Archive | October, 2012

Proper 25 Year B (10/28/12)

19 Oct

Job 42:1-6,10-17 or Track 2 Jeremiah 31:7-9 & Psalm 126

Hebrews 7:23-28

Mark 10:46-52

 

Psalm 34:1-8,(19-22)

The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

 

Opening Questions

  1. Assuming spiritual growth is important for Christians, how might we measure our success at achieving it?
  2. Life delivers difficulties to us all that sometimes serve as catalytical opportunities for growth in spirit.  How do people that do not have such difficulty grow their spirits?  Are life’s challenges required for spiritual growth?  (I’m reminded of a client who was getting a divorce and would have to scale back her lifestyle making the comment – somewhat remorsefully – “I guess I’ll just have to fly first class”)
  3. Are there ways to grow one’s spirit that do not require challenges?  What is our motivation to pursue them?
  4. Is it fair to say a person’s capacity for spiritual growth is directly related to their openness to ask (or be asked) questions?

Appointed Passages

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

1 Then Job answered the LORD:

2 “I know that you can do   all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

3 “Who is this that hides   counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

4 “Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’

5 I had heard of you by the   hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;

6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

10 And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemi’mah, the second Kezi’ah, and the third Ker’en-hap’puch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.

  • Presuming we all sometimes “utter what we do not understand (v.3), how do we enhance our ability to recognize when we do, and translate that awareness into appropriate response?
  • How can we replicate what Job describes in verse 5 by not just hearing about God, but seeing Him?

Hebrews 7:23-28

23 Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

  • Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice (his life) which suggests in v.27 that he has no need to offer other sacrifices.  However, what sacrifices do living priests have to make in order to maintain their status?
  • How does “making an oath” (v. 28) change our religious standing?

Mark 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimae’us son of Timae’us, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

  • How does “throwing off our cloak” (v. 50) help open us to change?
  • The beggar shows simple clarity in posing a direct question for help.  Should we replicate this action (and if so, how) in our lives?

Comment

I suppose in some ways, we are all blind, aren’t we?  Such a condition requires a shift in the lives of those who have them.  I’m reminded of the unusually acute ability by blind people to use hearing and sensation as their windows into the world (and relationships) because sight is not available.  In loosing the ability to see, they somehow have a stronger ability to hear things beyond what seeing people might.

There is also an unusual sense of refreshing change when we cast away something very personal to our lives in favor of moving to a new place (“throwing off a cloak” so to speak – v. 50).  The action somehow places us in a more open and free mental posture to explore more fully, hear more clearly, perhaps see more clearly the value potential of change in a new way.  We somehow become unburdened an open to new ideas and possibilities.

In some ways, we are all perhaps needy beggars.  We all do need help from others.  Our relationships are supported by the “coins” or snippets time we spend with each other exchanging perspective and a bit of ourselves.

Perhaps what makes us well is our ability to embrace our dependency on each other and God…to appreciate with clarity who we are (and perhaps are not).

My prayer is that all of us periodically embrace the spiritual reality of our need to reach outside of ourselves for strength, comfort, and support.  God is available to us through prayers and the lives of others – we simply need to recognize that reality and be open in asking for help.

How long has it been since you threw off your cloak and said, “Have Mercy on Me”?

Quotes for Today:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Henri Nouwen

 

“Judge others by their questions rather than by their answers.”

Voltaire

 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Proper 24 Year B (10/21/12)

10 Oct

Job 38:1-7,(34-41)

or  Track 2 Isaiah 53:4-12 & Psalm 91:9-16;

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

 

Psalm 104:1-9,25,37b

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.                                                                                                                                                    

 

Opening Question

  • If your job was to hire domestic servants for your client, what personality traits would you look for in prospective employees (in addition to their specific functional skill)?

Appointed Passages

Job 38: 1-7, (34-41)

1 Then the LORD answered Job out   of the whirlwind:

2 “Who is this that darkens   counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4 “Where were you when I   laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its   measurements–surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?

6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone

7 when the morning stars sang   together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

34 “Can you lift up   your voice to the clouds,

so that a flood of   waters may cover you?

35 Can you send forth   lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, “Here we are’?

36 Who has put wisdom in   the inward parts,
or given understanding to the mind?

37 Who has the wisdom to   number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

38 when the dust runs   into a mass
and the clods cling together?

39 “Can you hunt the   prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

40 when they crouch in   their dens,
or lie in wait in their covert?

41 Who provides for the   raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God,
and wander about for lack of food?

{Comment: Job has complained about being treated badly by God and is asking why….to which God responds with these questions.  Ultimately, in verses 40: 4 & 5, Job realizes the futility of his attempt to rationalize his misfortune and does not answer the questions God has posed.}

  • What is the value in attempting to find reasons for our misfortune?
  • How might placing blame be helpful in this process?

Hebrews 5: 1-10

1 Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
6 as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchiz’edek.”

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchiz’edek.

  • How does suffering teach obedience – particularly obedience to God?
  • How do we know which directions from God we are to obey?

Mark 10:35-45

35 James and John, the sons of Zeb’edee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

  • What differentiates a good leader (“ruler”) from a bad one (a “tyrant”)?
  • What criteria should determine how a good leader prioritizes the needs of the people served?
  • Why is it that a good leader should also know how to be a good follower (i.e., a “slave” v.43)?

Comment

I’m reminded of the last line of the Jaycee creed that was often quoted by my father in law.  “….and that service to humanity is the best work of life.”  He passed away several years ago, but I remember him as perhaps the best example of a man who lived that creed.  He was a funeral director (undertaker) in Missouri.  He had grown up relatively poor in West Virginia (West… “by God”…Virginia as he used to say).  He had learned the value of community and relationships, and also was someone who “never met a stranger” in that he was so immediately welcoming and engaging that everyone felt comfortable being with him.

But there was something deeper than that.  Beneath the warmth was substance.  He truly cared about people.  I had the good fortune to work with him a few times an experienced this care first hand.  I recall going on a “death call” with him one night.  Our task was to pick up the body of an elderly woman who had passed away in a local hospital.  What sticks in my mind was the look on Bill’s face as we approached the hospital bed where she lay.

He looked down at the face of the woman whom I suspect he knew personally, and his face was warm with compassion both for the woman, and her family.  He closed his eyes momentarily and while he did not say so, I suspect he made a brief prayer.  He gave a light stroke to her arm as if to say “peace be with you” before we transferred her to the gurney we brought to transfer her to the hearse and ultimately the funeral home.

That action and his demeanor showed me that he was not just doing a job, but was being of service.  I felt the difference and I know those around him did as well.  It taught me something that I’ve never forgotten in that such simple acts can mean so much.

My prayer for this week is that each of us take a single act of compassion that tangibly reminds us of the meaning we can find in our lives by being of service to others.

Quotes for Today:

The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does. You have to really see the person. If you see the person, then naturally, empathy arises. If you tune into the other person, you feel with them. If empathy arises, and if that person is in dire need, then empathic concern can come. You want to help them, and then that begins a compassionate act. So I’d say that compassion begins with attention.

Daniel Goleman

 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Proverbs 9: 10

 

We don’t get to know people when they come to us; we must go to them to find out what they are like.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe