trope is that a righteous person is unjustly accused, suffers persecution, and is finally restored to favor. The story of Joseph is a good example. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, becomes Potiphar’s servant, is accused by his wife of rape, imprisoned, and through his ability to interpret dreams, elevated to the right hand of Pharaoh. In that position, he is able to get his own back against his brothers, and finally be reunited with them and his father. The story of Job is another classic example of this trope. Continue reading “The suffering righteous one”

Great and small

Wisdom 1:16 — 2:22

Psalm 54

James 3:16 — 4:4

Mark 9:30-37

This passage from Wisdom is one of the Old Testament options for Good Friday, and my favorite among those options. It is a fine telling of the story of the suffering righteous one. Robert Herrick takes from this poem his line, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” in his poem, “To the virgins, to make much of time.” If we fail to find a larger purpose in life, then pleasure, or acquisition, or food or whatever the drug is, becomes the goal and end of life. Continue reading “Great and small”

Rich and poor

Martin Luther is well known not to have like James’ epistle very much — he considered it a “right straw-y epistle” comparing its importance in the canon to the importance of the straw in the manger in the Incarnation. James’ epistle insists on the value of “works” with which Luther and all readers of scripture post-Luther have such difficulty.

It is clear in reading James that the righteousness in view is a corporate righteouness, not an individual righteousness, which is what vexed Luther so. We are the assembly, “over which the noble name has been invoked,” and we had better behave worthily of that name. Continue reading “Rich and poor”

Hearing and speaking

Isaiah 50:4-9

Psalm 116:1-8

James 2:1-5, 8-10, 14-18

Mark 9:14-29

Sorry I missed a week, if anyone was looking for last Sunday’s propers. I flew to Colorado to celebrate my dad’s eightieth birthday. It was a great thing to do.

This Sunday, I am choosing the second option from Mark’s Gospel, because it seems like we have already heard about taking up our cross and following Jesus once this year, and we almost never get to hear this story about the disciples’ failure to cast out a demon. Continue reading “Hearing and speaking”