The Catch All Commandment :: Throwback Thursday

Mark 10.4-9
“Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

From John:
Tomorrow we will unpack a bit more about this passage and Christ’s many mentions of marriage. Today an interesting discussion from Martin Luther, regarding the tenth commandment against covetousness and how it relates to divorce. For Luther the tenth commandment is something of a catch-all—the commandment that even the most righteous-seeming people cannot pretend not to have broken. The reformer goes on to describe the effects of covetousness on the culture and legal system, which applies greatly to us today.

Reflection: The Catch All Commandment :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther

[Divorce] was not considered a sin nor disgrace with them; as little as now with hired help, when a proprietor dismisses his man-servant or maid-servant, or takes another’s servants from him in any way. Therefore, they thus interpreted these commandments: that no one think or purpose to obtain what belongs to another (such as his wife, servants, house and estate, land meadows, cattle) even with a show of right or by a subterfuge, yet with injury to his neighbor. 

For above, in the Seventh Commandment, the vice is forbidden where one wrests to himself the possessions of others, or withholds them from his neighbor, which he cannot do by right. But here it is also forbidden to alienate anything from your neighbor, even though you could do so with honor in the eyes of the world, so that no one could accuse or blame you as though you had obtained it wrongfully. 

By nature no one desires to see another have as much as himself. Each one acquires as much as he can; the other may fare as best he can. And yet we pretend to be godly, know how to adorn ourselves most finely, and conceal our rascality. We resort to and invent adroit devices and deceitful artifices (such as now are daily most ingeniously contrived) as though they were derived from the law codes. 

Yes, we even dare impertinently to refer to it, and boast of it, and will not have it called rascality, but shrewdness and caution. In this lawyers and jurists assist, who twist and stretch the law to suit it to their cause. We stress words and use them for a subterfuge, irrespective of equity or a neighbor’s necessity. 

This last commandment therefore is given not for rogues in the eyes of the world, but just for the most pious. It is for those who wish to be praised and be called honest and upright people, since they have not offended against the former commandments, as especially the Jews claimed to be, and even now many great noblemen, gentlemen, and princes. 

*From Martin Luther’s Catechism on the Ten Commandments. Edited for length and language updated.

From John:
May we examine our hearts to uncover the places we twist God’s words, defining them in ways that make us appear righteous in our own actions, rather than as we are: wretched, covetous sinners redeemed by the mercy of Christ.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 40 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 10 (Listen – 6:42)

Read more about Killing With our Hearts
All Christians are commitment-phobic about Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

Read more about The Radical Procedure of the Gospel
It’s lovely to think of God giving us a new heart and putting a new Spirit within us. But it is terrifying to admit to the diagnoses that would lead to such a radical procedure

The Miracle of Faith

Mark 9.23-24
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Reflection: The Miracle of Faith
By John Tillman

At the beginning of this passage, the disciples are failing at ministry, surrounded by needs they can’t meet, and distracted by arguments with religious opponents. Then Jesus comes to them.

In many sermons I have heard pastors scold the disciples for their lack of faith, or for not praying and fasting, or for not believing, but Jesus never scolds the disciples.

Christ’s complaint about unbelief is directed to “this generation” not to the twelve. When Jesus tells the disciples that “this kind only comes out by prayer,” he isn’t necessarily impugning the disciple’s prayer life.

Jesus knew what it was like to be unable to succeed in ministry due to a community’s lack of faith. When Jesus was in his own hometown, not only did they attempt to kill him after he preached that they would have to share the benefits of God’s kingdom with outsiders, they had so little faith that Jesus couldn’t do many miracles there. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was “amazed” at their lack of faith.

Many times in his ministry, Jesus addressed spiritual healing before physical healing. Jesus’ greatest miracles were not ones of stopping storms or diseases or demons. His greatest miracles were helping the faithless to believe again. Helping the cynical to trust again. Helping the hardened to love again.

And when we, or our communities, are faithless, cynical, and hardened, Jesus comes to us as well, to change our prayer like he changed the prayer of the father in this passage.

The father’s nakedly honest prayer has long been one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It has also been one of the scriptures that I turn to as a prayer in my own life.

I long to be filled with faith, but I’m often filled with other things.
Sometimes I am filled with doubt, like John the Baptist in prison.
Sometimes I am filled with fear, like the disciples after the storm.
Sometimes I am filled with shame, like the woman caught in adultery.
Sometimes I am filled with pride, like the rich young ruler who claimed to have kept all the commandments.
Sometimes I am filled with feelings of inadequacy, like Peter, begging Jesus to keep his distance.

Despite this, Jesus comes. Bringing faith for those who ask.

Let Jesus change your prayer today. Ask him to drain you of your sin, anxiety, and inadequacy and to fill you with faith.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O god, and come to us. — Psalm 67.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 39 (Listen – 3:08) 
Mark 9 (Listen – 6:16)

Read more about Faith After the Storm
How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Read more about Stories of Faith :: A Guided Prayer
It is important for us—the redeemed—to tell our stories.
To laud the Lord of our salvation.
To praise the Prince who enters our struggles with us.

For Those Yet Unseeing :: Worldwide Prayer

Mark 8.17-18
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? 

Reflection: For Those Yet Unseeing :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Often people of faith express the wish to be able to stand among the disciples, seeing and touching, and experiencing Jesus first hand. There’s nothing wrong with such a fanciful wish as long as it is simply a wish to stand in his presence. (We know in faith that we will stand in his presence, and bow down.) 

But often, this wish comes with assumptions. 
We assume that faith comes easily when we witness miracles. 
We assume that the disciples were ancient simpletons and that our quick modern minds would easily decipher Christ’s pedagogy of parables. (We ignore that science tells us that our species’ intelligence has been identical for eons.)

