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Lectionary 223 and 23 Saturday and Sunday of First

February 20, 2015

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Lectionary 223. Scripture: Saturday, Feb. 21. Isaiah 58:9-14; Psalm 86: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6.  Luke 5:27-32:

Jesus accepts us where we are.  But wait, he then calls us to do something better and to be better.  We need to respond positively to his call to achieve this experience.  We have a good model for this in the person of Levi (he may be the Matthew we know of in the other Gospels for his story is similar).  This encounter of Jesus and Levi confirms that no matter what we do—even tax-collecting, Jesus does call us.  We listen more carefully to these passages during Lent in order to be better and to do our work, our ministry, and our relationships from a deeper sense of being like Levi in order to be like Jesus!

As a tax-collector, Levi was considered to be a sinner who helped the Romans collect taxes and also took a good cut in what he received from the people he collected from.  He is not appreciated by law abiding Jews and religious leaders. They considered themselves among the “righteous” and holy ones in the sight of God.  We easily see this in the scene that is given to us today in the early ministry of Jesus when he is calling disciples to himself.  We may have similar ideas about ourselves or may be more like Levi.  It matters not for Jesus takes us where we are in our relationship with him and with God.

Levi left all he had and responded immediately to the call of Jesus.  He then throws a banquet and invites many people to it– sinners as well as “saints.”  Jesus naturally is the first one invited and is the center of attraction at the dinner. The holier ones want Jesus’ disciples to tell them why Jesus eats with sinners like Levi and some other guests.  Notice how they shy away from asking this of Jesus himself.  He, however, overhears their query and gives them an answer.  Here are his words: “The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have come not to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners.”  Perhaps, if we are like Levi we will acknowledge who we are—sinners and come to the banquet where Jesus is.  During Lent we have many opportunities to respond immediately to the Divine Physicians call.  Amen.

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Lectionary 23.  Scripture: First Sunday in Lent, Feb. 22. Genesis 9:8-15. Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9. I Peter 1:18-22. Mark 1:12-15:

Mark gives us the shortest statement about the temptation attempted by Satan upon Jesus while he is in the desert for forty days.  “He stayed in the wasteland forty days, put to the test by Satan.”  We remember such similar incident in the Adversary or Satan in the case of Job.  The adversary was the translation of the word Satan in the Hebrew text.

Mark ‘s bald scene is more developed and dramatic in the three temptations that Matthew and Luke present at the beginning of their chapters on the active ministry of Jesus.  It is a time in which Jesus is preparing himself for his mission in the plan of God.  Mark startles us by telling us that the Spirit drove him into the desert.  This happens once John the Baptist was put into prison by Herod Antipas. We are somewhere in the years 28-33 A.D.

What are some of the traits and tests that Satan brings about on people during Jesus’ time and continues to do happen even more violently today?  First, he is identified with the great dragon in Revelation 12 and is also called the ancient serpent that tempted Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3).  He is called the Devil in Revelation 12:9, that is the Evil One.  We may recall that Jesus calls Peter a satan when this favored disciple of Jesus tried to divert the Lord from his mission of doing the will of God by means of his sufferings and death.  Once again, Satan  is trying to prevent God’s plan from happening.

In our passage Jesus wrestles spiritually with Satan and overcomes him thus recalling for us the story of Jacob’s struggle with an angel.  Both Jacob and Jesus are called to be agents of God’s  plan of salvation.  We call to mind our own struggles when we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “and deliver us from all evil (The Evil One).”  Satan is the enemy of God in the Psalms and in our salvation history.  He is against all of God’s people.  Satan instigates Judas to betray Jesus by entering into him. He was the symbolic lion roaring at the door of Cain’s soul who could not resist killing Abel.  He causes people to lose faith in God and in their religious values (see I Timothy 5:15). Satan denies the resurrection and judgment and tries to get us to do the same.  Persecution of people are his work, etc. etc.

One of the English exegetes of the last century summed up the power of Satan in this manner: “The background (for Mark 1:12-13) lies rather in the current belief that the Messiah was the divine agent for the overthrow of Satan and all his powers, and that therefore a tremendous battle, or trial of strength, between him and Satan would form an integral element in the last days.  The Greek word peirazein is much wider than the English word  tempt and can include ‘testing’ or ‘trying’ of any sort.  Probably here it includes moral temptation, but only as part of the wider ‘trial of strength’ the Messiah was expected to have with the Devil. In this passage the great eschatological battle is joined. “  D.E. Nineham,  Saint Mark, pages 63-64). Amen.

“Every saint has a past;  every sinner has a future”  (Oscar Wilde).

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