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Posts Tagged ‘Pharisees and scribes’


Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html

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Luke 11:47-54: A Prayer for This Generation

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jacob Jordeans: Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple

Jacob Jordeans: Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple

How terrible for you! You make fine tombs for the prophets—the very prophets your ancestors murdered.

Knowing that all generations falter in their hope to follow Christ, we pray for ourselves and for all who are willing to ask for hope in hopeless situations.

You yourselves admit, then, that you approve of what your ancestors did; they murdered the prophets, and you build their tombs.

Knowing that all generation murder prophets and bury them in white-washed tombs, we pray for ourselves and for all who honor life that comes from God.

How terrible for you teachers of the Law! You have kept the key that opens the door to the house of knowledge; you yourselves will not go in, and you stop those who are trying to go in!

Knowing that all generations hold the key of knowledge and use it for good and for ill, we pray for ourselves and all who continue to prophesize in the face of corruption.

So the people of this time will be punished for the murder of all the prophets killed since the creation of the world.

Knowing that all generations both bless and condemn the Spirit, we pray for ourselves and all who are willing to unravel plots and reveal those who freely deceive others.

When Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began trying to lay traps for him and catch him saying something wrong.

El Greco: The Purification of the Temple

El Greco: The Purification of the Temple

Knowing that all generations lay plots and lie in waiting to put an end to goodness, we pray for ourselves and all who dare to bring light to the world.

When Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to criticize him bitterly and ask him questions about many things.

Knowing that God’s enormous love is capable of healing all wounds, bridging all abysses, and restoring all peace, we pray for ourselves and for all who persist in carrying God’s love into the world.

Amen.

For more images of Jesus driving the money-lenders from the Temple, click on the image above or visit: http://www.artble.com/artists/el_greco/paintings/the_purification_of_the_temple

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Matthew 21:23-27Authority Questioned

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tissot: Authority of Jesus Questioned

Tissot: Authority of Jesus Questioned

I suppose it is natural that after we reflect on God as the lover and the most excellent promise he offers, it is appropriate to pause . . . that we might consider what authority supports these concepts.  Several times Paul advises that we test the spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 8:8, 13:5, Galatians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:21) to see that we are acting in accord with God’s will as opposed to having gone off on a private agenda of our own.  We are not testing God in these cases; rather, we examine our own understanding of what we believe to be God’s word to us.

John recommends that we test ourselves: Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.  (1 4:1)

But what we see in today’s reading is not an attempt on the part of the Pharisees and scribes to discover Jesus’ authenticity as the word of God.  What we see is their desire to gain any information that might silence him, any words with which to catch him, to trip him up.

I love the way that Jesus’ replies to their cagey questions . . . with questions of his own that go to the heart of their envy, greed and deception.  He knows that they fear losing temple tax, power and recognition.  Jesus does not answer their questions . . . nor do they persist; because Jesus has made their dark motives evident through his own patient persevering dialog.

We ourselves are sometimes questioned by people who have ulterior motives and so we might think of these interrogations of Christ as his own demonstration of how to handle one’s self when under fire.  This questioning or testing need not be a bad experience . . . if we remember to speak from the truth we have funded in ourselves through our endless search for God.  For when we are questioned, we find; when we are interrogated, we have the opportunity to encounter God.

authority-link-buuildingAnd so we pray: Heavenly Father, bring us the patience, the wisdom and the serenity to answer the questions put to us from those who test the authority on which we stand.  Help us to test ourselves to see if the spirit we follow is yours.  Help us to seek Christ through scripture and through our daily conversations with you so that we will not be lacking when we are put to the test.  We know that when we empty ourselves of our daily worries, we leave room for you to enter and act. 

When we are anxious, send us your peace.

When we are threatened; send us your peace.

When we are fearful; send us your peace.

When we stand alone; send us your peace.

When we are sorrowful; send us your peace.

When we are abandoned; send us your peace.

When we are questioned; send us your peace.

When we have found you . . . send us your peace . . . that we might recognize you . . . and sink into the serenity you have promised.

Amen. 

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