CACINA

The Long and Short of Mark 1

6th Sunday Ordinary time, 2-11-18

Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; Ps: 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

This is the last Sunday before the start of Lent. For the last three weeks, we have had sequential readings from the Gospel of Mark.  In fact, we have read nearly all of Chapter 1.  Mark has given us a great deal of information about Jesus, the purpose and style of his mission, his unique authority to teach and heal, and his intensity and power.  Today, I want to recap these readings, because I believe they are an excellent entry into Lent as well as a very solid base for expanding the ministry of Holy Trinity.

The first 14 verses of Mark tell us about the baptism of Jesus and his time of temptation in the desert. Jesus’ first words recorded by Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” You will remember that when the ashes are placed on your forehead on Ash Wednesday,  one or both of these things are said, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  (Now we know where that came from.) The second one is not as familiar, maybe because it seems a little vague; we may not be sure what is being asked of us.

If someone calls you and says, “I have good news – our baby boy was born this morning,” you understand that not only is the message good news, but the baby himself is good news. The Jews had waited about 1,000 years for the arrival of the Messiah.  Now, Mark tells us, the Messiah, Jesus, is teaching and healing and present with his people.  Not only do we find the announcement good, but Jesus’ message is good news, as is his very self.  “Gos” means good and “Spel” means story, or news.   Jesus, and all he says and does, is the gospel.   We are to repent and shed our sin along with shedding the attitude of waiting.

Jesus acts this out by calling Simon, Andrew, James and John from their fishing nets, and “immediately” they leave their boats and go with him.   For them to do that was very counter-cultural, even disrespectful of their family, and, frankly, just plan weird, even for us.  When is that last time you put down your pen on your desk and walked away from your job?  Can you imagine the power in Jesus’ command to, “Come with me”?  Have you ever felt anything like that?  Has God ever put that kind of message in your heart?  What would you do to enliven and built up Holy Trinity if that happened to you?

And then, Jesus, along with his followers, went to the synagogue. Jesus teaches there, “as one having authority”…and not just as a scribe, or scholar.  He commands an unclean spirit to leave a man, and it does.  Everyone is astonished and amazed.  Interesting, isn’t it – the unclean spirits know and obey Jesus in an instant, and we, well, often not so much.  Is it because we haven’t grasped what he asks us to do?  Or do we not know him well enough?

Jesus is then on his way to Simon/Peter’s house the same day. He restores Peter’s mother in-law to health; not only health, but a position of dignity and even fame.  As a widow in declining health, she is a burden on the family and is fearful for the future.  Jesus (immediately) “helpers her up”, says Mark.  What an understatement!

She is able to be a hostess who exceeds the high bar of Mediterranean hospitality. The house becomes the site of all kinds of healings, and her own healing will be known as long as the Bible is read.  Her life had been changed, forever different.  Do you doubt that Jesus could change Holy Trinity into a thriving place of worship and impact the community?

Next, Jesus touches a leper and says, “Be made clean.” This story is full of implications. First, the story came to us in Greek, and Greek uses verbs in ways that we don’t.  In this case, “Be made clean” means, “Someone else will make you clean.”  In other words, God is doing the healing.  Jesus is not claiming this power as his own, just as he does not offer to heal the widow, but helps her move away from the sick bed.  It is a great portrayal of Jesus as the obedient and humble son acting as the conduit of God’s power.  We can be the conduit of God’s power, which is often found in humble prayer, worship, and obedience.

Second, just as “a cold” can mean many possible illnesses, a “leper” in that day could have many different skin conditions. But they all had one thing in common: the person had ugly sores on their body.  Any type of physical disfiguration was suspect then, and made the person “ritually unclean”.  No animal with any physical imperfections could be used for sacrifice in the temple.  Likewise, no person with sores could worship in the temple.  To add insult to injury, the cause of illness was presumed to be sin. The person was blamed for their own illness, and they were viewed as moral pollution in the community.

