Psalm 55:9-15; Leviticus 20:9-21:12; Mark 6:45-56

Writing in Pasadena this morning after a long but satisfying weekend in San Diego and here of connecting with family, grandchildren, friends, and relatives, as well as photographing an entire wedding.

Psalm 55:1-15  David is again (still?) in dire straits, pursued by his enemies, whose only objective is to do him in.  There’s a tone of urgent desperation as David asks God to “Listen well to me and answer me.”  There’s no false humility here or wishy-washiness here.  David’s faith in, and relationship with, God is so strong that he can call on God, and simply ask for–almost demand–an answer.

And there’s good reason he calls on God because he knows that in his current state there’s absolutely nothing he can accomplish on his own because “fear and trembling enter me, and horror envelopes me.” (7). Escape would be by far the best thing now as he utters the famous line, “Would I had wings like a dove. I would fly off and find rest.” and “I would wander far away, and lodge in the wilderness” (8)

How many times I have thought those same thoughts, albeit in situations far less dangerous than David’s current predicament.  But as attractive as the wilderness may seem, it is exactly that: emptiness.  David’s–and my–escape must be in the direction of God.  There is where we will find rescue.

Leviticus 20:9-21:12  In this lengthy catalog of sexual sins and their punishments, it’s interesting to me, anyway, that the list begins with perhaps the most important sin of all: the failure to honor one’s parents, “For every man who vilifies his father and his mother is doomed to die. He has vilified his father and his mother— his bloodguilt is upon him.” (9,10).  In our sex-obsessed society, we have too often forgotten that we have come from our parents and that they have, in essence, defined who we are.  To dishonor them is to dishonor our roots–and ourselves.

Parental vilification can take many forms–and children who abandon their parents are assuredly vilifying them.  At her independent living community, my mother observes that many people there have children, who live in the immediate area but never come to visit them.

The very next sin listed is adultery, and only later in the midst of the catalog is homosexuality mentioned along with the sins of incest and its variants.  Yet, so many Christians obsess over homosexuality, while conveniently skipping over the sins that they themselves are more likely to be guilty of.  Yet, the punishments are similar, suggesting that in God’s eyes, all sexual sins are pretty much equal.

Perhaps the best view of this catalog is that it is about preserving genetic integrity.  Procreation of a healthy race is what these sections seem to be about.  Any act which hinders that process is of necessity to be condemned.

Mark 6:45-56  Unlike his gospel-writing compatriots, Mark editorializes infrequently.  But here in his terse description of Jesus walking on the water, where there is no story of Peter, but only the concluding observation that “they [the disciples] were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (52) Is this a “hardening” of simple misunderstanding?  Or given the juxtaposition of the feeding of the 5000 together with this miracle showing Jesus’ control over nature itself, is the “hardening” simply mere befuddlement or skepticism?

Many prophets and seers of Jesus’ time claimed to be able to heal people and cast out demons.  And up to now, these personal miracles have pretty much defined Jesus’ ministry as well.  But now, with these two very large-scale miracles, Jesus has moved into unprecedented territory.  Perhaps the disciples are slowly realizing that have latched onto a movement that is far larger–and more dangerous–than they ever imagined.

We, too, so often prefer a safely contained, well-defined Jesus, preferably our buddy.  That makes him easier to control.  But the real Jesus, who as both John and Paul observe, was pre-exiting with God from the beginning of time and to whom the powers and principalities on and under the earth bow down is pretty scary.  CS Lewis, as usual, has it right when Mr. Beaver describes Aslan as not being safe, but being wholly good.  So, too, the real Jesus.  The disciples’ hardened hearts–like ours–will take a while to come around to this realization.  But not until after the Resurrection.

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