The Cartoon Gospels

Excerpts from the Gospel of Mark

Mostly for Lectionary Year B


Second Sunday of Advent (B02)

Mark 1:1-8

JB's Thong Song

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
`Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."


Take Me to the River ...


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Lord, help us to prepare the way for you in our lives!


Baptism of the Lord (B08)

Mark 1:4-11

Of Thongs and Men

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."


A Story for Entertainment Tonight


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All of the people of Jerusalem came out to hear John the Baptist and be baptized. All. And his was no easy message ... he was preaching repentance of sins. Is Jesus being baptized by John simply as a method for him to be identified by John as the one, or is repentance a first step we all must take in order to prepare our hearts to receive God's grace?


First Sunday of Lent (B17)

Mark 1:9-15

Dunk, Desert and Declare

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."


GOOD News, What's That!?!


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It's hard to understand why our culture is so obsessed with bad news. "It sells newspapers" is one rationalization that upon closer examination is self-incriminating -- it wouldn't sell newspapers if we didn't buy them! As Christians we should be about the task of spreading the joy and love of God, and delight in each other's blessings. Wouldn't that be a nice headline!


Third Sunday after Epiphany (B10)

Mark 1:14-20

Training the New Recruits ...

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.

And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."

And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.


Discipleship 101


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Jesus called simple, hard-working folk from their daily work to a new task: to spread the good news of God. In addition to being hard workers, simple folk didn't need to be untrained before they could be trained as may have been the case for teachers, theologians and religious leaders! A grass-roots movement of sorts. Hopefully we have some of the same attributes as the disciples and can work hard to spread the word!


Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (B11)

Mark 1:21-28

Stronger Than Dirt

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.


Stronger than Dirt


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Jesus begins his ministry in the synagogue and speaks as one with personal authority. This was bold because the scribes would only state their views indirectly in reference to oral tradition and Torah. People in Jesus' day had an intense belief in demons and evil spirits. To reach the person, the demons or belief in them had to be cast out. Again Jesus casts these false beliefs out with personal authority, not religious ritual or incantations. We too should be in awe of this kind of personal relationship with God, and strive for it through Jesus' teachings!


Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (B12)

Mark 1:29-39

Road Trip

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him.

When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Fishing for Some Peace and Quiet


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Even Jesus needed time to be alone with God. May we find the time as well.


Sixth Sunday after Epiphany (B13)

Mark 1:40-45

Silence of the Lepers -- Not!

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean."

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!"

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


Don't Lose Face ...


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As we shall find throughout the Gospels, lepers are really lousy at keeping a secret. Of course, if you'd just been miraculously cured, wouldn't you tell everybody you met? So what are you waiting for?


Seventh Sunday after Epiphany (B14)

Mark 2:1-12

Faithful Friends, Skeptical Scribes, Glorified God

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Stand up and take your mat and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --he said to the paralytic-- "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home."

And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"


Up on the Roof ...


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At this point the scribes were a bit offended, but mostly in awe. "We have never seen anything like this!" they said. Jesus' personal authority was a challenge and an amazement to them. It should be to us as well.


Eighth Sunday after Epiphany (B15)

Mark 2:13-22

Collecting Tax Collectors

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.

As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me."

And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples--for there were many who followed him.

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

Hey, Not So Fast!

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"

Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."


Sewing and Wine Making 101


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New teaching, new approach -- Jesus was hardly orthodox, and his newness would be a continual problem for the scribes and the religious establishment. New wine, old wineskins. New material, old clothes. This is a pattern that repeats itself many times and many ways. May we be ever open to the new work God creates in and around us, discerning the fruits of the spirit and not getting hung-up on the method of delivery!


Sunday 5/29-6/4 (B32)

Mark 2:23-3:6

Pharisee Sabbath Hang-ups

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"

And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?"

But they were silent.

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.


Sunday Brunch


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Jesus never identified the proper relationship with God with the repeating of ritual. It was never required before healing or forgiving sins, nor did he recommend that we try to conquer religious experience by doing so. In him was life, not in rules was life! May we discover this deeper relationship with God (of course, until then the rules can be helpful).


Sunday 6/5-11 (B33)

Mark 3:20-35

The Devil Didn't Make Me Do It

... and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

About Visiting with the Relatives

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.

A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."

And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."


Read the Directions


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Jesus' family questions his sanity, and the scribes attribute his power to satan. Jesus replies first to the scribes -- satan wouldn't cast out satan; that would be stupid. As to family, Jesus says all who do the will of God are his family! May we make it to the family reunion!


Sunday 6/12-18 (B34)

Mark 4:26-34

All About Farming

He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."

He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.


Jesus and the Beanstalk


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Parables are wonderful things. They communicate a profound spiritual truth in everyday language and in a way that even disciples can remember. Do you think that crowds would have stayed out in the hot sun of the middle east to listen to a lecture? Not likely. May our mustard-seed-sized faith grow large so that it provides comfort and service to others.


Sunday 6/19-25 (B35)

Mark 4:35-41

Boating Incident

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."

And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"


Dramamine Anybody?


