Is Sunday Really About Us?

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutesOne Sunday, as I sat through a service in a local community of faith, I had the following thoughts.

We are so impregnated with individualism and consumerism. But, unlike a pregnant woman, we don’t realize it. Individualism and consumerism affects the olders and the youngers. They are not a respecter of persons. But, it still surprises me.

In that service, the speaker told us that he was ill and that it was a struggle for him to communicate. I was struck by his own individualism and consumerism in what he began to communicate. He first read Psalm 130. With the lens of individualism and the need to consume, he presented this Psalm as a personal cry for personal help. Really? I thought! A more thorough reading of the sacred text might suggest that this was not about the Psalmist crying out for his own personal relief, but the Psalmist crying out for the relief of the nation of Israel, the community of God, (church) in the Old Testament because of their sins. Our speaker personalized the sacred text and in doing so made it appear for his listeners that it was about his own and their own personal needs. Is it wrong to cry out to God when in need? No! But, it might be wrongheaded to use this text to support such a cry.

Is Sunday Really About Us?Next, we then moved with no segue to the story of Bartimaeus. The essence of the presentation was centered around the request of Bartimaeus to be healed. Reading with individualistic, consumerist eyes, we often put ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus as he asked for healing. One wonders why we don’t think: what might Jesus be doing in this story and what might Mark mean as he tells this story? Jews, with impediments like blindness, being deaf and dumb, hemorrhaging, being crippled, were excluded from full membership of the community. When Jesus healed them, it was not about meeting a need that was consumed by the individual. It was about being fully restored to the people of God. Tom Wright suggests: “The effect of these cures, therefore, was not merely to bring physical healing; not merely to give humans, within a far less individualistic society than our modern western one, a renewed sense of community membership, but to reconstitute those healed as members of the people of Israel’s god.” Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2) 192.

In a sharing time that followed, I was struck by one comment that suggested that Bartimaeus got his identity by being blind as he was called “blind Bartimaeus,” in the KJV of the text. But that translation has not been held over in more current versions where Bartimaeus is referred to as “a blind beggar.” Surely, one may choose to see what one wants to see in a text, rightly or wrongly, but are we then free to submit our findings to a community already infected with individualism and consumerism without first, at least, identifying what Jesus may have been doing or Mark may have been teaching?

So, I wrote my friend a short message inquiring about the following:

What part of what you did yesterday fed consumerism among those gathered?

What did God get out of our time together? It’s really about him and not about us.

What if the way we go about receiving from God is backwards?

What if the purpose of our gatherings is not about what we desire to receive but about God desiring us?

It is well for us to remember, God was already there in the gathering when we arrived and remained there after we left. He didn’t just “show up” at that moment no matter how often we pray “Come Holy Spirit!” What if we thought about: What was God looking forward to as we gathered? Was it another time of sitting around asking that he meet our needs, or should it be a time in which we simply worship him without any expectation of receiving anything, but the pure pleasure of worshiping him.


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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)