Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We Would See Jesus

Believing is Seeing

I once had a student who I caught with some illegal drugs. He immediately said to me: "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?" In our Gospel reading for this Sunday, we hear a story about a man whose faith allowed him to see after being blind. Is it possible to be sighted, but still be blind to the most important things and people in our lives? This week I received questions asked by our St. Stephen's Gathering students. One of their questions was: "How come people used to talk to God and see God, but now they can't?" Perhaps our Gospel for this week can help us reflect on this well asked question.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, it is clear that Jesus’ own disciples do not really understand the nature of Jesus’ purpose and ways of accomplishing his purpose. Mark uses two healings to demonstrate the disciples blindness to seeing and following Jesus.

In both healings, Jesus restores the vision of two men.

The first account comes in Mark 822-26:

22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" 24 And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."

The second account comes in our reading for this Sunday that is found in Mark 10:46-52:

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." 52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Our young disciple in the St. Stephen’s Gathering asks why people use to be able to talk to God and see God. But according to Mark, it seems that even the disciples could not see God in Jesus despite his presence with them for three years.

What will open our eyes to seeing and talking to God? We discover that between these two accounts of healing blindness, Jesus tells his disciples clearly that he will be turned over to the authorities, suffer at their hands, die, but then be resurrected by the power and love of God.

So, I would suggest that God is present in our world and that we can see him and have a conversation with him. Perhaps we are more ready to believe our “lying eyes” when it comes to identifying God among us. Jesus is not hiding from us. He clearly says to us where we will find him. He will be among those who suffer as he suffered; die as he died; and whose hope in God is not disappointed, even at the moment of death and the grave.

Our eyes lie to us in so far as they are blind to God being present and conversant with us in our suffering and pain or in the suffering and pain of others. The men who received their sight and who talked with Jesus had already suffered and been excluded by others from the community.

Such marginal people in those days hung out on the roadsides and begged for the small amounts of money on which they lived. On a High Holy Day, passing religious folks believed that by giving to such unfortunates, they would earn favor with God. This might be akin to Christians giving to the poor during the Christmas season.

Beneath this custom of giving to the poor and infirm, there is a deeper and more compelling truth. Jesus' prediction of his suffering, death, and resurrection was his way of telling the disciples where they would find him in the future. In finding him, they find themselves as children of God and brothers and sisters of one another.

The blind men who receive their sight represent the beginning and the ending of the process of conversion. The first blind man requires two healing attempts by Jesus and once he can see he is sent to his home and told to avoid the village (community).

The second blind man is healed at once and he immediately follows Jesus as he makes his way to his death in Jerusalem.


Discipleship is about having the eyes of faith; it is about having eyes that allow us to see and speak to the truth that is God among us. It is about being good stewards of this truth.

Those who have offered themselves in service to others are seeing God and communicating with God in a very deep and life-changing way. We do not give in hopes of gaining personal piety points in some heavenly game of salvation. We give in order to be with Jesus; to see Jesus; to speak to Jesus in the only way possible.

Consider those who have gone on a Corazon weekend build or who have done other acts of service within and outside of the church. Such people can honestly say that they have been in the presence of God and have heard his voice. They have been given eyes to see God in the world.

The disciples’ blindness is finally healed through their own complicity in the suffering and death of Jesus. It is the resurrected Jesus that they now follow. Like the blind man who follows Jesus into Jerusalem, they have been given eyes of truth rather than lying eyes and they too follow Jesus wherever he leads.

“We would see Jesus...”

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Stewardship of Welcoming Grace



The Feast Day of Saint Luke the Evangelist
October 18, 2006

Dear Friends:

At Christ Church there are no dues, membership fees, or requirements to give money, time, talent, or anything else. Christ Church is a community of faith. As a community we seek to welcome others as Christ welcomes us.

So what is this letter about? This letter is about stewardship. Most people think of stewardship and money, but I would like to suggest that money given to the church is not stewardship, but the result of a deeper stewardship of welcoming others as Christ welcomes us.

Consider that:

+ In our baptism vows, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

+ The two great commandments that Jesus gave to us included loving God with our whole heart, mind, body, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

+ Jesus only requirement to be his disciple was a willingness to follow him; learn from him; and imitate his manner of life.


This is the first stewardship of every Christian, the stewardship of loving God and neighbor. It was this stewardship of welcoming that led Jesus to ask his disciples to feed the hungry crowds that had followed him out into the wilderness.

The disciples were overwhelmed by what they saw as a problem of their limited resources (not enough food or money to feed such a huge number of people). The real problem was not a shortage of resources, but poor stewardship of the gracious welcoming that God was giving to them through Jesus.

This year I invite us all to consider how God has welcomed us, as individuals and as a community, into a fuller and more loving life of grace through the Christ Church community.

This year I invite us all to take on a more intentional stewardship of welcoming others as God welcomes us; of loving others as God so deeply and dearly loves us.

Finally, I invite us to consider how our commitment of our time, our gifts of service and money, can be used to offer others the Good News of God’s love and welcome. These are not the costs of membership, but the outward expression of our stewardship of God’s grace.


God’s Peace in the Stewardship of Grace and Welcome,
Bob

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Church Built on Sand


This photo of Christ Church mysteriously appeared on the kiosk over a month ago. It really caught my eye. I finally took it down and scanned it into my computer and made it my screen saver.

