DAILY LENTEN DEVOTION 2018
Theologian Walter Wink describes Bible stories as a diamond around which we all gather and peer at through our own facet. Each angle from which we read offers a unique perspective on the gem. I hope you will ponder the daily passages and share what you see. The diamond will become more beautiful for us all by your offering. Please send your thought each day to Marci at gro.e1521530874ire-e1521530874disya1521530874w@cpw1521530874 so we can include them. Peace to you this Lent. Keith
Tuesday, March 20, Mark 9:42-50
42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
REFLECTIONS: Careful now! Don’t be so quick with millstones and knives and gouges and such. A little hyperbole goes a long way. Jesus is employing some strong, first-century mindfulness education. Be mindful of those things you might work with your might, or go in your sense of freedom, or seek to view that affect, not only you, but through you many others. Be mindful of stumbling blocks that are impediments to others. This mindfulness and circumspection is one way we may keep our saltiness over against the blandness that characterizes so much of life. The world says saltiness comes from, as a very old advertisement used to say, “grabbing all the gusto of life”. Jesus reminds us that true saltiness comes with paying attention to people, shining light upon them, listening to them, appreciating them, seeking out their uniqueness and welcoming their contributions. Be salty like this, encourage the goodness that God has already put in the world.
Monday, March 19, Mark 9: 30-41
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
REFLECTIONS: Jesus teaches two principles that are counter to the world. The world often tells us that the way to be a leader is to fight for dominance and then prove your right to be in charge. Jesus knows that the world is not likely to change, but the way to affect people and affect change is through humble servanthood. Look at someone who is good and gentle with children, and who children listen to because of their goodness, and that is a model for world transforming life. The second thing the world often proclaims is the recently stated phrase: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. A kind of “dog eat dog” philosophy of existence. Jesus keeps drawing the circle more broadly to include in more and more people who invoke his power, whether to cast out demons or to give comfort and help. Jesus is not very exclusive. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” What if we all started thinking like that? James Bernhardt
Sunday, March 18, Fifth Sunday of Lent, John 8:46-59
46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Sometimes the truth is hard to hear. Sometimes the truth is difficult to believe. Sometimes the person telling the truth is not to be believed. I suspect lots of us would be throwing stones if Jesus came to earth today and told us the truth! LInda Lorah
Saturday, March 17, Mark 9:14-29
14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
This passage is often used to beat folks over the head. Particularly, the line: ” all things can be done for the one who believes.”
The implication is… if only you are faithful enough, believe enough, pray enough, then your prayers will be answered. ( and conversely, if your prayers aren’t answered, then you didn’t do it right, didn’t believe enough, weren’t faithful enough- horse feathers!)
I don’t really think God works like that. I do believe that prayer ‘works’, in that I think God uses prayer to change US! To use prayer as a way to influence God feels kind of cattywampus. God already knows what we want and need; indeed what the world wants and needs. I’m siding with the recent revelations from people after a tragedy, who say: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough!” It feels like a glib statement to not DO anything about a tragedy, or pain, or heartache. Prayer changes the pray-er, and subsequently, can change the world. Linda Lorah
Friday, March 16, Mark 9:2-13
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
It seems that before this point, the disciples, certainly Peter, may have thought that Jesus was a very great prophet, the likes of Elijah and Moses- maybe even a step above them. (else why build 3 dwellings, one for each of them?) God makes it very clear to these 3 who Jesus really was: ” this is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.” They were told not to tell anyone; I’m fairly certain they went back and told the rest of the disciples what had happened.
