Readings for 18th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/30/12:
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22, Psalm 124, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22:
- Fun fact: did you know God is not mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther? Even so, it is one of my favorite books. When I went to Exploration ten years ago, a verse from Esther, where Moredecai tells her that she may be where she is when she is "for such a time as this," was the theme of the weekend.
- Don't be misled. Though Esther was Queen, she didn't have any real power. If you read the whole book, you'll know that the previous queen was quickly ditched when she and the king clashed. So Esther's actions in this passage and elsewhere are extremely brave.
- In this passage, Haman, who is the "bad guy" gets brought to justice. Of course, biblical justice for Haman was being hanged. Ugh.
- "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side" - whose side is God on? Is God always on our side? Is God always on the winning side? We want God to be on our side, but we'd do better to seek to be on God's side of things...
- This psalm is in thanks to God for escape from enemies. I've never had to literally flee from enemies, but I can relate, figuratively, to what the psalmist is feeling. From what dangerous persons/situations have you escaped by God's grace?
- "confess your sins to one another" - hard to do! I think we are much more comfortable confessing our sins to God than we are in confessing them to our peers, our faith community. What's the benefit, do you think, of confessing our sins to others?
- James' list reads like an "easy solutions" guide, answers to FAQs from the church community about how to live rightly. If only it were as straightforward or easy as he makes it seem!
- "the prayer of the righteous is effective and powerful." What effect do you think your prayer has? What is the most powerful experience of prayer you've ever had?
- "whoever brings back a sinner" - what a powerful act. Have you ever done this for someone, or had someone do this for you?
- "because he was not following us" - Definitely a contemporary issues. There is so much in-fighting in the church - Christians accusing one another of not being right enough to really be Christians. The end result? Alienating people from the good news.
- "Whoever is not against us if for us." Of course, else where, Jesus says, "whoever is not for us is against us," or something close to it. Each makes sense in the context in which Jesus speaks it though. Here: his point is that other people are doing good work in his good name - why criticize, just because it is a different approach, different leadership?
- stumbling blocks - think seriously about your life. Have you ever been responsible for putting a stumbling block in someone else's path?
- I recently read a great interpretation of this "if your foot causes you to stumble" section, in Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus - he was quoting Dallas Willard from an article in Christian Scholars Review. Willard argues that Jesus is simply reducing the principle of the Pharisees, "that righteousness lies in not doing anything wrong - to the absurd, in hope that they will forsake their principle and see and enter "the righteousness . . . beyond where compassion or love an not sacrifice is a fundamental thing." (pg. 124) What do you think?
- saltiness - do you have it? What does that mean, to be salty, salted with fire?