There is something about the image of the church built on a sandy hill with huge rumbling waves headed toward it that spoke to me. Didn't Jesus say something about building a house on sand?

Jesus told the crowd, "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-- and great was its fall!"

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:21,24-29)


As a child growing up in the South Bay, I spent many wonderful times on the beach near the ocean's edge. I loved to built sandcastles. I was very careful about picking the spot on which to build. If I got too far from the water, the sand was too dry to mold it into turretts and towers. If I got too close to the water, one large set of waves could destroy the castle before it was finished.

I invite you to consider the photograph above and the words of Jesus about building one's house on sand or rock. Please respond from your own experience and understanding of why this picture captures your imagination. You may add your thoughts through the blog or by sending them to me for posting (rwcornner@aol.com). God gives us the gift of imagination to see what we normally do not see and to hear more deeply the word of life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: JESUS, MARRIAGE, AND DIVORCE

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday would appear to be about divorce, but is it really? Click below the icon to read it. http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearB_RCL/Pentecost/BProp22_RCL.html#GOSPEL

In the first verse of Chapter 10 in Mark’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus has just returned to the place of his baptism and temptations “in the wilderness of Judea beyond the Jordan River.” This is the place where John the Baptist had condemned Herod for marrying his brother’s wife which eventually led to John’s death by Herod’s order. John went toe to toe with Herod over the issue of divorce and remarriage and lost by virtue of Herod’s power.

The setting for our Gospel this week is also the place where Jesus was baptized by John and from whence he set out to be tempted or tested in the wilderness. So, what we will read on Sunday is about Jesus receiving the blessing of God that announces he is God’s son; it is about Jesus going under the waters of the Jordan to take on the death and violence in which God’s children (Herod and John) are held captive; it is about Jesus being tested to see if he truly understood his vocation as the Son of God.

The testing in the wilderness is the prelude to the testing that Jesus undergoes at the hands of the religious and political leaders who seek to entrap him in some unforgivable and death-worthy mistake. In fact, the question about marriage and divorce was crafted to catch Jesus up in the same trap into which John had fallen.

Jesus’ response to them is not so much about the “hard heartedness” of those who get divorces as it is about the continued hard heartedness of those who turn the beauty of human companionship into laws that do not uphold this beauty and God given grace.

Jesus takes these testers back to the vision of human relationships before we became orphans and assumed the role of god in our relationships with one another. This was a time when we no longer recognized God in the midst of our relationships such as marriage.I would recommend that you read through the Marriage Service from The Book of Common Prayer (http://vidicon.dandello.net/bocp/bocp4.htm#page423) to see how the Episcopal Church tries to put forth a vision of marriage that reflects the vision of marriage that Jesus seemed to have.

In our Bible Study session this past Wednesday, we spent a great deal of time going over these verses in Mark. Gail Connolly offered a definition of hard heartedness that seemed to fit what Jesus was saying to his testers. She said it was an “insensibility to God.”

Hard heartedness can result from all sorts of life traumas or experiences, but the bottom line seems to be that hard heartedness is the defining symptom of our loss of the sense of God’s loving and grace-filled presence in our lives and in our relationships.

Bob Nelson did some research prior to class and offered another piece of information to our understanding of marriage at the time of Jesus. There was a great debate between the Rabbis about the propriety of divorce, with a conservative group following the teaching of Shammai, that a wife could be divorced only for adultery, and Hillel's teaching that men could divorce their wives for any reason, for instance the ruining of a meal or finding a more attractive woman.

In Mark’s account, Jesus does not really take either side. Instead, he says that the real problem with these laws and with the divorces they seek to regulate represents a failure to include the compassionate, merciful, and forgiving God whom he called Father as the authority in the relationship. When the disciples later ask Jesus what he really thinks about marriage, he tells them that it is intended to be a life long relationship.

Matthew’s understanding of Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Cf. Matthew 19:1-12), seems to take the same position as Shammai, which in those days would have been considered a more supportive position for women and reduce the choices for men when it came to divorce.Jesus brings us a vision of life that is full, joyful, abundant, and real.

How can such a vision be realized in and through our human family with all of our hard heartedness and the resulting broken lives we lead?

Reading the Gospel of Mark and seeing how Jesus' love and power to change human lives, even lives of those who are hard hearted as myself, gives me hope. I see this hope in you too.

Questions to Consider1

1. What are your views on marriage and divorce?

2. Do you believe that the Episcopal Church is supportive of life long unions of love and mutual joy the way Jesus seems to define such relationships?

3. Do you know the “rules” clergy are given to follow when it comes to remarriage of divorced persons? Here is the web site that contains these canons or rules that clergy are required to follow http://www.transfigpalos.org/content/view/27/85/.

4. Between the Rabbinic teachings offered above, which one comes closest to your way of thinking? Shammai or Hillel? Why?4. Do you know anyone who has gone through a divorce? How did you try to be a friend to this person during this difficult process?

5. Read the entire Gospel for this Sunday and consider why Jesus reacted so strongly when the disciples tried to prevent children from coming to him. What does this part of the Gospel have to do with the previous material on marriage and divorce?

See you on Sunday where the sermon will go deeper into this Gospel.God’s Peace in the Hearing, Bob

Mark 10:2-16

Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her."

But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.