Mark 9:38-50 – The metaphor of the body was a commonly used teaching tool in the ancient world, and we see Jesus take it up in our verses this week. While often used to symbolize the community (see also 1 Cor. 12), Jesus creatively uses “body” to address the matter of scandal. We might find Jesus’ language harsh, for he says in effect if a member of the community is leading others astray, that member should be removed, before the whole body is damaged. And his concluding proverb about salt is not innocuous. Salt was used in the ancient Near East as a catalyst to start fires. He is telling his audience to be confrontational at times. Verse 50 could be interpreted to mean that troublemakers should be confronted so that the community can have peace. This passage, when read in this light, is among the “hard sayings” of Jesus. In the context of our modern church communities, we are invited to carry the tension between protecting the integrity of the community and being compassionate toward the wayward. How might we go about discerning when scandal is a danger to the community, and how we might confront it? Brian B. Pinter, Sermons that Work.
Prayer: Creator God, from you every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. You have rooted and grounded us in your covenant love, and empowered us by your Spirit to speak the truth in love, and to walk in your way towards justice and wholeness. Mercifully grant that your people, journeying together in partnership, may be strengthened and guided to help one another to grow into the full stature of Christ, who is our light and our life. Amen. From Indigenous Ministries, The Anglican Church of Canada.
Sunday’s Reflection: Mark 9:30-37: In this run of interwoven passages in Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples are thinking (as we all do, unaided by God’s grace) along pretty unfailingly earthly lines. This section takes us straight into the heart of the tension between natural and grace-assisted ways of thinking. Earthly habits of thought, as we see in verses 30-32, can’t begin to comprehend the mystery of the Resurrection. And the disciples don’t comprehend it on their own. We are told they are too “afraid to ask” (v. 32). Jesus’s mercy in this case pierces through their silence. Instead of rebuking them for their human preoccupation with rank and order (v. 34), he gives them an object-lesson (really a human-being-lesson) and an example when he takes a child into his arms. He takes the lowest-status person in the house—who is also probably the simplest and least complicated—and embraces him. And not only that: he says that to embrace the low status, a simple child in his name is to embrace God. Whoever recognizes this and does it is on the way to true greatness.
What does it mean to welcome someone “in [Jesus’s] name?” Does this verse/teaching mean the same thing as it would without the phrase “in my name?”
How might you be called to welcome Jesus this week? Is there a “child” in your midst?
The gospel writer makes an important turn in this passage from Mark. For the first time, Jesus begins to teach the disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection. He is nearing the time when he will start the journey toward Jerusalem. At this moment, he raises an important question with them: How do you understand who I am? With confidence, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. Then Jesus begins to teach them what is in store for the Son of Man. This provokes Peter to rebuke him. Responding, Jesus rebukes Peter so severely that he calls him Satan. Peter both understood and didn’t understand all; he knew that Jesus was the Messiah and didn’t comprehend what that would mean. When Jesus began to teach them, it wasn’t what Peter expected.
It is easy to think we understand. But we so often understand from our perspective as humans and not from the perspective of divine things. We can cling tightly to our ideas about what is happening. Jesus insists the disciples, Peter, and all of us let go of these things, and instead attend to the life of following Jesus, wherever that leads, even if it means unexpected directions, places where we might not otherwise choose to go.(Sermons that Work)
Prayer: Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the Centre of this Sacred Circle through all of which all creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. AMEN. (2021 Season of Creation)
“To whom can we go?” Peter’s words are on one level a great expression of humility. Anyone who makes a deep, abiding commitment will ultimately come to such a point, a realization that we’ve invested so much of ourselves into a relationship, cause, vocation, etc., that the doors to other options, for better or worse, are closed. On a deeper level, we might interpret Peter’s confession here to be a great spiritual truth – ultimate, real meaning can only be found in faith and relationship with God. Many people struggle to find meaning in their lives. I believe this is what lies beneath much of the restlessness and happiness-seeking that goes on in our culture. It is the search for meaning. And to satisfy this search, we are directed toward many avenues – making a name for ourselves, achieving something great, having a family, becoming famous, accumulating wealth, etc. In the end, none of these satisfy our soul-felt longing, because that longing comes from something infinite. As Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Our theology teaches us that God is the One, the True, the Good, the Beautiful. All of our striving is in some way a reaching toward these virtues because we know that’s where meaning is. Ultimately, we’ll find authentic meaning in our lives when we’re in relationship with this God as we know God. This is when and where we will find the answer to the question, “to whom can we go?” Where in your life have you experienced the emotion underlying Peter’s words, “to whom can we go?”
Saint Mary the Virgin 15 August Holy Day: Mary is honoured because she was the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God — and because the Gospels testify that she was a virgin when she conceived and gave him birth. Their witness to such a wonder has generated much of the devotion that is paid to her. But it is not the only reason, for the evangelists also portray her as the archetype of all the people of God and the person who leads their praises of the Almighty.
