2.17.2012

TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY Year B


2 Kings 2:1-12  •  Psalm 50:1-6  •  2 Corinthians 4:3-6  •  Mark 9:2-9


Reading and understanding and internalizing scripture is not an easy
or one dimensional task.

If this week's lectionary readings were in a movie, there would be
lots of special effects.

The bible in general, and these readings specifically, has many
supernatural action scenes in it.

And as we briefly look at these scriptures, it seems important to
wonder a bit about a couple of things:
- Why so many supernatural events?
- Why do we seem to witness many fewer supernatural events today?
- What was being shown / taught in these instances when they happened?
- What is being show / taught to us as we read these stories today?

The scene from 2 Kings is fantastic. Elisha is Elijah's student.
Elijah knows that God is about to take him up in to heaven by a
whirlwind, and he is trying to get some time away from Elisha so he
can do this. However, Elisha also knew that the time was upon them for
Elijah to be taken up in to heaven by a whirlwind, and he was sticking
close to his teacher because he didn't want to miss it. And so the two
of them finally get off by themselves, Elijah rolls up his jacket, and
strikes the Jordan river which parts for them to cross (more special
effects!). And then Elisha asks Elijah to give him a double share of
Elijah's spirit when he leaves. The scene ends as they are walking and
"a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and
Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven". Woah.

I think that a short video vignette interpretation of Psalm 50 would
be fantastic to watch. Imagine what it would look like. Here are the
first 6 verses of the Psalm:
1 The Mighty One, God, the LORD,
 speaks and summons the earth
 from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
 God shines forth.
3 Our God comes
 and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
 and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above,
 and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
 who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
 for he is a God of justice.

The passage from the gospel of Mark gives us the scene referred to as
The Transfiguration. Jesus takes some disciples up a mountain with him
to pray, as he prays "his clothes became dazzling white...and there
appeared to them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus....then
a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice,
"this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Wow. What a fantastic
visual.

And in the passage from Paul's second letter to the followers of Jesus
in Corinth, Paul offers some cryptic imagery in his explanation.  He
talks of the gospel being 'veiled' to some people and that some people
are 'blinded' and kept "from seeing the light of the gospel of the
glory of Christ." He goes on to talk about letting light shine out of
darkness. The visual image of this passage is super important as we
try to understand the purpose of the passage.

It is tough to understand the WORDS of scripture without trying to see
the IMAGES found there.

And in these scenes of supernatural happenings, we have to engage the
words and the images and then attempt to engage what all of those
things might have to do with one another and with us.

Reading and understanding and internalizing scripture is not an easy
or one dimensional task.

God,
guide us as we attempt
to listen
to hear
to see
to visualize
to smell
to touch
to take in
to feel
to hold on to
and to internalize
Your Word.
Amen.

© matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

2.10.2012

SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY Year B



2 Kings 5:1-14  •  Psalm 30  •  1 Corinthians 9:24-27  •  Mark 1:40-45


Chronic physical pain is a big deal.

I have never had serious chronic pain...only small tastes of it.

People who live with chronic physical pain are carrying around
something that the rest of us cannot imagine or understand.

Most folks I have known that are suffering from chronic physical pain
have tried all possible options to get rid of it.

Eating better foods, less sugar, prayer chains (of every faith), more
yoga, acupuncture, hanging upside down, more sleep, less sleep, kale
tablets, cleansing diets, medications (tested and untested),
surgeries, therapists, water aerobics, trips to special
healers.....the list goes on and on.

Even the most even-minded and grounded among us work hard to find
relief when we run in to physical pain.

And the further we go down the list of options, the more faith we
place in the next option on the list.

Now we don't know exactly what folks were dealing with when in
scripture we find someone labeled with 'leprosy'. It seems it was a
skin disease that may or may not have been contagious.

And it appears to have had a variety of social effects on people. Just
in this week's readings we have one story from the second book of
Kings where there was a military commander who suffered from leprosy,
and we see in Mark a leper who seems to be more of a social outcast.

