the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday 4/9/06 Year B - Passion Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

Will You, Too, Fall Away?

When Jesus was arrested, all the disciples abandoned Him and fled for their lives. In our own self-righteousness, we feel disgust for their cowardice. Like Peter we boast "Even though all become deserters, I will not. Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!" [Mark 14:29 & Luke 22:33] But, are we?

Jesus predicts the falling away of his disciples in Mark 14:27
And Jesus said to them, "You will all become deserters; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'

The word translated here in the New Revised Standard as "deserters" is the greek word σκανδαλιζω. The King James has "be offended." The old Revised Standard has "fall away." It is the root of our English word "scandalize." Father Raymond Brown, in his two volume work, Death of the Messiah, translates the word "scandalize." Webster defines "scandalize" to offend the moral sense of , or to shock. Bauer gives the word to mean "let oneself be led into sin, fall away." but Father Brown says "While the word has the general sense of stumbling, falling and hence sinning, the absolute usage can connote a loss of faith."

Truly the disciples were shocked, scandalized and they ran for their lives. They all fell away and even lost their hope and their faith. Peter did, in fact, follow behind, which was more than the others who fled to places unknown. But, even Peter fell away and was bitterly remorseful. He too, lost his hope and his faith. Luke tells us [22:60-61] that "At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed, the Lord turned and looked at Peter." How often we mistake the meaning of a look because we bring to its interpretation all of our own internal baggage. For Jesus it was a look of compassion. For Peter, it was a look of judgment. Peter remembered Jesus' prediction, his vehement denial and ultimate fulfillment of Jesus words.

All the male disciples hid out and did not show their face in public again until after the announcement of the resurrection. Only the women were present at the cross. Only the women were among the embalming party on Sunday morning. Now, I don't think this difference in behavior between the men and women disciples is intended to make a judgment about the relative faith of the women versus the men. I think it tells us something of the society in which they lived, that the women could move about freely, unafraid of being harassed. Because of their status as non-persons, they were not a threat to those who opposed Jesus. But there it is! Of course, we have overcome that kind of bigotry haven't we? No. We have only displaced it onto a different group. It used to be the African-Americans, now it's the gays, the aliens, the homeless. And still, in the Church, of all places, women are regarded as less capable disciples than men. In the words of John Denver, "Oh when will they ever learn? Oh when will they ever learn." Indeed, when will we ever learn!

Unless we have walked in the disciples shoes, we have no right to be their judge or to boast about what we would have done in their place. Jesus, Himself, didn't judge them. He had compassion on them. He didn't need them to defend Him. But He knew the emotional pain and anguish they would experience at the loss of their leader. He knew they would be in shock. He knew they would lose hope in what He had taught them. He knew they would lose their faith.

Again it is Luke who tells us more of the details [22:31-32]. Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Even as he was about to be crucified on a Roman cross, Jesus cared for the well-being of his disciples. And Satan still demands to sift us all like wheat.

When we lose our hope and faith in the one or the thing that is the source of our security, we too fall into great despair. The whole world seems black as night. All is lost. We lose our desire to live because we think the rest of our lives will be filled with the same lonliness and pain of the present moment. It might be a parent, a partner or a spouse, or other loved one in whom we have vested our hope and security. It may be a job or a certain level of income that brings meaning to life and a sense of self sufficiency. Maybe it is membership at the club or inclusion in a certain segment of society that gives you fulfillment. For many of us the loss of these people or these symbols of status bring the loss of hope and sometimes the loss of faith. We are left in shock and wonder at how we could have been duped into trusting in this or that or the other. And we are in further despair over what to do next. When all of our symbols of security die, we are left groping in the dark for answers and solutions that evade us.

All these things are temporal. They do not last. The disciples put their faith, their hope and trust in a man, or in an idea of Messiah, or in an idea of the Kingdom of God. Truly Jesus was more than just a man, he was a savior, he was the Son of God. They didn't know it until some time later. As Messiah he was not a military leader that would martial an army, drive out the Romans and establish the Kingdom of God with it's seat in Jerusalem. The disciples had laid up for themselves treasures on earth. And their treasures turned out to be corruptible. Our treasures, too, are often times treasures on earth. They too, are corruptible, temporal and do not last.

Isaiah [40:8] tells us: The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. In Proverbs [3:5-6] we are told: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. God wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven for these treasures are incorruptible. These are the eternal treasures of Love, Love of God, Love of our fellows, men and women.

When we fall away it is for the reason that we have trusted in a plastic Jesus. Our gods have feet of clay. The real savior is the one who will not fail. He will go all the way to the cross. He has said, I will never leave you or forsake you."

Thanks be to God!


Blogger Bad Alice said...

Wow, love the last paragraph. So often we do trust in a plastic Jesus and then lose faith because an idol can't help us.

4/09/2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

You quoted John Denver.

You love God, read the works of Merton and can quote John Denver.

No wonder I have such a genuine fondness for you, Joel.

Your post today touched my heart.

4/10/2006 12:29 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

Actually I erred. The line I quoted is not by John Dever at all it is by Pete Seeger. I thought 'Peter, Paul & Mary = John Denver' but actually John Denver wrote "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and Pete Seeger wrote "Where have all the flowers gone."

4/10/2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

Now that you say that, you're right!

Doesn't mean Leavin' on a Jet Plane wasn't a good song, too...

4/11/2006 6:13 PM  

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