As they walked home to Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples had some time alone. Jesus had made sure of it, because there were some things he wanted to talk to them about.
For the second time, he tried to explain to them what would be coming up for him—telling them about his betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection. But as before, it didn’t compute.
This is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the word for when we suddenly and dramatically become aware of some new reality, aware that all is not as it seems. The season begins with the story of Magi traveling across the desert to see the new King of the Jews—a story that is found only in Matthew’s Gospel. It’s a high point in the story of Jesus, and it’s followed immediately by a terrible and tragic low point, when Jesus and his parents are forced to flee for their lives because King Herod (not the same Herod that was in our reading last week, but his father, or maybe grandfather) cannot abide the thought of a new king coming to take his place.
One of Leonard Cohen’s early songs includes this line: “Jesus was a sailor.” But after hearing this text from Mark, I have to wonder.
My friend Levi invited me to his house for supper not too long ago. “Hey, I’m going to have a barbecue Sunday. We’ll eat around 6:30, but there will be drinks and snacks before that. It won’t be fancy; we’ll have hamburgers and kosher sausages, and somebody’s going to make that salad I know you like, and there’ll be plenty of desserts. There’s somebody coming that I want you to meet.”
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? What have you resolved to stop doing, or start doing, tomorrow?
A lot of people choose to have a “dry January,” giving up alcohol, if they generally indulge, for the month; and others will make a plan to diet or exercise more. I suspect that many resolutions like that are motivated by guilt, or just not feeling too great, after the overindulgences of the holiday season. And I daresay that if that’s the motivation for a resolution, it won’t last. Guilt just isn’t a good motivator for real, lasting change.
I’m not sure if it was Fred Craddock or Tony Campolo who told the story of a woman of questionable morals who showed up at church.
The woman was a fixture at local bars, hard-drinking and -smoking, heavily made up, going home with a different man nearly every night. Her several children—all with different fathers and different last names—lived with their grandmother, who did her best to counter the bad influence of their mother.
Ordinarily I would begin by asking, “What does this story have to do with today’s Advent theme, which is joy?” But I think Chuck answered that question for us.
A formerly strong, hardworking man has an accident that leaves him trapped in a body that no longer works properly—and Jesus sets him free from that bondage. That accident isn’t somehow the consequence of his sins—but Jesus also sets him free from bondage to sin.
Years ago I helped plan a workshop on church accessibility presented by the council of churches in Portland. One thing we included was a program developed by the Catholic archdiocese there. It was called “Welcome to My World,” and it was intended to help us who are able-bodied (temporarily, as the disabled folks who helped us organize the workshop liked to point out) understand what it’s like to live with various disabilities.
You may or may not agree with me on this: I am not dreaming of a white Christmas.
Frankly, given all the traveling, all the special stuff going on, the extra church services, and so on, I find snow at Christmas time to be a complete nuisance. (We won’t even get into the question of ice storms on Christmas; I’ve been through that, too, and it takes “nuisance” to a whole new level.) So I hope we don’t have a white Christmas.