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Wednesday, September 09, 2009
WHO ARE YOU? Words have the power to “name” or shape people in ways that may lead to good or ill, to acceptance or rebuke. Who we say Jesus is shapes our journey as Christians. Wise followers listen for the words and ways of God in their midst. For God’s words and ways lead to deeper understanding of who we are called to be because of whom we follow. Focus Scripture: Mark 8:27–38 This passage serves as the midway “hinge point” in Mark’s gospel. Before this, Jesus traveled across Galilee and into Gentile territories. From here, the geography and theology move toward Jerusalem. Verse 31 is the first of the three “passion predictions” in Mark that point to Jesus’ suffering in Jerusalem. Passion comes from a Greek word meaning “suffering.” The setting of this teaching near Caesarea Philippi is intriguing. One source of the Jordan River flows out of a cave nearby. It served over time as a shrine of worship for various deities called by different “names.” The names reported by the disciples in response to Jesus’ question in verse 27 reflect earlier opinions voiced by Herod and others (Mark 6:14–16). Several names given by the disciples have messianic links. John the Baptizer prepared for one who was “coming after me.” Elijah was expected to return shortly before the appearance of Messiah. Jesus does not refer to himself as “Messiah,” but “Son of Man.” This term appears in Daniel 7:13 in a passage associated with God’s coming. “Son of Man” also appears frequently in Ezekiel, where the prophet uses the term to describe himself. “Son of Man” in Daniel and Ezekiel connects with God’s mission and, at times, suffering. A pair of rebukes follows Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus’ ensuing command of silence about his identity. The most dominant expectations of Messiah at this time involved one who would deliver the land from Roman rule. Often this figure was linked to the line of David. Such hopes likely formed the basis for Peter’s rebuke of Jesus when Jesus taught the wisdom of a suffering “Son of Man” – nothing like the triumphant warrior awaited by many. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in response sets the stage for Jesus’ further wisdom about what discipleship entails. The word translated as “life” in verses 35–37 is psuche, the root word for “psyche” and “psychology.” It involves the notion of “self.” That connotation brings a stronger sense of paradox to Jesus’ teaching. The affirmation of self comes in the act of self-giving (“those who would lose their psuche for my sake…will save it”). Jesus redefines both Messiah and disciple in this passage. To be a follower is not simply to name Jesus with a “correct” title (“you are the Messiah”). The text implies danger in the hard consequences of following in the way of Jesus, who announces suffering for self and crosses for disciples. The counter-intuitive wisdom of Jesus about Messiah and discipleship echoes themes in other wisdom teachings about power and risk. Proverbs 1:20–33 offers a warning and call from personified wisdom. The author of Proverbs notes the great risk when wisdom is ignored and the path of folly is taken. Psalm 19 celebrates creation’s witness to the law and glory of God. James 3:1–12 adds its cautionary wisdom about teaching and language, and the power of words to accomplish good or ill. Mark closely links Jesus’ identity and vocation with that of disciples in that day, and in our own. In Jesus’ wisdom we find the path opened to finding our selves. Who do we say Jesus is today by what we pray for in our heart of hearts; by what we seek from (and offer to) our faith communities? What wisdom of Jesus do you hear Mark 8:34–37 speaking to the church and to the wider community today? What wisdom do today’s readings speak about following the way of Christ?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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