Wild beasts

February 15th, 2018

18 February 2018
First Sunday in Lent
Lent 1B (RCL)

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 251-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark a:9-15

The wild beasts in the wilderness as they show up in Mark’s Gospel here pose an interesting puzzle. Why this detail. Most commentators that I can find suggest one of two things – either to intensify the terror of the wilderness, or to suggest the presence of the first human being with the beasts in Eden (or the peaceable kingdom which would recreate that first Edenic state). The word being translated “wild beast” (therion), does indeed occur in the Genesis account of creation. Interestingly, it also occurs in the story of Noah. I think the connection of time-period (forty days) makes this association more likely than the others. Read the rest of this entry »

Restoring the broken

February 1st, 2018

4 February 2018
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 5B (RCL)

Isaiah 40:21-30
Psalm 147:1-12, 26C
1 Corinthians 9: 16-23
Mark 1:29-39

Everything in Mark’s Gospel happens abruptly. Jesus is in Capernaum one day, and then off again. All of this happens on the Sabbath (or just after). Jesus and those with him return from synagogue to Simon’s house and find Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. Jesus takes her by the hand and she serves them. We read this and cringe – the only role for a woman is serving. Read the rest of this entry »

A new teaching

January 25th, 2018

28 January 2018
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 4B (RCL)

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

This is Jesus’ first public appearance in Mark’s Gospel after the general announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom. Burton Mack makes much of the fact that it is an exorcism in a synagogue. Jesus arrives on the scene as the man of power, casting out unclean spirits in the synagogue. There is certainly a polemical point being made. Mack sees a remarkable contrast between the man of power in the first half of Mark’s Gospel and the crucified righteous one of the second half. I believe Mark has already telegraphed this contrast in the words from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, which quote both Psalm 2 (a coronation psalm) and Isaiah 42 (the first of the suffering servant songs). Read the rest of this entry »

Fishing for people

January 18th, 2018

21 January 2018
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 3B (RCL)

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:6-14
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

No doubt, the designers of the lectionary chose the passage from Jonah and the passage from Mark to to with the collect: give us grace to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ. But called to what? It’s always struck me as odd that Simon and Andrew, and James and John would be attracted by a call to fish for people. I can never get the image of little people flopping around on the shore out of my head. Read the rest of this entry »

Connections

January 11th, 2018

14 January 2018
Second Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 2B (RCL)

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

The first reading and the Gospel passage both have to do with stories of call; but the epistle reading sticks out like a sore thumb. Prostitution and fornication are not always happy topics for sermons! I realize we are now in “ordinary time” and the epistle is not chosen thematically, but perhaps we could have started at some other point in 1 Corinthians? Read the rest of this entry »

The voice of the Lord

January 4th, 2018

7 January 2018
First Sunday after Epiphany
Baptism of Our Lord
Epiphany 1B (RCL)

Genesis 1:1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

The passage from Genesis seems an odd choice for the feast of Jesus’ baptism. The links are, I suppose, the Spirit, the water and the voice, but the reading from Isaiah for year A (the first servant song) makes a lot more sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Glory in the flesh

December 28th, 2017

31 December 2017
First Sunday after Christmas
I Christmas ABC (RCL)

Isaiah 61:13 – 62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

There is a lot of scholarly speculation about from where John the Evangelist borrowed the term “logos.” Some see it as a borrowing from Stoicism; others as from Gnosticism (though I’ve never understood that — all of the gnostic texts we have that use the term ‘logos’ post-date John’s Gospel). Some think he got it from Philo. I think a reading of the Gospel indicates that wherever he got it, he made it his own. It is Jesus’ own ‘words’ and ‘word’ that become definitive of the Johannine community. Read the rest of this entry »

A new thing

December 14th, 2017

17 December 2017
Third Sunday of Advent
Advent 3B (RCL)

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The last part of the book of Isaiah (Chapters 40-65) has often been treated as a work entirely separate from the first part in time, location and occasion. Sometimes, it is even broken down into two parts of its own: DeuteroIsaiah (40-55) and TritoIsaiah (56-66). While it is clear that Chapters 1-39 deal with circumstances before the fall of Jerusalem in 539 BCE, and the last half deals with circumstances during Exile and after the return, yet it also seems clear that Chapters 40-66 have always circulated with the rest of the book, and in fact serve as a reflection on and interpretation of the prophecies of the first half viewed in new circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

Abrupt beginnings

December 7th, 2017

10 December 2017
Second Sunday of Advent
Advent IIB (RCL)

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

It is well know that Mark’s Gospel ends abruptly. Mark 16:8 ends “ephobounto gar“, for they were afraid. The trouble is, gar is a post-positive conjunction, which can never, but never be the last word in a phrase, let alone a sentence or a book. This was so troubling so early in the transmission of the Gospel that several authors have composed alternative endings to the Gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

Apocalypse now

November 30th, 2017

3 December 2017
First Sunday of Advent
Advent 1B (RCL)

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 24-37
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Well, it’s Advent 1, Year B, and so we begin the new year with Mark’s urgent apocalypse. It is a bit hard to find good news in Mark’s vision of the near future. Stars will be falling from the skies, the sun and moon will not give their light. The only glimmer of hope here is that the Son of Man will gather his elect from the four winds. And the passage from Isaiah doesn’t help much: God has turned God’s face, and so we sinned. The prophet ends up asking God to reform God’s people, and not to be angry forever. Read the rest of this entry »