Now obviously these stories are in societies separated by a few
hundred years, so all sorts of differences can be noted and applied.

But something that is consistent between them is that they both had
been suffering with this physical affliction and were desperate to be
healed from it.

I am not 100% certain of this, but I am fairly confident that in every
culture that has ever existed there have been people who have good
intentions that would see someone suffering from pain and would offer
'helpful' suggestions. "Leprosy? Oh...just eat the root of this
tree......Leprosy? You can get rid of that...make sure you are not
sleeping directly on the ground.  Leprosy? No problem, I know a guy
who will cut all of the bad spots out of your skin and it will clear
right up.  Leprosy? You must have done something wrong for it not to
have cleared up yet.  Leprosy? Just rub some dirt on it."

I am sure that each of these men, Naaman and the unnamed leper found
in Mark, had tried every treatment and heard every suggestion.

And then Naaman heard one more suggestion. The more he learned about
it the sillier it became. Gratefully, he had a friend with him that
essentially reminded him of his struggle and encouraged him to have
faith that these instructions might bring healing. And they did.

The person with leprosy we find in Mark was approaching the problem
from a different direction. We do not really know how this person
heard about Jesus. We do not know who this person may have known that
Jesus may have healed. What we do know is that this person was
suffering from a chronic physical condition and somehow had the belief
that Jesus would bring an end to his pain. And he did.

When we are really suffering, we find ourselves trying things that we
normally would not try to find an end to the suffering.

When we are really suffering, we continue to look for ways to receive healing.

In the face of long term, seemingly unabating physical suffering, they
did not give up.

Even though the point of Paul's message is not addressing physical
pain, we see the same message of physical perseverance in this week's
passage of his letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. He
encourages his readers to press on toward the goals set in front of
them.

Where do we put our faith in the face of pain that seems to have no end?
At what point should we 'give up' and stop trying to make suffering different?
What do you need to keep alive the hope that there are better days
ahead than this one?

God, when we are sick,
help us to have faith.
When we suffer,
help us to believe.
When we live in darkness,
help us to know there will again
be light.
Amen.
© matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

2.03.2012

FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY Year B


Isaiah 40:21-31  •  Psalm 147:1-11, 20c  •  1 Corinthians 9:16-23  •  Mark 1:29-39


Why do we work so hard to earn things that others are willing to give us as a gift?

For some reason, it is difficult for many of us to accept gifts.

I am not sure what it is about us humans, but there is something about us that gets in our way of just being gracious when another person wants to offer us either a physical gift or offers us help when we need it.

I don't think this is just a male issue. I also don't think it is just an American issue (although both of those qualities may exacerbate the situation).

Being given something that we did not work for and we did not deserve and that we could not have earned on our own is often tough for us to accept.

And when we get promises like the one in Isaiah 40, it makes for a different situation: "those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

See, this one is tough because it implies I might not only have to accept something I did not earn, I might also be weak and/or helpless AND will find myself accepting a gift.

The writer of Psalm 147 apparently has no problem accepting the gifts of God and understanding that there is nothing he has done to deserve it. In fact, this writer seems to be rolling around in the gifts he has received.

In Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth he shows the great lengths he puts himself through to be able to give the gift of the gospel to people that are different from himself. Paul seems to recognize he has been given a grand gift and he is making great effort to then turn around and give that gift to others.

And what about the people who Jesus healed? Was it hard for them to accept the gift of health and restoration they were given? Do you think any of them were ashamed that they could not pay him? What is it like to be in a situation where you are given a gift that there is no way you can repay it....and your only option is to be gracious?

Are you able to gratefully accept what others are willing to give you?
Do you find yourself attempting to 'earn' gifts?
Can you trust that you will be given all that you need?

God,
I am suspicious
when I don't have to
work for things.
I get uneasy
when I
assume
others might
perceive me
as weak
or unable
(you made me complicated!).
I need peace.
I need to trust.
Help me as I learn
to allow you
to help me.
Amen.

© matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.