Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, September 16th, 2018

This week, return to discussions of the tongue, one of the strongest and most important muscles within our bodies.  While this could be the spotlight, our Gospel reading pushes us to consider our understandings of the role of the Messiah and what it means to save, or lose, our lives.  Both of these topics give us plenty to discuss and bring into our world today.

Below, you will find the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday.  After each reading, I will add my thoughts in italics.  If you have an insight from the readings, a question regarding a certain verse, or a reaction to my comments, I invite you to share them in the comment section below so that we can talk about them!

Isaiah 50:4 - 9a

4The Lord God has given me
  the tongue of a teacher,
 that I may know how to sustain
  the weary with a word.
 Morning by morning he wakens—
  wakens my ear
  to listen as those who are taught.
5The Lord God has opened my ear,
  and I was not rebellious,
  I did not turn backward.
6I gave my back to those who struck me,
  and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
 I did not hide my face
  from insult and spitting.

7The Lord God helps me;
  therefore I have not been disgraced;
 therefore I have set my face like flint,
  and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
  8he who vindicates me is near.
 Who will contend with me?
  Let us stand up together.
 Who are my adversaries?
  Let them confront me.
9aIt is the Lord God who helps me;
  who will declare me guilty?

- Who is a teacher that has sustained you with a word (or a few words)?

- Again, we see parallels between an Isaiah passage and the Gospels.  Jesus’ back was struck and Jesus faced insults and spitting.

- The speaker invites his enemies to confront him face to face and/or in the court of law.  He believes that he will win every contest because he stands next to the Lord.

Psalm 116:1 - 9

 1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray, save my life!"
 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
 6 The LORD protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
 9 I walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

- For me, Psalm 116:1 – 9 contains an allusion to baptism.  While some of us have near-death experiences where we can directly credit the Lord for saving our lives, baptism is a universal experience within the Church where the Lord rescues our lives from death so that we may walk in the land of the living after the resurrection.

James 3:1 - 12

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. 
  How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

- This passage from James reminds us of the reading from Mark 7 two weeks ago.  There, Jesus told us that what comes out of the mouth is what defiles us.  Here, James picks up on the idea and claims that our bodies and really our whole beings are guided by what we say.  James also reminds us that our tongues can be just as destructive as a forest fire.

Mark 8:27 - 38

27Jesus 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?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

  31Then 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. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But 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.”
  34He 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. 35For 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. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those 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.”

- We see Peter at both his best and his worst here.  He gets it: Jesus is the Messiah.  But he doesn’t get it because his understanding of what the Messiah will become is very different from what Jesus will become.  He gets rebuked because he tries to impose his vision of the Messiah onto Jesus.

- Jesus comments about attempting to save our lives only to lose them reminded me of this comment from “Star Wars: A New Hope” (Episode 4): 

- Where do we see the death of one thing lead to the birth or growth of another thing?

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