Ever thought someone was one thing, or one way, and then learn later , how very wrong you were. Makes one not want not to be so quick at judgments and assumptions- that’s a good thing, I think. Linda Lorah
No wonder the apostles were constantly in a dither about what Jesus was saying to them and what he actually meant for them to understand. No one wants to hear that their beloved leader/ their God, is going to be tortured and died, and that they too must ‘lose their life in order to save it.’ “Those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” What does that mean for us today. I suspect it has something to do with standing against tyranny, and hate, and injustice – for all people, not just the few that we know and love. Linda Lorah
Thursday, March 15, Mark 8:27-9:1
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
9 1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
No wonder the apostles were constantly in a dither about what Jesus was saying to them and what he actually meant for them to understand. No one wants to hear that their beloved leader/ their God, is going to be tortured and died, and that they too must ‘lose their life in order to save it.’ “Those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” What does that mean for us today. I suspect it has something to do with standing against tyranny, and hate, and injustice – for all people, not just the few that we know and love. Linda Lorah
Wednesday, March 14, Mark 8:11-26
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24 And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, and the yeast of Herod.” Yeast makes bread rise; perhaps Jesus is talking about the high stature of those who influenced others in his day- be careful of listening to those who are not speaking of truth, but who are trusted because they are in positions of power. Seems like that would be very good advice for today as well. Beware not only of believing those of high status who lie, and perhaps beware of believing that which you ‘want’ to believe, because it fits your own prejudices. Most of what I read any more, I double-check, to make sure it is indeed the truth. I don’t like not trusting folks, but it seems necessary. If Jesus was throwing up his hands and despairing of those who ‘do not understand’ in his own time, I wonder what he’d do today? Linda Lorah
Tuesday, March 13, Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Please don’t get me wrong here; I am a strong advocate for the free enterprise system; I do think people are motivated by their own hard work and deserve to reap the rewards of their labor. On the other hand, there is something wrong when we live in a world where it is completely possible for every single human being to have enough to eat, adequate housing and decent medical care, to feel safe where they live, to provide for their families. It is already possible. seems like we ought to be smart enough to figure out a way to make it so – not even it out so everyone is ‘on the same level’ so to speak, but so that everyone can LIVE!
Monday, March 12, Mark 7:24-37
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
How serendipitous. This is my very favorite Bible story for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of the few that show Jesus as fully human; he is actually snarky to this poor woman who’s daughter is very ill. He actually inferred that she and her daughter as ‘dogs.’; not worthy to be bothered with. Not very nice; I suspect he’d had a very long day, done lot’s and lots of healing and was very very tired. But….. she answers calmly and wisely, and…. he changes his mind and heals her daughter. The only other place in the Bible where I am aware that he does an about turn, is the very first miracle, where he tells his Mother ‘he is not ready yet’; she ignores him, and the water is changed to wine. A lowly ‘woman’ stands up to him and HE CHANGES HIS MIND! May it always be so.
Sunday, March 11, Fourth Sunday of Lent, John 6:27-40
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
REFLECTIONS: “The work of God is to believe in the one who God sent”. “Believe” for us often seems like a static commodity, a body of doctrines to accept and take to heart. But “believe” is meant to be a more active thing – to believe is to act upon the basis of an understanding. You may believe the news that there is an injured bird on your roof. What gets you onto the roof is your belief that caring for an injured bird is important and therefore worth the risk to act. Jesus struggles back and forth with people in this gospel between the concern for concrete doctrines of belief versus belief as the basis for empowerment and action. Jesus calls himself bread and drink, because bread and drink energize and nourish for life and growth and action. Jesus is calling his disciples beyond only correct theology into works that flow from who Jesus is in us, and grow as we deepen and mature in belief – response to Christ in us and his call in the world. James Bernhardt
Saturday, March 10, Mark 7:1-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
9 Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
REFLECTIONS: It is strange how we exalt some “rules”, practices and traditions as unassailable and must be obeyed, while we bargain with our conscience to let other “rules” slide. Sometimes we point the finger at “wrongdoers”. As friends in the recovery community remind me – “if you point a finger you have three more pointing back at you.” Jesus does not seem interested in rules. He is interested in the disposition of the heart. Something external to us is not at fault, it is the words, thoughts, attitudes and actions rising from our hearts that reveal who we are and whose we are. The good news is, our hearts can change. Jesus is interested in the change of heart more than about rules. James Bernhardt
Friday, March 9, Mark 6:47-56
47 When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
