The Gospel Reading
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56The 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.
Jesus is clearly recognized in this passage from Mark as a wise man and a compassionate healer. He wants to feed his sheep with his presence and restore them to health both physically and spiritually. The words and works of Jesus inspire us even today, two thousand years later.
I have to tell you though that I find it troubling that the bible has been used to mislead people and to justify actions that seem so clearly wrong to me. It seems like people take passages from the bible, especially the old testament, as a source to justify their prejudices.
What I love about our denomination is the analogy we use of the three legged stool. One leg stands for tradition. A second leg represents scripture and the third stands for reason. Without any one of these legs, the stool will not stand.
This three legged stool approach to faith makes so much sense to me. It allows me to reflect on stories such as Noah and the flood and see the message behind the story. There is no evidence of a flood ever taking place. It would have been literally impossible to put every creature two by two on a giant boat. Even if you could, every species would be seriously impaired by such a limited gene pool.
But, stories such as this carry with them a very important message about having a relationship with our creator. Many parts of the bible were intended for the culture in which they were written and it is important to keep that in mind when studying scripture. I have a relative who once told me that she and her family are Christians and they believe in the real words of the bible. That probable isn't exactly what she said but what I heard was that every word in the bible had to be followed to the letter. I frankly do not believe any denomination actually follows the words in the old testament and new testament word for word.
Here are some examples of what you will find in the Bible. 1st Corinthians Ch. 14 “It is shameful for women to speak in church.” Lev. 11-7 Eating pork and shellfish is an abomination. Lev. 19 The Lord says to Moses, you shall not let your animals breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a different garment made with two different materials. (So, I guess we all need to check our clothing labels and remove all clothes that are cotton polyester blend.)
Lev. Ch. 20 If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. Lev. Ch. 21 A priest shall marry only a woman who is a virgin.
Deuteronomy Ch. 21 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and mother shall take hold of him and take him to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. Ch. 22 If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman's father and she shall marry him. (I wonder how the young woman feels about that.)
This is only a sample of what can be found in the bible and unfortunately the bible has been used to justify slavery, not giving the vote to women and limiting the rights of those with a different sexual orientation.
When I was ordained a priest, I was asked if I believed the bible contained all that was necessary to salvation and I said I did. I still believe that. There is so much in the old and new testament that inspires me and guides me on my spiritual journey. Today's Psalm reading is beautifully written when it says, “you are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation.”
When Paul writes of love in first Corinthians there are very few people who are not emotionally moved by his prose.
I believe that my salvation is in both the old and new testaments. I am also grateful that God has given you and me discerning minds. May we use them prayerfully on our spiritual journey.
We must never lose sight of our Christianity. We are followers of Jesus and we follow his teachings. In the short time that he was physically on this planet he said some pretty amazing things. When confronted about working on the Sabbath he said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. When ask about paying taxes, he said, “ive to Caesar the things that are Caesars, give to God the things that are God's.” When he saw a woman who was accused of adultery and was about to be stoned he said, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Jesus was amazing and I'm a follower.