Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And when I've slept all through the night,
To wake me with the morning light.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
|Br. Robert Lentz, Iconographer|
In my reflection on this text on Sunday I noted that Jesus is unkind and offensive to the woman who approaches him out of concern for his daughter. I was challenged afterward by a family who took my reflections on the story and Jesus’ interaction with the woman home with them and responded to me with their own reflections and a question:
“We go around saying that Jesus was without sin, but in this…it seems like he at the very least made a serious mistake and in my mind calling someone a dog is pretty close to sin. Do you have a way to reconcile this?”This is not the first time in history this question has been asked! Sharon Ringe writes about this story and she says that “It is hard to imagine why the church in any stage of its development would want to present the Christ it confesses in such a light!”*
Indeed, why did this story end up in the Bible at all? Along with others who have thought about this text, I think that the reason that this text made it into the cannon was not in Jesus’ initial retort, but in his response after he is challenged. In Jesus’ the context, the epithet ‘dog’ was common in Jewish circles with reference to Gentiles. A foreign, single, low-status woman would have had to have had quite a bit of chutzpah to approach a Jewish, male rabbi, even privately as she did. The last person we hear of who intercedes Jesus him on behalf of a child is Jairus, a high-stature religious leader who could make his request openly and in public and who could not be further from the opposite of this woman in position and stature. Jesus' retort calling the woman a ‘little dog’ could have simply a knee-jerk one based on his cultural and religious immersion. So in that case, no, to Jesus what he did was not sinful, it was in fact appropriate.
Another possibility is that Jesus was quoting that common knowledge to the woman – a test to see how she would respond. In a way saying, this is what people say about you ‘little dogs’ (wink, wink) which then allowed her the opportunity to empower herself. Based on my reading,that doesn’t fly with me. And neither these nor any other explanations of why he said what he did get around the fact that it was insulting and belittling. In Jesus’ context it may have been appropriate but even to Mark’s first readers it must have been unsettling. To us – to me – it is deeply so.
Blogger David Henson writes a powerful article about this text and racism. In our context, what Jesus says to the woman reeks of both racism and sexism. At this point in our history, I think that we would label both of those sinful both at a systematic and at a personal level. But when the woman takes what Jesus says she turns it on its head and she is also taking a common form in the gospel and turning that on its head. And in doing so she blows this whole thing wide open! Usually – in fact in every other case – when there is an argument or controversy, it is Jesus who is the challenger, responding to a hostile question or statement, it is Jesus who corrects and puts into place an opponent. Here, the woman gives Jesus pause. And in his response he does an amazing thing and escapes those cultural and religious biases and listened to her. Henson says,
“Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him. In the next, the scales fall from his eyes as he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith, a moral exemplar, his teacher.Sin or no, Jesus does what is so hard for all of us sinners. He opens himself to the other and to the Spirit’s work in him and through her. That is the miracle and the example Jesus offers to us, his followers. Jesus the human transcends his nature (our nature!) and the boundaries that humans create between each other.
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into the unfortunate privilege of dominance or prejudice. He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.”
*Sharon H Ringe, “A Gentile Woman’s Story” in Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, Letty Russell, ed. 1985: Westminster Press,Philadelphia PA, pp 65-72.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
o the first clue: friendship bracelet and picture of friends – Ask the kids if they know what kind of bracelet this is? Has anyone made one? Jesus said that he doesn’t call us servants. Instead he calls us friends. Can you think of someone who is your friend? You tell each other everything. You love each other. You spend lots of time together. You pick your friends – it’s not like family where you have no choice. Jesus chose us to be his friends.o the second clue: fruit – Jesus said that when he chose us, and when we become friends with him, we will bear fruit. Do you think he means fruit like this apple? Or this orange? Do you remember the song you learned from Bryan about the fruit of the Spirit? (sing) “The fruit of the spirit is love… joy…peace” (patience, kindness, generosity,faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)That is the kind of fruit that we can learn when we practice being friends with Jesus and with each other.o the third clue: heart – what do hearts usually mean? LOVE. One of the most important fruits of the Spirit is love. If we keep choosing to be friends with each other, and with other people, we will keep practicing love. And love isn’t always just a feeling, it’s doing all the hard things, like being patient, and kind and generous and faithful…all those other fruits that we sing about . It’s a choice. But even when we don’t do it so well, Jesus loves us so much and we can count on that always.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
trench coat, detective hat, magnifying glass, box for evidence, small model or picture of a door, empty jar for ‘breath’, figure of Jesus with marked hands and feet or picture of hand and feet or picture of Thomas touching Jesus like the one above
- Ask children if they remember the story from last week. Remind children about what it means to be a witness and about how Mary was a witness to Jesus.
- Put on costume props and invite the children again to be witnesses and look at the clues together.
- Talk about the disciples who were not yet witnesses.
- Look at the clues in the evidence box:
- the first clue: a door – the door was locked because the disciples were afraid that they would be associated with Jesus. Jesus was killed and maybe they would be in danger too. But Jesus got into the room even though the door was locked tight
- the second clue – Jesus! The hand and feet of Jesus were scarred. The disciples could see that it was him, the man who had been badly hurt and killed – he’s alive!
