We don’t have an active Bible study group at church right now, so I’m going to try something new: study notes and reflections on the upcoming lectionary texts for next Sunday. Enjoy!

Translation issues and insights from commentators
(Translations are compared with the Good News Translation we read in worship)

Mark 10:2-16

10:2 “trap” Greek πειράζω to test (the same root word as “temptation” in the Lord’s prayer)

Working Preacher insists that we have to acknowledge how complicated the issue of divorce is. She also points out that Jesus says more about marriage than about divorce.

Bob Eldan: Jesus gives a spiritual answer defending belittled women. In those days under Jewish law only men could initiate divorce proceedings, and for any frivolous matter like burning dinner, or being boring. There was no mutual consent. The woman had no rights. She was property.

Russell Rathbun acknowledges that this discussion of marriage comes shortly before the election where a constitutional amendment is presented that would ban same-sex marriage. He disapproves of the proposed amendment (as do I), but says, “Never-the-less, I have the humility to believe other people could read the same Bible as me and come to different and equally credible political conclusions. Or be equally disappointed and confused.”

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

1:3 “achieving forgiveness” καθαρισμός to cleanse

2:11 “He purifies … Father” lit. “the one who makes holy (set-apart) and the ones who are made holy (set-apart) are all from one”

Working Preacher: Perfection here is not about sin or morals or anything else regarding his character — it is about Jesus perfectly fulfilling his role in salvation, a role which requires him to enter the full human experience.

What’s going on in these texts:

As the church year wraps up, we will finish up the portion of Mark that is set before Jesus’ betrayal and work our way through the letter to the Hebrews. Mark is filled with challenging teachings and stories from here on out (it’s always that way as we push toward Advent). Hebrews presents a great poetic vision of Christ’s greatness and the profound way that the Christian story renews God’s eternal promises to humanity. Hebrews is full of hard Greek, complex Old Testament references, and beautiful ideas. I took a Synod School class exploring this book, and somehow I’m hoping to let this letter resonate with our worship during this season.

Where is God? In Hebrews, God is making a great connection between the glory on high and the less-impressive state of humanity, demoting the Christ to our level so we can become one with God’s people. In Mark, Jesus takes an argument about the Law and looks deeper into the core of how we relate to each other. Ultimately, God gives us the real seeds of faithfulness in relationships with our family, with others, and with God.

Where are we in these stories? We reach for something bigger – more meaningful, more inspiring, more perfect – than we’re able to see ourselves. We reach for something deeper within us, the strength and conviction to be who we know God had made us to be.

So here’s what I’m wondering as I think about preaching: This is World Communion Sunday, so the ritual celebration tells me what kind of connections I have to find in the texts. At the same time, the conversation about marriage and divorce in Mark needs to be addressed if I’m going to have it read. I think there’s a connection with the idea of welcoming everyone at Christ’s table and the bigger concept of unbreakable relational faithfulness. That will take some careful connecting.

One other thing I’m thinking about, as Russell Rathbun did above: do these texts lend themselves to conversations about the modern controversies about defining marriage? Obviously the “man/woman/one” citation is common in the debate, and there are ways to grapple with it if I want to talk about the Minnesota marriage amendment. Is that a topic to tackle on World Communion Sunday? Is there another time for it?