September 2018

Sunday, 2nd September: Trinity 14: Mark 7: 1-8

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.  (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.  When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. ) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ‘These  people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

The Pharisees were always trying to catch Jesus out and here they have pounced on the fact that his disciples have ‘eaten’ without washing their hands – in their eyes, not just a hygiene requirement, but one of obeying the complicated and all-embracing laws which they themselves followed.  Jesus is at pains to point out that not washing their hands is so small in comparison to the bad things which we do which come ‘from inside us’ – theft, murder, envy, pride etc. 

Do we sometimes stick with convention, thinking that complying outwardly by going to church, saying prayers, reading the Bible, that is all God wants?  These things are important – but God is looking for a loving personal  relationship with us, his children – he just wants us to make him part of our lives so he can help us and be with us at all times.  Do we need to invite him in to our everyday mundane lives?  It will make such a difference if we do.

 

Sunday 9th September: Trinity 15: Mark 7: ….. 24-30 …..

The mother was desperate – her child was ill – ‘possessed by a demon’ – probably ostracised by society, unable to go out.  She heard about Jesus and went to beg his help.  At first he seems to be turning down her request – saying that those of the chosen race, Israel, should be the first to receive his blessings.  The mother courageously answered, pointing out that even animals are given to eat what humans leave over.  In other words, her daughter, although Greek, still deserved to be cured.  Her reply showed her faith, and Jesus responded immediately, healing the little girl.

Are we prepared to go on asking God when it seems as if our requests are unheard?  Although we don’t always understand or see the immediate results, God does answer our prayers.  He does help and save us – and he certainly is there for us when we need his support and love.  Just ask him – and trust he will be there for you.

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.  “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

 

Sunday 16th September: Trinity 16: Mark 8: 27-33….

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus was trying to teach his disciple all the time and warn them about what was to happen.  When he asked them who they believed he was, impetuous Peter immediately replied – ‘You are the Messiah’ – i.e. you are the one we were told would be coming to save our people.  Jesus goes on to detail what was going to happen to him, but this was something Peter couldn’t accept and he began to argue with Jesus telling him so. 

We have to accept bad things in our lives as well as the good; we are human and things do not always go as we want them to.  God knows this – he wants us to have the opportunity to make our own choices, and he knows that things will definitely not always work out.  But – a big but – he is always with us, no matter how difficult things become.  Are you facing problems at the moment?  It is sometimes not easy to believe it, but God is with you …..  he is there to share the joys and weep with you over the sorrows.  He will give you the strength to cope if you ask him to do so.

 

Sunday, 23rd September: Trinity 17:  Mark 9: 30-37

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Jesus is continuing to teach and prepare his disciples for the future when he knew they would be facing life without him, but they in turn were very human and often argued between themselves; in this case, they were trying to decide which of them was the most important – and Jesus didn’t fail to grasp the opportunity given.  He pointed out to them one of the most important truths they needed to know – that we are put here on earth to welcome and serve - look after - each other rather than putting ourselves first. 

How easy it is to think first of our own needs and wants before considering those of the people we meet?  Yet this is what we are called to do.  To do to others what we hope they will do to us; to give out of our wealth, rather than out of what we think we have over after spending it all on ourselves; to welcome strangers, people in need, those with other ideas, rather than criticising and poking fun;  What a challenge! – are we ready to rise to it and change the lives of those round us – and our own outlook?

 

Sunday 30th Seotember:  Trinity 18: Mark 9: 37-41 ………..

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,  for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

The disciples felt it was all right to tell other people to stop trying to do what Jesus did because they weren’t ‘one of the group’, and of course Jesus explained this was wrong.  There are many ways of belonging to Jesus – of responding to his call – of trying to live the life he wants for everyone.  No one way is better than the others provided they are all based on the teaching and love of God which is open to every single one of us, not just the chosen few.

Sometimes we all feel that our way is best; that our understanding of the teaching of Jesus is the only right one; that we are called and others are not.  Yet this is far from the teaching of Jesus who wants all God’s family to live together in love and peace following him as best we can.  One way is best for some – another is best for others – and we must acknowledge and accept this.  But we can all rejoice together in the knowledge that we are individually called, loved and cherished by a God who draws us into his closest circle – all of us.




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