1. Genesis 3, 9-15
- I hear a portion of the ancient story of the Fall. The Lord God called to the man and asked him, and the man and woman answer him. Our interpretations change from one era to another but the same dialog remains, preserved
in its economy of language and unadorned truth.
- What does it mean for our church today, fresh from its celebration of Pentecost? Let me help my listeners find the message for themselves.
- In the light of today’s Gospel passage, it would signal
the opening round in the eternal struggle over our calling to faithfulness and obedience to God. Of course, we do not hear those words here, nor any explicit mention of evil or sin.
- Where are you? Could we be so lost that not even God can
find us? Or, rather, does not God expect us to be in the usual place, wanting
us to return there? I think it is a moral question, because the man takes it
as moral, and I will speak it that way. I
was afraid so I hid myself.
- Who told you that
you were naked? You have eaten from the tree! I interpret God’s voice as one of a mentor, who discovers the
truth, rather than as one of an accuser. In the Bible, Satan is the principal
- The man says: The woman
– she gave me fruit, so I ate it. The woman says: The serpent tricked me, so I ate it. They both speak as those who
deny all responsibility for their actions. I think this is the primal sin of
humanity, if sin is to be found in this passage. I will speak their lines with
a certain defiance, as if they are saying: You see, it happened. Now what are
you going to do about it?
- In the story God curses each of the three creatures. Today we only get to hear the pronouncement upon the serpent: You
shall be banned, on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat. I remember that I am reading a creation myth,
not a guide to reptiles. Israel’s neighbors made carved images of serpents
for use in fertility rites, and the one God of Israel means to reduce them to the mean status that should be theirs. They are not to be feared and worshipped but abhorred from a safe distance. There will be enmity between you and the woman, and between your
offspring and hers.
- Our translation makes the offspring masculine: He will strike at your head. Many Greek commentators in the beginning
found a reference to Jesus Christ as he trampled upon sin and death. (Latin commentators
celebrated a feminine reference that reminded them of Mary.)
- Climax: The story of the Fall is basically unfinished as it
stands, waiting for its resolution until humanity recovers fullness of life in God.
But I would place my emphasis on the enmity between ourselves and all that
threatens our existence.
- Message for our assembly: Is there a greater sin we can commit than
our indifference to the consequences of our actions? See today’s Gospel.
- I will challenge myself: To repeat the dialog faithfully as I find
it, allowing the familiar words to catch our attention again and keeping God’s perspective on what has happened. God has the first word and the last word today.
2. II Corinthians 4, 13 – 5, 1
- I hear the apostle speaking words of encouragement to the young church.
We continue to bask in the Easter glow, and many of the references point to Easter.
The one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.
- We have the same spirit of faith according to what is written. In other words, we share the spirit of faith that is expressed in this psalm verse. I believed, therefore I spoke. Not all scholars agree with this translation from the Hebrew, but no one can criticize the attitude of
the apostle. We don’t hold our faith inside ourselves, but we declare it
- The grace bestowed on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving
to overflow. Here is a textbook example of how a literal translation of the
apostle’s words can obscure the meaning. ‘Grace’ would mean
the life of grace in Christ, and ‘thanksgiving’ refers to the prayer of the church that echoes the hymn of the
angels – that is, our prayer today. A vibrant church that receives new
members would understand this phrase. I can convey a sense of the wonder by lifting
my voice throughout the sentence until I reach for the glory of God.
- It begins to sound like a person counting her blessings, and using them to explain why she is not upset by adversity
in her life. At the beginning of the passage: We believe. At the midpoint: Therefore
we are not discouraged.
- The message for our assembly: All is not as it appears. We see adversity,
little defeats and blows to our self-confidence. The eyes of faith see an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. What is seen is transitory.
- Central theme: Encouragement, because the reality of the resurrection overshadows everything else in our lives.
- I will challenge myself: To remind myself of the apostle’s confidence, and to pray for a share of it, as the
gift that will help the sometimes obscure grammar of this reading to reach the people today in all its spiritual force.
Gospel. Mark 3, 20-35
- Every time I hear the words, He is out of his mind, I remember what the
world thinks of dedicated men and women who in their zeal for justice have no time even
to eat. The world regards the messenger rather than the message!
- Other onlookers, not so kindly disposed, called Jesus possessed
by Beelzebul. It is a hostile environment.
How does Jesus answer? I hear several lessons, likely the kernels of wisdom
from several speeches. How can Satan
drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot
- I also hear a severe sentence: Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will
never have forgiveness. In a time of so many acts of summary judgment in
the various church establishments, I will emphasize the witness in this first Gospel that the work of the Spirit must not
- Ahem, Jesus! Your mother and your
brothers are outside asking for you. The
world, even we ourselves, expect Jesus to behave as we would. Let me listen to
his ways, his values, and let me meet my greater family.
- Climax: At the end of the passage Jesus welcomes the stranger into his family: Here
are my mother and my brothers: whoever does the will of God.
- Message for our assembly: Jesus shows us the Father through hard and combative times as well as times of compassion.
- I will challenge myself: To let the confrontation loose in my own telling.