Because it was seen as a “sin” issue, the Priest banished lepers and declared them healed. The isolation and blame could be worse than the sores.  This leper somehow knows and believes in Jesus.  Jesus, evidently, was a cafeteria Jew, because he followed the Jewish law in Leviticus and sent the leper to the priest; but he touched the leper in pity, thereby breaking another law as he restored the man to wholeness.  Jesus put himself at risk of being mobbed by suffering people in hopes of healing.  He told the leper to be silent, not wanting a reputation as a miracle man/ wonder worker.  Remember, he came to urge repentance and belief.  He knew his goal.  What is our goal, here in this parish?

So, to be like Jesus, we must be short on presumption and long on pity. We must be dependent on God’s power and know it.  We must use God’s eyes to see past the sores on skin and see the sores of the heart.  We must focus on our goal and honor the directives of God, not culture.  With prayerful discernment we must be prepared to act for the glory of God when we are called.  Old presumptions may require repentance, and belief may need to be strengthened.  Our path forward as a church may bring us change, but we can trust it will be “Good News”.

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What are you preaching? Peace or Profit?

Posted in christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on October 8, 2016

28th Sunday ordinary time 10-9-16 yr C 2 Kings 5:14-17, Psalm: 98:1-4,  2 Timothy 2:8-13, Luke 17:11-19 

Today our Old Testament reading is about Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, and Elisha, the prophet of God. The story is 27 verses, the entire 5th chapter of the 2nd Book of Kings.  But, we only get 3 verses in the Lectionary.  I would guess that most people are not familiar with the “rest of the story”, and it is a fascinating story.  Some of these ideas came from Walter Brueggemann, a well known author & scholar of the Old Testament, and I thought they were worth sharing.

 

Naaman was highly respected by the King of Syria, for he was a skilled leader and very successful in battle.   BUT, he was “a leper”, with repulsive sores and flakey, scaly skin.  It would cost him his military/political career and his social position if he didn’t find a cure.

 

In an ironic twist, Naaman’s wife had a slave girl from Israel, captured in a raid, and this slave knew of the miracles done by the prophet Elisha.  So the King of Syrian gave Naaman a letter of introduction to the King of Israel, and Naaman set off, loaded with 10 silver coins, 6,000 gold pieces and 10 expensive sets of clothing, a fortune really, to buy his healing.

 

Well, the King of Israel tore his clothing in despair, thinking this must be an excuse for the Syrians to invade and destroy Israel, because clearly, no one could cure leprosy.  But Elisha heard about the ruckus, and suggested that the king send Naaman to him.

 

When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door, Elisha didn’t even bother to come out. He just sent someone else to tell Naaman to wash 7 times in the muddy old river Jordon.  Naaman was infuriated.  He was certain Elisha would at least wave his hands over him, say prayers, and invoke the Israelite God to cure him.  So Naaman was in a rage, “We have better, cleaner rivers in Damascus, I could have stayed home and washed in a river!”  He turned to leave, but his servants reasoned with him.  “It’s a simple thing to do.   You would have done something difficult if he told you to, why not at least try?”  He did, and he was not only healed, but his skin was as smooth and clean as a child’s.

 

Now, no story is complete until you place it in the culture of the time, and in the Middle East then, you always had to reciprocate for any favor.  So Naaman returns to pay Elisha.  And Naaman even adds a confession of faith, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  Elisha refuses any payment.  No co-pay, no professional fees, no deductable, no monthly premium, no bill to be sent in the mail.  And then, Naaman has a curious request – could he please take 2 mule loads of dirt, so he can worship no other god except the Lord, on Israeli soil, at home, in Syria.   People equated worship with a physical and geographical place, and Naaman wanted some of that “place” to take home.

 

He also added one little caveat to the deal. He would still have to enter the Damascus temple of the idol Rimmon with the King, and he wanted forgiveness in advance for bowing down to that idol for social and political reasons, with the understanding that he believed the Lord was the one true God.  Now, what do you suppose Elisha’s reply to that was?

