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Thursday, October 01, 2009
ENFOLDING LOVE Breakdowns in relationship bring hurt and separation. In response, God enfolds the estranged and left-out ones with love that blesses with wholeness and inclusion. God’s love wisely binds grace to justice. Held in such love, we may cry out to God. Enfolded by such love, we receive Jesus’ welcome and are invited, likewise, to enfold others. Focus Scripture: Mark 10:2–16 “Testing” of Jesus is an ongoing theme in Mark. Such testing occurs in the wilderness (1:13), by religious leaders (8:11), and by those who want to arrest Jesus (12:12–15). In the focus scripture, the Pharisees test by asking “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In responding, Jesus risks antagonizing ruthless political power. The recent execution of John the Baptizer stemmed from John’s teaching that it was not lawful for Herod to marry his brother’s wife (6:17–18). Mark’s community also lived under the weight of testing. They faced the threat of the same Roman imperial rule that executed Jesus. They were a minority party within Judaism, and were viewed with suspicion. Such testing may have raised questions about how to protect the community from outside threats. The words between these Pharisees and Jesus regarding marriage and divorce begin with what is taught in the Law of Moses. Jesus then expands the conversation by quoting from Genesis 1:27, 2:24, and 5:2, which precede the Law. It is as if law alone cannot resolve this issue. The teaching of Jesus “in the house” with the disciples that follows the exchange with the Pharisees hints that Mark brings his own community into the conversation. Differing traditions in Judaism and the Hellenistic culture at this time vary on the rights of women in such cases. Jesus does not institute a new law here. Rather, Jesus appeals to the intention for relationships in “pre-law” times. A key element in this test is the word translated as “lawful.” The Greek word carries the meaning of “what is permitted.” To ask if something is permitted is not the same as asking what is needful or even right. Jesus replies by asking not what Moses permitted, but what Moses “commanded,” thus making this a discussion of what is just. That emphasis on justice flows into Jesus’ welcome of the children in both word and gesture. The little ones are welcomed because they belong. “Took them in his arms” translates a unique compound word that literally means to “bend the arm” as in the act of cradling or enfolding. The Body of Christ is called to welcome the little ones and the vulnerable ones not merely because it is permitted. The welcome arises because it is the just and right thing to do. Jesus respects the worth of all people. Jesus’ mindfulness toward the Pharisees, the disciples, and the children reflects commitments that grow out of the trustworthiness of God’s enfolding love and care. The additional texts likewise invite our recognition of God’s trustworthiness. Psalm 26 trusts in God’s care; such trust arises out of the psalmist’s experience of God’s steadfast love. In contrast, Job 1:1, 2:1–10 begins with God placing Job in another’s hands (the Hebrew phrase translated here as “in your power” literally means “in your hand”). Even so, this passage ends with Job trusting what is received from God. Hebrews 1:1–4; 2:5–12 declares God’s high regard for humankind by quoting Psalm 8. Such regard is further expressed by having the One praised as the “exact imprint of God’s being” name and enfold us as sisters and brothers. Our experience of God’s enfolding love invites us to receive those who are vulnerable with such love. Who have been the ones whose loving welcome restored us to relationship or community? How might we enfold those who are struggling with separation in relationships and from community?

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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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