Category Archives: Wednesday

The Authority of Humility

Mark 6:7b Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Need is a two sided coin. In fact if you look at Jesus’s own beatitudes [Matthew 5] you find need is the coin of the realm for blessing. As I struggled to organize my thoughts for today’s post I was surprised to discover just how important need was for both the village people and the disciples in this story.

Jesus sent his disciples to enter a town equipped with only the barest of essentials to preach repentance to the needy. The disciples had been given the power they needed. Authority was only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin was humiliy. It’s much harder to tell someone they’re in need from a position of power. Jesus gave his disciples the authority of humility to enter a village and “meet a need with a need” so both those who spoke and those who heard could be blessed.

The Red Thread – The Courage of Need

Mark 5:21 – 43 This may not be as familiar story as the others in Mark 5 but it’s a dramatic finale to a desperate story of need. Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake and from another large crowd one of the synagogue leaders came forward and fell at Jesus’s feet. He pleaded earnestly “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him but some from the house of Jairus said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus responded: •V36b. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Only Peter, James and John followed him to the home. Jesus’s response to the people crying and wailing was
V39b. “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him. He took only the child’s father and mother and the disciples in where the child was. Jesus took her hand and said to her,
•V41b. “Talitha koum!”…“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”
The 12-year old girl astonished them and stood up and began to walk around. Jesus gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

These stories of the people Mark writes about seem to have a common thread…they all have a great need. They don’t approach Jesus with any claims of faith at all. All they have is their need and a little bit of courage to act. Maybe “need” is the reality of faith.

I remember hearing faith was “OK if that was something you need” and being unable to respond. It felt as if need was a weakness and faith like some kind of treatment that could cure you of that. I was embarrassed by that idea. It turns out that statement was exactly true. It’s the courage of need that drives you to the great physician. You don’t get treatment you need unless you make the appointment and tell the doctor your symptoms.

That’s my growing edge; to let the courage of need become what Jesus builds my faith on.

The Red Thread – When Jesus is Present

You probably know the story in Mark 5:1 – 20
Jesus is confronted by a demon possessed man of great strength. This man lived in the tombs, and had broken free of his chains and irons. Night and day he wandered among the tombs and in the hills crying out and cutting himself with stones. The demons begged Jesus to let them come out and go into the pigs and they all rushed into the lake and drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported to the town’s people who went out to see what had happened. They saw the healed man sitting there, dressed and in his right mind and they were afraid. They pleaded with Jesus to leave but the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus tells him “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

Jesus knows when evil is present and evil is clever enough to try to use God’s name in an effort to play on Jesus’s sympathy. Jesus is interested in more than just confronting evil – he must destroy it in order to save a man from the demons that bedevil him and give him the courage to speak of how much the Lord has done and the he has shown.

The Red Thread – Remember?

• 26 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
• “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Get it? You’re the seed! A tiny speck planted in the kingdom of God that grew. Nothing emerges from the dirt full grown. Growth is a combination of day and night in the soil of “thy will be done” for this crop to grow. Growth is almost imperceptible except for comparing then to now. Remember then? Remember now?

You’re the crop! You grew and became one of “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” But wait, there’s more! God isn’t finished with you yet.

You began as one small seed planted in good soil and inexplicable growth happened. You became part of the crop and now “the harvest has come.” Here’s the Lightning Flash: as inexplicable as it may be, you’re the evidence there really is a kingdom of God happening “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Remember? You’re the harvest!

The Red Thread – Find A Voice

Mark 4
• 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
• 9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Each morning I spend time reading scripture and writing hoping the “rest” of the story will help me find a voice for my faith today. Here’s what I wrote about this parable at first glance: ‘Jesus is the farmer who went out to sow his seed. The obvious comparisons are the different responses to what Jesus was speaking about the seed he was sowing.’

Good, that’s all true but I’m surprised to to discover I can still be surprised by the Bible. I’d been looking for a thread of connection between the words Jesus spoke about the path, the rocky soil and the thorns when I found this quote from William Temple.

“A parable is not a situation in which every detail stands for something but a situation in which one great idea leaps out and shines like a flash of lightning.”

BOOM…There it was! The truth wasn’t a subtle thread at all. Jesus was speaking! He spoke knowing some of his words would just be wasted, some would be temporary fixes and some would be rejected but this truth made speaking them worth the effort…”Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
…and if Jesus has given you seeds to sow, find your voice and speak.

The Red Thread – Pay Attention

Mark 2
•19 How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
•21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.
•22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins…
•25 Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions. 27 The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

Jesus doesn’t intend his words to be rules. They’re meant to help you be the very person he’s created you to be. It wasn’t until I re-read these verses several times that I saw a connection between these four red letter verses. They’re all about paying attention to what you’ve been given.

Is Fasting denial or sacrifice? It’s both. Denial of food can be a diet or it can become a sacrifice of worship when it changes your attention from the visible act of eating into hunger for God to act. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to kneel, read scripture and pray instead of eat. Pay attention.

Jesus uses vivid word pictures to get our attention about how to deal with the old and new in our relationship to him. Don’t settle for the unsuccessful results of letting what he’s done for you be only a new patch that dresses up an old habit or try to squeeze a brand new part of your relationship to him into an old lifestyle. Pay attention.

Jesus has the right, power, and authority to declare your denial and sacrifice worship when you’re hungry and in need. Pay attention to him.

Red Thread Story 1 – Visible and Invisible

Mark 2: The Red Thread Stories – Story 1
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 5 “Son, your sins are forgiven…
…and he [Jesus] said to them, 8 Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up, take your mat and walk? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. So he said to the man, 11 I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home…

I’ve been reading Mark in a “red letter” version of the Bible. Mark seems to be more a journalist than a philosopher. He documents these events about Jesus with concise information. That made me wonder if there’s a connection to be made with that “red” thread throughout the chapter. I think it’s going to be evidence of the power of Jesus over both the visible and the invisible.

Story One: Jesus speaks to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man knowing the cultural belief is that sin is responsible for his condition. The Pharisees reaction hasn’t escaped him. They consider the words he’s spoken as blasphemy. The man’s condition is visible for all to see but the first word Jesus speaks address only the invisible sin. Jesus speaks again to prove his authority over the invisible with words that reveal visible power and visible results; pick up your mat and go home.

Watch this space for Story 2.