The Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King Sunday, Year B (11/22/2015)

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93 (2)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

St. John 18:33-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Thy Kingdom Come

In May of 1529, after a discouraging program of visiting with Christian families in and around Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther published a short pamphlet entitled “Der Kleine Katechismus” (or “The Small Catechism”) — a teaching tool for parents to use in sharing their faith with their children. In this catechism, Luther provided help in understanding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and other basics of the Christian faith.

This week, I am thinking about his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, and particularly the petition, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther writes:

Q:  What does this mean?

A:  Truly God’s Kingdom comes by itself, without our prayer. But we pray in this request that it come to us as well.

Q:  How does this happen?

A:  When the Heavenly Father gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we believe the holy Word by grace and live godly lives here in this age and there in eternal life.

I love Luther’s image of God’s kingdom: living godly lives now and into eternity, led by the Holy Spirit, empowered by grace, and grounded in the holy Word. Maybe that is what Jesus’ means when he declares, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

This week’s Gospel lesson is a portion of St. John’s dramatic Good Friday narrative. After sharing a final meal with his followers, Jesus makes his way out to a garden where they often meet. But as they gather there, they are confronted by nothing less than a lynch mob. As St. John puts it, “Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” [St. John 18:3] Jesus is arrested, bound, beaten, and tried by religious and political leaders.

One of those leaders is Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judaea, who serves at the pleasure of the Emperor. It is Pilate who interrogates Jesus, demanding to know whether or not Jesus thinks of himself as a king. Pilate is well schooled in the bloodthirsty tactics of the Roman Empire, which is why he is at a complete loss about what to think of Jesus. (Even his wife was troubled; see St. Matthew 27:19-23.) Kings of this world meet other kings with force, but Jesus seems to willingly accept his fate. He embraces his suffering and death, making it clear, at least to us, that his reign will have nothing to do with violence and terror.

His kingdom is one of grace and love; one of forgiveness and new beginnings; one of purpose and eternity. It is a kingdom which breaks into this world through the events that surround the life of Jesus. It is a kingdom which breaks into the world even today. It is a kingdom which has come, and which is coming. Of this we are certain.

We pray, with Luther, that it might also come to us. So capture our hearts, King Jesus. Rule our lives. Empower our faithfulness. Help us to love and cherish the citizenship we have in your kingdom. Come to us, and be our king. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Pilate (and the rest of the authorities) deal with Jesus?
  2. Why does Pilate have such a difficult time understanding Jesus?
  3. How is the kingdom in which Jesus rules different from the Roman Empire?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean for me to submit to the rule of King Jesus?
  2. How might I characterize the means by which Jesus comes to rule the world?
  3. In what specific ways does the rule of this Crucified King influence my living?

Reformation Sunday (Oct. 25, 2015)

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (7)
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

St. John 8:31-36 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


This weekend our church celebrates “Reformation Sunday.” We do it every year on the last Sunday in October. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the heritage that Martin Luther and his colleagues left us: the heritage of a Christ-centered and a faith-centered life, and a church that is dedicated to stay focused on the good news of what our Lord has done. (more…)

The 21st Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24B (Oct. 18, 2015)

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
St. Mark 10:35-45
Semicontinuous Series
Job 38:1-7 [34-41]
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b (24)

Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:35 James 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.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But 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?” 39 They 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; 40 but 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.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So 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. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

St. Mark 10:35-45 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody

In 1979, Bob Dylan launched these words into the public square, and it seemed as though we heard them a few times every day for months on end:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

It was, as Dylan’s lyrics often are, a challenge to the status quo of our time. We imagine, at least those of us with some degree of power and influence, that we are free, autonomous people, not beholden to anyone or anything. But nothing could be further from the truth. Dylan rightly observes that ambassadors, gamblers, athletes, socialites, rock stars, business executives, doctors and chiefs all serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody. (more…)

The 20th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23B (Oct. 11, 2015)

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
St. Mark 10:17-31
Semicontinuous Series
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15 (1)

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith, that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, we may follow the way of your commandments and receive the crown of everlasting joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

10:17 As 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?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You 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.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, 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.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It 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?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus 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, 30 who 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

St. Mark 10:17-31 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Through the Eye of a Needle

It is a compelling image: the camel going through the eye of a needle. Some interpreters have suggested that Jesus is referring to a physical landmark; for instance: a gate in Jerusalem where a camel could only pass through if it was on its knees, or a mountain pass so narrow that riders had to dismount their camels before passing through. (In other words, “difficult but not impossible.”) I’m not persuaded. I never am drawn to explanations that strive to get Jesus off the hook. I believe his hard sayings are meant to be hard. Besides, even if you contend that Jesus doesn’t mean what he says in verse 25, you still have to deal with what he says in verse 27.

I’m more inclined to agree with C. S. Lewis, who argued that Jesus means what he says. Lewis included these words in his remarks: “You can get a camel through a needle, but it is going to be very hard on the camel.” Christian discipleship is not for the weak-hearted. (more…)

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22B (Oct. 4, 2015)

Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8 (5)
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
St. Mark 10:2-16
Semicontinuous Series:
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26 (3)

Prayer of the Day:
Sovereign God, you have created us to live in loving community with one another. Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast, and teach us to trust like little children, that we may reflect the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

St. Mark 10:2-16 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Marriage, Divorce and Family Matters

It isn’t easy, these days, to speak publicly about marriage, divorce and family matters. Oh, it’s not that the church (and its leaders) has nothing to say. And it’s not that we are afraid of the response we’ll get when we say it. It is, instead, that we are called to both a pastoral and a prophetic ministry. In other words, when people are hurting and broken we are called to offer a pastoral presence — a comforting and encouraging presence that allows them to gain their footing and begin moving forward again. And when people are sinning, and have lost sight of God’s call to them, we are called to offer a prophet presence — a challenging presence that names their sin, invites them to repentance and forgiveness, and calls them to new life.

