Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 29, 2015 (Year B, Palm Sunday) Celtic Meditation

Mark 11:1-11

I wonder if the disciples were surprised when Jesus sent them to go get a donkey colt that had never been ridden. I wonder if they were surprised that the acquisition of the colt went as smoothly as it did and just like Jesus said it would. When have we, as a church, followed what we knew to be a clear set of counter-intuitive instructions from the Lord and been surprised to find that we were doing exactly what we needed to be doing when we needed to be doing it?

In hindsight, the disciples recognized that Jesus was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophesy.[1] What happened next is the people’s response to Jesus’ actions also foretold in this same passage of Zechariah’s prophesies. The people responded using a phrase from Psalm 118, but the language might seem odd to us today even though we use this same phrase every week in the traditional eucharistic liturgy. “Hosanna” is Aramaic for “save us, we pray”[2] and is addressed to the blessed one, the one who is to be praised, who comes in the full authority of God. This plea for salvation asks God, from God’s highest dwelling place, to save the people. When Jesus, the long awaited son of King David, entered Jerusalem, the actions of the people matched their words. They pleaded for salvation, a salvation that comes through the institution of the Davidic kingdom by the man whom they accepted as the one approved by God. They used their coats to smooth out the road[3] and they waved branches to celebrate the coming of the Son of David into David’s royal city. What do we, as church, need to be doing so that our actions more clearly align with our words used when we celebrate the eucharist which is the Son of David’s instrument for bringing in his kingdom?

Jesus then went to the temple, looked around, noticed the time of day, and went back to Bethany for the night. Sometimes, even when we know what needs to be done, what we most need to do in the moment is to wait. This week, our practice, as church, is to wait and remember. What does it look like for us, as church, to discern the time and season and wait for the right time to act?

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[1] Zechariah 9:9. For Mark’s use of Zechariah 14, see Paul Brooks Duff, “The March of the Divine Warrior and the Advent of the Greco-Roman King: Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111/1 (1992): 55-71. For the contrast between Jesus’ entry into the city and Greco-Roman traditions of the day, see Brent Kinman, “Jesus’ Royal Entry into Jerusalem.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.2 (2005): 223-260.

[2] USB Greek lexicon

[3] I wonder if this laying down of coats is a way of “making straight the path of the Lord” commanded in Isaiah 45:13 which is repeated in Mark 1:3 but now applied to Jesus. Through John the baptizer’s ministry, many of the people of Israel were looking for the Messiah.

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

March 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 5) Celtic Meditation

John 12:20-33

On his way to Jerusalem for what will be his last Passover, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead; has been anointed by Lazarus’ sister, Mary, in what Jesus accepts as a pre-burial anointing; and has triumphantly arrived in Jerusalem. As the Passover approaches, Greeks, non-Jewish people, who were attracted to the God worshiped by the Jews, desire to see Jesus.[1] Jesus accepts this recognition from non-Jews as a sign that the hour for his glorification has come. Greek philosophy prized the good life and these Greeks must have heard something about Jesus that indicated that the good life was in him. But this good life is not what the ruler of the world offered then and continues to offer. The ruler of this world offers money, power, prestige, food and things as life, but this is not life that really satisfies. Jesus explains the paradoxical way of true life, eternal life, from an agricultural example.[2] Individual seeds die in order to produce fruit. Jesus was called to really die so that all might really live. Those who follow Jesus are called to die to the life the ruler of the world offers in order to really live. In what ways do we continue to seek after the things offered by the world rather than doing the hard work of following Jesus by living into our baptismal vows of turning from the ways that do not give life?

The work of dying for the sake of the world is not something that Jesus has looked forward to. Yet, the audible answer to his prayer is not for his comfort.[3] For the sake of the Greeks who represent the non-Jewish people of the world as well as Jesus’ disciples, God the Father audibly responds to Jesus’ prayer that the name of God be glorified. When have we, as church, heard the voice of God not for our sake, but for the sake of others?

When Jesus is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. God’s name is glorified at the crucifixion. With the scent of the anointing for his death probably still lingering about him, Jesus knew that he first had to suffer pain before he could enter into joy and his glorification.[4] Yet, in these Greeks who came to see him, Jesus saw the beginnings of the fruit of his death.[5] As followers of Jesus, what are we doing as a church community that demonstrates to us and to those around us that we are living fruit produced by Jesus’ death?

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

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[1] For a detailed discussion of why the Greeks were not expected to respond and how the coming of the Greeks affected Jesus, see John A. Davis, “The Desire of the Nations—John 12:20-22,” The Reformed Theological Review, 69 no 3 (2010): 151-163.

[2] Last week, we heard the explanation of Jesus’ death on the cross from a Jewish perspective, using the history of the Jewish people to explain that when Jesus is lifted up from the earth on the cross, those who know they are dying from sin and trust God for healing through Jesus’ death, will be made alive.

[3] This is the second time in two chapters that Jesus explains that the purpose of a supernatural event was for the sake of those around him so that they could believe and make sense of what is to come. For the sake of Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:15-44) so that they would know that Jesus is the life-giver (John1:1-4, John 11:25-26), the one through whom the glory of God is revealed (John 11:40).

[4] Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer, collect for Friday.

[5] Richard L. Jeske, “John 12:20-36,” Interpretation 43 no 3 (1989): 292-295.

