Monday, December 03, 2018

Advent 1C • Luke


On the first Sunday of Advent, the church begins a new year of grace. Happy New Year!

Every year Advent opens with a splash of apocalyptic scripture, signaling the end of the world as we know it. No more status quo, the beginning of a new way of living and being—the world is about to turn. Some time during this Advent, we'll probably sing Canticle of the Turning that's based on Mary's Magnificat.

Blue, the color of hope, is the official color for Advent. Although it includes a theme of repentance, the season of Advent is especially about hope. In Spanish esperar/espero means wait, hope, and expect. We hope for and anticipate not a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays as the rest of the world sincerely might wish us; we hope for the incarnation of mercy, grace, and love. Instead of the rest of the world's irenic peace that's more or less a temporary cease-fire, we hope for, wait for, and expect the fullness of shalom the Prince of Peace brings us. We hope for the dawn of the new creation the death and resurrection of the Prince of Peace will initiate.

This is Revised Common Lectionary Year C, Luke's year. Luke is a synoptic gospel that views Jesus' life an ministry in a similar manner to Matthew and Mark.

Luke's Gospel

Luke is the only Gentile, non-Jewish writer in the entire New Testament. Luke was a highly educated physician, but think "bronze age" in terms of sophistication. Luke wrote a two-volume account, a gospel and the book of the Acts of the Apostles. We often refer to Luke-Acts as one word.

Luke's particular perspective includes an emphasis on:

• world history and Jewish history

• Luke brings us Jesus' genealogy that ends with Adam, son of God. Luke's human Jesus and divine Christ both minister to each one's body and spirit.

• presence and activity of the Holy Spirit – the HS has been prominent throughout the Bible's witness, but Luke-Acts brings a fulfillment of God's reign in the Spirit

• prayer

• women

• marginalized people of every class and type, the underclass.

• table fellowship.

• neighborology – the word about the neighbor! During Year C the lectionary includes quite a few readings from jeremiah and Deuteronomy that also emphasize the neighbor, the other, living together faithfully in covenantal community.

• Starting with John the Baptist down by the riverside counseling people to share what they have with others in order to prepare for the arrival of God in our midst, we find a lot of "social gospel" throughout Luke,. However, this isn't let's see how many good works we humans can accomplish on our own; it's always about the indwelling and outgoing power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke includes three psalm-like songs or canticles based on Old Testament sources:

• Mary's Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord; he has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly..." – Luke 1:46-55

• Zechariah's Benedictus, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; he has visited his people." – Luke 1:67-79

• Simeon's Nunc Dimittis: "Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace; mine eyes have seen they salvation, which thou hast prepared..." – Luke 2:29-32

Uniquely in Luke we find:

• Sermon on the Plain – Luke 6:17-49, which emphasizes the physical re-distributive justice and material well-being. Matthew's parallel Sermon on the Mount is more about spiritual well-being.

• Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37

• Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 11-32

• Stones cry out Luke – 19:37-40

• Emmaus Road in Luke's post-resurrection account takes us back to the Maundy Thursday Upper Room and to Luke's many accounts of Jesus' table fellowship with all comers – Luke 24:13-35

We concluded class by reading the first section of the assigned gospel for Advent 1C. Rather than coming from the beginning of Luke's gospel, this is Jesus speaking toward the end! We hear about signs and symbols coming alive in nature/creation; we'll soon celebrate the birth of Jesus who is not a god in nature, but God and Lord of nature.

Luke 21:25-28

25"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Friday, November 30, 2018

Gospel According to Mark Overview

The account of Jesus' trial in John 18:33-37 was the assigned gospel reading for the last Sunday of the Church's Year of Grace, Reign of Christ; instead of an overview of the nature of Jesus' authority and reign, we did an overview of Mark's gospel to assess where Mark has taken us during lectionary year B, and to prepare for Revised Common Lectionary Year C that will feature Luke, another of the three synoptic gospels.

All four canonical gospels show us Jesus has complete lordship, rule, kingship, sovereignty over every aspect of life: political; economic; religious; cultural; spiritual; social. The Reign of Jesus the Christ is comprehensive and touches everything we are, everything we do..

