As expected, the students did excellently leading our worship yesterday. As expected, our supportive congregation was grateful to have been under their leadership. The music, liturgy, and words shared were all quite good.
United Methodists don't use the term "priest" very often. This is one of the ways we're squarely within the Protestant tradition. We think in terms of the "priesthood of all believers" (1 Peter 2:9), rather than those who intercede on our behalf.
Still, there is something about having people in our lives who appeal to God for us. I have no reluctance about Jesus and a human priest, and me all asking for God's forgiveness and provision. I'll take all the help I can get.
It's commonly accepted that the best-known Christian scripture is John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life"). Important teachings can be mined here: it begins, as does all of our hope, in God's love; God's love is universal; God's love is unfathomably generous and self-sacrificing; God's gift includes the invitation to believe, that is to engage in a relationship with this Son; such a relationship leads to eternal life, which overcomes the power of death.
You're familiar with the "cleansing of the temple." Each gospel tells this story of Jesus entering the temple and throwing over the tables of money exchangers and those selling animals for sacrifice. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), this occurs immediately after the hosannas of Palm Sunday and gives the religious authorities greater evidence that Jesus must go.
We've seen another week of people taking up sides. Depending on where we want "the truth" to lie, we tend to hear the facts in ways that will point to that result. It's part of the human nature ever since the start. (Remember how Adam was sure it was the woman who made him eat of the fruit and she was sure it was the serpent who caused their sin. Remember, also, how God wasn't fooled by any of them?)
Forty in the Bible is a number representing completeness or a sufficient amount of time for whatever needs to be done to be accomplished.
For forty days and forty nights it rained in the flood story in Genesis. For forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness after the exodus. Moses was on the mountain with God forty days receiving the commandments, while the Israelites waited those same forty days for him to return.
If you're planning a trip to Westcliffe, Colorado to see the Milky Way (this is related to my sermon from yesterday), be advised that they get a lot of clouds in that valley. It's possible that you would go to a place that has done what they can to make the glory of the night sky visible and while you're there, all you see is a dark blanket of clouds. We can set the conditions just right for the night's glory to be revealed and it still not be visible to us.
This Sunday we will celebrate Jesus' transfiguration. It's another holiday when you won't get a greeting card. Even those of us used to odd, mostly unrecognized church days don't have cards for this one. Maybe I'll start a line. A blindingly bright outside with the greeting inside, "Have a dazzling Transfiguration Sunday" or "Jesus is really bright. Listen to him." We'll see.
In his sermon about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Rev. Cattenhead quoted part of Isaiah 52:7, which says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"
St. Paul tells us he has no choice but to proclaim the gospel. It is "an obligation laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).
When one is so compelled, he or she will do most anything to fulfill the mission. Paul said, "I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some." (9:22; part of the sanctuary reading for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23). If you'd like to read a version of the gospel message Paul preached - Acts 13:13-41 is a representative sermon.
His authority would become a source of conflict between him and religious leaders, including the scribes. Early on, Mark introduces the conflict by noting that Jesus taught as one with authority, and "not as the scribes" (1:22).
Matthew places Jesus in a teaching role, opening up his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Luke wants us to know that in Jesus the needs of the oppressed will be met as he fulfills prophetic anticipation (Luke 4:16-21). John shows his power through the miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Mark 1:21-28, the gospel lesson for Sunday, shows Jesus teaching and expelling a demon as part of the same scene, establishing his authority among us.
I pride myself on having a good sense of direction. I have used that to get myself, my family, and my friends lots of places. Most of the time they seem to appreciate it. Sometimes they seem to be annoyed by it. My friend Michael has, for 8 years now, relished the time in Atlanta that I went the opposite direction than we should have gone (he was certain we needed to go to the left, I was equally certain we needed to go to the right; he was correct and hasn't gotten over it). A wiser me would realize I don't know Atlanta's roads at all and would have been humble enough to seek assistance.