Archive for May, 2020

Mark 9:20-29

May 29, 2020

And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! —All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.

When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” Mark 9:20-29

There is good news in the midst of this pandemic. Even as millions get infected and hundreds of thousands die, many more people recover. They get better. For some, the recovery is relatively quick. For others, effects linger for weeks. But they get better too.

The mystery of it is “Why?” Why do some recover and others don’t? Why is Covid 19 mild for some and devastating for others? The best medical minds in the world are chasing down answers to those questions. Answers that may, or may not, come.

In our imaginations, we put ourselves into this father’s sandals. We sense his desperation and heartache in watching his son suffer horribly since he was a little boy. Imagine his joy to see his son restored! Imagine his son, gripped his entire life by a power greater than himself, suddenly released by a power even greater than that. Jesus does his thing and the boy is able to stand.

The father speaks for all of us with his words, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Isn’t that where we all are?

Jesus told his friends, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” Could this be a lesson that they would have done well to spend less time arguing with the scribes and more time in praying for the boy? That idea hits close to home for me.

It isn’t an “either-or” – it is a “both-and.” The old wisdom goes both ways – “Pray as though it were up to God and work as though it was up to you” as well as “Pray as though it was up to you and work as though it was up to God.” In the end, we do both.

We do both even as we are caught in our belief and our unbelief. We trust in God’s healing power, in this life or into the life to come. We strive to doubt our doubts as much as we might doubt our faith. We pray. Then we do what we can to make life better.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, today we pray for all the parents whose children do not get better, whose lives are not restored. Be with them. Surround them with the love that will see them through. And we rejoice with those who are being restored to good health. Help us always, in our belief and our unbelief, to trust you in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Mark 9:14-19

May 28, 2020

When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”

He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” Mark 9:14-19

Notice that no one answers Jesus’ question. It was obvious that the scribes (experts in religious laws and social culture) were arguing with the disciples (followers of Jesus) who were not included in the hike to the top of the mountain. The argument was strenuous enough to draw a crowd. So Jesus asks them, “What are you arguing about with them?” They don’t answer.

Instead, a man calls out from the crowd that he has a very sick son who needs help. This isn’t a new problem. The man is desperate, and Jesus’ followers weren’t able to help.

Why? Maybe because they spent their time arguing instead.

Then Jesus asks a question of his own. Irritated to see people who ought to have known better wasting their time arguing with one another, he asks, “How much longer must I be among you?” That question doesn’t get answered either.

Instead, Jesus tells the father to bring the boy to him.

Today the number of deaths from Covid 19 will pass 100,000 people. Most of us now personally know someone who has died. On the one hand, there has been a whole lot of arguing going on. Lots of blaming and blame shifting. Lots of “Yeah but whataboutism” going on.

On the other hand, the family and friends of over 100,000 people are grieving the loss of loved ones, many of whom died with no one beside them but the courageous hospital workers who cared for them to the end.

While privileged people like me sat at a computer or used my telephone from home instead of my office, others put their game faces on and went to work in hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, mailing centers, delivery services, construction sites, police stations, and the list goes on.

Where would Jesus direct his attention? Would he be any less impatient with our incessant arguing?

Let us pray: Lord, direct our attention today to those who are sick and their loved ones who are desperate that they get help. Push us past and through our self-centeredness. Make us far more mindful of WHAT is right rather than WHO is right. For in that, we will more clearly see through your eyes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:9-13

May 27, 2020

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13

I think about writing a daily devotion every morning. I’ve tried to do it again. But the simple fact is that I got stuck here in the 9th chapter of Mark after the story of the transfiguration. I don’t know what to make of the fact that the last time I posted a devotion was also on a Wednesday. In that last one, I called Wednesday – like the Transfiguration itself – a tipping point. Maybe that is what it is. So here we go.

We have been told, our whole lives, that we need to talk about Jesus with other people. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. You get the point.

So how does that square with Jesus’ words as he leads his friends down from the glory of their mountaintop peak experience into the real broken world in which they lived? “Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

What does Jesus know that we forget? Maybe it is this – as important as words are, as important as the Word is, the bottom line is that talk is cheap.

As we will discover later in the story, Jesus’ followers are there, not for the good of the world, but for the prospect of their own privileged position in what they believe to be God’s coming earthly, majestic, all-powerful, glorious, kingdom. Like a corrupt Senator trading on inside information to dump a stock before the market crashes, they are IN baby and they want to stay there.

But Jesus will have none of that. Watch what I DO, because ONLY THEN will you have the slightest understanding of what I have been saying to you all along! This isn’t, by the way, anything new. Have you READ the story of Elijah? Do you REMEMBER how the king and queen – yes, the politicians of the day – sought to kill Elijah?

What will be new? Jesus will rise from the dead. And his disciples will learn not just to talk the talk but to actually walk the walk. That, whenever and wherever it happens, will always be new.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we find ourselves today in this surreal experience of a worldwide pandemic, make us mindful of empty words that don’t lead to actual action. Give us the patience and the perseverance that you modeled as you fulfilled your purpose among us. Give us opportunity today, not to talk the talk but to walk the walk. In Jesus’ name. Amen.