1st Reading – Zechariah 12: 10-11
This Old Testament book was probably written by two, maybe even three, different anonymous authors, with this portion being written after the Babylonian exile.
Through suffering, the people would come to know what it means to truly repent and thus the covenant with God restored. How does suffering help purify us? The early Christians, of course, saw Jesus in these words, as we do today. He is the pierced one that we must look upon and mourn. Then a fountain of grace will cleanse us of sin. And that is the central meaning of the passage. When we really grasp the love of God poured out in and through the ‘pierced one,’ we will experience an outpouring of the Spirit and a change of heart. With mourning and grief we will turn away from our self-centered sins and open to the love of God present in the crucified one. (Celebration, June 1998)
It is interesting that grace proceeds the mourning. How else are we to carry our burdens but through God’s grace? It is only through God’s grace that death and destruction do not have the final answer. In God there is hope. What better goodness to hear with all that is in the news lately?
2nd Reading – Galatians 3: 26-29
Baptism is the sacrament in which we are immersed in Christ — in the One who shows us the overflowing love of God and the dying and rising that this love entails. We are one-in-Christ only in this truth. Only when we immerse ourselves in God’s love and acceptance (justification) are we able to overcome and transcend such very real differences. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
Paul says we are all children of God…co-heirs…not alone but one body in Christ. In fact, we are to “put on” Christ in our oneness. By linking us all back to Abraham, he is saying the Israelites are not the only chosen people of God. We are all chosen. How does it feel to know you are chosen by God?
Paul was not concerned with hierarchical leadership as much as he was with the house churches acting “as a body”. Leaders were to admonish, but so was everyone. Prophets were to build up, but so was everyone. Paul’s notion of church leadership included the concepts of reciprocity, collegiality, and collaborative ministry. The one in charge would carry out the wishes as servant of the “body” (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 403). How is this reflected in our church today?
The Gospel – Luke 9: 18-24
The next 10 chapters of Luke are about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. They are particular to Luke. The other evangelists do not give such an exhaustive rendering of the journey. Luke intended to show that Jesus’ journey mirrors the journey of every Christian (Birmingham, W&W, p. 404). It gives us the picture that the disciples really were On The Way. There is continual movement for them…constantly busy…yet they are focused on Christ and are fed in the midst of it. Do you relate to this?
From Celebration, June 1998:
Peter’s response that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ of God, was a good answer, but one that hung Judaism’s old messianic hopes on Jesus. This messiah had been long anticipated as a royal descendant of the Davidic dynasty with might and prowess sufficient enough to restore the nation to the prestige and power it had known under David. Jesus had to correct this notion. His mission would not be spent in military maneuvers forcing foes into submission. He had come as one who serves, as one proclaiming God’s kingdom, a kingdom of love. This love would entail self-sacrifice – self-giving — dying to oneself. Only this way of life would lead to transformation, but first it would also lead to suffering. Jesus does not ‘sugar-coat’ this message. We as disciples – who claim to recognize God’s anointing presence in and with Jesus — must follow him: daily picking up our crosses, enduring rejection and suffering and even death so that we might find new life, resurrection. This dying and rising is a daily event, a daily decision, a daily response to our faith in Jesus.
As William Barclay says, Jesus requires that life be spent, not hoarded. We cannot be concerned with what is the safe thing – the bare minimum – the me-first routine. We need to seek the right thing, the generous gift, the what-can-I-do-for-others endeavor. We need to be grace-driven, grace-filled rather than ambition-motivated and power-directed. How do you do this? How does being one body in Christ help us with this?