Mark is one of the three synoptic gospels with a similar (syn) viewpoint (optic) of Jesus' life and ministry, despite each having a distinctive style or personality.

As I've been saying for the past twelve months, Mark is the earliest and shortest gospel—the one for texters and tweeters. Mark is urgent and direct. Especially for Mark and Luke, the journey to Jerusalem and the cross is relentless and incessant. Mark is the only canonical gospel that styles itself gospel or good news. Prior to Mark, "gospel" was the returning Roman emperor's (actually bad news) announcement of victory that had vanquished his enemies in violent death and destruction; Mark subverted the word gospel (that literally means good news) into God's proclamation of the victory of life.

Mark brings us a fair amount of apocalyptic, a style of writing that draws upon symbols and signs, frequently taken from nature. Similar to epiphany, apocalypse means revealing or unveiling. Last week Steve suggested apocalyptic was about the future; it truly is, but instead of speaking directly, it uses symbolic words and natural objects that require interpretation. Mark and all the gospels bring us the end of the world as we've known it. Mark is highly counter-cultural, anti-religious, anti-economic, anti-political establishment. Mark constantly asks where we find God; and answers not in the temple, not in conventional religious, economic, or political structures, but outside the center, on the edges, on the underside of polite convention and typical expectations. Ultimately, we find the fullest revelation of God in the human Jesus of Nazareth dying outside the city on a cross of shame.

Unlike the other three gospels, Mark includes no birth narrative and no actual resurrection account in the easiest manuscripts, though your bible probably has a resurrection story tacked on at the end. Mark opens with "The beginning of the gospel." People forever have asked is that beginning the first paragraph of Mark's chapter 1, the entire 16 chapters of Mark, or is everywhere and every time still the beginning of the good news of death and resurrection, the end of the world as we've known it?

Mark famously and uniquely includes the messianic secret—when Jesus says or does something astonishing, he often advises everyone not to tell anyone. It's not about signs and wonders that easily impress humans, it's about the cross. Mark starts out with "Jesus, son of God"; at Jesus' death a Roman soldier announces, "truly this was a son of God." At the cross, Jesus' life, identity, and purpose no longer are secret, but recognized and revealed by an outsider. Outsiders, strangers, or others not part of Jesus' Jewish community recognizing Jesus' identity and purpose is another Markan theme.

Each of the four gospels opens Jesus' public ministry with a different type of event that then continues as a theme of that gospel. Mark goes from Jesus' wilderness baptism by John, to the Spirit driving him into a deeper wilderness where he experience temptations (Matthew and Luke describe the temptations, Mark doesn't), then returning to Galilee and calling the first disciples. After those events, Jesus exorcises (expels, casts out) a demon from a man during a synagogue service—Mark 1:21-26. Mark (and Jesus, of course) continues subverting and overthrowing structures, events, people, and impulses that interfere with human freedom.

Next Sunday with Advent, the church begins a New Year of Grace that will feature the gospel according to St. Luke. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pentecost 26B

Mark 13:1-8

1As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The church's year of grace is coming to an end! After today we have one more Sunday – Reign of Christ / Christ the King – and then Revised Common Lectionary Year C, also known as Luke's year, begins with the first Sunday of Advent.

Today is the last time we'll consider a passage from the gospel according to St. Mark. Although this Year B has been Mark's year, for Reign of Christ we'll hear from John, the Fourth Gospel.

Last Sunday we talked some about organization, structure, budgets, and accountability. Among other things, we heard the story about the widow who gave her last two tiny coins to the huge temple system that according to God's mandate needed to protect and provide for her rather than the other way around. Whether organizational like committees or physical like buildings, structures are absolutely necessary so life doesn't turn chaotic.

Today's gospel reading from Mark includes some apocalyptic. Steve suggested apocalyptic points to the future, and that's frequently the case. Basically, apocalyptic writing uses symbols and words that don't mean what they sound like at first hearing; they need to be interpreted. In scripture, those symbols often come from nature such as fires, floods, and earthquakes. Similar to a sign, a symbol points to or indicates something beyond itself. The word "symbol" can be confusing; we sometimes refer to the scriptures and the sacraments as the symbols of the church and often include the confessions in the church's symbols. On the other hand, in literature and in visual art, we refer to one object that stands in for another as a symbol.

