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.

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