Just Desserts

As always, take a look at the texts for this week by following the link below…


And, with that, let's take a brief look at what this week has in store for us, textually speaking, that is...


1 Samuel 1:4-20

There is the story of a barren woman here – and, if she miraculously becomes pregnant, that’s a big clue that there is something special instore for the child she will bear. Hannah joins Sarah, the mother of Isaac; Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; Rachel, mother of Benjamin; and, of course, Mary, mother of Jesus, as one more woman whose motherhood story is of biblical proportions.  Well, you get the point…

In spite of being forced to deal with a clueless husband, a heartless rival in Peninnah and a judgmental priest in Eli, Hannah takes the high road in her dealings with everyone. (Sarah asked Abraham to toss Haggar out of the family settlement and Rachel gets into a fierce competition with her sister and rival, Leah). And, she commits the fruit of her womb to the Lord’s service, none other than Samuel, the anointer of King Saul (and we all remember what a success that was and the utter catastrophe that the kingship turned out to be).

In another sense, Hannah could be seen as the female version of Job, because her suffering goes much deeper than the taunts of her rival or the stupidity of Eli. She is trapped in an unjust system as represented by the other bad actors, and has little power, or choice left to her. In the end, she returns Samuel to God, ironically, maybe even tragically, since the narrative implies that God closed her womb in the first place. Does Hannah give voice – and we use her ‘song’ as the canticle on this Sunday – to the systemic injustice suffered by women. In that light, Samuel going back to God’s service may just be Hannah’s revenge after all. The prophet’s compliance in the creation of the monarchy sows the seeds for the ultimate obliteration of the nation and the destruction of the Temple.  Hmmmm… is that why this text pairs with the Markan lesson about the destruction of the Temple of Herod the Great? Jesus makes that prediction after everyone witnesses the subjugation of the poor widow and her two coins. Coincidence?  I think not.

Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

Nothing much to add to the previous weeks’ observations about sacrifice, except that in the other texts, we deal both directly (Mark) and indirectly (Samuel) with the destruction of the Temple, the heart of the cult.

The writer of Hebrews knows that the Temple is gone and that sacrifices will never be offered on that mount again. Jesus is depicted as offering a ‘once for all time’ single sacrifice, perfecting all others (Good timing, that…), but what he offers is forgiveness, and not sacrificial violence.

Mark 13: 1 - 8

As I mentioned last week, we mistakenly place this entire episode - with Jesus and his disciples making observations outside the Temple - during the stewardship season. In doing so, we expose our own motives by incorrectly implying that the widow – seen last week tossing her last two coins into the treasury, all she had for her own survival – was doing so out of a sense of immense gratitude to God, cheerfully giving all that she had.  Once again, this is not a story about great generosity. On the contrary, the point of the story is that this religious system of oppression – which has the Temple and its sacrificial Cult at its heart – devours the lives of the marginalized.

And in today’s text, we get Jesus’ Marley-esque pronouncement about the fate of the system that should have had – as was the case for Jacob Marley – humankind as its business:

Not one stone shall be left on top of the other.

So be it for all individuals and institutions that use violence – physical, spiritual, psychological, and in this case, economic – to subjugate those they pretend to serve. Jesus came to rescue us from this, from ourselves. A quote from Paul Neuchterlein:

“In 2017 the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was celebrated across much of the church. In 2018 and beyond we need to recognize the urgent need for an ongoing New Reformation. For all that was accomplished in the first Reformation, the most important issue was not addressed: ending Christendom, the church’s alliance with the sacred violence of Empire, and related theological issues pertaining to violence. Jesus came to save us from our human origins in violence — opening the possibility to nothing less than a new Way to be human. A Start-over. Human Being 2.0.”