II Corinthians 4:13-5:1
St. Mark 3:20-35
The Book of Genesis is more than that. It is not a book in our modern sense of the word. In fact the Hebrew word that is usually translated as “book” is the word sefer (scroll) and its etymology comes from the notion of “something recounted”. How different that is for us. That a book should contain the witness of our memory suggest reading that which we already know. There are two major recounting in the book of Genesis, and each is layered with the memories of several redactors or editors. The first is the Primeval History (chapters 1-11) and the second is the Patriarchal Tales (chapters 12-50). In the primeval recounting there is no sense of the future. That was an unknown in the Israelite mind. It was literally behind the reader/hearer and could not be seen. These stories are about how things began, and are thus “in front”, accessible touchstones for granting meaning to life as a community.
The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate." The LORD God said to the serpent,
Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."
If we read ahead a bit in Exodus 20:26 “You shall not ascend to my altar by steps, lest your nakedness be exposed” we gain some insight into this part of the primeval story. The sentiments regarding nakedness resound in the patriarchal story of Noah, who is seen naked by his sons – a shame to him and to them. Thus the man and the woman appear before God unprepared and naked. This shame is further complicated by counter accusations: “the woman you gave to be with me – she gave me fruit from the tree”. The accusation isn’t against the woman so much as it is against God. Accusations then follow for the serpent as well. It is a complicated situation – there is not righteousness here. It is important to note that this story, edited by “J” ends with the promise of salvation, however. In a ancient near eastern style, the chaos of sin is overcome by a gracious creator.
Breaking open Exodus:
- What are your feelings about nakedness?
- What might it mean to be “naked before God”?
- How does shame show itself in your life? How about forgiveness?
Psalm 130 De profundis
Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
for with the LORD there is mercy;
With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
This is a psalm of contrasts, and has a penitential character as well. What is contrasted are the depths and the dawn. First, we must understand the “depths”, which is code for the “sea” or the “waters”. In Hebrew poetry, these elements represented death, and they were deeply feared. When the author speaks of calling out of the depths, he is speak about calling from the threshold of his own death. From that vantage point he waits for God to meet him with mercy and grace. It is at this point that we encounter the contrasting element of light. The model of this is the watcher at the tower anticipating the first light of dawn – the tinge of light that gives way to the rising sun. Such is the author looking for the dawning light of God’s “plenteous redemption.” It should also be noted that this is not redemption for an individual only, by for all of Israel.
Breaking open Psalm 130
- What are the depths of your life?
- Does your prayer life help when you are brought low?
- How do you “wait upon the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture-- "I believed, and so I spoke" -- we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Again, we are faced with contrasts. Here Paul contrasts the earthly body and its sentence of death, with the heavenly body and its promise of eternal life. In the tension of these to aspects of existence there lies the hope and renewal that comes each day. Martin Luther summarized this notion in his Small Catechism when he writes on the Sacrament of Baptism: “that a new (person) should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” The other image that Paul uses is that of the tent – a temporary structure. Here he lays aside the notion of his contemporaries that saw the soul as a prisoner of the body (the tent). Paul saw a different future, the body glorified by that would be given to those who believe.
Breaking open II Corinthians
- How has your body changed over time?
- Does it remind you that one day you will die?
- What do you think of Paul’s commentary on the glorified body?
The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
This is an intriguing conversation about relationships. All sorts are considered here: families, spiritual, political, power, and internal. In the guise of speaking about the family, Jesus uncovers the truth about our relationship with God, and how all-encompasing that relationship can be. Within the standard wisdom and proverbs of the time, Jesus reveals that we reflect in our relationships our attitudes toward God, and ultimately our destiny in God. It is Kingdom of Heaven talk, and it is about a community march larger than we can image. Those who follow need to see the world in much larger terms than we have in the past. We too need to answer the question, “who are my mother and my brothers?”
Breaking open the Gospel:
- Who comprises your family?
- What do your relationships with your family (either real or virtual) tell you about your life in Christ?
- Who should be in your family?
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:
O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.