On to today. The disciples are so very very extremely impressed by the huge temple building built out of ginormous stones. What is it about large objects, shiny bling, and ostentation that impresses humans? More accurately, what is it about humans that many times large, shiny stuff, and displays we can see from miles away impress us?

Jesus is in the shadow of the temple, still on his way to trial, conviction, crucifixion—and resurrection. He's been telling us and showing us real life is about faithful relationships, about care for those without power, about distributice justice. There is enough of everything to go around.

Monday, November 05, 2018

All Saints 2018

John 11:32-44

32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Today we celebrate All Saints Day/Sunday. Although historically this feast day has focused on the Church Triumphant, the celebration very much includes those of us still in the visible church that's sometimes called the church militant. We'll talk about sanctification, theosis, divinization: those three words mean the same thing. In baptism we become saints and receive the spirit of life that's the spirit of resurrection from the dead we hear about in today's reading from St. John's gospel. The sanc prefix to a word means holy, just as in the Sanctus/"Holy, Holy, Holy" we sing during the liturgy. Western churches generally use the term sanctification to refer to the process of becoming holier, more consistently thinking, acting, and being like Jesus; "divinization" with the divine root means the same; Eastern Churches typically refer to Theosis that has the Theo or God word root—all three terms describe claiming, growing into, and living out our divine nature of being holy, just as God is holy.

As we did for All Saints 2017, we'll talk about saints we have known in our own lives. These holy ones could be neighbors, parents, friends, relatives still on earth or in the company of heaven; they could be people in scripture or famous saints known to most of the world like Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Kolkata, Francis, Claire, Augustine, etc.

Our scripture readings necessarily are what we call pericopes, literally cut out from the surrounding passages ("peri" = around, surrounding; "cope" = cut). Although we need to consider the probable historical context of any scripture, and we need to consider events before and after it, obviously we can't talk about everything every time. However, to contextualize Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead, we need to know the event comes after Jesus' "I am the resurrection and the life" statement in verse 25, and before Lazarus' sister Mary has anointed Jesus into his death {referenced in John 11:2, described in John 12:2-7). John 12:2 tells us about Martha, Mary, and the formerly dead man Lazarus hosting a dinner party. Remember post-resurrection Jesus as dinner host and guest on several occasions?

Just as later on when we read about Jesus' death and resurrection, this gospel reading brings us a dead man, a tomb, grave cloths or embalming wraps, a stone, a weeping Mary. In baptism we receive the holy spirit of life, the power of resurrection from the dead. Jesus commands the people witnessing his raising Lazarus to new life from death to participate in the act of resurrection to "unbind him, and let him go." We also have the power to help unbind and release people from aspects of death that prevent them from moving and living; we possess the spirit of resurrection to help free and liberate individuals and creation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reformation 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Last year we celebrated Reformation 500; this year we continue in a church that's still reforming—a reforming church that now includes the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity. Martin Luther insisted "worship and hymn-singing in the vernacular" was a mark of the true church. Especially with Reformation we're considering a vernacular church, a church that speaks the common language of the people, that presents Christianity (that's so very other than business as usual, other than status quo) with vocabulary and symbols everyday regular people understand.

Today we'll look at the prophet Jeremiah's proclamation of God's new covenant with all creation. This is one of the four classic Reformation scriptures; today we'll also be hearing from Romans 3 and from Psalm 46 that Martin Luther paraphrased for his famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, but instead of the truth will make you free from John 8, we'll continue in Mark's gospel from where we left off last week with the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus from chapter 10.

God's covenants or agreements with humanity and with all creation are a prominent feature of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament and continue into the New Testament / New Covenant scriptures with Jesus Christ, God's ultimate covenant. Covenant comes from co-venire, coming together, and was a familiar concept in the Ancient Near East.

