Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, November 11th, 2018

After two festival Sundays, we return to the letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Mark.  The letter and the Gospel have advanced a couple of chapters, so we will not be able to build upon the previous stories without telling the previous stories that we have skipped over.

Across the readings, we have a theme of sacrifice and sacrificial giving.  When it comes to the widows, we focus on their giving from the little that they have.  When it comes to Jesus, we focus on how he sacrificed everything for us and then testifies on our behalf.

As you read through these Bible readings, what stands out as important to you?  What leaves you wanting to know more or questioning the significance of a particular detail?  I invite you to start the conversation around these things in the comments below!

1 Kings 17:8 - 16

 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you."  10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink."  11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."  12 But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."  13 Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.  14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth."  15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days.  16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

- The widow is down to the last meal for her and her son.  Without an intervention, they will die in days.  In her initial answer to Elijah, we can hear that she is without hope.  On one hand, why would she share from what little she has?  On the other hand, given Elijah’s promise, what does she have to lose?

- It is worth noting that this story takes place outside of Israel.  The Lord has brought a drought to the nation because the king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel, have led the nation away from the Lord.  They have worshipped other gods, especially Ba’al, and have abused their power.  The Lord could have performed this miracle within Israel, but the Lord chose to send Elijah away from Israel.  Here, we get a hint that people who are not Jews may also fall into the category of “the Lord’s people.”

Psalm 146

 1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
 2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
 4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
 5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
 8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
 9 The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
 10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD! 

- Psalm 146 is something that we should read before we vote.  In the United States, we tend to turn our political opinions into our identity and idolize our political leaders.  Here, we are reminded to trust the Lord above our political leaders.

- Read Psalm 146:9 alongside the headlines regarding the immigrant caravan working its way to the U.S. – Mexico border.

Hebrews 9:24 - 28

 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.  27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

- Read the statement of Jesus entering heaven “to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” together with “…it is appointed for mortals to die once, and then after that the judgment…”  Jesus testifies on our behalf, covering us with his righteousness.  We are judged to be righteous only because Jesus gives us his righteousness.

- A connection to Holy Communion: we do not re-sacrifice Jesus when we consecrate the bread and the wine.  We tell the story and we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice, but we do not re-sacrifice Jesus on Sunday morning.

Mark 12:38 - 44

 38 As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!  40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.  43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

- The widow likely gave away the money she would use for her food that day.  That is why her gift was so great.

- How much of your salary would you have to give away before it could truly be considered “sacrificial giving?”  10%?  30%?  50%?

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