 

Elisha said, “Go in peace.” “Go in Peace”?? That was not what I expected.  I was waiting for a fiery, “If the Lord is God, bow to HIM!!  Why would Elisha be so calm about pre-planned idolatry from this man whose life has just been saved by God?  I find it amazing.

 

Elisha was not in the business of selling health care, after all. He was in the business of peace.  He brought peace to Naaman, who came knowing only fear and death.

Elisha brought peace to many people by healing a dreaded disease; he contributed to the common good by overcoming suffering.

Elisha brought peace because now a powerful and well known leader has confessed that the Lord is the only source of power and healing.

Elisha contributed to a step toward peace between Israel and Syria.  If more people did that, our world would be a different place today.

 

Elisha gave us all a reminder of the abundance of God’s love and healing, which is freely, abundantly given to all. Elisha, like God, did not hire a staff that counts our failures or the times we feel we must bow to some idol.  God does not barter for peace.  The peace of God, like rain, falls on the just and the rest of us.

 

Finally, Elisha chose to remain free to move on in peace himself, not bound by any missteps by others. He had God’s work to do; he would focus on the good & not concern himself with judgments.  He would stay free to let God’s spirit move as and when it would.

 

My grandchildren tell me they don’t like Christians because they’re in your face and pushy about their religion, but yet don’t seem to know much about their faith. It sounds like the Christians they meet aren’t in the peace business.  Are they looking for some kind of paybacks, such as increasing church attendance and donations?  Are they unfamiliar with the work of God’s Spirit?

 

Even if we were the only ones in town in the peace business, the only ones who seem interested in freely handing out the sacraments without barriers, feeding the hungry, distributing laundry baskets, and caring for the elderly, that’s all right. We can be the only ones who end every encounter with peace, who move on to the next encounter without noting the failures of our brothers and sisters.  We can affirm each other, complete with those idols we each cling to.  We can spend less time and effort worrying about our scales and our flakey-ness, and focus instead on something constructive.

 

Peace is the gift that heals us all, but peace spreads by our contact with each other, one at a time. Then we are ready to praise and worship the God of love and healing and peace.

God’s Makeover

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on September 5, 2015

23rd Sunday 9-6-15    Isaiah 35: 4-7a, Psalm 146 6-10, James 2: 1-3, Mark 7: 31-37       God’s Makeover

There is one thing you can be sure of when you read scripture about healing of blindness or deafness: and that is that you’d better be looking & listening for a spiritual application. When Jesus talked about washing hands and dishes you knew he was not talking table etiquette, right? And today we really have message thrown at us, if we can only figure out what it is…..and choose to hear it…and act on it.

 

The passage from Isaiah describes the return of the people from the Exile in Babylon. The people have lost everything- their land, their homes, their way of life, their leaders, their hope. But now God comes to save them, to open eyes, ears, and mouths. It is a complete makeover. We think of a “makeover” as a beauty treatment of eyes, hair, face, & skin. God thinks of a “makeover” as restoration of soul, emotions, mind, and relationships.

 

Psalm 146 picks up this theme. It tells us that this makeover will set us free. We don’t like to think of ourselves as captives, but we are. “Captives of what?” you ask. God is the God of faithfulness and justice. We are captives of faithlessness and injustice. God frees the oppressed and feeds the hungry. What do we do? I have been overwhelmed this week, hearing about the heartbreaking plight of thousands of Syrian refugees and their desperate needs, some dying in attempt to reach safety. We can be both the oppressed and the oppressors, you know. Yet whose side is God on? The fatherless and the widow, the Psalmist says; you know, the frail, the fragile, the vulnerable, the sick, the elderly, the helpless, and the powerless. Our society prefers to keep those children of God in institutions, in nursing homes, in homeless and refugee centers, out of sight and mind, viewing them as liabilities. We may try to close our eyes and ears to their cries.

