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Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
The drama is building. This text is the last event in Mark before Holy Week. Next, as chapter 11 begins, is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the day the church calls Palm Sunday. Things have been picking up speed since the Transfiguration back in chapter 9, with a prophecy, a healing, then Christ meditates on his death. Jesus mediates a dispute among the disciples, teaches about divorce, about honoring our relationships, blesses little children, tells the rich young man that in order to follow him he has to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. This man goes away, ‘shocked and grieving,’ Mark says, ‘for he had many possessions.’ Our Executive Presbyter, Ted Churn, is going to preach on this text for us next week. Another teaching section with the disciples, and we’re here…
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” he cries out. I wonder if you have too. Maybe not those words, but maybe in response to when the doctor calls back and says to come in, she’s seen something. Maybe because of a job change you weren’t seeking, a relationship come to an end. Maybe it’s simply because you’re tired, weary, and your kid – the one you thought was fine – got in trouble or flunked something or got pulled into something with friends that did not allow for good decision-making. You make a mistake, don’t take the time, fly off the handle in a way that makes you keenly aware of your own brokenness. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.Read more ....
I mentioned a month ago Viktor Frankl’s extraordinary 1959 book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl, an Austrian neurosurgeon and psychologist was, along with his family, deported first to a ghetto, then Auschwitz. He was moved to a camp near Dachau, which is where he was when the camp was liberated. His parents and wife were killed. After this experience his work shifted to assessing the psychological impact on both prisoners and guards in the camps. How did some survive and others not? What mattered? He did some important work, writing and teaching in Europe and the US. “Man’s Search for Meaning” begins with a lengthy description of his experience, then some analysis. His key insight was that life was not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Adler believed, or for power, with Freud. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. He saw three sources for this meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless, he wrote, but we give it meaning by the way…we respond to it.
Towards the end of the book he writes:
Let me recall that which was perhaps the deepest experience I had in the concentration camp. The odds of surviving the camp were no more than one in 28…It did not even seem possible, let alone probable, that the manuscript of my first book, which I had hidden in my coat when I arrived at Auschwitz, would ever be rescued. Thus, I had to undergo and to overcome the loss of my mental child. And now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a mental child of my own! So I found myself confronted with the question whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning.Read more....
“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” This is a line that really makes me want to know what James had seen. It feels like James saw something specific happen that made him angry, that he has a picture in his head. Do you with your favoritism, picking of favorites, privileging some people over others, as William Barclay writes: “Respect of persons[/favoritism] is the New Testament phrase for undue and unfair partiality; it means pandering to someone, because he [or she] is rich or influential or popular.” Barclay continues:[James] draws a picture of two men entering the Christian assembly. The one is well-dressed and his fingers are covered with gold rings. The more ostentatious of the ancients wore rings on every finger except the middle one, and wore far more than one on each finger. They even hired rings to wear when they wished to given an impression of special wealth. “We adorn our fingers with rings,” said Seneca, “and we distribute gems over every joint.”
…into the Christian assembly comes an elegantly dressed and much beringed man. The other is a poor man, dressed in poor clothes because he has no others to wear and unadorned by any jewels. The rich man is ushered to a special seat with all ceremony and respect while the poor man is bidden to stand, or to squat on the floor, beside the footstool of the well-to-do.
While this feels exaggerated, I wonder how far it is from the truth, just in slightly subtler ways. Maybe it’s not about a bunch of rings, but it does make me think about how folks might feel welcomed here, or not. About, maybe, the difference between someone who moves into Hope Valley on a street with a handful of church members, who works with a number of you or runs in the same social circles or plays soccer with your kids. About the way they might be greeted, and about the ways someone else might be, who just moved here, who doesn’t know anyone, who is quiet and maybe even trying to slip out unnoticed. Maybe they aren’t wearing the nicest clothes – which isn’t a huge deal, we’re not a terribly formal place. Maybe they haven’t been in church awhile and it shows, standing up at the wrong time, maybe…maybe they bring one of the many kinds of diversity we lack. Or maybe its best asked as a question which is important to think about this busy time of year when we’re back in the saddle and settling into routines, working out calendars: Who are we most likely to welcome well? And, more importantly, I think, who are we less likely to welcome well, and what might that say about us?Read more....