3 Readings today
1. Psalm 89: one of the many laments in the Old Testament. It is an expression of loss, grief, and confusion similar in mood and content to the poems in the book named Lamentations.
2. Ephesians 2: the mood is just the opposite of the psalm’s. An expression of joy and confidence.
3. Mark 6. Both the psalm and the letter can contribute to our appreciation of this picture of Jesus, his few disciples and his many followers.
Psalm 89: an expression of sorrow and loss
1. The source of sorrow in this psalm: a devastating military defeat
2. The speakers in this psalm do not just ask "Why?" but accuse God
a. 12 accusations in about that many lines
b. Still the people are addressing God: “You…you…you!”--
a. Each people has a god
b. The strength of a people depends on the strength of their god
c. The prosperity of a group of people indicates God's being with & working for that people
d. The misery of a group of people indicates God not being with & working for that people
4. Throughout the Bible, these are shown to be FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS
a. Sermon on the Mount: the poor and persecuted are citizens of God's kingdom
b. Jesus experiences the grief and shame that is lamented in the psalm:
i. "You have rejected your anointed one" (v.38)
> “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected” Mk 9.12
ii. "Your servant has been mocked... mocked [at] every step" (vv. 50-51)
> The soldiers led Jesus away…and mocked him…
"the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him" (Mark 15.16,20,31)
iii. "He has become the scorn of his neighbors."
> "Those who passed by hurled insults at him….
Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him." (Mark 15.29,32)
iv. "You have covered him with a mantle of shame."
> Jesus, the pioneer...of faith…endured the cross…its shame…" (Hebrews12.2 )
Ephesians 2:11-22: a radically new way of viewing “God’s people”
1. Christ’s purpose: to create one new humanity,
a. In contrast to assumptions similar to those behind Psalm 89:
i. Jewish God v. Gentile’s god/s > "our God against their God/gods"
ii. Jewish identity v. Gentile identity "our identity versus their identity"
b. Christ Jesus has “destroyed the barrier, the diving wall of hostility” between the two” with the “purpose…to create in himself one new humanity out of the two.”
i. Easy to accept this when put in terms of groups that we do not often think of in our daily lives. But more in keeping with what was a radical message 2000 years ago is the message today that “Christ Jesus has “destroyed the barrier” between the Christian and the Moslem--or some other group viewed in hostile terms by many identifying themselves as Christians.
ii. The Methodist Book of Discipline affirms that we must work at breaking down walls of hostility: “We have entered into serious interfaith encounters and explorations between Christians and adherents of other living faiths of the world.... As people bound together on one planet, we see the need for a self-critical view of our own tradition and accurate appreciation of other traditions. In these encounters, our aim is...to raise all such relationships to the highest possible level of human fellowship and understanding.” (Par. 105)
iii. “the dividing wall of hostility”: a great contrast between what’s said about the wall of hostility in the letter to the Ephesians and what has been said about another wall of hostility in recent discourse:
--"Christ...has destroyed...the wall" versus a massive budget to build one
--"one new humanity" versus racism
--Peace versus militant separation of mothers & children
2. Christ’s preaching: peace.
a. “He came and preaced peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”
b.. Christ himself is our peace—not our religious identity, certainly not our national identity or our social status, or our economic security.
3. Christ’s presence: God’s Spirit in all of us
a. The growth of the Christian community is like the construction of a building
i. All parts of the building are connected together, supported by a strong foundation > all members of the church connected together, supported by Christ
ii. The building made to host God’s presence—“a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Mark 6.30-44: “You feed them!"
God’s way of working through Jesus and his followers here reinforces themes we have considered throughout the month:
1. July 1: “Give her something to eat” (Mark 5.43)
> "Give them something to eat" (6.37)
2. July 8: Serving with minimal resources (6.8-10)
> Not enough resources! (6.35-38)
3. July 15: the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1)
> "the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish" (Mark 6.42). A basket each for those who said there was not enough!