REFLECTIONS: Here, again, is the often repeated Biblical imperative: “Do not be afraid.” The disciples may have been more willing to trust in themselves and their “straining against an adverse wind” than in Jesus, whose way they do not understand, against whom their hearts are hardened. Do we sometimes refuse to relinquish the grasp fear has on us? Do we sometimes prefer our own flailing against what we fear over the hopeful and faithful promises of Christ? The healing and peace that is in Jesus is what the whole world is seeking, but we must be willing to turn away from what we fear and turn again to the sturdy way of Christ. James Bernhardt
Thursday, March 8, Mark 6:30-46
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Wednesday, March 7, Mark 6:13-29
13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
REFLECTIONS: As much as I hate the horrible thing that Herod did, there is something pathetic about him that also stirs pity in me. He is easily manipulated by those around him, and he acts in knee-jerk fashion without much reflection, and he is overly sensitive to his fears of others’ perceptions of him. The terrible thing is that he has power, and his actions prove deadly. John, as the forerunner of Jesus, pays for his truth-telling with his life. This certainly opens Jesus’ eyes to his own path, and to the world’s treatment of those who speak truth and who act with radical concern for people, and for justice; who seek what God seeks. The pitiful and dangerous Herod is remembered for his wicked collusion with evil. John is remembered for his life. His death points to what is true and to how much the truth is worth for the good of all. James Bernhardt
Tuesday, March 6, Mark 6:1-13
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
REFLECTIONS: In his hometown, where they had known him as a carpenter, and knew his younger siblings (four brothers and at least two sisters!), the people took offense at Jesus. Perhaps because they could not accept him as he came to them, neither could they permit his power to work in them. It makes me wonder how our preconceived ideas of Jesus and his way with us may keep us from receiving him in ways that are powerful and healing to us. The disciples, authorized to expand Jesus’ ministry, will only go where they are received. Neither Jesus nor the disciples are particularly assertive. They are present, and able, and powerful, yet they can be turned away. It makes me wonder how we might grow in our receptivity, and accept the reception we may have by others, even those whose welcome is unexpected. James Bernhardt
Monday, March 5, Mark 5:21-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
REFLECTIONS: This story impresses me with the attention to the demands placed on Jesus and his response and timing. The pace of the people swarming around him, and the urgency of the situation with Jairus’ daughter are not lost on Jesus, but neither is he delayed or impelled by that. He moves with concern to help but he stops when a need reaches out to him. He has concern for the woman who had suffered long, and he does not make her wait because of the pressing need elsewhere. It makes me think of our prayer and the urgency of needs we express as well as the matters that go unresolved, sometimes for years. How does the way of Jesus here inform our thoughts about our prayers and the needs that are all around us?
Sunday, March 4, Third Sunday of Lent, John 5:25-29
25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
REFLECTIONS: I like the idea of all who have died before to be resurrected with Jesus when he comes again. “Those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation; .” not so much. It conflicts with my faith in grace given, undeserved and unearned. If we are really forgiven because of God’s son, who is left out in the cold?. We are all sinners, undeserving; yet God’s grace is there for us. Isn’t it? Is there a line, if so where? Puzzled? I have often wondered if the people filled with “unclean spirits” were the mentally ill of our day.
Saturday, March 3, Mark 5:1-20
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
I have often wondered if the people filled with “unclean spirits” were the mentally ill of our day. I have read that over 50% of the homeless in our nation have some sort of mental illness. If so, was it then the thinking of that time, that people who were mentally ill were possessed by the devil or demons? What was the point of sending them into the swine instead of “sending them out of the country”; as they ended up being drowned in the sea? I think I understand “my name is Legion, for we are many”; but how about the other parts? Any ideas out there in Wayside land?
Friday, March 2, Mark 4:35-41
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The winds of life knock us around and we are afraid. In the midst of our fears, may the Lord of life enter our hearts and minds, calm our fears and level the boat. Amen
Thursday, March 1, Mark 4:21-34
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Stories help us conceptualize and understand a point of view. Plus, they’re are more interesting than just straight information, delivered without frills. May the stories of our lives, convey the way that Jesus Christ, influences, and guides, and directs us to live. “I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day. I’d rather one should walk with me, than merely show the way. The eye’s a better teacher, and more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear. For the best of all the preachers, are those who live their creeds. And to see the good, in action, is what everybody needs.” Edgar Guest
Wednesday, February 28, Mark 4:1-20
Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that
‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
May we spend our lives, cultivating the soil of our hearts, so that when the Holy Spirit sows the Word, may it fall on ‘good soil’, so that the Word may be heard and acted upon. I think it is one of those endeavors that has to be constantly repeated and updated, because good soil as we know, doesn’t always stay that way. Over the years, it can become depleted, and what was once good soil, can become very poor, can be filled up with rocks and debris, and thorns. May we keep working to keep the soil rich and moist and able to receive the secrets of the Kingdom of God.
