Thursday, June 25, 2009

Proper 11 Year B

Proper 11 Year B
(Revised Common Lectionary)

II Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37
OR Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark6:30-34, 53-56

Having brought the "ark of God" to a tent/sanctuary in his new capital city of Jerusalem, David says to the prophet Nathan, "I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." At first the prophet endorses the King's ambition to build a new, more permanent home for the ark. But later, "the word of the Lord came to Nathan." The next time he sees David he reminds him of all the Lord has done for him and the promises for his legacy. However he also says that David should leave to future generations the task of building a "house for My name."

The psalmist celebrates the Lord's unique blessing on David and his progeny, "His seed shall be forever."


Jeremiah's sustained criticism of the monarchy in Israel continues in his "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture." He imagines a new type of shepherd, "A righteous Branch" who will finally promote genuine "justice and righteousness."

With strong verbs-- lead, comfort, prepare-- the psalmist depicts the Lord's constancy and initiative to guard and protect, even near death.

The divide in the early church between the "circumcised" (Jewish) and "uncircumcised" (non-Jewish upbringing) was serious. It mocked the message the church proclaimed from and about Jesus. The writer of Ephesians gracefully but firmly declares that all are now united in Christ, who is "our peace." He references what Jesus himself did "in the flesh" to break down all kinds of barriers. So in Christ's church, "both groups [are made] into one." "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone."

Earlier in Mark's narrative, (6:6b-13; two Sundays ago in the RCL), Jesus sent twelve disciples in pairs to extend his power of healing beyond his personal reach. Now they return and report back to Jesus. He arranges some rest and relaxation for them, but people recognize them and quickly crowds gather around them, believing that if they could just brush against the clothing of Jesus they would be healed. Seeing these crowds of people with such specific needs and so much trust and hope, Jesus is deeply moved. He sees them as sheep without a shepherd. "...[A]nd all who touched [his clothing] were healed."

For the second time in Mark's narrative, (see 3:13-19), Jesus extends the reach of his healing power by deputizing his new followers and sending them away from him to those in need. At these early points in Mark's narrative, they have not yet seen nor heard all that Jesus will accomplish, including the ending of the story. Jesus did not wait until they had accumulated enough knowledge or expereince or any type of qualifications or conventional authority before he told them to go; stop just sitting around listening and go where the needs of people are. What would cause Jesus to take a risk with a few novice followers? Mark's answer is perfectly clear, Jesus "had compassion" for the needs of so many who seemed so clueless and yet so full of hope. So twelve of his unformed , unprepared -- later events would make clear how unprepared they really were-- jumped into the needy crowds and healed as they could. Mark says they were stunningly successful, despite themselves.

Jean-Luc Marion concludes his
Prolegomena to Charity with a fresh re-reading of Jesus' departure and commissioning (at his ascension) of his followers to continue the work he inaugurated in word and deed, relying on the narratives of Matthew and Luke. What he writes next, viewed from a different angle, might be just as apt or even more fitting for Mark's narrative, which provides two occasions when Jesus sent out his followers very early in their relationship with him. Marion writes, " ...[C]harity waits for nothing, commences right away, and is fulfilled without delay. Charity manages the present. And the present, seen form the point of view of charity, signifies also, and before all else, the gift. Charity remembers the gift present, presents the present as gift." "...[W]hen it comes to charity, no excuse, no way out, no explanation is of any avail. I love or I do not love, I give or I do not give. It is certainly no accident that all the parables of the Last Judgement hinge not on faith-- the righteous being the faithful believers, the unjust the miscreants-- nor on hope-- the righteous hoping for the restoration.. of the Kingdom of Israel, the others having given up on it-- but on charity. Have we helped our neighbor, given even from our surplus, loved the least among us? This is the only criteria, the only crisis, the only test. The Judgement singles out not the athletes of faith, nor the militants of hope, but the workers of charity. By consequence, charity becomes for each of us the site of an individual Judgement that, in the end, includes the whole span of time we call our life." (pp 154-155)