Watching for the Morning of October 18, 2015
The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 24 / Lectionary 29
The coming passion still dominates this section of Mark’s gospel as we hear for the third time that Jesus will be shamed and killed in Jerusalem, but “after three days he will rise.” The disciples are still uncomprehending that the Messiah could suffer, and James and John boldly make a play for the premier positions of power and honor at Jesus’ right and left hand “in his glory”. But we who hear this Gospel know that at Jesus’ right and left hand will be the two thieves.
So once again Jesus teaches his disciples about the shape of life in the kingdom. Those who would be great must be servants. Those who have the position of honor at the banquet of God are bearing to others the baskets of bread as if they were the slaves. And then comes the punch line: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Suddenly we have this word ransom. When members of elite families are captured in war their families must purchase their freedom. Christ is come to purchase our freedom. Christ is come to free us to serve. Christ is come to free us for our true humanity. Christ has come to heal and redeem our world.
The idea of ransom reconnects us with the passion prediction that begins our Gospel reading. It also takes us into the first reading where we hear the prophet declare:
he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole.
‘Ransom’ is the heart of our reading from Hebrews where the author portrays Christ Jesus as the true and perfect High Priest, declaring: “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
And this theme of redemption is embodied in the rich and wonderful imagery of the psalm that promises God’s protection: “With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.” The language seems hyperbolic – “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” – until we remember that we are talking about the ransoming of the world and the dawning of the new creation.
The Prayer for October 18, 2015
You are our refuge, O God, and our holy habitation.
Grant that, dwelling in you, our lives may honor him
who gave his life as our ransom:
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for October 18, 2015
First Reading: Isaiah 53:4-12
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – In the 6th century BCE, the prophet speaks of a servant of God who suffers on behalf of the people, and “by his stripes we are healed.”
Psalmody: Psalm 91 (appointed 91:9-16)
“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” – The poet sings of God’s faithfulness.
Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” – Christ is our true high priest, appointed by God, who mediates our reconciliation.
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45 (appointed 10:35-45)
“Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – James and John approach Jesus looking for positions of honor in the new administration and Jesus has to once again explain that the kingdom of God inverts the values of the world.