Posts Tagged 'lec'

For Feb. 13, 2013: Ash Wednesday

The Reading            Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

The prophet Joel, most probably writing in the fifth century before Christ, describes an enormous army assailing the land of Judah. It is an army of locusts: grasshopper-like creatures that swarm by the billions, darkening the sky and devouring every green leaf for miles. Joel tells us it is a sign of the day of the Lord, and calls every living soul to drop everything and turn to the Lord with fasting and weeping.

The Response            Psalm 103:8-14

The Epistle            2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

For Joel, the day of the Lord was bringing bad times. Paul also is convinced that the day of the Lord is right now. For Paul, however, the day of the Lord is a day of salvation—and a day in which those who love God serve gladly in every way possible as the ambassadors of God’s great love to the whole world.

The Gospel            Matthew 6:1-6,16-21


Further thoughts

The readings for Ash Wednesday are the same each liturgical year, but the preceding Sunday’s readings for the end of Epiphany vary, and the differences set up intriguing shifts in perspective from one year to the next.

A common thread for Year C has to do with light and darkness. Last Sunday we read of Moses exuding light after his encounters with the living God, and we gawked with the disciples as they saw the flesh-and-blood Jesus transfigured into something more like Light of Light, True God Of True God, and we heard the epistle extend the point that going deliberately and mindfully into the presence of the Light of Lights has a way of rubbing off on a person. And well it should: human beings are clearly designed to respond to the Light.

Today’s readings bring us face to face with the dark. We human beings aren’t the Light: we are reckless, feckless, and sometimes mindless. Jesus has to tell us to start doing the right thing because it is right, not in order to look right to all the people we’re sure are either taking cues from us or potshots at us. How easy it is to absorb the light we’re intended to reflect!

Furthermore, we’re mortal. The smudging on my forehead of dark ashes—from bright fire applied to last year’s living palm frond—reminds me that I too am not far from my end, and I tremble and hope in the darkness for forbearance I don’t deserve. The sight of ashes on your forehead should remind me that you are in the same fearful boat as I, that a share of the burden to offer forbearance to you lies with me. Joel’s call quite properly extends this burden to the entire people, infants and all; Paul’s list of difficulties paradoxically reminds us that, to misinterpret Matthew 11:30 (but usefully), this burden truly is Light.

Can any of us really get to stand fully in the Light if all of us can’t?

For Oct. 25, 2012: Proper 25, Year B

The Reading            Job 42:1-6, 10-17

When Job the righteous lost everything, his friends imputed this to his sin. In today’s reading Job, having angrily challenged God and heard God’s reply, acknowledges God’s sovereignty and recants his challenge. The reading omits the verses in which God scolds Job’s friends for misrepresenting God and bids them ask Job to pray for them. This is a God who can bear human anger—and a man who can live again and love after disaster.


The Response            Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22


The Epistle            Hebrews 7:23-28

The letter to the Hebrews continues to explain how and why Jesus is the ultimate high priest: resurrected, Jesus continues to intercede for us, and sinless Jesus was able to sacrifice himself once for all the sins of all of us. “The word of the oath” refers to the quotation from Psalm 110:4 in last week’s epistle reading:

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”


The Gospel            Mark 10:46-52


Further thoughts

The scriptures for Proper 25 bear in large measure on seeing straight and speaking straight.

Job’s outburst at God earns Job an outburst in return—but Job is also called “my servant”, because he sees and responds to things in God that his well-meaning friends have missed. First, Job surmises that God is too big, too God, to be in the business of doling out gold coins only to the good kids and lumps of coal only to the bad kids, as humans tend to do; second, Job keeps talking to God even when it seems that God’s back is turned on Job; third, God Most High is also God Right Here, listening to Job’s grief and even his anger.

As for the blind beggar in the gospel, we know little of his past, except that people see him as someone who should be seen only at ground level and heard not at all, a nobody—calling him “Bartimaeus” is like saying that my name is “Ed’s kid”. But sightless Bartimaeus has insight that those around him miss: not only is this Jesus the Son of David, the Promised One of God, he is very much in the business of mercy for the marginalized—and so Bartimaeus tells it and yells it.

Job and Bartimaeus see and speak, but they also act and risk. Job prays for his unenlightened friends. That his fortunes are restored sounds a bit pat in the reading, but no child comes without begetting, which is an act of love and a bet on life itself—and Job and his wife raise fully ten more children, each so loved that the daughters receive inheritances alongside their brothers. Blind Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak, which is all his warmth and all his security: letting it fall where he can’t count on recovering it by touch is betting quite literally everything on Jesus’ mercy. Then, having received his sight—and, one senses, much more—he goes out into the world to follow Jesus.

The psalm praises, and the epistle to the Hebrews spells out, what it is that Job and Bartimaeus glimpse: a priest unlike any other that either Job or Bartimaeus would have known, an unprecedented sacrifice, and above and through these a God Most High who is also by God’s own preference nearer than my own heartbeat. This is Jesus who calls me to share the banquet of God’s love and reminds me urgently that the party has already started: the people to share it with are here and the time to share it is now.

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