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, October 15, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 28

Old Testament Reading
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Psalm 22:1-15
Psalm 90:12-17

Epistle Reading
Hebrews 4:12-16
Gospel Reading
Mark 10:17-31
Collect (BCP)
Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Following Jesus Is Hard
final version

Every time I read this passage, I see something in it that I had not seen before. I think that is one of the advantages of following the Revised Common Lectionary for Bible Reading and Sermon Texts. It forces us to cover the expanse of the scriptures and then every three years it brings us back to those same scriptures to test their application to our lives as they have become since the previous reading.

You see, it is not that the scripture has changed, for it has been the same for thousands of years. But I have changed. I am not the same person I was three years ago, or six years ago. My values have changed. The things that were most important ten or twenty years ago, seem like only a whim, today.

Every day I face new situations, new joys, new heartaches. At my age I am beginning to lose more and more loved ones by death. I find that I and my loved ones are more vulnerable to disease. My body is beginning to wear out and I have to find new ways to do the things I could do with ease only a few short years ago. When I was a young man, I was very vain about my hair. Well, that's another story.

But the point is that we are constantly changing and these scriptures that remain constant apply to our changing lives in different ways as we become better able to understand them.

This week, as I have meditated and prayed over this scripture, what I see here is that following Jesus is not easy. In fact, it is very hard. It is so hard that we cannot do it without God's help.

It has been my experience that every generation says the church is oldfashioned. We must read the scriptures in a way that is more relevant to us than the way the old folks read them.

This sentiment in some ways echoes what I have just said about seeing the scriptures differently based on the needs of my current situation, but, I think, for most people it means a reading of scripture that gives us permission to do the things that our parents said were wrong. So, the moderniztion of the interpretation of scripture can be a way of making the following of Jesus easier and less demanding.

The man in our scripture today, who, in Mark is neither young nor a ruler, just rich, has not lived an easy religion. Being a good Jew, he has followed the ten commandments all of his life. We read the ten commandments a few moments ago. Were you paying attention?

The ten commandments have become a focal point of popular discussion and polemics, both social and political. But do people who are charged up about the ten commandments really read what they say? Do we know what they mean? Can we say with this man, who approaches Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life, that we have kept them all since our youth?

The ten commandments are hard and, being weak and self-centered – human if you will – we just can't do it. So, does the modernization of the interpretation of scripture mean that it's OK in some circumstances to break the commandments? In some circles it does. It's OK to forget the Sabbath and not to keep it Holy, isn't it. Or maybe we think that we must still keep this commandment but we have to broaden our definition of what's allowed on Sunday.

Someone's spouse does not understand them and they are stagnating in this nowhere relationship so it's OK to seek love and companionship outside of the marriage vow.

In our parents’ generation things were different. My parents were married 52 years. I have an uncle who has been married 62 years. They are oddities by today’s standards. Marriages today last, on the average, seven years. After that we get bored with each other and begin to look for greener pastures.

My neighbor has a better house than I do, so I find ways to think of him as mean and evil, because I deserve his house more than he does. He's a snob anyway because he belongs to the club and I can't. I know he thinks he's better than me. But, now, that's not really coveting his things or his lifestyle, is it?

Even though I work 60 to 70 hours a week so we can have more things, and some of you put your spouses to work so you can have even more things, I really don't have any other god, do I?

Jesus told the man in our scripture today to go and sell what he has and give it to the poor. That request was too hard for that man. Is this an indictment against rich people? It probably is. But separate the logic from the actual issues and see if the same does not apply to other things than just riches. It was hard for this man to give up his wealth because, for him, that was what was coming between him and loving God with all his heart, all his soul, and all his might. In your life, and in my life it may be something else. Maybe it's pride, or it's cousin, vanity. Perhaps it's averting our eyes and our notice of the plight of the poor and hungry in our midst.

Is there something in your life that is so important to you that if Jesus asked you to give it up, you would, like this man, go away grieving?

In Matthew's Gospel there is a passage called the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, no less than five times, Jesus gives a teaching of the Jews with the words, "You have heard it said," and follows it with the words, "But I say unto you." And by doing so he sets the bar higher than the traditional interpretation of scripture. He also says that he did not come to destroy the law but to fill it full.

Jesus says to us that if all we are doing is keeping the ten commandments then we are missing the boat. Actually, he paraphrases the commandments into two important ones, "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

And the mondernization of scriptural interpretation is about the question of "Who is my neighbor?"

Of course, my neighbor is someone like me. The color of his skin is like mine. He speaks the same language that I speak. He goes to the same church, or bars, that I go to. He is conservative, or liberal just like me. And, O yes, he is certainly clean and wears the right kind of clothes. That is the modern interpretation of "neighbor," isn't it?

