November. It seems to be the reverse of March. In like a lamb, will it go out like a lion? We shall see.
We are coming to the end of our 9 week sermon series (Whew! That was long!) titled “On the Mend”. This final week our emphasis will be on “Healing Vision.” What is your vision for the church, your church?
Our scripture for “Healing Vision” will be Mark 10:46-52. Here is what I said about this passage two weeks ago:
Mark 10:46-52 – Jesus and the disciples are nearing Jerusalem and they pass through Jericho. As they are leaving they find blind man named Bartimaeus. (Mark is redundant here when he writes “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus”. “Bar” means “son of”. Ha Ha). This is a simple story: Jesus leaves Jericho; Bart cries out; the crowds shush him; Bart cries louder; Jesus calls him over; Bart jumps up throwing off his cloak; Jesus asks him what he wants; Bart answers, “Let me see”; and Jesus heals him with a few words. Questions: are we bold enough to cry out and name our need? Will God answer the way we want? Will we follow Jesus no matter what the answer?
I would also add: Did blind Bartimaeus have more vision about his future, and thereby emboldening his actions, then we have about our future?
The assigned Lectionary Readings for this week are:
Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 – If I didn’t say it last week (and even if I did say it last week), PLEASE read the entire book of Ruth. Last week was just the beginning and this week has a nub of the middle and the ending. Chapter 2 is all about Ruth gleaning a field and Boaz taking an interest in her. The first part of our reading is Naomi’s scheme to get Boaz to take Ruth as his wife. The rest of Chapter 3 is about Ruth going to the barn where Boaz and the men have finished working. She waits until they eat, drink, and fall fast asleep. She then goes to where he is sleeping and slips under his covers. Boaz wakes up and talking ensues. Ruth spends the night and slips out before daylight. The first part of Chapter 4 is about Boaz making sure there are no other claimants to Ruth’s hand in marriage. Then they marry and Ruth becomes pregnant. When she gives birth to a son, the second part of our reading, the midwives take the child to Naomi who is now legally his grandmother. (In “levirate” marriage, the first son born to the widow (Ruth) is not the second husband’s (Boaz) son. He is the son of her first and now deceased husband (Mahlon, in this case).) By the way, the only love mentioned in the book of Ruth is not Ruth’s love for Mahlon or Boaz, but her love of Naomi, whom the midwives declares is worth more than seven sons. And don’t forget, Ruth is a foreigner, a Moabite none the less.
Psalm 127 – This is one of several short psalms in this section that are titled “A song of ascents”. Travellers would sing them as the made the long climb up the hill to Jerusalem and up the hill to the temple. The psalmist praises the Lord who strengthens the home. If the Lord builds it, how can it fall? The psalmist also praises the birth of sons who carry on the heritage of the family. As you read this please keep in mind the strong patriarchal (male driven and dominated) society in which the psalmist lived. This is also the psalm where a small, fundamentalist group of churches gets the idea, or name, for women having just as many children (sons preferred but not spoken out loud) as possible: Quiver-full. Here is the Wikipedia article: Quiverfull. The most famous family associated with the ideas are the Duggars of “19 Kids and Counting” though they don’t call themselves Quiverfull Christians.
OR 1 Kings 17:8-16 – The prophet Elijah, during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel in the northern Kingdom of Israel), predicts a long and sever drought. In our reading the Lord sends Elijah to the foreign city of Zarephath to live with a widow who will feed him during the drought. He meets the woman while she gathered sticks and asks her for some food. She says she only has a little barley and oil and that the sticks were to start a small fire so she can prepare one final meal for her son that they may then die. Elijah convinces her to trust him, feed him, and that the Lord God would give her an ongoing supply of barley meal and olive oil until the rains come.
Psalm 146 – We read this psalm last week in connection with our reading in Ruth. Praise God for all that God has done. Praise God always. Don’t trust your government officials for they, like you, will depart this earth. You will be much happier trusting God who is faithful to the end. I remind you of what I said last week, “The Lord executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over the strangers, and upholds the widows and orphans. How does God do all these things if not through us?”
Hebrews 9:24-28 – As we saw last week, this passage is dense. Hopefully I can clarify. Christ is now the great High Priest who does not enter a human made temple but who enters the heavenly temple. As High Priest he does not sacrifice other humans or animals to wash away our sins, but he offers himself into our sacrificial system to bear our sins. That one time sacrifice removes our sin forever and Christ now waits in the Heavenly Temple to save those who eagerly wait for him. The writer of Hebrews repeats himself/herself often just so we can begin to understand the significance of Christ way of salvation.
Mark 12:38-44 – Jesus is in the Temple courtyard watching and teaching. The scribes, Pharisees, and others have been questioning him and trying to trap him in a answer that could be used against him. “Where does your authority come from?” “Should we pay taxes?” “A women is married to seven brothers through levirate marriage but has no sons. They all die. She dies. In heaven, whose wife is she?” “What is the first commandment?” In our passage, Jesus mocks the scribes who parade around in their finest clothing, seek the finest seats in church and at dinner parties, and say long prayers just to look good. He accuses them of “devouring widows houses.” He points to a widow who puts two small coins into the offering plate. Jesus says others just give out of their abundance, what they have left over after paying the bills. The woman has put in “all she had to live on” or, better yet, she gave her life. The really big question: Is Jesus praising her for her faith and holding her up as an example for all of us? OR Is Jesus holding her up as an example of one who has had their “houses devoured” by the religious establishment?
I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you up with God’s Love. So full in fact that you have to share it with others.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor