Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Thursday, July 27, 2006

SIGNS ALONG THE WAY

IF YOU
DON'T KNOW
WHOSE SIGNS
THESE ARE
YOU CAN'T HAVE
TRAVELED VERY FAR


Jesus of Nazareth









Gospel Reflection for July 30, 2006

Ordinary Time, Proper 12 (Revised Common Lectionary)


In July of 1966, I was just beginning my freshman year at California State College at Long Beach. It was a hot summer, but certainly not as hot as the one we have been having these past few weeks. The Lovin' Spoonful came out with a tune that went to the top of the charts called Hot Town, Summer in the City.

The chorus line for the song came back to me as I sought relief the past few weeks from the unusual heat of not only the day, but even the night. See if you can identify with these lyrics.

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head


Over the weekend and through the opening days of the week, we heard of the need to conserve energy. Blackouts and brownouts resulted in many homes being without any electricity or anyway of maintaining a cool water supply. Food spoiled, people tried to find “a shadow in the city” as a shelter from the blazing sun.

Every time we experience what we call a scarcity of resources, whether it is electricity, shade, water, food, or clean air, I think about the story from our Gospel today. Jesus feeds 5,000 people through the generous and some might suggest naïve gift of a small boy.

Is it possible that how we read this story reveals our beliefs about the nature of God? Do we believe that God is a god of scarcity or a god of abundance? As we work our way through this passage from John, consider the characters and their interactions. Can you tell which god they believe to be the true God?

John 6:1-21
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.


What attracted the large crowd to Jesus? John says that it is the “Signs that he (Jesus) was doing for the sick.” A sign points us to a destination, to a reality beyond what we know. In John’s Gospel, there are 7 such signs (Hint: The first sign Jesus performed was changing water into wine).*

Anyone who is a bit older can probably remember traveling the highways of America and seeingl those wonderful Burma-Shave billboards that mile by mile offered a continuing message about their product and a bit of amusement for weary or bored travelers.

Here is an example of a Burma-Shave message.

Sign 1:OUR FORTUNE
Sign 2:IS YOUR SHAVEN FACE
Sign 3:IT'S OUR BEST
Sign 4 ADVERTISING SPACE
BURMA-SHAVE


If we were to follow the Burma-Shave format, signs that led to the Kingdom of Heaven would certainly be placed in the most desolate and difficult paths that we travel spiritually, emotionally, and physically. John the Baptist invited people out into the wilderness around the Jordan River where he became a sign of the One who was coming.

Perhaps a good sign for today's Gospel might be offered in the following style.

Sign 1: GOD HEALED THE SICK
Sign 2: LARGE CROWDS DID FOLLOW
Sign 3: OPENED THEIR HEARTS
Sign 4: GAVE THEM SOMETHING TO SWALLOW
JESUS CHRIST


The word used by John for signs was "semeia." Matthew, Mark, and Luke use the word "dunamis" (Literally means “acts of power.” This word comes into such English words as dynamic, dynamo, and dynamite) to describe what are often called miracles.

"Semeia" literally means signpost. Like the Burma Shave billboards posted in the wilderness of America, John speaks of the signs of the coming and present Kingdom of Heaven along the path that Jesus walks. These are the signs that the Gospel writer invites us to follow on our way to knowing Jesus.

These signs point to a different reality than the one our human culture has constructed and claims to be true. Jesus healing of the sick was a sign that showed the closeness of the Kingdom of Heaven. To be sure, it was not the final destination, but it did encourage those around Jesus to take a road less traveled.As you will read in the story, the crowd decided that Jesus would make a great king and so they charged him in order to force him to accept their crown. Jesus leaves the crowd behind.

There will be another hill on which he will become the bread of life for the world. It will be on that hill that his crown will be made of thorns and his throne will be the cross. The invitation to follow the signs that lead us to that hill outside of Jerusalem have been sent out. The signs mark the way.

What signs of God’s presence and guidance have you seen that have led you to follow the path on which you are traveling?

What do you believe to be the meaning of the sign of the feeding of the 5,000?

Which of the characters in the story below do you most identify with?

Phillip?
Andrew?
The young boy who provided the bread and fish?
The crowd who followed Jesus out into the wilderness?

Do you think that people who lived at that time would ever have gone out into the wilderness without taking sufficient food and water? (Consider that there have been 80 deaths attributed to the heat in California during this current heat spell)

How are the young boy and Jesus alike in their relationship with God?

How would you describe the god that Phillip and Andrew think is true?


Here is the Gospel Reading for this Sunday.

John 6:1-21
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?"

Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.



SEVEN SIGNS OF JOHN'S GOSPEL

Sign #1: Jesus turns water into wine at a Wedding Feast (John 2:1-11)
Jesus is Forgiveness.

Sign #2 Jesus heals the son of a nobleman (John 5:1-15)
Jesus is Lord of life.

Sign #3 The healing of a paralized man (John 5:1-15)
Jesus gives legs to the world.

Sign #4 The Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14)
Jesus is the bread of life.

Sign #5 Jesus comes to his disciples on a stormy sea (John 15-21)
Jesus is the Lord of all creation.

Sign #6 Jesus restores the sight of a blind man (John 9:1-41)
Jesus is the Light of World.

Sign #7 The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-57)
Jesus is the resurrection and Life. Death can not change the love, power, and forgiving of God.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Link to CBS Interview with Presiding Bishop

Our new Presiding Bishop was interviewed on CBS news on Sunday, July 23, 2006. Here is the web site to see the interview online. http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/videoplayer/newVid/small_player/vplayer2.shtml?id=1826936n

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is God Codependent?


















Before reading this week's Gospel Reflection, I would invite you to take a brief quiz that will allow you to discover what your Theological World View is? You can find the link to the quiz found on our Bible Study blog at http://gospelofmarkatchristrb.blogspot.com/. I have also posted my results with some comments. Interesting stuff. Bob

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Have you ever known anyone who anticipated your needs. Sometimes we have needs of which we are not even aware and so to find someone who meets such unformed and unspoken needs is quite extraordinary.

The expression that we “don’t know what is good for us” rings true for me. Our collect for this coming Sunday says that sometimes we ask for things that we really don’t need simply out of ignorance.


In marriage, our partners sometimes have such intimate knowledge of us that they are able to offer us what we need. Such offerings are acts of love. Friends are also among those who often respond to our unknown needs.

Madelyn and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage this past Monday. Even before we decided to get married, I found that she had the gift of knowing what I needed, not just what I wanted. In the first year of dating, I went through surgery on a salivary gland. There was some concern about cancer, but I really thought the surgery was pretty minor.

Madelyn came to Little Company of Mary Hospital and waited through the surgery and into the night until I finally woke up. She knew that I would need her even though I had planned to drive myself home after the surgery. She anticipated my need to be driven home. She knew that I would need her to prepare food while I recovered; change bandages; make sure I took my medications; and be a healing presence for me in the midst of a painful recovery.

Sometimes we are given the opportunity to love someone by knowing their needs. I am not talking about some codependent relationship. Codependent relationships are all about control. Love is about giving to others without emotional, physical, or spiritual strings being attached.

Divine love sees what we need, but are unable to express or even know.

It is this love that weaves itself in and out of our marriages and friendships. It is this love which is freely given without strings. It is this love which allows one person to connect with another person with such depth and power that the giving between the two is described in the marriage ceremony as representing “the relationship between Christ and his church.”

In preparation for this Sunday, consider the following passages from our readings this week.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” Psalm 23:1

“As Jesus 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.” Mark 6:34

Questions to Consider
1. Do you think that God is codependent in his relationship with human beings?

2. Why did Jesus' compassion lead him to believe that what the crowd needed was to be taught?

3. If you read the Mark 6:35-52, you will discover that after Jesus taught the crowd, he insisted that his disciples feed the crowd before he dismissed them. Why was Jesus so insistent?

4. The crowd seems to leave very quietly and in peace after the feeding. Does this suggest what Jesus might have taught them about their real needs?

5. Have you ever refused to accept a gift because you thought your were unworthy?

6. Have you ever refused to accept a gift because you were "blind" to your real need for what was being offered?

7. Do you have a story about someone in your life who anticipated your needs like Madelyn anticipated mine? Would you be willing to share that story?

I am looking forward to this Sunday and our continued sharing of the Gospel of Mark. What a feast!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Inquiring People Want to Know

It seems that people have always had itching ears to know the inside news on the scandalous behavior of royalty, politicians and celebrities.

Today the tabloids that sit at the entrance of every supermarket check out stand catch our attention with headlines that promise to reveal the dirty sordid affairs of the rich and famous. Sex, murder, wars, and rumors of war, affairs of state, blackmail, religion, conspiracy, and coercion dominate the plots of books and movies. It seems that there is a correlation between the number of these themes that are worked into a book or movie and the profits that are made.

While there were no tabloids, paperbacks, or movies in Jesus’ day, people found ways to entertain themselves by passing along juicy bits of information about other people. Rumors must have spread like wild fire when Herod Antipas married his brother’s wife. What a scandal that must have been and what grand gossip!

Herod is called a king in Mark’s account, but he really only carried the title of ethnarch (one who leads a homogenous ethnic group of people). Herod, like his father, desired the title of king of the Jews, but within 10 years of the death of Jesus, Herod Antipas was exiled to Gaul by the Roman Empire where he died an ignominious death. Within Herod’s family, murder and political intrigue were seen as necessary tools in the exercise of power, including the ordered execution of family members.

It was Herod’s desire to be crowned the King of the Jews that got the attention of John the Baptist and more than likely resulted in the conflict that led to John’s death by beheading. Herod’s father, Herod the Great, had begun the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and Herod Antipas saw the completion of the Temple as a way of securing the loyalty or at least grudging support needed to be crowned king.

Herod’s rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem was seen by John the Baptist as a cynical political ploy to use religion to satisfy his own lust for power. John was the wild prophet in the wilderness whose call to repentance and new life did not require the Temple. As John’s popularity grew and people flocked to him from all of Judea, Herod perhaps sensed that his plan for becoming king was being jeopardized by the prophet’s words.