Tuesday, February 27, Mark 3:19b-35
Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Two things jumped out at me in this scripture: “if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” It seems that is where we are in our society today, and we have leaders who are exacerbating that problem, including our president, who asks us to mistrust our institutions, like the FBI, and our newspapers, and reporters, our government agencies. The purpose seems to be to spread fear among the people.
The second is: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Well, since I am not sure that I am doing the will of God, I can only hope that it is so; I surely have a difficult time determining if someone else is doing the will of God; so my choice is: everyone is my brother and sister and mother, or no one is. I choose the former. Linda
Monday, February 26, Mark 3:7-19a
7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8 hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 9 He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10 for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. James
REFLECTIONS: Two things came to my mind as I was reading and rereading this passage. First, I wonder what deeds Jesus would be doing in today’s world, and whatever he chose; would there be such crowds flocking to see him and be touched by him that he would need some kind of armed guard to keep him safe? I think probably not; I’m not sure that I would recognize if he walked in my front door right now.
Secondly, who are the 12 people in the world that he would choose to be his closest confidants, friends, disciples, apostles, to help him spread the word? I think it would be fun to guess, but likely, they would be people that we have never heard of. I’d like to think there would be lots of women. What do you think? What kind of good deeds would he do and who would he choose? Linda
Sunday, February 25, Second Sunday of Lent, John 5:19-24
19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father[e] does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
REFLECTIONS: Sometimes the gospel of John has the most beautiful things to say, and sometimes, the words seem circular to me, and difficult to fully understand. Here, the idea I gather is the closeness of God and Jesus – that what we know of God we see in Jesus, and what we see in Jesus reveals to us the nature of God. These words carry great meaning as we see how people respond to Jesus and how he responds to them. On a human level we are given lessons in flesh and blood. As we journey through Lent and into Holy Week, we will be shown the heights of God’s faithfulness and the depths to which God will go for love of humankind.
Saturday, February 24, Mark 2:23-3:6
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
REFLECTIONS: What is sabbath? We remember in the creation story we are told that God took a day of rest, so that one day is seven is “holy to the Lord.” Bible scholars show how this was a revolutionary idea in an ancient world where captive people were forced to work without a break. A day of rest is less about God and more about the idea that God intends human life to be enjoyed with regular intervals of cessation and reflection. The idea extends to a break from suffering and from exclusion from community. “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath?” The motive behind sabbath is about the good that comes with rest – from work, from legalism, from any enslavement that distorts human life.
Friday, February 23, Mark 2:13-22
13 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of[ the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
REFLECTIONS: The message of Jesus can be compared to “new wine”. His words and actions within the context of old and worn-out attitudes and behaviors are abrasive and active. We have seen this in the ministry of Christians who applied the love of Jesus to racist laws during the civil rights era. Old ways cloaked in religious garb could no longer be sustained. The words of the prophets burst the “old wineskins”. In each generation the new wine of Jesus’ message causes us to confront our own collusion with falsehoods. The good news is that Jesus continues to transform us, and our world. We become new wineskins bearing the message of Jesus, even as we discard the old that can no longer sustain us.
Thursday, February 22, Mark 2:1-12
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
I am (and have been) intrigued that healing is the same as forgiveness. Jesus seems to think it is the same. For me, this gives me the sense that I can participate in my own forgiveness and that of others. Don Worthington
REFLECTIONS: The beauty of this story is that the man whose body is paralyzed is not isolated in his paralysis. Notice how Jesus responds to the man because of “their faith”; it is all of them who exhibit faithfulness. In a world that tends to see faith and “spirituality” as an individual thing here is a story that links forgiveness and healing to a group, a community, of people. Anyone who is isolated and “paralyzed” in body or soul may benefit from the faith of others to support them and carry them. We cannot say how Jesus will heal, but we can be like the people who brought the man to Jesus, with kindness and compassion and hope. We can expect that in Christ God will do more than we know to ask or think.