- the breath in a jar – Jesus breathed on them – a dead person can’t breathe! And he told them that it was his Spirit
- Say: “Thomas had to see all of these things to believe that Jesus was alive. Just like Mary didn’t believe it until she heard Jesus say her name.”
- Say: “Jesus told Thomas that his disciples might need to believe even though they don’t see – which means we need to look for clues to Jesus in the stories we hear, in the way we see people acting, in the love we feel”
- Pray: “God, help me to see the way you and your Spirit are with me always. Amen.”
Thursday, April 05, 2012
I was somewhat inspired by Bryan Moyer Suderman's newest album Detectives of Divinity to think about the ways that the biblical witnesses have the clues set before them...and how we do too. So the first Sunday of Easter, I'm starting with Mary Magdalene, witness to the risen Jesus, and having the kids help me look for the clues she found that he was alive.
I'll post the story every week until Pentecost.
Easter Sunday – John 20:1-18
props: trench coat, detective hat, magnifying glass, box for evidence, stone, bandages, figure of Jesus
· Ask if children know what it means to be a witness
o meaning one: to see something with your own eyes
o meaning two: to tell about what you’ve seen
· Often the word ‘witness’ in association with police or detective or the courtroom – like being on the ‘witness stand’ when a witness tells about the crime that they saw.
· Put on costume props and say “Today I’m going to be a detective and you are going to be the witnesses and together we’re going to look for the clues that Jesus is alive – just like in the story from John 20”
o the first clue: a rock – Mary saw the rock rolled away and that was her first clue that Jesus was missing. Talk about where there was a stone out of place in the story.
o the second clue: the cloths that wrapped Jesus’ head and hands – these were left in the tomb but the body wasn’t there. Talk about what the cloths were for and the disciples who saw them.
o the third clue: Jesus himself – Mary thought he was the gardener but she learned that it was Jesus himself. Talk about Jesus’ conversation with Mary.
· Ask: “What did Mary do when she figured out all the clues?” She was a witness who witnessed; she went and told her friends what she had seen: ‘Jesus is alive!’
· Say: “Even though we don’t see Jesus, we do have clues that God is at work in our lives: in the Bible, in the love we feel and receive from our friends and family, in the stories we hear at church and in Sunday school, and in many other way. We just need to keep looking.”
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
I have heard many commentators talk about how healing people of their diseases not only healed their physical ailments but also restored them to their place within family and society. No longer are they outcasts, but whole members of society. I myself have preached something similar - I remember a particular sermon about the woman with the hemorrhage in Mark 5:25-34 which had those kinds of overtones.
A preaching blogger, Sarah Heinrich said this:
I suppose all of this is true, but these days there is something about that which does not sit quite right, especially as I consider preaching this message in a contemporary context. It is equally true now as then that illness and disease cuts people off from their callings and roles. it is equally true that people with illnesses - whether they be mental or physical - struggle with questions of identity, self and relationship to community, when they are unable to fulfill what has been set before them because of their illnesses.
...illness bore a heavy social cost: not only would a person be unable to earn a living or contribute to the well-being of a household, but their ability to take their proper role in the community, to be honored as a valuable member of a household, town, or village, would be taken from them. Peter's mother-in-law is an excellent case in point. It was her calling and her honor to show hospitality to guests in her home. Cut off from that role by an illness cut her off from doing that which integrated her into her world. Who was she when no longer able to engage in her calling? Jesus restored her to her social world and brought her back to a life of value by freeing her from that fever. It is very important to see that healing is about restoration to community and restoration of a calling, a role as well as restoration to life. For life without community and calling is bleak indeed.
Another blogger, Brian Stoffregen, asked this question:
How do we proclaim Jesus' power to heal that takes seriously both these biblical passages of healing and the present reality that mental and physical ailments are not usually instantly removed through prayer and evoking Jesus' name and power over the ailments?Exactly! We do not (usually) have the miracle of healing available to us and yet I believe that the text still has power because of how Jesus responded to people who came to him in their illness. It is important that he did respond. Although in their communities, these individuals may not have had value, may have been untouchable, to Jesus their value was still clear and obvious. Simon's mother may not have been able to serve and care for her family and guests, as previously had been her role and perhaps even her calling. But she was still of immeasurable value, perhaps of even more value, as Jesus attended to her in a special way.
In life and ministry I have encountered or been in relationship with several individuals who have seen terminal illnesses or mental illness interfere with their ability to fulfill their passions and callings. These same illnesses often are isolating, cutting off persons who struggle with them from their communities and friends, making them unable to reach or or take initiative. It is incredibly painful to live with a longing for relationship and the living out of calling and to be trapped in a body that prevents it.
Fortunately we have the clear perspective of history. We, who are Jesus disciples now, are called to restore or maintain the ill person’s role in community. Unlike the crowds and the families of lepers and diseased persons in Jesus' milieu, we can see the value in friend and stranger whose illness can be a dividing wall. We are not able to perform miracles, but we can offer the gift of time and presence. We can offer the intentionality of looking through the eyes of Christ instead of the eyes of the crowd.