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Lenten Reflections: Supporting Each Other in Christian Love

Woman_praying_gatheringWednesday, March 13, 2013

Lectionary Passages:

Ecclesiastes 4: 4-16
Mark 8: 11-26
Hebrews 10: 19-25

By Bruce Whitener

In researching background material on Ecclesiastes, I was surprised to find that despite the statement by the author introducing himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem," an obvious reference to King Solomon, many biblical scholars dispute that Solomon is the author. They cite, among other things, the fact that the source material for the book of Ecclesiastes dates much later than Solomon’s realm. I thought to myself, what difference does it make who authored it? The book is Solomon-like in its wisdom and has good advice for modern-day Christians about how to live a full and rewarding life. The material is short and is well worth reading. American novelist Thomas Wolfe was so impressed with these writings he had this to say:

"Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth.” Most Christians are probably familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the multitude by the Sea of Galilee. The second lectionary, Mark 8: 11-26, contains several accounts that may be less familiar. The first involves the Pharisees who followed Jesus around, hoping to catch him in some shortcoming or infraction of the complex Jewish religious laws. They ask him for a sign from heaven, hopefully something that would illustrate that Jesus was really endowed with a heavenly connection, such as the burning bush that was not consumed.

Throughout the Holy Land, there were many magicians and sorcerers that could perform tricks that would impress a crowd; these tricks would lead to a call for donations or an offer to sell trinkets. Jesus refused to show a sign as it would put him in the same class as the itinerant carnival acts.  He said: “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  He and the disciples got back in the boat and went to the other side of the water where the Pharisees could not easily follow. When they got there, they discovered that once again, they had not brought any food. Fearing perhaps that the disciples would try to buy food from the locals, Jesus warns them:  “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Possibly Jesus was simply trying to ensure that they would not be adversely influenced by the Pharisees and Herod’s minions. Seeing that the disciples had no inkling as to how to get food, Jesus chides them that they do not recall how he had fed the other crowds. Citing their lack of faith, Jesus launches a full scale criticism of their value as his followers.  The second lectionary passage concludes with the story of Jesus restoring the sight of a blind man.

The third and final lectionary passage is a letter, The Epistle to the Hebrews, one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known, although Christian tradition holds it to be the Apostle Paul or perhaps one of his assistants.

The primary purpose of the letter is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity. The most compelling directive in the letter is that believers are to consider how they can be of service to each other, especially stirring up each other to the more vigorous and abundant exercise of love, and the practice of good works. As the young church was entering a time of persecution, more and more Christians were reportedly “shrinking away” from collective worship. The letter specifically urges Christians to band together in communal worship, supporting each other in Christian love.

Prayer: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. Amen.

Bruce Whitener  is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.


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