David Dodson, Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Warm-up Question

What traditions does your family practice on a regular basis?


Hear ye, hear ye! The date has been set for the royal wedding between Prince Harry of the United Kingdom and his fiancé, Meghan Markle!  Many of you may already be aware of the upcoming royal marriage of Prince Harry, the younger brother of Prince William and grandson of the Queen of England, Elizabeth II.  And if you are an aficionado of news about the British royalty, you might be aware that there are a few unique things about this upcoming wedding.

First of all, Harry’s bride-to-be isn’t a British citizen.  Meghan Markle is an American actress and humanitarian.  But this isn’t the only non-traditional aspect of the upcoming nuptials. The happy couple will be married on May 19th – a Saturday.  This is, believe it or not, a significant break from tradition.  For decades, royal weddings have taken place on a weekday.  The day is typically declared a bank holiday, and many British citizens are given the day off to celebrate the wedding.  With the wedding taking place on a Saturday, this may not be the case this time.

Another break with tradition came this past Christmas.  Normally, the royal family celebrates at the Queen’s private residence at Sandringham House in Norfolk.  Traditionally, only members of royal families and their spouses are invited; fiancés are not.  This time, however, Prince Harry asked for and received the Queen’s permission to bring Miss Markle to the family holiday.

It’s likely, though, that several traditions about royal weddings will stay intact this year.  One of those traditions includes the wedding rings to be created for the couple.  Since 1923, members of the British royal family have all had their wedding rings made from the gold of the Clogau St. David gold mine in Wales.  It’s a particularly rare gold, especially now that the mine is closed, but the royal family has enough gold to make the rings for the upcoming wedding.  In just a few months, Prince Harry might slip onto his new bride’s finger a ring made of the same gold that graced the finger of his mother, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother.

Discussion Questions

  • What is special about traditions that your family observes?
  • In the story above, what are your thoughts about the breaks from tradition?
  • Would you like a traditional wedding if and when you get married, or would you prefer something non-traditional?

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This week’s reading from Mark tells the dramatic story of a possessed man shouting out in the synagogue as Jesus taught, followed by the exorcism of this “unclean spirit” by Jesus.  That story, though, only highlights the real recurring theme of the passage: the authority of Jesus as something “new”.

Twice in this passage, the people of Capernaum marvel to one another that Jesus is offering “a new teaching” which is taught “with authority”.  That isn’t particularly surprising, of course.  We know that Jesus is teaching with the authority of God, after all.  But it might be surprising if we look a little bit deeper.  In verse 22, the people note that Jesus “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”.

Now that is strange indeed!  The term “scribes” refers to a specific and very powerful group in Jewish society.  The scribes were a group who intensely studied the Hebrew scriptures and other writings.  They were experts in the law, and their services were used to prepare all sorts of legal documents – from marriage contracts to mortgages.  The scribes were also some of the most influential interpreters of Jewish law, and some well-known scribes even had their own disciples!  Scribes often formed a core of the Jewish council.  It’s possible, then, that the scribes exercised more power than even the Pharisees.  Why, then, do the people say that when Jesus teaches with authority, he does so in a way unlike the scribes?

To a first-century Jew, like the author of today’s Gospel, it would make no sense to claim that the scribes lacked authority.  It would, however, be perfectly correct to say that Jesus displayed a very different form of authority.

The power of the scribes was based on their ability to interpret and apply Mosaic Law.  Scribes were experts in the law that had been handed down for generations of Judaism.  The scribes considered themselves guardians of the laws that God laid down after rescuing his people from Egypt and promising them a land and a nation.  In this way, the scribes operated under the authority of God.    What made Jesus stand out was simple: He spoke and acted with an authority that belonged to him.  He spoke as God himself, not merely as an interpreter of the Law.

Certainly, this would have been shocking!  It also affected different people in different ways.  Some were prepared to recognize God in these new words and this new voice.  They responded to the teachings of Jesus and were receptive to his words.  Others, however, were appalled at the break from the traditional authority of the scribes.  To them, it didn’t matter what Jesus had to say.  They would not have accepted his authority.  They let their traditions become more important than God’s good news.

Discussion Questions

  • What traditions are important in your youth group and in your church?
  • How can we tell the difference between a tradition that makes us more receptive to God’s word and a tradition that distracts us from God’s word?
  • Is it possible for a good, meaningful tradition to turn into a distracting tradition?

Activity Suggestions

Write a “travel guide” for a visitor to your church, helping them understand the traditions and practices of your church.  Assume this visitor had never attended a Christian church service before.  Could you prepare a brochure to help them understand what to expect?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for your guidance and your loving care in all that we do.  Thank you especially for your Word, given to us through your Son Jesus.  Help us always to recognize those words and deeds that help us grow in our faith, and teach us to find new ways to grow in our love for you and for one another.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.