“When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”
This is the second scripture reading that we have reflected on during our class that involves someone who was very close to Jesus but who simply did not recognize him after he was resurrected. I suppose this could have happened for a number of reasons.
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
This passage may seem to fit less with the theme of ‘love’ than the other passages we have been reflecting on. But we have been talking about love as a very personal connection between people and with God, and we can’t get very far into that conversation before we encounter the difficulty that occurs when a person or people choose to look in the opposite direction of the loving look.
“One of the scribes came near and hear them disputing with one another…he asked [Jesus] ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Any time we use short passages from scripture to make large points about Christian theology, we run into the danger of selectively choosing passages that support a pre-determined view of what we want the scriptures to say. So, even though the previous two scripture reflections are based on very strong statements about love, we might wonder whether in fact love is really as central to the Christian faith as I’m making it out to be.
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so a to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known passages in all of scripture. It is read at the majority of Christian weddings and is beloved even by many who do not identify as people of faith. And for the purposes of our class, I think it helps us a lot for getting at some concepts that identify what love is, most truly.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
The Bible is not a book of definitions or straight-forward, easy answers to our questions. Sometimes this is frustrating for us as people seeking clear answers about God. We might wonder, “Why not? Wouldn’t an organized set of definitions and rules make our spiritual lives easier?”
Please accept my apologies for the very low sound levels on this recording. I'm not sure why this happened. To hear the video, you will probably have to turn your computer/device volume all the way up.
For any of you who were disappointed with the short length (and abrupt cut-off!) of last week's video, this one should make up for it. Our longest one yet, for the topic we've been building toward throughout the class:
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
This is a difficult passage, especially for us as contemporary Americans; like the rich man, we also have many possessions. Does this mean we can’t follow Christ? I think that once again the best way to read this passage is in terms of proper ordering of means and ends.
Mark 2: 23-27
“The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Many well-known stories in the Gospels have a similar plot line: Jesus breaks the rules of his religious community and religious leaders accuse him of being disobedient to God. In this particular story, he uses language that fits right in with the “means and ends” language that we’ve been looking at.
1 Corinthians 7:17-21
“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.”
A lot of the writing in the New Testament has to do with the topic of circumcision. This seems strange and even awkward for us as contemporary readers, and so it’s tempting to push aside these passages and focus on other more comfortable topics. But if we do that, we miss out on a beautiful message of openness and welcome that’s found in these Scriptures.
Mary, Martha, Means, and Ends
The story of Mary and Martha is another story about means and ends. It asks us to think about what the most important goals are, what the steps are toward those goals, and whether any of the things we do with good intentions, actually get in the way of realizing the most important goals.
The Good Samaritan, Means, and Ends
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known parables, although its primary message is so clear and obvious, that we might miss one its more interesting messages.