Saturday, September 30, 2006

The lessons are from the Book of Esther, the Epistle of James and the Gospel of Mark. The theme, according to the Collect is a prayer for grace as we run to obtain God's promises to partake of heavenly treasure.
The Book of Esther is a tale of how a woman saves a nation by stepping up to the plate at a crucial moment. It is told in a melodramatic style - with reversals of fortune and opportunities to laugh as villains are brought to justice. When Purim is celebrated in the Synagogue (usually in March) the reading of this story is accompanied by boos and hisses and clattering of rattles at the mention of Haman's, the villain, name and shouts and cheers for Mordecai and Esther. The point of the story seems to be that when the time comes it is not always the strong and powerful who win the day, but that we must be willing to act if we are so called.
In the gospel - Jesus is also making the point that the kindom of heaven is made up of little ones, those who even in small acts - like a cup of water for someone who is thirsty - do the thing that brings us all closer to living in the way that God would have us live. Often we think that "little ones" means children but in this passage it is the Greek word "mikron" - same as where we get "micro." In this case Jesus is referring to those on the margins - the widows, the orphans, the poor, the powerless. He is giving hope to all who feel that life is too much to handle and who are always struggling. He is calling those who have gifts, no matter how small we may think they are, to use them to care for one another. Dylan Breuer has a commentary on this at her blog, Sarah Laughed.
James, as usual, offers practical advice on church life. Luther did not like the Epistle of James as he thought it was a "works not grace" book of the Bible. Luther was so overwhelmed by the notion of grace that he dismissed the Letter of James as to works oriented. Also interesting is that the Book of Esther does not mention God at all. It is a good thing they were all left in the Bible as we have received it - makes us know that there is a broad range of approaches to the faithful life. The task is to run the race and know that we already have the gold medal.

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