Archive for May, 2012

Wednesday, May 2nd. Mark 8:22-26

May 2, 2012

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’  Mark 8:22-26


Years ago I heard a great joke…that I can’t really remember.  I would love to tell it but my reconstruction of the punch line would ruin it… But I’ll give it a shot.


Several years after Jesus’ resurrection there was a huge gathering of people who had been healed by Jesus. They had gathered together to remember and to celebrate how Jesus had blessed them.  But as they talked, they began to disagree with each other.


One guy said, “I remember it well.  I was blind and Jesus made a little mud and rubbed it in my eyes.  He told me to go and wash my eyes off in a pool and when I did I could see again.”


The guy from today’s reading said, “No, that isn’t how Jesus heals.  He doesn’t use mud, he uses spit.  That’s what happened to me.  He put saliva in my eyes two times and then I could see again.”


Then a third guy chimed in, “No, you’re both wrong.  All Jesus had to do to heal me was to say the word.  I had never walked in my lifetime until Jesus said the words, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk.’  And I did.”


On and on they argued.  They couldn’t agree with one another.  And thus was born the first three Christian denominations, the Muddites, the Spitittes, and the Word Alone Network.


(cue drum rim shot)


Later this morning I have been invited to lead weekly chapel at a high rise retirement center.  The man who recruited me to the task asked me to choose some songs.  He said, “We have quite a good collection of hymnals – Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian – so I can find pretty much any hymn you want to sing.”  As is usually the case in Texas, Lutherans will be a distinct minority which is fine by me.


After that I’ll go to a home to pray with some people grieving after the death of a loved one.  Some of us will be Lutheran, the others Roman Catholic. 


On Sunday night this week I’ll be among those offering prayers at a national day of prayer event at the largest Episcopal church in Houston.  It is the home congregation of George and Barbara Bush, among others.  People of many different religions will be praying together.


Sometimes, in our immaturity, we see men but they look like trees walking.  Our vision is obscured.


So we confess our limited vision to Jesus and he touches us anew, that we might see more clearly.


And finally we trust, we hope, and we pray with St. Paul, that though we see now as through a mirror darkly, a day might come when we see God face to face.  When we know God as we are fully known.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, whatever it takes, we pray that you touch us with the love that allows us to see ourselves and others with clarity, with grace, with appreciation and with love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Tuesday, May 1st. Mark 8:11-21

May 1, 2012

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.


Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’  Mark 8:11-21


I have a horrible time with basic math.  Complicated math?  Weird words like calculus?  I have no idea what that even means.  I have never been good at math and it seems highly unlikely that I ever will be any good at math.  Even the easy stuff.


For example, this week I will be writing my pastor’s report for April.  I know that our average worship attendance last year was 241.  This year it is more like 255.  I would love to be able to tell you what percentage increase that change represents but I’m clueless how to figure that out on my own.  In the old days I would ask for help.  Now, in the Internet age, I google “how do I calculate percentage increase?” and I click on the Wiki-answer.  Then I use the calculator on my telephone to divide whatever it is I need to divide by whatever I need to divide it and then I will get an answer.


I won’t trust the answer.  It won’t look right.  But I’ll write it down anyway and hope for the best.


When it comes to math, I have a black hole in my brain and it just doesn’t compute.


When it came to Jesus, it seems like he was surrounded by people who had similar kinds of black holes in their brains.  They just didn’t get it.  From the Pharisees seeking magic parlor tricks to the disciples who can’t seem to make the connection between Jesus’ words and actions, many people around Jesus appear absolutely stymied. 


Simple math isn’t going to get them to understand Jesus.  He couldn’t possibly do enough miracles so that their sum total would equal “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, in the flesh, for the salvation of the whole world.”


In the same way, although agnostics and atheists will do the best they can, they can’t add up all the negative stuff in life or in history and say that equals “there is no God.”


It isn’t about math.  Never will be.  The math of the Kingdom of God will never add up.  It is about love.  Always has been and always will be.  You can’t “count” love – but you can always count on it.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, yes, we are slow to understand.  We are slow to get it.  We need to learn the same lessons over and over again.  Thank you for your patience with us.  Thank you for your kindness, your provision, your presence.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.