A new anything implies an old one, but this is more a new location than it is a new agreement. We've discussed how the heart in Hebrew biology isn't so much the seat of emotions as we think of it in the contemporary Western world as it is the location of a person's will. In Hebrew biology and bible, it goes beyond will or intention to include reason, wisdom, creativity, discernment, etc. (and also emotion). Jeremiah announces a covenantal word about the neighbor. This new proclamation of God's eternal covenanting relates to creating and sustaining community by following the guidelines God gave the people with the commandments; it will become natural and almost instinctive because it will be incarnate or embodied as part of everyone's being.

Remember the reference in last Sunday's gospel to kings? Remember God's people asking for a king like the other nations had to rule them?

God gave the commandments to the people with very recent freedom or liberation from working under conditions of imperial Egyptian slavery as the background. The people received the commandments as words of grace in the wilderness on their way to settling in the promised land, not when they reached their destination. Although God remained and still is the ultimate ruler (king, sovereign, monarch) of all of us, the commandments show people how to govern and rule themselves.

The commandments shape the people (that's us!) into rocking an anti-imperial lifestyle, into ruling and governing themselves my considering the needs of each other, by not making gods of money, power, fame, or material stuff.

Jeremiah 31:32 – the people broke the Sinai covenant of the ten commandments in a double sense: by shattering the stone tablets they were written on, and by not following them in their daily lives. Verse 33 – God and people literally belong to each other. Verse 34 – God for-gives (the reverse of give) so completely it's as if God totally forgets our wrongdoings.

Closely related: a note about the apostle's Paul's telling us in Romans the law doesn't save us. Almost every time Paul says "law," he refers to ceremonial, sacrificial, law and not to the covenantal, neighbor-oriented ten commandments.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pentecost 22B

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" 37And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38But 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?" 39They 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; 40but 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."

41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So 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. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
This episode of the church's year of grace will conclude at the end of November. We're still in the gospel according to St. Mark. Next week we'll take sort of a break for Reformation Sunday (note: I found out that next week we'll be hearing from Mark's gospel rather than from John's classic Truth Will Make You Free Reformation gospel reading, but the other scriptures will be Reformation standards Psalm 46, Jeremiah 31, and Romans 3.) Reformation 501 won't be as much of an interruption as it also will remind us of God's faithful, merciful presence and ongoing reconciliation of all creation by grace rather than by human initiative and effort.

During the following Sundays Jesus will confront the religious leaders and authorities and affirm following the commandments brings a person close to the reign of heaven/ kingdom of God; Jesus will deplore the dehumanizing economic violence of the religious temple system that has demanded an impoverished widow's last shekel; this year will end on Reign of Christ / Christ the King Sunday with the account in John's gospel of Jesus' trial, conviction, death, and burial—and the declaration of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth as King, Ruler, Sovereign.

Jesus' first act of public ministry after his baptism and triple temptation in the wilderness in Mark's gospel? Driving out (exorcising) a demon from a possessed guy during a synagogue service. Looking at Mark's broad sweep and trajectory, we find freedom or release from everything that binds, enslaves, dehumanizes, kills us. That includes institutions, organizations, governments, structures of all kinds that become so literally tied up in their functional details they deal in death rather than life. Mark especially brings us an apocalyptic revealing or uncovering of God's upside-down reign of life—the New Creation in the wake of the death of the Old Creation.

We discussed how humans and entities like churches, schools, workplaces need structure, but those structures need to function for the sake of the lives of the individuals and entities they serve, not for their own sake. Examples: LCM's church council; LA's county and city governments; a denomination's regional judicatory and national governing headquarters.

James and John Zebedee's request to Jesus may be outrageous and arrogant, but I'll cite a class member's observation a couple weeks ago that Jesus and his followers had such a high level of trust and intimacy they knew they could say anything to each other and wouldn't get un-friended. In Mark 10:39 James and John insist they are able to do whatever Jesus leads them to, so (1)does that mean they implicitly trust Jesus, or (2)does it mean they still don't realize Jesus is on the way to his trial, conviction, crucifixion, death, burial? And resurrection?

Like most humans, they always default to theology of glory that Jesus always refutes with theology of the cross; again, Jesus describes the shape and the reality of the reign of heaven on earth as absolutely the opposite of what most humans aspire to.

