Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 2:18-22 bible study (September 18, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
Grace and Peace to you on this beautiful morning in the Sonoran Desert. May the abundant riches of God's blessing for our lives surround you today and always.
Obviously we all need to be praying for the people of Morocco and the people of Libya. These two nations have suffered heavy losses in natural disasters over the past several weeks. Pray too for the people and businesses of the North East Coast, as well as, the Canadian Maritimes. The near miss of a hurricane has left some of these areas reeling from the heavy surf, flooding, and wind damage. It would appear that a planet-wide change in all of our living conditions is on the near horizon. This year you and I survived some of the hottest weather recorded in the desert, and we set a record 79 days at 100 degrees or above. That may be 80 days as of this afternoon. So we have exceeded the record for 100 or greater degree days by at least 10 days. We must remember those whose homes, homelessness, or financial viability may not make it possible for them to access the cooling that they might otherwise have. There is never any lack of prayers to be offered each day. Please be a prayer blessing for our world and her people.
Please pray too for Linda whose husband Keith died this past Tuesday. Services were at the Lutheran congregation where they have attended worship. Keith suffered with a debilitating brain disease over a period of several years, and required greater and greater at home care over these years.
Is it any wonder that we always need to live with the joy of Christ in our lives. Only the Christ can bring us the hope that we need as we face the ups and downs of this life.
Today we move on to another section of chapter two of Mark's Gospel bible study, 2:18-22.
In verses 18-20, we are met with a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees over the issue of fasting as an important part of faith discipline. Or, in the case of the Pharisees, it was for many of them as way, with faces painted white, and looking dismal, that others could see their purity and devotion. In other words, it was a way to show something of them which was not true. Theirs was not for faith growth and devotion. It was simply for the world of men to see how much the Pharisees deserved their place as leaders of the faith. You and I know that we have encountered pastors too, who for their own aggrandizement put on a really good "show" of being devoted to Christ. They might even be pretty good preachers, but what tells us the truth about these leaders is how they live their lives. How are they living in the community? What really consumes their lives? I'm not suggesting that clergy do not face the very same crises in their lives that everyone does, but how is it that God's grace fills them for the work of the Gospel while they use that very same grace to cope with all of those human problems. Does that clergy ever seek the support of the congregation, or do they never seek that support? For Jesus, always moving toward the fulfillment of His journey to the Cross, meant that fasting was something that could wait for his disciples and himself. Knowing joy in the Son of God, meant that fasting, which was supposed to take the faster closer to God, or create discipline for living, was being fulfilled within their sight and touch in the person of Jesus. Would you choose to fast to improve your own faith if the Christ of God was standing before you and spending time with you moment to moment in your life? Generally, we Lutherans choose to forego something of importance for us during the season of Lent as part of our own Lenten discipline and Lenten faith journey, but from Sunday to Sunday we always continue to celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior. If the Pharisees saw Christ's lack of fasting as an insult to God, they were ultimately probably never going to realize that God cannot insult himself! As we will see in the next verses too, Christ is a really good viewer of what was a familiar cultural or practical function to tell the reality of who he was. (is) When speaking about himself as the bride groom, Christ knows full well that there is a Rabbinic saying that fasting is suspended during the wedding feast and celebration, even if it was a religiously significant reason for that fasting to take place. We must imagine the outrage of the Pharisees when Christ names himself the bridegroom. Yes, Jesus always has an answer to address those issues of the religious leaders of His time, and absent true faith, the majority of Pharisees will never see why he said this, but on Jesus' response we also come to know that even at this early time in His ministry, His heart is set on saving all of God's children through his innocence and perfection as he dies for our sin on the Cross.
These next verses are about practical situations being spoken of by Jesus to teach what those who come to belief must not do. In Jesus day, everyone knew about not trying to patch an old garment with a brand new piece of material, in its strength the new material will destroy and tear the old material. And wine skins were so common in every household from shepherds, to fishermen, to landed business people, that everyone knew that you did not place newly fermented wine in a hardened and brittle wine skin.
Jesus uses such direct, easy, and simple examples from everyone's life, and gets directly to the point of what He is really working to say. He is kind of like the google master of his day. Have you ever used a Google Map assistant when you are in an unfamiliar community or on vacation? About ten years ago, driving into Chicago at night from the south, we encountered a heavy rain storm in the dark and heavy traffic coming home from work. With our Google maps assist on, we were quickly diverted from the freeway to an overpass and re-entry onto the freeway on the other side. There had been an accident blocking the traffic under the overpass. Yes, what could have been a complicated mess, instead it was direct, easy, and simple. In this part of the passage from Mark two, Jesus is making it clear that in coming to faith in Him, there will be much that is new and that faith will continue to strengthen and grow in very different ways from the old practices and all of the legalities of Jewish guides for living under what to this time had been deemed the oppressive Law of God. Those who come to faith in Jesus will be the new material of the faith community, and they will also be the new wine that can no longer be contained by the old wine skin. Today we see many changes in life, and also in the church. We are not always, as the long timers, ready to accept the change that seems to surround us. How do you feel about social media, or the presence of those who sexual identity is different from our own as members of the faith community, or of the necessity for Bible Studies to come to us via email and the internet, or the lives of so many who are bound to their technical devices for any meaning? I still see a phone primarily for phone calls, and for other kinds of messaging like texts, but my children literally live on their phones. I don't get it. Are not person to person, face to face, physically present relationships better and more fulfilling? According to them, not necessarily. And I worry for their isolation in the future lives they will live. However, as we continue as the Church to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to be ready to adjust and compensate for such differences in the life of the Church too. The new fabric and the new wine are in our midst!
God bless you. In Christ, Pastor Kim