Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, September 27, 2015:

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

Psalm 19:7-14

The commandment of the LORD gives light to the eyes. (Ps. 19:8)

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

Here we have another Gospel that reminds us again that Jesus is not the warm, fuzzy Jesus that the modern church often depicts. This Gospel is harsh. Cut off my hand? Just because it offended me? What happened to forgiving 70 times 7?

Again and again, Jesus reminds us that we often let ourselves off the hook too easily. We don't require enough of ourselves. How many of us really do forgive 70 times, much less that 7 times more again? Too many of us won’t even forgive once, much less again and again. We refuse to begin the work of reconciliation, which is one of our main tasks in this world.

We're supposed to be the seasoning of the world, but too many of us do absolutely nothing. We close our ears to the cries of the oppressed. We know that we have resources, but we refuse to share. We cling to our possessions, even though we have more stuff than any human can use in a lifetime. The other day, I realized I had 3 pairs of shoes with me, between the shoes in my gym bag, the shoes on my feet, and the shoes that I brought to change into for spin class. I only have 2 feet, but I had 6 shoes with me. I thought of all the shoes in my closet. I thought of all the unshod feet in the world that could use the protection that even my shabbiest shoes offer.

Or worse, we behave in ways that would make our beliefs unattractive to the nonbeliever. Every time we gossip, lie, cheat, steal, or give in to our darkest natures, the world is watching. Our hypocrisy endangers us all on so many levels.

We move into the part of Mark where Jesus must realize that he's in great danger. He offers challenges to the larger domination system that controls the Earth. Jesus understands how many forces dominate us: both the secular ruling system, as well as the larger idea of a Satanic/fallen set of powers that keeps us from God's goodness, not to mention our own beliefs which hinder us. Jesus refuses to back down. He must know what will happen. The book of Mark, always apocalyptic in tone, becomes more so.

We see those echoes in the planetary calendar too. We’ve seen a seasonal shift, as we leave summer behind and autumn arrives. Once we drove home from work in broad sunlight. Now we squint into the gathering twilight. The produce sections in our grocery stores offer sturdier fruits and vegetables, like the gourds that remind us of the need to prepare for a harsh season ahead.

Additionally in this past week we have come to the end of the Jewish high holy days, with its reminders that time is short. Like Ash Wednesday, these holidays remind us that the years go by quickly and that we must continue to atone for all ways we’ve fallen short. We can be better. We must be better.

Time is short. We don't have much of it on earth, and Jesus always pulls us back to that existential fact. If we don't have much time, we're pressured to make the most of what we have. We have a huge task, one not likely to be completed in our lifetimes. Still, that's no reason not to get started building the Kingdom where the last will be first.

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