Monthly Archives: February 2015

March 1, 2015 (Year B Lent 2) Celtic Meditation

Mark 8:31-38

Jesus’ suffering and death are necessary in order for him to rise again. This is hard news. At the time that Peter hears this pattern, no one has ever risen from the dead. It’s not surprising that Peter has set his mind on human things rather than divine things. We, as church, are called to think in divine terms as best we can, based upon what has been revealed to us. We should expect the pattern of our lives, as church, to follow the pattern of Jesus’ paradoxical life.

Jesus’ paradoxical life is summarized as denying his individual rights, taking up a cross, dying, and then rising to new life for the sake of others. Denial of oneself means giving up thinking in terms of ‘me’ and my rights, of cooperating with a culture that promotes the individual over the community. We, as church, are called to take up what the world sees as death to self in order to follow Jesus into a kingdom that offers new life, real life. What does it look like for us, as church, to deny the drive toward individualism in order to live as a community focused on following Jesus?

The paradox is that only by dying, by losing his life, is Jesus able to rise to new life. Only by dying and rising is Jesus able to offer up his life for us that we might live. This is part of the mystery of the eucharist. Jesus’ body is broken and his blood is poured out for our sake, that through his death and resurrection, we are made alive. Those who seek to save their lives lose them but those who are willing to lose their lives by following Jesus find their lives. The eucharist that we celebrate together is both the model of community life and the means by which we are enabled to live this paradoxical, communal life. When we eat this sacred meal together, we participate in Jesus’ death, life, and resurrection. What does it look like for us, as church, to live eucharistically and be poured out for the sake of others?

Jesus gives us two options in this passage. We can follow him and live counter-culturally, being willing to follow him through a path of suffering and self-denial as we struggle to live as community under God’s rule. This eucharistic path leads to death first and then to life. Or we can deny him and live according to the way of the world, climbing over each other for whatever goal we think will gain the world’s approval. This way feels like gaining the world but ultimately leads to losing everything, even life itself. Jesus’ paradoxical pattern tells us that only by dying to self are we able to return to life in community under God’s rule. Jesus’ broken body has become the bread of heaven and his blood poured out for our sake has become the cup of salvation. What do we, as church, need to focus on doing more intentionally in order to clearly demonstrate that we follow Jesus and are becoming the body and blood of Christ that we see, eat, and drink at this common meal that we call the eucharist?

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February 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 1) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:9-15

In this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to consider how our identity as church is formed and confirmed in order to serve out of that identity. Before Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, he was given a clear description of his identity through his baptism. How, for us as church, does baptism supply our identity so that we can stand firm against temptation?

Even though Jesus was away from human company during his temptation, he neither chose this isolation nor was he completely separated from God’s care. God’s holy angels waited on him and cared for him. Even in the wilderness, the desolate forsaken place, Jesus was in community with others who recognized his identity and came to support him in his time of temptation. In our evening prayers, we have the option to pray for God’s holy angels to lead us in paths of peace and goodwill [1] and for angels to be given charge over those who sleep.[2] Angels watching over and caring for God’s people is part of the biblical worldview that we tend to ignore in our day. How, as church, have we experienced God’s gracious care for us in unexpected, maybe even what some might call “supernatural,” ways?

In this gospel account, Jesus does not choose to go into 40 days of temptation. His 40 days are necessary in order for him to enter into solidarity with his people, past, present, and future. To understand how Jesus’ 40 days is entering into the larger story of redemption, we need to re-wind the story nearly 2000 years to the Exodus. God delivered the Israelites from slavery, which included taking them through the Red Sea which is a baptism into a new life of freedom to serve God. But after this mighty deliverance, they refused to trust God completely regarding entering into the land of Canaan. They did not live into this new identity given to them when they crossed the Red Sea. As penance, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus symbolically enters into this penance even though he was not guilty of lack of trust, to demonstrate his solidarity with his people.[3] This action by Jesus signifies how he understands his identity in community. For some Christians, the practice of Lent includes imitating Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness in order to live into solidarity with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the sake of the world. This tradition is one way of practicing repentance, of turning away from what does not support our life as those baptized into Christ and to turn to a fuller expression of the baptismal life of trusting God’s declaration that through baptism we are God’s children (John 1:12). After his time in the wilderness of wrestling against temptation, Jesus returns to city life to proclaim that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. The people of Israel had waited 40 years to enter into the land of Canaan. The people of God had waited for close to 2000 years between the giving of the Law through Moses to experience the grace that is given through Jesus (John 1:17). Jesus calls the people to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. From what, as church, do we need to repent and what do we need to believe in order to live more fully into our baptismal identity?

