Archive for July 29th, 2018

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”. Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person. Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Image result for Mark 6:45–56

Text: St. Mark 6: 45-56

Previously in Mark chapter 6, Jesus fed the 5,000 men, and the women and children. Jesus had fed the crowds bread and the crowds were led. In the desolate place of the feeding of the 5,000, the Scripture reports that the crowds say down on “green grass”. We too live in the wilderness. We need to pray. Jesus fed them among the religious leaders and as today: they feed people with their opinions and punditry, instead of God’s Word.  False religious leaders starve the soul. Jesus fed them in the desolate place, and they were satisfied. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  The crowd was drawn to Him for His divine power, but He had other people to lead to green pastures and so to feed.  So, after such a powerful deed, Jesus had to compel the disciples to leave. The Shepherd of the Sheep, the pastor, caringly dismissed the crowd, not just abruptly leaving them.  

Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing,
Fill our hearts with joy and peace.
Let us each, Thy love possessing,
Triumph in redeeming grace.
Oh, refresh us, Oh, refresh us,
Traveling through this wilderness!

In the wilderness, Jesus needed, as before, to spend time in prayer with His Father. On the hill overlooking the lake, in the darkness and loneliness, He prayed and obtained new strength from above for His spirit. In many a difficult position, in many a hard problem, before many a bitter experience, the best way, the surest method of getting the necessary strength is to bring it to the Lord in prayer.

There on the mountain Jesus saw that His disciples were painfully trying to make headway against contrary winds. In the darkness, how could Jesus see the disciples’ plight in the boat?  Not with His physical eyes. He knew their plight. He was with them every inch of the way; but He did nothing to help them. The odds against the disciples were great on the sea, but they really had seen nothing yet. It is often good for the believers to be buffeted by adverse winds of life. It is only by overcoming difficulties and by conquering in the hard places that Christian character is formed.  Sometimes we may wonder do we need so much character building! The Lord knows what we need more than we do and even before we do. We are masters of knowing what we want to make us happy.  The Lord knows what we need to draw us by His grace and to know the joy of His salvation for us and our neighbor.  And His saving is not for this world alone but for that distant shore.

Jesus walking on the water meant to pass by the disciples.  Could Jesus be so cold that He would pass by the disciples in their distress of body and soul?  In Exodus 33 Moses asked to see the Lord. The Lord said that men could not see the Lord’s face and live.  So, the Lord let His glory “pass by” Moses. Here is the Lord again and His glory passes by. Yet, in the Lord’s incarnation, the disciples beheld His face, full of grace and truth, and they lived to report the story, but even more, they were made alive to proclaim the Gospel.  

Even more:  true man and true God walks upon the water.   His divinity is on display and the disciples seem to try some immediate theologizing in their terror.  A ghost is lightweight and so only a ghost could walk on water. Many portrayals of ghosts show them as translucent, you can see them and see through them. Let’s go with that. Yet they saw Jesus!  You can see through a ghost. The disciples couldn’t see through Jesus. Many make Jesus into what they want: a teacher, even a great one, a revolutionary, a social justice warrior and the like. This started in Nazareth when the hometown folks confidently said, ‘We know who you are!” Many are still saying the same: we can see right through Him.  They still think He’s a ghost! It’s no ghost and no ghost got into the boat with the disciples. No ghost was born of the virgin Mary. No ghost was circumcised on the 8th day.  No ghost preached the Sermon on the Mount.  No ghost lifted the dead son of the widow of Nain to life.  No ghost said, This is My body, This is My blood. No ghost was jailed.  No ghost had a crown of thorns thrust upon His head. No ghost was nailed to the Cross.  No ghost ascended into heaven. No ghost spoke with Paul on the road to Damascus. No ghost could promise, I will be with you always even unto the end the age and no ghost will come again in glory and power.

Phantasms solicit fear, the Lord encourages, Take heart! Phantasms want fear, the Lord says, Fear not! Why can we take heart and not fear?  In between, “Take heart” and “Fear not” is IT IS I, as in I AM. A ghost wants to scare people away. When Jesus gets into the boat, the disciples don’t jump ship! With His disciples in the boat, the wind stopped. Perfect love casts away fear. We can’t see through Him and He sees us through. He saw Noah and his family through the flood and gave the sign of the covenant, a rainbow. He saw the disciples through the water of rebirth in Holy Baptism. He saw the disciples through the waters and would give the sign of the eternal covenant:  His Body and Blood. No ghost breathed on the Apostles and said, Receive the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness or retention of sin. This is His promise which sees us through as well. The disciples’ hearts were “hardened” as they could not fathom the depths of the man who came into the boat with them. They would begin to when they saw no ghost risen from the dead. They saw the print of the nails and then the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon them and many, many others and they would proclaim: Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  In His Cross and Resurrection, we are signed, sealed and delivered.

The woman with the flow of blood touched the “fringe” of His garment (Luke 8: 40-48). Matthew tells us that many touched the same (14: 36) and the crowds did as well at the end of today’s Gospel reading. In The Lutheran Study Bible is the following footnote for “fringe”:  

May refer to the tassel that Israelite men were to wear on the four corners of their out garment. 

This garment in later Judaism is called a tallit.  Jesus would have worn such. This is commanded in Israel and is instructive for us:

Numbers 15:  38-39:

38“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. (emphasis my own)

The crowds did not follow their own hearts and eyes, they sought out Jesus. They touched the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well. As Jesus prayed, so they did as well, and we also.  They brought the sick to Jesus. Those who are sick not only in body but in spirit as well. Can we do any less? Jesus’ fringe reminds us to remember all the commandments and promises of God, that is, all the Words of God. Jesus reminds, Do this in remembrance of Me.  We are fed by the Lord every one of His Words and so are led.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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