Preaching The Lectionary Psalms for Cycles A, B, C
(See Proper 19/Pentecost 17/Ordinary Time 24, Cycle C, for an alternative approach.)
This psalm reflects on what Gerhard Von Rad termed "practical atheism." It's not that there are those who decide, intellectually, that God does not exist. Rather, there are those who in their hearts say, "There is no God." The psalmist has in mind those who act and make decisions as though there were no God to hold them accountable. It is entirely possible that there are those who confess with their lips that God is real, but then act is if God does not exist.
UPCOMING WEEKS In addition to the lectionary resources there are thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.