Be salty

27 September 2015
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 21B (RCL)
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

I worry that on this particular Sunday, all people will hear is “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.” When I was doing my Clinical Pastoral Education unit, I was at the Massachusetts General Hospital, on the rehabilitation floor. That meant I dealt with a lot of people who had had joint replacements, or bone reconstructions (think motorcycle accidents). There was one young man on the floor, maybe 17 years old. He was having his right hand reconstructed. The process was at the point of the skin graft, and so his right hand was sewn under a skin flap on his thigh. Being pretty young myself, I sat down at the bedside and asked him what had happened. Being a teenager, his right hand (as he saw it) had caused him to sin, and taking this passage literally, he had laid his hand on a railroad track as a train was passing by. Continue reading “Be salty”

Children at the center

20 September 2015
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20B (RCL)
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

The English language has no pure future tense; we have to resort to auxiliary verbs. “I will read a book,” which implies volition; “I shall read a book,” which implies obligation; “I am going to read a book,” which implies motion. That makes translating the future tense in other languages always a question of interpretation. In our Gospel reading today, the translators of the NRSV have chosen to interpret Jesus’ saying in what I believe is an unacceptable way. The NRSV reads, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” The Greek for the second occurrence of the verb “to be” is in the future. The NRSV chose to interpret with the metaphor of obligation and rendered it in the subjunctive. The Greek says, “Whoever wants to be first will be last of all and servant of all, as a matter of fact.” That changes the tone entirely. Continue reading “Children at the center”

Divine things

13 September 2015
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19B (RCL)
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

After the feeding of the four thousand, Jesus and his disciples get into a boat to head to the other shore. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and Jesus warns them to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. The disciples can’t figure out what he means, because they have not bread. Jesus replies, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear? And do you not remember?” He then asks them how many baskets of left overs there were after the feeding of the 5000 and they answer “Twelve.” He then asks how many baskets of leftovers after the feeding of the 4000 and they answer “Seven.” Jesus then responds, “Do you still not understand?” Continue reading “Divine things”

Be opened

6 September 2015
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18B (RCL)
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125
James 2:1-17
Mark 7:24-37

This Sunday’s readings all seem to center on the theme of openness to those who make us uncomfortable. The RCL is taking random bits of Wisdom literature for the OT readings, and we are reading the Epistle of James in course, so any commonality is accidental. And again, any overlap with the Gospel is unintentional, since we are reading Mark in course.

There is always a tension in any pattern of social ordering. Power must be modulated and deployed, and at the same time, the health of the whole must be guarded. Continue reading “Be opened”