March 15, 2015 (Year B Lent 4) Celtic Meditation

John 3:14-21[1]

After Moses led the people out of Egypt, the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. God had promised to bring them into the promised land but when this didn’t happen as quickly as they wanted, they became impatient and complained about God’s provisions for their daily needs.[2] As punishment, God sent fiery serpents among them. These fiery serpents bit the people. Some of them died. The people recognized their complaining as lack of trust and repented. They pleaded with Moses to ask God to take away the snakes. God instructed Moses to make a representation of the serpent and attach it to a pole so that whenever someone was bit, the dying person could look upon the image on the pole and live.[3] God provided a cure for the consequence of this particular punishment for sin and those who knew they were snake-bit, trusted God, and accepted God’s instrument for saving them from the poisonous snake-bite were saved. John saw this event in the desert as a foreshadow of the crucifixion. The cross represents our sin, those who recognize that they are sin-bit and trustingly look to Jesus on the cross as the cure for the fatal illness resulting from sin-bite will be saved.[4] What does it look like for us, as church, to fully acknowledge that we are each being saved from the deadly poison of sin?

Those who trust in Jesus will not perish because they already have received the cure for the poisonous sin-bite, which is experienced as eternal life. Towards the end of this gospel, John defines what he means by “eternal life.” “Eternal life” is knowing the One true God and Jesus Christ as the One sent by God[5] which leads to a new way of being in the world. How can we, as church, live more fully into the eternal life that we are already experiencing so that we can better demonstrate the trustworthiness of God’s cure for sin through Jesus?

Judgment, according to John, is something that is already happening. How we respond to Jesus reveals our relationship with God and this relationship with God is what determines our judgment. Those who are sin-bit and do not look to God’s cure for sin participate in deeds that they do not want exposed in the light of day or in the light of Christ. These activities of those who are dying from the poison of the sin-bite are called “evil.” But those who are attracted to Jesus are not ashamed of their deeds because God is the source and motivation for these deeds. Having Jesus, the Light of the World, expose these deeds brings glory to God. As those who are coming to the Light, what does it look like for us to transparently examine the motivation and strength for the activities which define of our common life as church?

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

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[1] In this short reading, we have the heart of the gospel in a nutshell. We have Jesus’ identity (God’s unique Son who is also the Son of Man; the One who is fully divine and fully human), his mission (sent by the Father to save those who believe in Him), the purpose of his mission (because God so loved the world), and the result of this mission (those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life which includes doing good deeds which bring glory to God).

[2] For a recounting of this part of the story, see Numbers 21:1-9.

[3] The word translated as “fiery” can also be translated as seraph. Peter J. Leithart rightly notes that the command in the Hebrew text is to make a representation of the “fiery being” while the Septuagint understands this being as a snake. In the Numbers account, “fiery one” may be a nominative focusing on the effect of the bite rather than the type of creature. The question that arises from this first use of the Hebrew term in the Old Testament canon seems to be whether the seraph in Isaiah is a winged serpent or whether the Isaiah passage is an allusion to Numbers 21 and the similar attitude of the people (unclean lips). See Leithart’s essay “What are Seraphim,” First Things, December 15, 2010 (accessed 3/14/2015) for more information. For a post about how these two readings could work together, see Dan Handschy’s 15 March 2015 post “Snake Bit” on his blog, Rector’s Reflections.

[4] Peter L. van Dyken. “As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent in the Wilderness.” Reformed Journal 9 no. 10 (1959): 20-22.

[5] John 17:3

March 8, 2014 (Year B Lent 3) Celtic Meditation

John 2:13-22

In John’s gospel, this incident in Jesus’ ministry comes immediately after his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. His disciples, having seen this miracle, trust him (John 2:11). In this reading, Jesus is at the center of the Jewish world, the Temple in Jerusalem, and he is violently challenging the use of this sacred space as a place of commerce. His actions might have been less startling to the Jews of his day since Jesus’ behavior is in line with that of the prophets. The prophets had consistently warned the people of God against diluted worship practices and taking advantage of others in trade.[1]  Here, the issue is the practice of commerce in the space set aside for worship. How have we, as church, mingled secular with sacred in our sacred space and, in doing so, made it hard for people to worship and pray with us?

Even if prophetic action like Jesus’ was less startling then than it might be now, the religious leaders needed verification of Jesus’ authority for his actions. The sign that they ask for is a sign of God’s authorization for Jesus to serve as a prophet. Jesus explained what the coming sign was, but the leaders of the Temple misunderstood.  Jesus’ reply–that the sign of his authority to be both priest and prophet is that the temple, the dwelling place of God, will be torn down and then he will rebuild it in three days–can only be understood after the first Easter.  The Temple of God, the place where God dwells, is uniquely in the person of Jesus.  What does it look like for us, as church, to live into our acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a sign of Jesus’ authority?

Jesus’ disciples had begun to trust Jesus, but their faith would be much more robust after Jesus was raised from the dead. Then they realized that Jesus’ actions in the Temple that day were an expression of his living out Psalm 69. Jesus’ passion for the people of God is summarized by verse 9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[2] As we continue through our Lenten journey, let us ask ourselves what do we as church, as those who have tasted Jesus’ authority, need to be doing in order to grow into an all-consuming zeal for God’s house in our day?

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

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[1] William Pape Wood. “John 2:13-22.” Interpretation 45 no 1 (1991): 59-63. In particular, Zechariah had prophesied that the day was coming when all of Israel would be holy to the Lord and there would be no trade taking place in the Temple (Zech 14:21).

[2] Richard B. Hayes, “Can the Gospels Teach Us How to Read the Old Testament?” Pro ecclesia, 11 no 4 (Fall 2002), 413-415.