Baptism reference is a bit obscure. It may be about John the Baptist's water baptism of repentance and forgiveness; it may be about immersion in the way of Jesus (per the Apostle Paul's comprehensive meaning in Romans 6); same with "cup" that may be one's life purpose, calling, goal, or destiny. In any case, this section of scripture happens after Jesus' third passion prediction in Mark's gospel.

Moving from a small micro level to a large macro level:

• Last week for Pentecost 21 we read about Jesus' micro encounter with a guy who had a lot of money and a lot of stuff—Luke's and Rembrandt's Rich Young Ruler, though among Matthew, Mark, and Luke that all include a version of this story, we don't know his actual social identity. Last week we heard Jesus call the guy beyond rote obedience to the commandments to fully living the commandments by divesting himself of money and property he didn't really need in order to help people in need, or simply his neighbors who had less than he did. "Neighborology." This is the only place in Mark's gospel that tells about Jesus loving an individual person; the word for love is the divine agape love.

• This week for Pentecost 22 our text brings us to an overarching macro level with Jesus telling us with servant and slave language he will ransom (release, free, in a similar manner to releasing or freeing a slave or bondservant) society and all creation from structures and systems that dehumanize and kill rather than give life—what the letter to the Colossians calls "powers and principalities."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pentecost 21B

• Two weeks ago on Pentecost 19, we discussed our experiences with different branches and styles of Christianity—ecumenism, ecumenical.

• Last week on Pentecost 20, before our Blessing of the Animals during the Eucharistic liturgy, everyone talked about their particular passions and concerns regarding creation.

• Therefore—no class notes for either of those days.

Mark 10:17-31

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.' " 20He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" 27Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

28Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." 29Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

The Church's year of grace continues to move toward Jerusalem, the cross, and the empty grave. We continue with main gospel readings from Mark. Mark is the shortest, earliest, most concise, and direct of the four canonical gospels. Along with Matthew and Luke, Mark is one of the three synoptic gospels; despite different emphases, they essentially view Jesus' life and ministry with a single perspective or eye.

"syn" as in synonym, synagogue, synthesis, synergy, syndicate, synod; "optic" as in optical, optician, optometrist, optimistic.

Today is about neighborology, the word about the neighbor, the other. You remember neighborology was prominent in Luke's gospel; Luke's lectionary Year C that begins again soon with the first Sunday of Advent also featured particularly neighbor-oriented readings from Jeremiah and Deuteronomy.

Jesus and his disciples continue on the journey or the way to Jerusalem and the cross. In Mark and in Luke, the journey to the cross is especially relentless and intentional. Maybe you recall early on in its accounts, Luke's Acts of the Apostles refers to people who follow Jesus as followers of The Way

In terms of economy and culture, two thousand years ago the ancient near east was somewhat of a subsistence economy, with people precariously balancing their lives with income from fishing and farming; they generally had little if any surplus. Besides farmers and fishers, there were landholders who became landlords and demanded rent in cash or in kind for farming on their plot of earth. Empires long had made inroads into that part of the planet; Jesus and his people dealt with the occupying Roman army, puppet governors, and high taxes on a daily basis.

We find versions of today's famous reading in all three synoptic gospels, with variants that show we don't quite know the social status or age of the guy who converses with Jesus. Today's well-known reading is about keeping the commandments, words and the actions that relate to the other than me; getting out of yourself and detaching yourself from your stuff and your money and being there for your neighbor. Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann calls the commandments the working papers for life in covenantal community. In this passage, Jesus quotes commandments only from what we call the second table of the law, the part that deals directly with our neighbors; we've discussed how breaking any commandment violates the first command to have no other god (nothing else first in our lives and thoughts and hearts) but the true God. "Do not defraud" is not in either Exodus' or Deuteronomy's version of the commandment, though other places in the Hebrew Bible mention defrauding.

Today's reading is about a guy with lots of stuff who basically has made money and possessions into his real god, into what comes first in his life and heart. Trust, belief, and faith all are the same word in biblical Greek. You can't trust cash, stocks, bonds, and so-called "securities" (ha ha); you can trust God who fills heaven and earth, the God and Father of Jesus the Christ.

This is the only place Mark's gospel tells us Jesus loved someone; it's the unconditional, divine, agape love.