Second Lesson Cycle A Proper 23 through Thanksgiving
Most of the biblical images of the coming day of the Lord suggest a belief that it will be a day of judgment, a day when everyone will appear before the judgment seat of God and be judged and sent either to heaven or to hell. That is probably the most unattractive feature of Christian tradition for believers and the thing most likely to "turn off" outsiders. It calls to mind images of preachers thundering judgmental messages from their pulpits, trying to generate guilty feelings and to scare people into making a profession of faith with the threat of hellfire.
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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.