In Luke’s account of the Annunciation, Mary was perplexed by the meaning of God’s word to her and yet chose to accept the wondrous service which it ordained her to accomplish. After the birth of her son, Mary continued to be puzzled whenever she met with a further sign of his divine origin or with hints of what he was meant to do. But she was always patient in her puzzlement; in Luke’s words, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The fruit of her pondering may be reflected in the fact that all the evangelists say that she followed her son from Galilee to Jerusalem and stood with the small company of women who witnessed his crucifixion. The Book of Acts adds that, after the resurrection, she shared in the disciples’ community of prayer and watched with them for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
An ancient tradition testifies that Mary was taken up in glory as soon as she died, and Christian devotion has never begrudged her the place of highest honour in the presence of God. It has delighted in the conviction that she who responded to God’s perplexing call with praise must already enjoy the reward of faith — and that she who gave the Son of God his human life has received all the fullness of the eternal life which he was born to give.
Sunday’s Reflection: This gospel passage from John centers around one sign and one issue in the gospel: John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus’ special relationship with the Father. First is Jesus’ special relationship with the Father. If one desires to be close to Jesus, then one must be “drawn” by the Father. Jesus continues, describing how those who listen and hear God come to Jesus. Jesus tells the people that no one has seen the Father except the One who has come from the Father. Later in the gospel, Jesus will tell Philip and the other disciples that to see him (Jesus) is to have seen the Father (14:9).
Second, after he speaks of the Father, Jesus makes the profound statement that he is the bread of life and connects that point to the Exodus story. Manna, in the Exodus wilderness journey, provides necessary food for the survival of God’s people. Jesus proclaims that those who ate the manna died and those who partake of the bread of life that is given from heaven will have eternal life.
· How do you react to the rather abrupt ending of this gospel passage?
· Does this passage make you want to hear more about Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the bread of life?
· As a Christian, how might you explain Jesus’ special relationship with the Father and his being the Bread of Life?
Sunday’s Reflection: In finding Jesus, they ask, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (v. 25). The narrative in this Gospel can be understood on two levels, and that is true of this question. The crowd means to ask only about how Jesus transported himself to Capernaum. We have learned from last week’s story, (v. 22-23) that the crowd had noticed that there was only one boat and that Jesus had not gotten into it. Jesus got there by walking on the water—a miracle that speaks to his identity as the Son of God. At the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus satisfied their physical hunger, and now they are looking for more of the same.
Jesus challenges the crowd to raise their eyes to see beyond the physical realm. Jesus said, 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. Jesus is not saying that physical needs are unimportant. But now he calls the crowd to acknowledge their need for “food that endures for eternal life”—promising that the Son of Man will give them that food.
God feeds billions daily, but we take notice only when we miss a meal—or when the feeding takes place under dramatic circumstances. We, too, say, “Give us a sign, Jesus. Do something spectacular, so we can believe in you.” Sometimes we even present Jesus with trivial tests—”Find me a parking place, Jesus, and then I will believe.”
What are some spiritual things that nourish and sustain you in your day-to-day life? What spiritual practices are the ones you feel bring you closest to God? Richard Niell Donovan, Sermon Writer.
Sunday’s Reflection: Preachers try to explain this Gospel by saying that Jesus convinced the people to share their food with each other. Their open-heartedness and mutuality were the true miracles. This is a fine lesson, but there is something deeper here – the power of the “Bread of Life” in the face of overwhelmingly hopeless circumstances. Let’s briefly explore what this text might teach us about Christian hope, as well as the notion of testing (v6) and finally the move to make Jesus king (v15).
We note that John evokes the memory of the Exodus by setting this story in the wilderness near the time of the Passover festival. Those sacred events from Israel’s past were also apparently hopeless situations overcome by the creative, surprising power of God. Ronald Rolheiser observes, “What do we need to understand about the loaves? We need to understand that we are with the bread of life, everything we need to feed the world we already have…We have the resources already; though on the surface those resources will always look over-matched, hopeless, dwarfed, nonsensical, wishful thinking. On the surface, invariably, we will look…not up to the task of …feeding a hungry, greedy world.” Hope is trust that God, with our cooperation, will find a way.
Where in your life are you being called to exercise the kind of “hope” discussed above? Brian B. Pinter, Sermons that Work
Prayer: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday’s Reflection: These verses of Mark’s gospel serve as a bookend for a “bread miracle” in which Jesus feeds five thousand people (vv. 35-44) and the episode that immediately follows in which Jesus walks on the sea (vv. 47-52). Taken together, Jesus’s invitation of the disciples into a “deserted place” (v. 31) followed by his miraculous provision of food and demonstration of power over the chaotic element of water all hearken back to Israel’s first wilderness wanderings with God (see Exodus 14 and 16). The comparison is no accident. The “many” (vv. 31 and 33) who are “like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34) also figure importantly in these parts of the narrative. Twice we are told that the people “recognized” (vv. 33 and 54) Jesus, and far from ignoring or intently evading them, he has “compassion” on them, “teach[es] them many things” (v. 34), and heals them (v. 56).
· What do you think the people “recognize” in Jesus?
· What, if anything, can we glean from the people’s approach to Jesus and Jesus’ approach to the people?
· Does anything else stand out to you in this passage?
Prayer: Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.