Readings for 17th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/23/12:
Proverbs 31:10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37
- This passage, given it’s time/context of writing, is actually pretty woman-friendly, even if it does require a ‘capable wife’ to be a jack-of-all-trades. After all, the passage describes a person who is strong, giving, fearless, a salesperson, successful, etc. Changing the gender of the pronouns doesn’t change much about the passage either.
- Notice not a lot is said about the woman being a woman of faith. Perhaps these attributes are seen as ‘interwoven’ into the behaviors she is to live out – her actions. How would you describe your ideal partner in life? Do you practice those behaviors yourself that you wish to find in someone else?
- “Many woman have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” That would be a nice compliment to hear from one’s spouse!
- A typical psalm in its dualistic good/bad, righteous/enemies set up, but psalm is a little different since it doesn't emphasize God's wrath upon the enemies. Instead, those who do not have God in their life perish because of being outside God's law, consequences of their own actions/choices.
- "On [God's] law they meditate day and night." I find it difficult, even as, or especially as, a pastor, to be faithful in my study and meditation on the scriptures. In a bible study I led a few years back, Companions in Christ, one of the units dealt with meditating on the scriptures. The participants and myself all found it difficult - to focus in on the text and on God, to tune out all the business of the world around, to really dwell in the text. The visual image this psalmist shares of how our lives might be dwelling in God's law, however, encourage us to keep trying: "They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season".
- The tree/stream imagery is much like a sponge soaking up water - we absorb, take in God's word. But better than a sponge, which just absorbs and then is simply soaked, a tree soaking water bears fruit - bears results -bears change because of God's word.
- While many of us are comfortable claiming our gifts, I think many of us, wisely, would hesitate claiming wisdom as a gift. Who would you call wise? Are you wise? What does wisdom mean to you?
- James recognizes that one can be wise without being wise "from above" - what kind of wisdom does our world most appreciate?
- James prizes wisdom that "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy." That's a very wide and broad definition of wisdom. Using James' definition, is there anyone you thought wise that you wouldn't put now in this category?
- Conflict arises from our own cravings - that's a unique way of putting it, but perhaps right on!
- "Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you." Let it be so!
- "He did not want anyone to know it" - Mark's gospel is notorious for the "messianic secret" theme - Jesus constantly trying to hide or obscure his true identity somehow. Why do you think Jesus wouldn't want people to pin down his identity?
- What would you think if a person was predicting death and suffering for themselves? These days, we'd probably (rightly) want the person to get psychological help, worrying that they were depressed or suicidal. How do you think Jesus expected them to react?
- Apparently, the disciples weren't too bothered - they were busy talking about who was greatest among them. Power struggles in the church existed from day one, pre-'church' even.
- What does it mean to welcome a child? How are we meant to be child-like when it comes to faith?