Jesus. It always gets back to Jesus. That shouldn't be so surprising. After all, the one thing non-Christians surely know about Christians is that they are followers of Jesus. But you might be surprised at how often the church wanders off in search of something other than Jesus, some God better suited to our inclinations and biases than the one who is enfleshed in Jesus. So, as the summer ends and the regular rhythms of life return, it is good to see that the lectionary has us deep in the heart of Mark's gospel where we are again confronted by Jesus. It reminds me of returning to class in elementary school and spending the month of September going back over what we had learned in the previous year (and half-forgotten over the summer). In Canada we will mark Thanksgiving on the first Sunday in October. Between now and then there are four Sundays, four opportunities to learn in the school of rabbi Jesus.
After the trouble we have been encountering on Wednesday mornings in our readings of Jeremiah some of our number have been giving thanks that Jesus is not as troubling as Jeremiah. Except when you turn to Mark's gospel and pay attention to the Jesus we meet there it is hard not to be troubled. Even after all of these years of preaching these texts I find it difficult, challenging, troubling to find the right words to express what we read there. Yet even as it is troubling it is also invigorating, life-giving, a blessing. So I have opted to imagine these next four sermons as an opportunity for preacher and congregation to be troubled all over again by Jesus:
September 9 -
"Ephphatha" (Mark 7:24-37)
September 16 - "Profit & Loss" (Mark 8:27-38)
September 23 - "A Familiar Quarrel" (Mark 9:30-37)
September 30 - "Salt" (Mark 9:38-50)
I plan to post some pre-Sunday thoughts about the text here each week and then to post a written version of the sermon here on Sunday. See you in class.