September 18th, 2021
“From the Pulpit” – Reflections on the Weekly Texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL
Jesus and the disciples went on] and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
The above is our gospel for Sunday, as we continue in Mark's gospel. We're over half way through the 16 chapters in Mark's gospel, and just prior to this text is the transfiguration of Jesus. As he comes down that mountain with some of his disciples, and having encountered Moses and Elijah up there, the two heroes of the Hebrew bible (the Old Testament), he realizes he is headed for his own trial and execution. Check it out.
In the two pieces I've underlined above, for a change, the disciples are quiet, both times when Jesus is around. First, he explains to them what he must soon undergo as the Son of Man - betrayal (I rather think this better interprets as "being handed over" - there's a difference), and in the second one, where Jesus and his buddies are in a house, Jesus hears the guys arguing over which of them is the greatest. Overhearing that conversation, he asks them what they were talking about. In other words, they're BUSTED! They knew he had heard them arguing over petty stuff, and like the kid getting caught in some mischievous behavior, they know they have no defense for their behavior. So, embarrassed, they remain silent, because they knew they had no defense for what they were doing and saying. You can just imagine the trash talk among the guys, each trying to outdo the other in who's the greatest among them. I would have liked to be in on that conversation.
The message here in these two paragraphs is that the message of Jesus is not one of power as the world would have known it then. The Messiah as the suffering servant? How can that be? And the way they treated children - representing a group that was the lowest of the low in his day, were both counter to what the disciples were thinking. "If you want to be my disciples, you must first tend to the neediest, the lowliest, the down and out, the excluded in our world", Jesus is essentially saying. And that, along with hearing that Jesus must suffer and die, were hard lessons for the disciples.
And yet, that is the way of the cross, isn't it? To be restless while others in our world suffer at the hands of others. To be active against hatred and exclusion of any kind. To have a faith that is active in love, and not passive. This is the gospel message, is it not? To not accommodate the ways of the world, to resist and struggle against evil and hatred.
My message on Sunday will take a look at one particular ministry of the ELCA and how it engages in the world, with the world's suffering and migrant population, and how we can engage to help support that ministry. I'm guessing that not many of us will ever come face to face with an Afghan refugee, or will engage with Haitian or Honduran migrants living under a bridge in Texas or elsewhere. But that doesn't mean we can't have a faith that is living, active, and engaged in the world. We'll talk about ways we can engage, and support those who are called to this work.
Thanks be to God, Amen!
How Do Lutherans Interpret the Bible?
Hmmm...good question. First of all, we Lutherans DO interpret the bible. But ask anyone who's been involved with an ESL program or other, and interpreting Greek and Hebrew into English is likely to miss out on certain nuances of what the original writers were trying to say. Sometimes, interpretation just misses out a little. Our Italian friends have a saying when interpreting Italian into English - every translator is inescapably a traitor. In other words, sometimes, now matter how true we try to be in translating, often times something is lost. A good example? Sufferers of political or domestic persecution, in reading stories about the same in the bible may interpret such texts differently than you or me, who are relatively free from such persecution. Or the child of an abusive parent may look at the phrase God the Father somewhat differently than others who had no such abuse as a kid.
Luther said that we should interpret Scripture as being "the manger" in which Christ lies. Jesus is always the focus, in both Old and New Testament readings. In other words, start with Jesus as the center of any biblical reading, and read out from there.
Lutherans view the Scriptures and the "God-breathed" word of God. Inspired by God. Written by human, fallible people who had a point to make, a perspective to share. And, keep in mind, that the bible is not linear. It's not like reading a 21st century novel, where there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Think of the bible as a library, containing 66 books of history; letters; poetry; songs; prophecy; and the gospel accounts. So, dig in, and enjoy the read.