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Imagine being in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm. Kind of eerie and awesome to have that kind of power. May we find the strong faith Jesus is alluding to in this passage, after we pick up our jaws from the bottom of the boat!


Sunday 6/26-7/2 (B36)

Mark 5:21-43

First Aid Jesus Style

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.

Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?"

And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


Parenting 101


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Jesus shows no prejudice in whom he heals. Even if they have sinned, his strongest charge is go and sin no more - a post-requisite, not a pre-requisite. May we approach others with the unconditional love of God first and foremost, and then hope that they catch on!


Sunday 7/3-7/9 (B37)

Mark 6:1-13

No Respect I Tell Ya ...

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded.

They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house."

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.

Disciples' On-the-job Training

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


Loophole?


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The disciples were sent out to deliver and demonstrate Jesus' gospel message. They were to travel light, trusting in God to provide for their needs and not to take pay for their efforts, just basic room and board. Even though God's unconditional love is the good news, how can we receive it unless we repent (a.k.a., have a change of heart)? May what we know of God's love transform our heart and translate into our actions.


Sunday 6/10-7/16 (B38)

Mark 6:14-29

Herodias Gets Her Way

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her.

For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."

And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.

When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom."

She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?"

She replied, "The head of John the baptizer."

Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter."

The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


How To Get a Head in Life


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This passage reads like a soap opera! Herodias is at once Herod's niece (daughter of Aristobulus, his half-brother), sister-in-law, wife and just plain evil. Herod seems to fear peer pressure more than he fears a messenger from God, so John dies a very inglorious death. How often are we like Herod, compromising our faith to peer pressure? May we have the strength to be more like John the Baptist who held fast to his beliefs, even in the face of great personal risk.


Sunday 7/17-7/23 (B39)

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The Doctor Is In

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.

He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


Workin' 9 to 5


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Think your job is tough? Try healing, teaching and ministering to a crowd of people all day long -- without complaining about the boss! Jesus had a short, but intense, public ministry, one that has forever changed the shape of the world. Awesome in its shortness, awesome in its longevity, awesome in its simplicity and awesome in its profundity! Did I mention awesome?


Sunday 8/28-9/3 (B45)

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

On What Defiles

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"

He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. [...] For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."


Miss Manners' Spirituality


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"Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." Sound familiar? Perhaps some things don't change. May we not make this mistake individually and correct it in our institutions!


Sunday 9/4-9/10 (B46)

Mark 7:24-37

Score One for the Dogs!

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go--the demon has left your daughter."

So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.

Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."

And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."


Expectorating Someone!?!


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This healing really wasn't for dramatic effect, since Jesus took the man "aside in private." It is possible that the deliberate moves were really more for the benefit of the man being healed. Since this man could not hear, Jesus uses touch and gestures to communicate the healing. Jesus meets us where we are and treats us with undeserved respect and dignity. Now that's something to go tell everybody about!


Sunday 9/11-17 (B47)

Mark 8:27-38

Peter's Good and Bad Answers

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"

And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah."

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."


Opinion Poll


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Jesus wants to know: is his message getting through? He sees opposition mounting possibly leading to his death. Are people hopelessly lost or can they see the way to God in Jesus? Peter provides a twofold answer. Yes, the message has been received; "You are the Messiah." And no, the kind of messiah is not understood, hence the rebuke "get behind me Satan." The suffering servant isn't in the messiah handbook of the day. So little time, so much left to teach!


Second Sunday of Lent (B18)

Mark 8:31-38

Peter's Concern Turns to Foot-in-Mouth

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."


Crossword Puzzle


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Here's a point to ponder: what use would the illustration "take up their cross and follow me" be prior to the crucifixion? That aside, even though Peter didn't want to accept that Jesus would likely be killed if he went on to Jerusalem (get behind me Satan), who do you think would be the first to pick up their cross follow Jesus -- yes, Peter! May we have the loyalty of Peter!


Transfiguration (Last) Sunday after Epiphany (B16)

Mark 9:2-9

Conference Call

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


Say What!?!


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Can we blame Peter for wanting to hold on to the moment? No monument ever truly captures the event it is intended to represent, nor would three piles of rocks do justice to the transfiguration. This is the ultimate power lunch: Moses, head lawgiver; Elijah, greatest prophet; Jesus and God. May the mystery of the transfiguration deepen our conviction in Jesus as messiah.


Sunday 9/18-9/24 (B48)

Mark 9:30-37

The Disciples Get a Lesson in Humility

They went on from there and passed through Galilee.

He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again."

But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?"

But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."


Service with a Smile


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Now that Peter established that Jesus is the Messiah, confirmed by Jesus, the disciples begin to play the power game. Who is the best disciple? Who will be first in heaven? Jesus gives them a lesson in humility; the first must be the last and servant of all. There's no posturing ... for all we know there may not even be such a thing as rank or position in heaven. However, if we are to err, we should err on the side of being in service and regarding all with respect and dignity.


Sunday 9/25-10/1 (B49)

Mark 9:38-50

Pass the Salt

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us."

But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched."

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."


