Proper 11 Year B

Reflection on Mark, by the Rev. Tom Harries

I see two potential directions to go here.

Jesus calls the disciples away to a deserted place. You can refer to our material on sacred spaces and talk about experiences in sacred spaces, their potential for refreshment and insight. There is an importance of preserving parks and green space so that people continue to have the opportunity to go to a place apart by themselves and rest awhile.

Beginning with the feeding of 5000 one could talk about all the ways God provides for us through creation and the environment.

To me the most stunning one is oxygen in the air. We all breath every minute from birth to death without thinking about it, yet we could not live a moment without the whole process that keeps oxygen in the air. Similarly with water: you can fast quite a while, but without water you can last only a few days.

Only a small portion of the world’s water is fresh. It is extremely important to be good stewards of it.

General Reflection on the Readings, by Jill Peterman

Can you imagine the excitement in ancient Gennesaret when Jesus and the apostles moored the boat and many flocked to request healing? Mark’s account began with Jesus suggesting the apostles go away in a boat – come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile. Of course there was no rest, as crowds followed them (or headed them off on the other side of the bay). But Jesus had compassion for the crowds; they were like sheep without a shepherd. As Paul later was recounted in writings to the Ephesians, they are now one in Christ, members of the household of God, and are a new humanity with the examples of Jesus’ teachings of peace and reconciliation. There is a new structure built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Paul undoubtedly recalled his time in Ephesus, surrounded by ancient foundations; antiquities of marble statues and structures.

Do we have any modern-day reason for excitement? Do you follow anyone? Are there any modern day prophets? What is our foundation? I do feel a bit lost now, maybe a sheep without a shepherd, in that there are few speaking for the environment and sacred space. I love to go away to deserted places, forests with few dwellers. This for me is rest and restoration. I want the places we can do this to remain. Voices that speak of peace and reconciliation are really few and far between. This fragile earth, our island home needs wise clear voices to call us to realize our interdependence.

I Had a “Green” Dream: Major Oil and Gas Company Announces Conversions to Solar, Wind, and Geothermal, by the Rev. Leah Schade

Excerpt: An ecological vision of following God’s ways would involve converting the “swords” of drill rigs into the blades of windmills; the “spears” of fossil fuel pipelines into solar panels.  The industry will no longer lift up its weapons against the earth, the atmosphere, and human health; neither shall they learn war against life any more.

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Reflection on Psalm 23, by John G. Gibbs, PhD

Note: This reflection originally written as part of a series of reflections during the Season of Easter, Year A.

“Becoming People Who Are Safe for the World” (Sheep of the Shepherd)

This is one of the psalms of trust. Psalm 11, for instance, expresses trust in God as the maintainer of Justice, for: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” But wait, for God’s eyes “examine humankind,” God “hates the lover of violence,” but “loves righteous deeds.”

Similarly, Psalm 23 expresses trust in God the protector, whose rod and staff “comfort me” in the presence of “evil.” It is also trust in God the gracious host who “prepares a table before me” and invites me to “dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

The first 3 verses set a bucolic scene that is pastoral in every way. The Shepherd, verdant pastures, “waters of rest” [Hebrew]-all these are evoked to communicate both who God is, and what God’s merciful (v. 6) purpose toward the psalmist is. Not even in “the darkest valley” is any individual alone, for “the Lord is my shepherd” who even there finds a way to lead us back to green pastures and waters of rest.

This trust in God brings certainty of sufficiency: “I shall not want.” As a later hymn-writer put it: “I nothing lack if I am His, And He is mine forever.”

A second certainty is security. “I fear no evil; for you are with me.” Realism about evil, and about the darkest valleys in our lives, is acknowledged and overcome by this kind of God and this kind of trust in God. Elie Wiesel, who barely survived Nazi concentration camps, has rightly remarked that we should say about God only what we can affirm when we stand at the upper edge of a pit that is filled with burning babies. There is no security for those who run away from death, violence, and horror. Only those are secure who feel steadied by this Shepherd, no matter how dark may be their valley.

Trust in God, thirdly, makes us steadfast. Desert hospitality afforded refuge within a tent to a fugitive, but only for a short time (two days and their intervening night). God’s hospitality, however, has no limit. It lasts “my whole life long.” That is what we can count on, that is what makes us steadfast. [See John Paterson, The Praises of Israel (Scribner’s, 1950), pp. 113-14; Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, I, pp. 356-57.]

People of this Shepherd Psalm have within them the kind of Shalom (Peace) that, if it is lived out in deeds, prepares them to be safe for “all creatures great and small.” Such People live in harmony with all God’s creation.

When Psalm 23 Shepherded Me, by Leah Schade

Excerpt: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” I only have to say those first five words, and almost everyone to whom I have given pastoral care could join with me in reciting this most precious Psalm 23.  It is the psalm that each of us should know by heart.  Allow me to first offer a “tour” through Psalm 23, and then share a story of how this psalm actually shepherded me in my own life.

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Shepherds and Children—Restoring a Healing Relationship with the World, by Tom Mundahl

Excerpt: For those of us struggling to serve creation, the importance of the image of “shepherd” cannot be over-emphasized. Is there a biblical role more appropriate to carrying out the call to “tend and care” for all that God has made? (Genesis 2: 15)  Historically, that metaphor soon was applied to kings who followed in the line of David, the “shepherd boy.” Shepherd-kings could be models of care and compassion. And, if they failed, there were prophets to illuminate their actions, exposing the actions of those who “fed themselves instead of the sheep” (Ezekiel 34:2), or “scattered the sheep of my pasture” (Jeremiah 23: 1).

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