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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[1] Suffrages B in Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, 122

[2] Prayer for Mission, Book of Common Prayer, 124

[3] See Numbers 13; 32:11-12 and Joshua 5:6 then Hebrews 2:17-18

February 15, 2015 (Year B, Last Sunday after Epiphany) Celtic Meditation

Mark 9:2-9

We have skipped forward in Mark’s gospel in order to be prepared for Lent by meditating on the second of the two great epiphanies which not only reveal Jesus’ identity but also the Holy Trinity. The first great epiphany was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his baptism. The revealing of Jesus’ identity that we are focusing on today occurred toward the middle of Jesus’ ministry.

The disciples were terrified of Jesus’ glory revealed.[1] This must have been a most awe-inspiring sight, to see the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The Jesus that they have known and whom they trust is revealed to be much more than they realized. In this short passage, we hear Jesus called both Son of God and Son of Man. In Jesus is the human expression of the divine life. He is the one who is heaven on earth, God with us, the one clothed in both creation and divine light.[2]   Like the disciples, we sometimes need to be challenged to let go of our ideas about who Jesus is and be awed by who Jesus really is. How can we, as church, practice the discipline of being open to the glory, majesty, power, and authority of God revealed in Jesus?

When the disciples see Jesus’ divine glory (Psalm 50:1-6) which was normally veiled by his humanity, their understanding of the person of Jesus was challenged. But this is not all of what makes this a mind-blowing event. Moses and Elijah, both long gone from the earth, appeared with Jesus.[3] Moses is known as the law-giver, the one through whom God gave the Jewish people their identity as a nation and religion. Elijah, the prophet, is one of the great prophets who helped contextualize Moses’ teachings for the people of his day.[4] Here, with Jesus, are the two men who embodied the Law and the Prophets.   Here we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the one to whom all of redemptive history has been pointing. The one through whom redemption has come. What radical revelation of God’s story of redemption have we, as Church, experienced in our day?

In this passage we see again the holy Trinity being revealed: the Holy Spirit is represented as the cloud which overshadows and out of which God the Father speaks.[5] And in the midst of this revelation of the holy Trinity the disciples are told what the proper response is to this overwhelming event. Just as Jesus heard his identity spoken at his baptism, now, as Jesus prepares for his crucifixion and resurrection, his disciples get to hear his identity spoken by the same loving Father. When overwhelmed in God’s presence, we, like the disciples, need to focus on Jesus: to remember who he is and listen to what he says. To listen is not merely to hear, but to seek to understand and to follow through on what we have been told. They are told to wait to reveal what they have seen at this moment because they need the rest of the story—Jesus’ death and resurrection—in order for this revelation to make sense.   As we prepare to go into this season of Lent, what has Jesus told us that we, as Church, need to meditate upon so that we are better able to live into the reality of Jesus’ resurrection?

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[1] See the epistle reading for today, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, about God’s glory being concealed and revealed

[2] Dorothy A. Lee, Transfiguration New Century Theology (Bloomsbury Academic: 2005), 2.

[3] Before this moment, Moses had seen only the after-glow of God’s glory. Now Moses has his request to see God’s glory answered. He is allowed to see God’s glory face-to-face as he speaks to Jesus. See Cyril of Jerusalem on this in Catechesis 10.8 and 12.14.

[4] OT reading for today: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Elijah had been taken up into heaven in his physical body, so here we have two men who have seen God’s glory with their physical eyes before this moment.

[5] We also see in this passage that Jesus is both the Son of God (fully divine) and the Son of Man (fully human), providing us, in a very short amount of text, the opportunity to reflect upon the mysteries of the divine Trinity and the two natures of Christ.

February 8, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 5)

Mark 1:29-39

Last week, in the section of the gospel just before this, Jesus taught with authority in the synagogue. As the people marveled at Jesus’ teaching, a man with an unclean spirit cried out, saying that they knew who Jesus was—the Holy One of God—and asked if Jesus was going to destroy them. Jesus told the unclean spirit to be quiet and come out of the man. The unclean spirit obeyed Jesus; Jesus is more powerful than demonic forces.