If the Temple and the Temple of sacrificial religion was being successfully challenged by John, Herod’s political instincts led him to the belief that John must be locked up. This was not a particularly popular action for an already unpopular leader. The issue was about Herod’s power and position, but the conflict ended up being about sex and a desire to do that which was forbidden.

John challenged Herod as a corrupt leader who did not care for the Jewish people. Part of John’s presumably longer list of charges against Herod included using his power to steal Herodias and her daughter from his brother, Phillip in order to make her his wife.

Sex and all of the prohibitions and taboos that surround it make this story start to sizzle as Mark recounts how Herodias manipulated Herod into killing John. Herodias' step-daughter comes to Herod’s birthday party at which all of his well placed political allies are present, and she dances for Herod.

Who suggested she do such a dance for Herod? Perhaps the best way of determining the answer to that question is to see what happens next. The daughter’s dance is so seductive (remember she is probably a pre-teen), that Herod offers her anything she wants up to half of kingdom. Is this just Herod being a kindly step-father, or is there something else going on here? Herodias obviously knew how to get to Herod and was willing to use her daughter to achieve her purposes. John denounced such uses of power that “corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.”

This does sound a bit like a soap opera, but the story is really an attempt to show that, like the death of Jesus, John’s death was the result of his preaching about the coming reign of God that was not dependent upon the religious structures and worldly princes of any generation. In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, there is a song called “This Jesus Must Die.” The cast of characters include the high priests of the Temple, although, I believe this lyrics would have fitted Herod Antipas’ outlook as well.

CAIAPHAS: Fools, you have no perception! The stakes we are gambling are frighteningly high! We must crush him completely, So like John before him, this Jesus must die. For the sake of the nation, this Jesus must die.

The lyrics reflect a truth about how Jesus and John were seen by those in power. They both were offering people a way to God that did not require them going through the institutions of religion or government. The fallen institutions of planet earth seek to monopolize our access to God’s generous blessings as a way of controlling and manipulating. John and Jesus offered God freely in water, bread, and wine.

How do fallen institutions respond to being circumvented by God’s grace? Death is used to reestablish control and remind those who might believe otherwise of the ultimate power and authority of the “powers and principalities.”

The apostles are sent out to preach, cast out demons, and heal on one side of this Sunday’s Gospel and once John’s disciples come to bury him, Jesus’ disciples return from their first missionary venture rejoicing in what God had done through them. These two stories of the sending of the apostles is set in the context of Jesus rejection in his own home town of Nazareth and John’s death.

Beyond the buzz of gossip and scandal the Kingdom of Heaven is dawning in the dark and light of our world.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Two Week Look at the Death of John the Baptist

Digging Deep (The Gospel According to Mark)

I want to encourage everyone to read Lizz Beitzel's Lectionary preparation for each Sunday. Her insights are sure to delight and invite you to go deeper in your study and understanding of Scripture. She covers all of the assigned readings and the assigned collect for the day. You will find Lizz's blog at http://lectionarylizz.livejournal.com/.

Father Norm will be preaching this Sunday, July 9th, so our Gospel Reflection over the next two weeks will deal with Mark's account of the beheading of John the Baptist. This is a major story in understanding the gospel, so I encourage you to spend some time reading the material below, reading Mark 6: 14-30, and attending the Bible Study on July 12th at the church. If you are reading the Gospel Reflections from some place outside of the Redondo Beach area, feel free to post your responses to the questions below or send them privately to me at rwcornner@aol.com.

You may have heard of the circumstances surrounding the beheading of John the Baptist, but this Wednesday, July 12th at 7:30 PM, we will dig deeper into the downward spiraling triangles of desire, lust, and violence that resulted in the death of John the Baptist. This is a good preparation for next week's Gospel reading and sermon.

Herod (called the King of the Jews), Herodius (his brother's ex-wife), Solome (the pre-adolescent daughter of Herodius by Herod's brother), those who dined with Herod, and John the Baptist who sat in Herod's prison are the main characters in this shocking and scandalous story. Sound like a soap opera? This story told by Mark is deeper and darker than one might expect to see.

Read Mark 6:14-30 and then consider:

How is Jesus' death on the cross like and/or unlike the death of John the Baptist?

Why is John the Baptist called the last prophet?

Was Jesus' death unique (unlike the death of any other prophet or person)? How?

Why does prohibiting a thing or an action create a desire in us to have or to do that which has been prohibited?

What emotional responses did Herod have towards John the Baptist?
Herodius? Solome? Those dining with Herod?

What emotional responses did Herodius have towards John the Baptist?
Herod? Solome? Those dining with Herod?

What emotional responses did Solome have towards John the Baptist?
Herod? Herodius? Those dining with Herod?

Who seemed to exercise the most influence over the actions of the characters in this story?

How is Solome's dance involved in the death of Herod?

Whose idea is it to have John the Baptist beheaded?

How would you describe the relationship between Herodius and Herod?

How does the crowd influence the outcome of the story?

On what basis did John the Baptist condemn Herod and Herodius?

Can you write other questions that this passage raises for you?