bible blog 524

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news 


1 Kings 3:16-28

16 Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17One woman said, ‘Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. 19Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.’ 22But the other woman said, ‘No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.’ The first said, ‘No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.’ So they argued before the king.

23 Then the king said, ‘One says, “This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead”; while the other says, “Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.” ’ 24So the king said, ‘Bring me a sword’, and they brought a sword before the king. 25The king said, ‘Divide the living boy in two; then give half to one, and half to the other.’ 26But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—‘Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!’ The other said, ‘It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.’ 27Then the king responded: ‘Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.’ 28All Israel heard of the judgement that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

Justice -a vital function

This is certainly an old folk tale allocated to the wise king. The characterisation of the women, the brutality of the proposed solution and the shrewd psychology are typical of such tales. It is made to function as an example of Solomon’s wisdom. It tells reader that by his elevation to the throne the king has not ceased to understand the people of the land; his royal wisdom is based on the accumulated wisdom of his people-that’s also why he is given credit for the authorship of the book of Proverbs. This particular example of wisdom is notable for its recognition that true compassion is infallible: it goes beyond all desire to possess.

Yesterday the Guardian Newspaper carried an advertisement by Ryanair for travel to Bavaria, depicting a blonde barmaid with an ample figure serving beer with the caption “Find the frauleins with the big jugs.” Numerous readers appalled at the brutality of this, registered their protest, only to be mocked in today’s Daily Mirror as “choking on their organic muesli,” while that paper has an even larger number of photographs of attractive women with captions which treat them as meat. In spite of all the sneers and denial the genuine compassion of the protesters for abused women is its own justification.

 Mark 14:12-26

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ 16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ 19They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ 20He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

There is no chapel on the day/ on which they hang a man...

In the original Passover, Israel, the child of God, is protected while the first born of the Egyptians is killed. In Mark’s story, Jesus the first-born child of God is killed so that all humanity (“many”) can be liberated.

The supper takes place with “one who will betray”. We know about Judas of course, but the question, “Surely, not I?” is legitimate, for indeed they all betray Jesus in different degrees. The “many”, the bible code word for outsiders/ foreigners,  for whom the blood is poured out, include all who are seated at table with Jesus.

Ever since, the church of Jesus has sought in one way and another to deny that the supper and the sacrifice are for the many. The “covenant” has been restricted to the elect, to Roman Catholics, to the born-again, to those whose behaviour has not incurred condemnation fr0m the righteous of the Kirk Session. All these are ways of spitting in the face of the crucified. When I worked for a while as a prison chaplain Oscar Wilde’s great poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” became precious to me. He wrote of how no flowers will grow on the lime-strewn grave of a hanged man:

“But neither milk-white rose nor red

  May bloom in prison air;

The shard, the pebble, and the flint,

  Are what they give us there:

For flowers have been known to heal

  A common man’s despair.


So never will wine-red rose or white,

  Petal by petal, fall

On that stretch of mud and sand that lies

  By the hideous prison-wall,

To tell the men who tramp the yard

  That God’s Son died for all.”

That God’s son died for all is still the gospel in spite of all the lies of prelates and theologians.

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