The problem is, when it comes to marriage, divorce and family matters, both a pastoral and a prophetic message are necessary. When we are gathered for worship, when we are tending to Bible study, even when we are visiting with friends for coffee, it is inevitable. There will be some among us whose hearts are broken because of family difficulties that have spun out of their control. They long for a word of grace in the midst of their brokenness. And there will be some among us whose behaviors are having a negative impact on the families they have pledged to nurture and respect. They need a word of challenge to help them return to what God requires of them. (more…)

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21B (Sept. 27, 2015)

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14 (8)
James 5:13-20
St. Mark 9:38-50
Semicontinuous Series:
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
Generous God, your Son gave his life that we might come to peace with you. Give us a share of your Spirit, and in all we do empower us to bear the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

St. Mark 9:38-50 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Do No Harm

Hippocrates (460 b.c. – 370 b.c.) was an ancient Greek physician, regarded by many as the father of western Medicine, largely due to his work as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. The Hippocratic Oath, a mission statement of sorts for practicing physicians, continues still to inspire medical professionals today, and includes the phrase, “to abstain from doing harm” (ἐπὶ δηλήσει δὲ καὶ ἀδικίῃ εἴρξειν). When providing medical care to patients, physicians, at the very least, are to do nothing that harms them in any way.

In this week’s Gospel lesson, it appears that Jesus is commending a similar oath to us. (more…)

The 17th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20B (Sept. 20, 2015)

Jeremiah 11:18-20 or Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22
Psalm 54 (4)
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
St. Mark 9:30-37
Semicontinuous Series
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1 (3)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, our teacher and guide, you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children. Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition, that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

9:30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for 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.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.  33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then 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.”

St. Mark 9:30-37 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Last of All and Servant of All

“He was teaching his disciples, but they did not understand.” In this way, St. Mark characterizes the ministry of Jesus. We may be tempted to think poorly of these men, who live in the presence of the Savior yet never seem to figure out what he is all about. But if we are honest about it, there are no shortage of ways that people misunderstand him still today. The Prosperity Gospel argues that God wants all believers to be financially successful. Focusing on the family shifts the believer’s attention from the world to his or her own home. Over-emphasis on liturgy suggests that faith is all about ritual behavior. Making rules and regulations central to life suggests that faith is all about moral or ethical commitments. Muscular Christianity promotes manly behavior and rewards those with physical prowess. The list seems to go on and on. (more…)

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19B (Sept. 13, 2015)

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-9 (9)
James 3:1-12
St. Mark 8:27-38
Semicontinuous Series
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19 (7) or Wisdom 7:26 – 8:1 (7:28)

Prayer of the Day
O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation, and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

8:27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

St. Mark 8:27-38 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

“What does it mean to be a Christian?” That was the name of a video series featuring ELCA Bishop Herbert Chilstrom in the early days of our denomination. It is a good question for us to ask. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, the Christ? People have offered many different answers to that question. To be a Christian means having membership in a Christian Church, or believing the teachings that one’s own tradition embraces about Jesus, or having a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ, or declaring faith publicly in the workplace and the neighborhood (or some combination of these). For Bishop Chilstrom, it meant being grounded in God’s grace in such away that causes the believer to live all of life as an opportunity to share this grace with others. (more…)

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18B (Sept. 6, 2015)

Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146
James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17
St. Mark 7:24-37

Semicontinuous Series
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life. Open us to the power of your presence, and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the whole world, through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord. Amen.

7:24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

St. Mark 7:24-37, New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Syrophoenician Divide

She is a woman. (Jesus seems to have a soft spot for women — in many ways second-class citizens in first century life.) She is a Gentile. (Specifically, a Syrophoenician, possibly with lineage that connects her with one or more of Israel’s historic enemies: the Canaanites, the Greeks, and the Romans — just the kind of outsider that Jesus often seems drawn to.) And she has a little daughter who is troubled by an unclean spirit. (In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as being particularly interested in those who are held captive by unclean spirits.) There seems to be ample reason for Jesus to respond positively when this woman approaches him, which makes his response to her quite surprising.

She bows down at his feet and begs for her daughter’s healing. His chilling response is: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” In other words, what he has to give is intended to nourish God’s children (the Jewish people), and it wouldn’t be fair to waste it on dogs (outsiders like her). Is this the Jesus we have come to know and love?


The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17B (Aug. 30, 2015)

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
St. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Semicontinuous Series:
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

Prayer of the Day:
O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures. Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside, and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves, that we may be preserved through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

7:1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many  other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;  7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

St. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


Cherished Beliefs

Jesus.GermsIn the men’s room at Saint Peter there has been (for years) a small card taped to the mirror, at about eye’s level for a 5-year-old. It says, “Jesus and germs are everywhere, so wash your hands and say a prayer.” I have no idea whether there is one in the women’s room. It reminds me of the old joke that ends with, “Jesus and germs, Jesus and germs; that’s all you talk about, and I can’t see either one!”

This week’s Gospel lesson is about Jesus and germs, but the intent of the teaching is not to prevent us from spreading diseases. The intent is to explore religious tradition, and discern the ways in which it promotes or inhibits our participation in the kingdom of God.

The Lutheran church is a liturgical church, with 500 years of rich history behind it. We have many cherished beliefs and practices, and most of them are far more significant than the color of our seat cushions or the Sunday morning worship schedule. At the same time, we think of ourselves as a reforming movement within the catholic tradition — a church that is always committed to evaluating our beliefs and practices (even the ones we cherish the most!) with one question in mind: “Do they strengthen our church’s proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” (more…)

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