 

James gives us example closer to home. Church visitor A has had his beauty makeover. He wears the latest fashion, well accessorized with expensive jewelry. He is offered a chair and fawned over. Church visitor B wears clothes not fit for sale in the Salvation Army thrift store. He is directed to sit on the floor. “But, clothes make the man,” we say. My son told me when he testified at a Senate hearing, “You can’t be credible on Capital Hill in a cheap suit.” James charges us, “Have you not become judges with evil designs?” Ouch! You can count on James getting right to the point. Like it or not, we are in danger of losing our ability to see the worth and worthiness of a person. When we judge on appearance, we are not open to truths other than what we first see or hear.

 

Then we come to Mark and find Jesus in the Decapolis region, among the non-Jews. Last week, we read of his frustration with the Pharisees and their traditions, and now we find amazing faith among the Gentiles. The people bring a deaf man to Jesus. The community is compassionate – they bring him their most needy resident. Mark purposefully ties this story to Isaiah, using the same word for “mute” as in Isaiah. This story is a real makeover, a release from the Exile of an isolating disability. Mark reminds us that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by Isaiah. Remember in Luke, John the Baptist’s followers ask Jesus if he is the One. Jesus responds, “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear.” That answered their question.

 

So, in a counter-cultural move, Jesus takes the deaf man aside; in those days people found “private consultation” highly suspicious. But this lessened the sense of a public spectacle and allowed the deaf man time to better understand what was happening. Jesus also used two actions that the people would have found very familiar– to touch the man’s ears and use spittle on his tongue. It was a culture of touch, and spittle was used to ward off evil. This allowed the people to better understand what was happening. The deaf man’s ears were opened & people’s mouths were also opened. They were astonished, understanding this was an act of God; they were in the presence of divine power. They could not be restrained from proclaiming “He has done all things well,” a praise that would be inconceivable for a mere human being.

 

Ears are opened so we understand the fullness of what is being said; speech is given to praise God, to ask for and grant forgiveness & to express love. As we become less imprisoned in ourselves, we become more able to hear the Word & speak of God. Thomas Merton wrote of his experience at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, KY. He suddenly became aware of the strangers around – their innate beauty, the goodness in their hearts. He saw them as God saw them. Having our senses opened, truly opened to each other, can only create an outpouring of love and compassion.

 

I think that much of the “busy-ness” that we both brag and complain about in our lives is a barrier to seeing and hearing what is happening around us. It insulates us from feeling compelled to act on behalf of the “widows and orphans” of our day. It also keeps us feeling helpless to confront those things that we need to change in our society. Like one with a speech impediment, we fail to speak the truth and accurately label what we see. But God can heal and open us, freeing us to do what is right. To quote the One who was to come, and who will come again, “Ephphatha” (ef-uh-thuh). “Be Opened.”

 

 

Homily September 6, 2015 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 2, 2015

23 suToday’s gospels interesting as Mark tells us that Jesus traveled from Tyre to Sidon to the Sea of Galilee to Decapolis, a part of the gentile world outside Israel. The trip was a fairly long one considering they walked and Sidon was 26 miles north of Tyre before heading southeast to the Sea of Galilee and Decapolis. In Mark’s gospel, to this point there have been numerous signs and miracles done by Jesus. From this point on, Mark only records today’s miracle and four more in his gospel. Jesus in today’s gospel chooses a deaf man with speech problems to cure, and he is a gentile. For Mark, many think there is a symbolism here that Jesus is showing He is present for all and at the same time, by taking the man aside and opening his ears and allowing him to speak, that he is prompting his apostles and others to listen and hear his word. Certainly they have seen enough to hear and believe in him. Here is a moment he indicates that he is not a mere wonder worker, but a Man with the Word and a message to be heard and believed.

