Archives: Proper 6

Judas the Healer

Today we see Jesus sending out the apostles to spread their wings and try a little ministry on their own.

He “summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.”

That’s pretty important work, and pretty advanced work for a group of people who much of the time seem to not just have trouble understanding Jesus’ teaching, but often behave according to the exact opposite of what he’s trying to convey.

But Jesus, in a spectacular instance of the risk-taking behavior he so often displays, trusts them with significant power and authority.

And what drew my eye as I read it this time was the last name on the list. “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.”

Judas.

Jesus sends Judas out with power over unclean spirits and the ability to cure every disease and sickness.

Judas who will betray him, as Matthew takes pains to remind us.

It seems unwise at best to send out a man that Jesus must at least have an inkling or maybe even full knowledge of his tendency to judgmentalism (“This money should have been used for the poor!” in response to a generous woman’s loving anointing of Jesus feet in Matthew 26), greed (“He was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it,” according to John), and of course the betrayal itself, Jesus’ life for thirty pieces of silver.

What kind of person is this to entrust with divine power?

But Jesus does.

What do we make of this?

Well, first, let’s ask what happens. Are the disciples successful in what Jesus has asked them to do?

Matthew doesn’t tell us, but Luke quotes a group of disciples returning from being sent out to minister, writing that they “returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’”

It seems likely that if Judas had not been successful, one or more of the gospel writers would have certainly wanted to rub it in and gleefully point it out, so we’re left with the assumption that Judas completed the good works of casting out demons and liberating people from illness and possession.

We most often only think of “Judas the Betrayer,” but here, right in the text, we have “Judas the Missionary” and “Judas the Healer.” Fascinating! Continue reading

The Ripples of Choice

This text from 1 Kings that we read this morning is a complete disaster. It’s just awful.

Ahab wants to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard, and when Naboth refuses him, a chain of events is put in motion that ends with Naboth being unjustly taken to court and stoned to death.

It’s just blood-curdling, how could anyone read this and call it Holy Scripture?

Well, I’m glad you brought it up. This is exactly what we should be reading in Holy Scripture.

Sometimes we as progressive Christians have a tendency to shy away from the more bloodthirsty parts of the Bible because they seem so far from our understanding of a loving, generous God.

But that is the wrong approach, and this is where how we view the scriptures becomes critically important.

In the Episcopal Church, we believe that the Bible was inspired by God, but the Bible was not written by God. It was written by human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

Our Christian brothers and sisters who believe the Bible is inerrant, who insist that every word of the Bible is literally true without error—and without contradiction, which is patently false—I believe that they run the risk of worshipping the Bible rather than worshipping God.

But notice that our story today, for all its bloodthirstiness, is not attributing these characteristics to God.

This is the reason why we need to be Biblically literate about the Old Testament and not throw it away with big generalizations like “it portrays an angry God and I don’t believe in an angry God.”

This story shows what terrible, awful mistakes and sins human beings can make, how badly they can manage themselves and their affairs when they are consumed by greed and power.

What better text could we have to speak to us right now? Continue reading

When People Underestimate You, Are They Right?

Getting more than you bargained for. That’s what all of our scriptures are about today.

And it’s not a concept that is very familiar in our capitalist society. We are used to paying an agreed upon price, and receiving exactly what we’ve paid for, no more and no less.

I sometimes wonder if we carry that consumer mentality into our relationships as well.

If I make dinner x number of times this week, my partner will mow the lawn without having to be reminded.

If I attend x number of recitals or soccer games of my grandchildren, my daughter will pick up the phone when I call her.

If I read x chapters of the Bible this week, God will answer my prayers.

That’s not how God’s economy works.

The Greek root from which we get the word economy means household and refers to how people manage the day to day finances and organization of their homes and families.

And God’s economy has a very strange balance sheet.

Things are simply not predictable with God.

Two plus two does not always equal four.

It often equals five, or a hundred and five, or a purple elephant. Continue reading