Friday, September 11, 2009

Gospel of Mark reflections

During this year, between now and Easter, we will be incorporating selections from the Gospel of Mark into our church's holy conversations or our communion words during worship. I will post these or many of them here on the blog.

For example, this coming Sunday I will be lifting up from Mark second chapter, how one of the first evidences of his public ministry after the baptism and time in the wilderness is reflected in the story of Jesus and his disciples eating with tax collectors and sinners. My point is not only that he associated with those who were scorned by other people, meaning that he could find God within them and through their lives and not just taking God to them but also that his eating with them was not like going to a restaurant where there are people different from you eating. In that case you might still be separate from them, just visiting so to speak, and it might be about your own self-righteousness to be seen with those you shouldn't be seen with. But with Jesus and his dinners, they were family affairs; it was about going deeper with those who are endangered, becoming truly relational with them, creating that fictive family and kind of relationship that is opposed to the kind most favored; it is about risk. That is what being in a missional community is and calls us toward. It is what communion every time we worship points us to.

And here are reflections from the lectionary readings from Mark for the past Sunday and the upcoming Sunday. Read more at

First the pivotal passage of Jesus' encounter with the Syro-Phoenician mother; one of the very few times Jesus is verbally one-upped (the other also by a woman, his mother); a Gentile and a woman with an audacious spirit, risking hurt to confront him and when faced with Jesus' dismissal of her, she continues with her prophetic stance of faith that knew no boundaries of ethnicity or gender or any other way of separation and oppression. She holds up the possibility of redemption and mutual transformation to Jesus and his followers themselves; she holds up the mirror to Jesus about his very calling; she models the very way of the disciple, as opposed to so many of his authorized disciples who don't get his message and ministry, in a gospel that is about becoming a disciple of Jesus in dangerous times and ways. For those of us who find our deepest following of Jesus by being in relationship with others who are different from us theologically, culturally and other ways, and with the vulnerable, this is a scripture that highlights our very faithfulness. And then this is further revealed by the wonderful next scene Jesus' healing, our healing, comes through that wonderful word Ephphatha, to be opened, to be in a position of receiving of receiving the healing of love and truth from others, especially from those who we have been taught to turn away from and who so often turn away from us; our way of being a disciple is to live in the spirit of Ephphatha. To create systems that are open, not closed.

Mark 7: 24-37:
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
This Sunday: Mark 8:27-38
But what kind of a Christ, a Messiah, was Jesus to his followers, and to us? Radically, he was seen as the Messiah through his vulnerability, his power-with others, not through his power-over others. Peter's understanding of the Messiah, of God, of the community of followers, was that of the way of the world, of the Roman Empire and temple collaboration way, not the way of the divine Jesus had been demonstrating for them, the divine relationship and compassion for the outcast, and the way that led to but beyond the cross. Jesus is rebuked by Peter for violating the norms of the Messiah and so Jesus rebukes him back, or the Satan he is exhibiting; and certainly religious leaders ever since have still not gotten it and have followed the cultural norms instead of Jesus' way of disrupting the cultural norms. No wonder :) throughout Mark Jesus calls on disciples to be silent about what they see and are told; silence until they are able to get and live it; silence beats the way we so often say and do just the opposite of what Jesus called us to say do and be. What are the crosses that line our lives today, the way the crosses lined the roads Jesus walked upon? Which ones are we called to pick up and transform as we are transformed? It is not that we seek suffering, and judge our selves based on some degree of suffering for the good cause--that is counter to the spirit of Jesus--but that we live, as this following text implies through Jesus' teaching, as if we were already in a state of resurrection and by doing so put all the suffering that may come from the world's crosses into a larger perspective.
27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

These were some of my thoughts this week.

Type rest of the post here

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