Today’s gospel reading picks up immediately after what happened in the synagogue. In Simon and Andrew’s house, Jesus was told about Simon’s sick mother-in-law. A fever, sometimes even with modern medical intervention, is serious. Bolstered by what they had experienced earlier in the day, the disciples trusted that just as Jesus had healed the man with the unclean spirit, he would heal Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus reached out to her, lifted her up, and healed her. She was able to return to her role in the household—to care for her family and guest. She was able to serve, which is what disciples of Jesus are called to do.[1] While we understand disease processes differently today, there are some dis-ease, or dis-harmony, that need Christ’s touch for healing. From what dis-ease or lack of harmony do we need Jesus to heal us so that we, as Church, can rise and enter into the ministry to which we are called?

At the end of the Sabbath day, at sunset, the people who had seen Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits earlier in the day now brought the sick and demon possessed to him for healing. Jesus healed the sick. He silenced then cast out the demons. Sickness prevents people from fully participating in community. Demons isolate, oppress, and seek to separate people from God and community. While we normally don’t talk about demons and demonic possession, we do recognize forces of evil. These evil spiritual forces are the enemy of God’s mission in the world. Jesus demonstrated his power to defeat these enemies, which by the way, are not people but the spiritual forces that disrupt relationships.[2] Because Jesus has already defeated these enemies, in our baptismal vows, we “renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” We “renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” And we “renounce all sinful desires that draw [us] from the love of God.”[3] What evil powers, spiritual forces of wickedness, or sinful desires do we, as Church, need to renounce so that Jesus can free us?

After a time of prayer, Jesus went throughout the region, proclaiming the message of the gospel and casting out demons. Those who listen to Jesus’ message and trust him are healed and restored to community. In our baptismal vows, we say that we trust Jesus as our Savior, put our trust in his grace and love, and obey him as our Lord.[4] What stories of God’s grace and love, of God’s healing and restoration do we, as Church, need to remember so that we, with God’s help, can more fully live into our baptismal life?[5]

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[1] Pierre Simson, “Reconciliation in the Making: A Reading of Mark 1,14-3,6.” AFER 17, 4 (1975): 197.

[2] This is an allusion to Ephesians 6:12. For this verse in context, see Ephesians 6:12-18.

[3] 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), 302.

[4] BCP, 302-3

[5] That is, to “continue in the teaching of the apostles and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers”; to “persevere in resisting evil” and “repent and return to the Lord” when we sin; to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ”; to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourself]”; and to “strive for justice and peace among people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” BCP, 304-5.

February 1, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 4) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:21-28

In this passage we are introduced to Mark’s take on the questions all four of the gospels ask us to consider: who is Jesus?, what does knowing who this Jesus is mean for us?, and how are we going to live in light of this knowledge?

In the beginning of Mark’s gospel, Mark clearly tells us, the readers, that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is also the Christ, the Messiah (Mark 1:1), the one foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and echoed through all the other prophets. The people of Jesus’ day were watching for this Prophet like Moses. Throughout this gospel we are invited to not only journey along with Jesus, but to examine who knows what about Jesus, from what sources do they find out about Jesus, and how do they respond. This careful writing on Mark’s part invites us to ask ourselves these same questions.

The Jewish people who were in the Capernaum synagogue on that Sabbath had a pretty exciting day. Moses had told them that God would raise up a prophet like himself to lead the people. How one responds to this prophet, “the Prophet,” would determine one’s ongoing relationship with God and the people of God. Moses had given the law. All prophets since Moses had explained what Moses had taught. Matthew’s gospel gives us examples of how Jesus taught – and he taught as one who knew God’s mind personally (Matthew 5-7). By being with Jesus and especially by hearing Jesus teach, the people were amazed. This Jesus is very different from any of their teachers before. What do we, as church, know about Jesus from our experiences of being in his presence?

In the Bible, what is referred to as “demons” or “unclean spirits” might be confusing to us in the modern world. In this passage,[1] the “unclean spirit” is a spiritual being that attached itself to this man and either influenced or controlled him. In Mark’s gospel, the unclean spirits know who Jesus is in a way that the people don’t. They have insider information. When they reveal who Jesus is, Jesus first silences them and then he frees the person from their influence. The source of information is important. Unclean spirits are not reliable sources, so even when they speak the truth, unclean spirits are not to be trusted. What sources do we, as church, use to find out about Jesus and how should we prioritize these sources?

In this reading, everyone responded to Jesus. The unclean spirit shuddered and obeyed Jesus. The people were all amazed. They talked about what happened as they sought to understand. They also started talking to people who hadn’t been at that synagogue so that information about Jesus spread throughout the region. Based upon our experience with Jesus and what we have gleaned from other sources, what are we, as church, called to do with the information we have about Jesus?

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[1] In other instances, what is called an “unclean spirit” or “demon” would, today, probably be diagnosed as a medical condition.