“Ephphatha”, be opened, figuratively Mark is speaking to all.. Listen is what he says, as the voice at his baptism said Listen to him. All through biblical history, all were 23 suncalled to listen, to hear God’s word. Jesus was sent to once and for all bring God’s love for all. But, that doesn’t mean that God
s word stopped, or that he doesn’t speak to us today. Jesus remains present in the world today in many ways and to all believers and even to non-believers. He speaks even in how we live and how we respond to others around us. How we treat and care about those around us, especially those on the fringes of our society, those vulnerable to the powerful, those helpless to defend against injustice. These are the things Jesus prepared us to listen to and respond with the love that God has shared with all of us. As Christ took his long journey to heal the deaf man, a foreigner, a gentile, so we are called to open our own hearing and listen to all and look for God;s love in all who speak to us.

Reflection for Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Friday of the Twentieth Week of the Year (August 21, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Ruth – Chapter 1 verses 1, 3-6, 14-16, & 22 / Psalm 146 verses 5-10 /
Matthew – Chapter 22 verses 34-40

Friends, that’s it. These scripture readings seem to say it all. It’s all about the unconditional love that God has for us. The love shown to us by God is a deep immensity that we try to imitate. A love that is shown in the same way Jesus shared in his love to the Father. We can most definitely find this difficult at times. We see the example of Ruth towards her mother-in-law Naomi. In this same instance God does the same with us. Wherever we go, wherever we dwell and where we will die, Jesus ensures us that God will always be with us. To come to worship God in God’s presence everywhere and anywhere, God meets us where we are. God touches us when we least expect it. Hopefully, if we are really doing what is required of us and loving our family our neighbor as we would ourselves, sums up the entire Bible, in my opinion. Being challenged to love unconditionally, even those whom we may have conflicts with is what the message is about. The God who comes to us in the good and bad, when sad, depressed, and lonely, excitedly happy and overjoyed, God suffers and laughs with all of creation. God will always be with us, on our side, just the way we are, not the way we think we should be. God will take care of whatever has to change in us. All we have to do is say “yes Lord” and God will do the rest.

rev. Michael Theogene

Reflection for Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Thursday of the Twentieth Week of the Year (August 20, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Judges – Chapter 11 verses 29-39 / Psalm 40 verses 4-9 /
Matthew – Chapter 22 verses 1-14

Friends, although the readings seem to be harsh, the message I get from them is that Jesus shows us that God deals with us compassionately and we should be dealing compassionately with others. God invites us to be in relationship with God. Our relationship with God can be seen through so many different lights. God always takes the opportunity to reach out to us speaking to us through people, situations or events. God relentlessly seeks us. It is not God, for God’s sake that we pray and seek God, but it is for our sake, for our salvation that we pray to God. We pray to God by any of the many different paths that bring us to the Light. God yearns for us to be part of God’s creation, as a parent wishes to be involved with their child. The Creator of course leaves us with free will. The Great Source of all Being, the lover of the living. Here is a story that was told to me by my First Testament studies professor. He shared that there was a Rabbi that was talking to God. The Rabbi asked God, “God do you pray?” God responded that “…of course God prays.” … “I pray that my need for mercy is outweighed by my need for justice.” Sisters and brothers let us deal with each other mercifully, truly living the kingdom now and not later.

rev. Michael Theogene

Reflection for Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week of the Year (August 19, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Judges – Chapter 9 verses 6-15 / Psalm 21 verses 2-7 /
Matthew – Chapter 20 verses 1-16

Dear friends, we see that Jesus shows us the example that blessed is the one who lives without expectation, for they won’t be disappointed. We see this so much in the secular world. Even in my place of employment, I hear coworkers say that they should be paid more comparing themselves with workers of equal status who they feel have less work obligations then they do. Instead of being so jealous or resentful, we should rejoice in the fact, that yes our neighbor has been granted something equal or better than us. This reinforces Gods unconditional love for all of us and helps us to be open for the many blessings that are waiting for us. This is what makes us children of the Kingdom of God that is here and now.

rev. Michael Theogene

Reflection for Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week of the Year (August 18, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Judges – Chapter 6 verses 11-24 / Psalm 85 verses 8 & 10-13 /
Matthew – Chapter 19 verses 23-30