The Devil Made Me Do It


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I am invoking cartoonist privilege to overstate the case here. This cartoon is meant to call attention to the power of Jesus' name and the problem with the disciples concern. Not only did the disciples want position in heaven, they wanted to be Jesus' exclusive interpreters on earth. Perhaps this latter thought was as scary to Jesus as it appears to be to Mark! Since the disciples missed the point so often, who were they really to correct others? Who are we to do so?


Sunday 10/2-8 (B50)

Mark 10:2-16

Jesus 1, Pharisees 0

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"

They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her."

But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.' `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.


You Had To Ask ...


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The Pharisees could have been asking about divorce because A) it was a controversial issue and it would divide his support base, B) they really wanted to know, C) they wanted to stir up issues with Herod (remember John the Baptist was beheaded for protesting Herod's marriage to his bother's wife Herodias), D) they wanted to commit heresy by contradicting mosaic law, E) A,C & D. It would be like asking Jesus about the abortion issue today -- how do you think he would respond?


Sunday 10/9-15 (B51)

Mark 10:17-31

A Lesson in Serving One Master

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'"

He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth."

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

And the disciples were perplexed at these words.

But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you."

Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."


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The golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do to you. It's not enough to not hurt people; the Christian is one who is proactive in helping people and generous with time and money. The rich young man didn't hurt anyone, but probably wasn't helping anyone, either. Jesus challenges him lovingly, not in order to trap him. The lesson continues with the parable of the camel. The moral: with God all things are possible. May even we be granted salvation!


Sunday 10/16-22 (B52)

Mark 10:35-45

James and John Get Greedy

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."

And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?"

And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

They replied, "We are able."

Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."


Go Ask Dad ...


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Mark makes it clear that James and John just would not let the status issue lie. Interestingly in Acts we find Peter, Paul and James (the brother of Jesus, not Zebedee) as the prominent figures in the early church. So, if even the greed for power of "the sons of thunder" can be overcome, perhaps we have a chance too. May we find joy and peace in Christian service, and not sweat the office politics.


Sunday 10/23-29 (B53)

Mark 10:46-52

Bartimaeus 1, Crowd 0

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Many sternly ordered him to be quiet,

but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here."

And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you."

So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again."

Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well."

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.


Crowd Mentality


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This time it is the crowd, not the disciples, that try to prevent someone from seeing Jesus. Perhaps the crowd was well intentioned, trying to spare Jesus from being bothered by a blind beggar, but they still missed the point. Bartimaeus calls to Jesus, son of David, to have mercy on him. He knows Jesus can heal him. He sees what the crowd does not. May we never be so blind as to refuse to call on Jesus because we think he cannot help us.


Sixth Sunday of Lent (B22)

Mark 11:1-11

Heeeeeeere's Jesus!

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, `Why are you doing this?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'"

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"

They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


Donkey Duty


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In Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem the crowd shouts "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Their expectations will be fulfilled in Jesus, but not in the way they were expecting! May we be open to God's will in our lives, wherever it leads.


Sunday 10/30-11/5 (B54)

Mark 12:28-34

Next Exit, The Kingdom of God

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another [Jesus and the Sadducees], and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"

Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that `he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and `to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and `to love one's neighbor as oneself,' --this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

After that no one dared to ask him any question.


Love God and Your Neighbor as Yourself


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Jesus profoundly mixes two separate commandments, winning the admiration of this scribe and the respect of the other present (since no one dared ask him any more questions). His synthesis is original, yet captures the essence of Jewish monotheism and law. In addition, Jesus' definition of neighbor (recall the parable of the Good Samaritan) extends these commandments to all people. May we understand that love of God does not exist without the love for others.


Sunday 11/6-12 (B55)

Mark 12:38-44

The Problem with Some Scribes

As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."


A Penny for Your Thoughts


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The scribes, Pharisees and Jesus could sometimes find common ground, but Jesus did not mince words when it came to calling out false piety and hypocrisy. In contrast to insincere faith is the old woman who gives all she has to God. Most stewardship drives at church try to guilt members into giving more (e.g., tithing it all to the church), when very often it's the church that is not a good steward of what they receive. Lord, help us help our institutions live up to your standards.


Sunday 11/13-19 (B56)

Mark 13:1-8

Entropy

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!"

Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?"

Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs."


The Rolling Stones ...


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The temple was an impressive place, but not as impressive as God.


First Sunday of Advent (B01)

Mark 13:24-37

Here Comes the Son

"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven."

For Everything There is a Season

"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

Sheep Don't Sleep

"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."


Wake-Up Call ... for Whom?


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Lord, help us to keep AWAKE (alert, alive) our love for you,
our listening for your will and our works on your behalf!


Easter Sunday (B23)

Mark 16:1-8

Jesus 1, Death 0

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you."

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss


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The Marys were headed for the surprise of their lives ... to find that Jesus had risen, to know for certain that he was the Christ. The resurrection is the central belief of Christianity. It validates Jesus' ministry, teachings and identity. It allows us to have a relationship with Jesus because he is risen. May we make it a close one!


Mark The End - To Be Announced
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Introduction | Matthew | Mark | Luke | John | Back Cover

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