Wednesday, February 21, Mark 1:29-45
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
REFLECTIONS: I have lived with Type 1 diabetes for 37 years. On several occasions well-meaning friends from Pentecostal traditions of Christian faith have remarked that if I had enough faith, or the right kind of faith, I could be healed of it. The healing stories in the gospel may make us wonder “why not me?” or “why not my loved one?”. But if we look logically at these stories, we know Jesus did not heal everyone in the world at that time. So, these stories have a message for us. Healing is a good that God wills, but healing is not all the same, nor is it something everyone receives, and I think few, if any, receive miraculous healing as in the story of the leper. Still, the will to heal is one we have from Jesus, and it is why advances continue to be made in diabetes management, and in many other illnesses. In this healing story Jesus restores the man to health, and to the community. For someone like me, I am able to live a mostly normal life, and so for many others who live with chronic illness, we are not cut off from community. It is the goodness of a church like Wayside to broaden the boundaries so all are welcome. That is a healing in itself, in the way of Jesus.
Tuesday, February 20, Mark 1: 14-28
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
REFLECTIONS: Jesus’ teaching has authority. First it was the people at the synagogue who received his words not as second-hand instruction but as first person message. Whatever they had known from scripture became living word, a live option for their lives immediately. Then, when an unclean spirit filled the space this same teaching commanded. I want to be careful about pointing fingers and naming “unclean spirits” but I do know when a negative or fear-inspired word distorts and harms. Can we, with Jesus’ guidance, be filled with him and be able to embody his teaching so as to overcome such a spirit with the Spirit of Christ? James Bernhardt
Monday, February 19, Mark 1:1-13
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
It was while I was taking seminary classes in my 60’s that I was first presented with the idea, (or maybe, first listened to it), that in our individual baptisms, we are acknowledging the idea that God has ‘Chosen Us’ to be one of Her children…. God’s doing the choosing, we are not. Now, since I was baptized as a baby, my parents made the decision to have me baptized, but it was a sign that God loved ME, who I was then, who I could be, and who I am now. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” was a baptism. Linda
Sunday, February 18, First Sunday of Lent, John 12: 44-50
44 Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
Jesus comes as a light to the world. He speaks for God, the parent, to show us what God is like, and how God wants us to live. He ‘shows’ us what God is like. And indeed, what we can be like, if we choose to let the God within be the master of our lives. But, and here’s the kicker, He, Jesus, does NOT come to judge; that’s for God to do. I do not however, think that means we park our brains at the door of the church. We have a responsibility to not only live our lives the way Jesus teaches, but to help others on the journey as well. Linda
Saturday, February 17, John 17:20-26
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
This is Jesus’ prayer for future believers, as the Mother/ Father/ God is in Him, may He be in them and may they therefore see God thru Him. I choose to believe that God is in all believers of a Divine Creator of the universe, whether they are followers of Jesus Christ or not. Actually, to go a step further, ( and this is where I am now in my faith journey, who knows what next year will bring?), I think that God, the Mother/ Father/Parent is present in all of us. Some recognize that, some do not, and some know, but refuse to acknowledge the presence of God in themselves and in others; even in the ones we don’t like. Feel free to think differently, But it helps me to think, when faced with a moral dilemma, ‘what would Jesus do?’ Linda
Friday, February 16, John 17: 9-19
9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
I know Jesus is praying for both himself and his disciples in these prayers in John, and in and of themselves they are beautiful- “they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” They are saved as they were beloved by Jesus. I am confused and troubled by the line: ” …except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” If we have ‘free choice’ and Judas is damned because of his awful betrayal, how can he be ‘destined to be lost, so that scripture might be fulfilled?”
“Sanctify them in the truth”- It was so for the disciples, may it be true for all of us who ‘choose’ to be Christians, and to live the life that we learned from Jesus Christ. It’s a joyful, yet difficult path; particularly in today’s world. Linda Lorah
Thursday, February 15: John 17: 1-8
17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
We Know God because we have known Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world as a man, to show us what God is like, so that not only can we know God, but we can also understand how God wants us to live. We have an example of a living breathing human being sent by God, to not only grapple with the earthly every day things that we all deal with as we live out our lives on this earth, but also to cope with the ultimate reality of death on the cross, something that none of us has to endure. May we follow Christ’s example, and be God’s presence in the world. Linda Lorah
Ash Wednesday, February 14: Luke 18: 9-14
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Far too often, I’m the Pharisee. Maybe the key is recognizing when that is going on. “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to fall flat on your face.” But I wonder whether if I’m doing a good thing for the wrong reason, is it still a good thing? Motivation, even in myself , is often difficult to pin down. I think what is important is that pride cuts us off from God, while humility connects us to God. “The proud shall be humbled, but the humbled will be honored.” Linda