Dear friends, God speaks to us over and over again through people or situations. God wishes to give us God’s peace. God’s peace surpasses all understanding beyond our own knowledge. Peace comes with letting go of our idea of what true peace is. It is within. When we let all the walls down and listen to the small voice within, peace gently enters our heart.
If we are truly poor in spirit, worldly possessions will not faze us. We will be able to share everything we have without feeling we need those things. If we place all our hope in material things then we will never understand about the kingdom of heaven. It is easy to say, but letting go of our possessions is difficult for most people because it is a false security. Holding on to things, people, places, ideas etc, prevent us from truly being poor in spirit. When Jesus was talking about the rich person’s difficulty attaining heaven, he was not saying we couldn’t have things, he was saying that if we let those possessions rule our life; they would block us from having true peace. So let us open our hearts and free ourselves of all that prevents us from loving and sharing.

rev. Michael Theogene

Reflection for Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Monday of the Twentieth Week of the Year (August 17, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Judges – Chapter 2 verses 11-19 / Psalm 106 verses 34-37, 39-40, 43 & 44 /
Matthew – Chapter 19 verses 16-22

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I have asked myself that very question of myself from time to time. I never seem to get a response either of myself or from somewhere else. What must we do to inherit eternal life? What must I do in order to be good? If we have been doing the required works of what we believe is expected of us, then what must we do then to be complete?

I think it goes beyond what is presented before us. In Jesus’ infinite wisdom he spoke of these things as a stepping stone, probably knowing full well that it would always eventually include more things. Of course, if we do not love God by not loving our neighbor, or giving up what keeps us loving fully, (i.e. possessions) then we ought to work on it. We have to find the necessary tools in order to work with.

I think sometimes it’s us who can’t give up our old ways, our old thoughts, and our old self. I think it can be me sometimes sayings I can’t change now, I am not ready, I will change later. A lot of us sometime say that we are not ready now. We are so afraid to change, we are so afraid of the unknown, we choose to stay the way we are.

In my life, I am finishing school course work that has taken me six years. I was going to be on the ten year plan. I certainly was not going to complete it as most do in three to four. I remember even while working secular employment, the pressures and deadlines for assignments were difficult. In my earlier years in this study, I would get so paralyzed in writing a major paper, would end up not doing it, asking for an extension and then suffering still in doing the assignment. All I did was delay my suffering. I would become so fearful in doing the paper that I hurt myself and others around me.

My wife has taught me a saying that she would always say to her students. Fear, what is fear? Fear, F.E.A.R. is false evidence appearing real. It is when we allow fear to enter our lives and take hold, paralyzing us, keeping us away from all that is good is when we are not doing what is required of us. Doing the corporal works of mercy, fully loving ourselves and others, living with compassion and mercy and being non judgmental is then and only then that we truly give up ourselves. Not just hearing this, but doing this as best we can is why we don’t go away sad.

rev. Michael Theogene

Reflection on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary for Saturday, August 15, 2015 (Cycle B)

Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Revelation – Chapter 11 verses 19 – Chapter 12 verses 1-6, 10 / Psalm 45 /
1 Corinthians – Chapter 15 verses 20-26 / Luke – Chapter 1 verses 39-56

Sisters and Brothers, in my opinion, you know that we will all evidently die. We probably won’t be assumed into heaven both body and soul as Mary was assumed to be. Unlike Mary, we will face death. However, when we come to the end of our physical existence, we know that our concept of death whatever it may be will disappear and that we truly will be transformed into something new. Mary was transformed by something new as she stood at the foot of the cross in deep pain witnessing the death of her son. Yet Jesus tells her that John who was standing next to her is now her son. What did he mean? I believe Jesus was telling her and the world that new life was a daily encounter. In the middle of pain and suffering we are prompted by the Spirit to see resurrection. How many times do we miss the opportunity to be renewed in God’s love each day? How many resurrections have we let die? How do we change our mind set? I know one way to change is to replace an old habit with a new one. Let us replace our concept of pain and suffering with the thought that pain and suffering lead to resurrection. Not an easy job but well worth practicing.

rev. Michael Theogene