Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday in Lent 3: The Sabbath pattern

Opening Sentence
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Luke 15:18, 19

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 83

Lessons: Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34; 1 Corinthians 9:1-15; Mark 6:30-46

If there is a message in the structure of a text, then the message of today's Gospel reading should not be missed. It begins with Jesus and his disciples withdrawing "to a desolate place" to "rest a while." It ends with Jesus withdrawing to "the mountain to pray." Between these two periods of withdrawal, there is the feeding of the five thousand with fives loaves and two fish. Most attention, naturally, is focused on that miraculous sign as well as the many other signs Jesus performs throughout Mark's Gospel. However, there is a message to be heard in Mark's recurrent emphasis on Jesus withdrawing to desolate places and climbing mountains.

Mark, in fact, chronicles Jesus' entire earthly ministry along this work-rest-work-rest cycle. It is an intentional replication of the pattern of creation, punctuating Jesus' declaration concerning the Sabbath (Mark 2.27-28). The periodic time of withdrawal and rest is not incidental to Jesus' ministry. It is an integral part of it. His work is not complete without it.

In the same way, the Sabbath, as God established it, is not incidental to his work of creation. It is an integral part of it. The Sabbath hallows the work of the previous six days and makes creation whole. As the numerous incidents of death, disease, and suffering recounted by Mark make clear, that wholeness has been marred by the Fall. Jesus came proclaiming a Gospel of repentance, redemption, and restoration. He came to make creation whole again.

(JAG)

Sweet Hour of Prayer