I don’t know of any preacher who approaches this text with joy.
Where is the good news in such harsh words about marriage and divorce? It might be tempting to give a rousing endorsement of the importance of marriage and a stable family home for children, but that is a superficial reading and I am not content with that. The stakes are high. I know that even before I rise to preach, the words of the Gospel are ringing in people’s ears and many are feeling guilt, sorrow, or desperation. Continue reading
“His blood be on us and on our children!” “Crucify him!”
For hundreds of years, Holy Week has been a dangerous time to be a Jew. The language of the Passion narrative is shocking. This text has had the disastrous result of inspiring anti-Jewish prejudice and violence when the words were read at face value, and not as 1st century rhetoric. We continue to stand under the shadow of the Holocaust—better named the Shoah (calamity)—which was the institutionalized murder of six million Jews during World War II. And Jesus wept. We cannot allow this toxic misreading to continue.
Crucifix of San Damiano
Know this: Jesus was a Jew. His followers were mostly Jews. The people he preached to, taught and healed, were mostly Jews. He taught in the Jewish Synagogues from the Jewish Scriptures. He was executed by the Romans. As Christianity formed, and separated from the Jewish community, there were struggles and persecutions which influenced the tone and language of the Gospels, and allowed anachronistic transfer of blame from the Romans to the Jews. The fact is that only the Roman government could execute a person, and those crucified were considered enemies of the state.The Gospels tell the Passion story in grief and anger. We hear disturbing words this week from our Holy Scriptures; we hear the awful cost of Jesus’ sacrifice. It is a hard journey. We must not make it easier on ourselves by feeding the hostility that continues to exist against our Jewish brothers and sisters. Anti-Jewish violence and prejudice is intolerable.
When we reach the Sunday of the Resurrection, Christians rejoice in Jesus Christ’s triumph over the power of evil and death. Remember who we follow and what he taught. It is clear that Christians are never to be agents of evil and death in his name, and we must take care not to be casually or silently complicit in perpetuating prejudice against Jews in our churches and among our children. Remember his answer to the question about which was the greatest commandment:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40)
We are called to love our neighbor, and our closest neighbors are members of the Jewish faith. We must not force the Jews to lock their doors for fear of the Christians.
Jesus Praying (Tissot)
Everyone is looking for you! That’s what the disciples told Jesus, in today’s reading from Mark. Jesus hardly gets a moment to himself. In this short section of text: he preached in the synagogue, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and healed the sick and demon-possessed who gathered at the door. Finally, in the dark before dawn, Jesus was able to go, by himself, to pray.
Prayer can happen over a meal, in the middle of your work, as you drift off to sleep. Whenever or however you pray, the act of praying makes an intentional connection between you and God. Prayer takes many forms but essentially it is a conversation with God. Conversation means talking–it also means listening. Prayer is a way to enter into God’s time, and a way to restore your soul. Even Jesus, it seems, needed to be restored and re-centered at a busy time in his ministry.
People were looking for him while he was off by himself praying. You can hear the edge in [Simon] Peter’s voice: “Everybody is searching for you!” (Where have you been? You should have been here with us!) It sounds like Jesus really heard something during his time of prayer, because he did not go back to Simon Peter’s house to continue to heal the sick and demon-possessed. Instead he called his disciples to continue traveling through Galilee, proclaiming his message, “for that is what I came out to do.” Jesus was listening to what God wanted him to do, and he could hear God when he was praying more easily then when he was surrounded by people.
Questions to think about:
- Why do you think everyone was looking for Jesus?
- Where and when do you pray?
- How do you feel after you pray?
- When you pray, are you usually talking or listening?
Blessings, Mother Anne+
Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, by John the Baptist.
The Baptism of Christ
We read in Mark that John was in the wilderness, miles and miles from the city of Jerusalem, yet many people came out to hear him preach about how they should change their lives and live the way God wanted them to. This was good news to the people, and they stepped forward into the river to wash away the past, and to dedicate themselves to this new life. Jesus was one of the people who came to be baptized, and at that moment the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and he heard God’s voice name him his son, the beloved. This was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, the ministry that led him to preach and teach, feed and heal.
This story tells us why we are baptized today. No matter how old we are, we begin a new life with the special blessing of God calling us his children, and the Holy Spirit descending upon us. Even if we don’t hear God’s voice, or see a dove, all of that is still happening in a sacred way. Baptism is a sacrament of the church. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. (From the Book of Common Prayer, page 857). So our Baptism is a special connection with Jesus, because he experienced the very same thing.
Food for thought:
- What happens when someone is baptized?
- Do you remember your own baptism? What do you remember?
- Why was John the Baptist so important?
Children’s activities (coloring and word puzzles) and, if age-appropriate, you might cut out dove shapes for the children to write their names on and wear as nametags, showing that God knows their name and the Holy Spirit is present.