It can't mean the homeless. It can't mean the illegal aliens. It can't mean the nerds or the freaks or the junkies? Can it? And what about those who have leprosy, or the modern version of it called AIDS?

Writing these people off as sinners not worthy of our love and compassion is taking the easy way. The hard way, the way of Jesus is to search our own soul until we find in us sins more dispicable than those we see in them. It is searching their souls until we find Jesus hidden deep in side of them. To do that we have be willing to look deep into their eyes instead of averting our eyes in disgust.

The words of the song that Leah plays during our moment of silent prayer go like this:
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

And the disciples said "Well this means that no one can inherit eternal life, doesn't it?" It’s True! None of us are worthy of eternal life! We all have warts and zits in our character. Our souls are black with violations of Jesus' words. We have not been faithful in asking What Would Jesus Do. (WWJD) Or, we have not been truthful with ourselves when we asked the question and selected an easy answer that required no personal sacrifice.

Jesus tells us to enter at the straight and narrow gate, but all we can do is meander from side to side of the broad way so that we must take the wide gate, and that one surely leads to destruction.

The Apostle Paul said it the most simple terms, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." And he goes on to tell us that "the wages of sin is death."
So the following of Jesus is hard, so hard in fact that we cannot do it. We cannot do it by ourselves, can we?

But there is a surprise ending to our story. For Paul tells us, "Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us." He said, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ” – it is the gift of God! "Sinners, saved by grace." That's what we are.

Living a life following Jesus is important. It is the most important thing in the world. But God knows that we cannot go it alone and so he provides us with a safety net. And that safety net is His love and His grace.

Thanks be to God!

Let us pray,

Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil
and grant your peace to a world
that is tired of wars and injustice.
Give us your Holy Spirit of wisdom,
that we may not seek our happiness
in ambition, power and possessions.
Help us to seek you and your kingdom,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and for evermore.


Anonymous KJV said...

There are many different “Bible” versions today claiming to be the Word of God. Each one tells us that it is the most reliable, most accurate, etc. etc.. But which of them is God’s Word? Since they all disagree with one another, we can’t possibly say that they all are. Can we? Are we to suppose that God has written more than one Bible and that he makes statements in one and then disagrees with himself in another? No, of course not. God only wrote one Bible. How, then, do we go about determining which “Bible” is the Bible? If we look to human opinion for the answer, we will find nearly as many opinions as we find people. One person will like one. Another person will prefer another. Yet a third person will assure us that it really doesn’t matter, telling us that any of them will do just fine. Since we aren’t interested in human opinion here, we need to look to scripture for help in resolving this issue. There are two questions that we will need to consider. (1) Which are the correct manuscripts?
(2) Which is the proper translation of those (the correct) manuscripts? Go to web site for answer.

1. God promised to preserve His words (Psa. 12:6-7; Mat. 24:35). There has to be a preserved copy of God’s pure words somewhere. If it isn’t the KJV, then what is it?
2. It has no copyright. The text of the KJV may be reproduced by anyone for there is no copyright forbidding it’s duplication. This is not true with the modern perversions.
3. The KJV produces good fruit (Mat. 7:17-20). No modern translation can compare to the KJV when it comes to producing good fruit. For nearly four hundred years, God has used the preaching and teaching of the KJV to bring hundreds of millions to Christ. Laodicean Christians might favor the new versions, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t.
4. The KJV was translated during the Philadelphia church period (Rev. 3:7-13). The modern versions begin to appear rather late on the scene as the lukewarm Laodicean period gets underway (Rev. 3:14-22), but the KJV was produced way back in 1611, just in time for the many great revivals (1700-1900). The Philadelphia church was the only church that did not receive a rebuke from the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was the only church that “kept” God’s word (Rev. 3:8).
5. The KJV translators were honest in their work. When the translators had to add certain words, largely due to idiom changes, they placed the added words in italics so we’d know the difference. This is not the case with many new translations.
6. All new translations compare themselves to the KJV. Isn’t it strange that the new versions never compare themselves to one another? For some strange reason they all line up against one Book--the A.V. 1611. I wonder why? Try Matthew 12:26.

10/10/2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

The KJV that we have today is not the 1611 version. It has been updated several times during it illustrious history. Have you ever tried to read the 1611 version? It was produced in a time when there were multiple English translations being printed. It's purpose was to provide a translation in the language of the common people that could be approved by the Church of England. The version it replaced was the Vulgate, or Latin text which was translated by Jerome for the purpose of providing a translation in the language of the common people, hence the name "Vulgate."

I prefer the NRSV because it is translated from the best manuscripts in a modern version of the English language that people speak today. I typically use the KJV with it's poetic verse for liturgical purposes in the responsive reading of the Psalms in the worship service.

10/11/2006 6:02 AM  

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