Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, October 7th, 2018

This week brings a challenging set of readings.  While I recently read and preached upon two of these readings at a wedding, the lectionary extended one of the readings which puts the topic of marriage into the very different context of divorce and what is allowed by Jewish law.  How does Jesus' answer to the Pharisees (and later, his disciples) become good news for us?

Meanwhile, Psalm 8 pairs well with both the Genesis 2 reading and the commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th; St. Francis was known for many things including his love for animals.  One of the ways that the Church commemorates St. Francis is with a Blessing of the Animals on October 4th, the date of his death.

And Hebrews 1 and 2 offer plenty of theological weight as well.

As always, I invite you to read the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, review my first impressions after each reading, and share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

Genesis 2:18 - 24

 18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner."  19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.  21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  23 Then the man said,
     "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
         this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken."
 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

- Do you notice differences in yourself when you are alone compared to when you are with company?  What are they?

- What is meant by "helper?"  Is the role of the "helper" subordinate to Adam or equal to Adam?                      Who else is called a "helper" in the Bible?

Psalm 8

 Psalm 8:1  O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
 2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
 6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
 9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

- Does Psalm 8 describe humans as having dominion or domination over the rest of Creation?  How we understand our role in Creation greatly impacts our level of concern over pollution and other environmental issues.

Hebrews 1:1 - 4, 2:5 - 12

 1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.  3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.  6 But someone has testified somewhere,
       "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?
       7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
                   you have crowned them with glory and honor, 8 subjecting all things under their feet."
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you."

- The Hebrews reading says a lot, and yet I have very little to say in response.  Perhaps I would find the material in the gap more interesting.

- Or look at Hebrews 2:16 – 18: “16 For it is clear that (Jesus) did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.   17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.   18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”   We often rely on the promise that Jesus is there to help us; the author of Hebrews makes the claim that Jesus is able to help us because Jesus became human like us and went through human challenges, situations, and conditions, including death.  This goes to why it is important for the Christian faith to proclaim that Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine.

Mark 10:2 - 16

 2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"  3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"  4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her."  5 But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.  6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'  7 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

 10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.  11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

- The first part of the Gospel reading must be handled with care.  In any congregation, we are likely to find several divorcees.  Many of these divorcees are now remarried.  How can we address this topic and affirm marriage vows without shaming them for being previously divorced?

- Do we treat children like they are the future of the Church but unimportant to the present of the Church?  Or do we treat children like they are the present of the Church and are full members of the Church right now?

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