But we are wrong on both those counts. 
Those who witnessed the miracles of the Bible still struggled to have faith. 
And modern “scholarship” has not brought us greater understanding of Christ, but indeed, has muddied the waters with doubt, conjecture, and fringe theology presented as “faith” accompli—as if it has always belonged to the mainstream. 

It is ironic that some who reject junk science that is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of scientists are willing to accept junk theology that is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of theologians. It is equally ironic that some who reject junk theology are quick to accept junk science. Both groups are blind, deaf, mute, and immobile.

When we pray this prayer of intercession for the blind, deaf, mute, and immobile in our culture, may we not forget to include ourselves.

A Prayer of Intercession from Great Britain

Thank you, God, for the Church,
Help us to share fully in the church family.

We pray for people who are blind:
Help them to see Jesus.

We pray for people who are deaf:
Help them to hear Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot use their legs:
Help them to walk with Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot speak clearly:
Help them to know that Jesus understands.

Please help us all to serve you.
Fill us with the fruit of the 
Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Prayer: The Greeting
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy  —  Psalm 123.1-3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 38 (Listen – 4:24) 
Mark 8 (Listen – 4:29)

Read more about Struggling with the Word
We often approach the Bible as consumers, treating it as a store full of solutions to our problems. When we do this, we easily are overwhelmed by its shelves, confused by its organization, and frustrated by seemingly inexplicable products.

Read more about Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened :: Worldwide Prayer
There is no level of spiritual achievement or growth at which one is not susceptible to hardening of the heart and the spirit. Christ’s call echoes again. Calling us deeper into every discipline we pursue.

It’s In The Bible

Genesis 37.8
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Mark 7.8
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. 

“Well, it’s right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin. But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick…” — Rich Mullins

Reflection: It’s in the Bible
By John Tillman

In the song quoted above, Rich Mullins is striking a chord of irony with his purposeful misreading of the meaning of scripture. Too often in our reading of the Bible we allow ourselves to imply God’s approval on the depicted actions of the heroes of faith.

The heroes of faith had moments to emulate. But the scripture does not exist for our emulation of humans. Merely emulating any great hero of faith, from the scriptures or from our lives, will lead to mere human striving not true spiritual development and transformation.

If we look carefully, we can see God actively disrupting cultural assumptions and human traditions that people in scripture accepted as normal and moral. The most obvious example of this is polygamy. 

Polygamy was never in the Bible because God approved of it. It was there because the culture approved of it. Polygamy came from male dominance, the consolidation of power, and the dehumanization of women. 

If we read carefully we can see God interfering in the cultural system, disrupting the societal beliefs that twisted his original design of family and community. 

God purposely disrupts the laws of heredity that were acceptable in the culture by choosing the younger brothers, by favoring weaker family members, and by miraculously upending the societal forces that kept down the weak.

When we see God working through the family squabbles of Jacob’s family, we aren’t seeing God’s stamp of approval, but his marked determination to fulfill his sovereign purpose despite the flaws and foibles of his children. 

God has equally difficult work ahead of him to fulfill his purpose in us. We are soaked in and blinded by our broken, post-truth world. We, like Jacob, have cultural blind spots and, like the Pharisees, believe more strongly in our culture’s list of offenses than God’s.

We need to read scripture with our eyes open to the failures of the patriarchs and the heroes of faith. It is in their failures we can most clearly recognize ourselves. And it is in God’s loving, continuous pursuit of them that we can see hope for such glorious sinners as ourselves.

We also need to read our culture—not just live in it— seeking guidance to understand what is considered acceptable to the world, but is not acceptable to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your cultural blind spots where you do not see your own faulty thinking.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
The fool has said in his heart, “there is no God.” All are corrupt and commit abominable acts; there is none who does any good.  —  Psalm 53.1

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 37 (Listen – 4:56) 
Mark 7 (Listen – 4:28)

Read more about Cringing at Culture or at Christ?
It is healthy for us to remember that what we admire in biblical heroes and heroines came to them from God. We need not emulate the heroes so much as we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, drawing out of us the shining vestiges of God’s image that are needed.

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
Is Jesus angry…with us?
In prayer we can seek the focus of Christ’s anger in our lives. Christ’s anger is a good anger. It is an anger that calls us to turn back. It is a healing anger that grieves at our selfishness and hard-heartedness.

Faith After the Storm

Mark 4.39-40
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to be asleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail that Christ’s head was on a pillow. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples who had heard the stories but, just like the crowd, had a hard time understanding.

Jesus was beaten down by the demands of his work so much so that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. In the midst of this terrible storm, Jesus slept on until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples don’t seem to wake Jesus because he can save them from the storm. They merely wake him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Don’t you care, Jesus?
Why don’t you answer?
What’s wrong with you?

When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples’ fears should be as calm as the sea, but instead they are heightened. The disciples are more terrified than before. 

Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead he holds power that cannot be debated with. He is someone who demands our service, demands our compliance, We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

As we examine our hearts this weekend, spend some time contemplating the fearful question of the disciples, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Though we still have no faith after the storm, he is willing to do great things through our lives. If the winds and waves listen to his rebukes…we can too.

Be stilled and calmed by Christ this weekend.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 34 (Listen – 4:18), Mark 5 (Listen – 5:21)
Genesis 35-36 (Listen – 9:33), Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
When Simon (not yet called Peter) saw what Christ had done for him and his partners, he skipped right over being thankful to being fearful. “Go away from me! I’m not worthy. I don’t understand! You don’t know how sinful I am!”

Read more about Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
We may not be in the beast’s belly because of wrongdoing, but because our world is filled with beasts. But regardless of how we came to be there, our prayer may be sharpened, amplified, and have greater effect on our hearts.

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