It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reflection on readings for February 15

All my bones shall say,
"O Lord, who is like you?
You deliver the weak
from those too strong for them,
the weak and needy from those
who despoil them.
(Psalm 35:1-16)

Exodus 39:1-40:38
After having constructed the tabernacle and built the ark, they make vestments for the priests.  The work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. The Israelites had done everything the Lord had commanded Moses. Murray Andrew Pura in Renovare's The Life with God Bible points out that "not only in the creation of the tabernacle, but in all God's interactions with Israel in Exodus human involvement has been essential.... We play a considerable role in bringing God's beauty and justice to earth.

Mark 1:1-28
Isaiah had told them centuries before that God would be sending a messenger, one who would call from the wilderness for them to prepare for God's presence. Now John the baptizer is echoing this call. (Note that the quote in verses 2-3 are a conflation of sources: Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1 as well as Isaiah 40:3, Preaching the Gospels by Allen &  Williamson).

Mark's audience was living under domination by Rome. According to Allen & Williamson. Isaiah was especially popular among the apocalyptists because they used the Babylonian oppressors and the exile to interpret Rome (latter-day idolatrous and unjust Babylon) and their situation of exile as they awaited the apocalypse. Isaiah 40:30 reinforces the theme from Malachi: John prepared the community for the eschatological invasion of the present, broken world by Jesus.

What does Mark mean by "beginning"? Is John the beginning of the good news? Or, is Mark's gospel the beginning of the story that continues to this day? (NT Commentary by Boring & Craddock)

For us, what is wilderness? What is our Babylon? Is it time for us to return from exile? How does the call for repentance relate to our lives?

Morna Hooker, in her commentary on Mark, lists the OT references implied in Mark's description of John: The rough garment of camel's hair is probably to be taken as an indication that he was a prophet (Zechariah 13:4). The reference to the leather belt echoes the description of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). He calls the nation to repent as did Malachi (4:5). The locusts and honey are typical food for travelers in the wilderness and locusts were permitted in the Torah (Leviticus 11:21).

The term "repentance" does carry the connotation of regret, but it means more than that. The Greek word metanoia that we translate as "repentance" means literally, "a change of mind." Not a simple "I'm sorry" or "I wish things could have been different," but rather a "I'm traveling a different way now."

John is preparing his world for a new age with a new leader, one who is not only more powerful than the prophets who foretold his coming, but one who also is more powerful than the governors and Caesars of his time.

John has been preaching and baptizing. Now, Jesus is proclaiming the good news from God.

Points to ponder:
John preached baptism and repentance (1:4). Is this message part of, precedent to, or included in "good news"?

The word translated as time is "kairos," meaning not just time, but a particular, significant moment in time.

Repent--don't just be sorry about what you used to do; rather, change the way you live your life.

As you read through Mark's gospel, you will find other references to the kingdom of God. He's not talking just about some place we go after we die. God king-dom is beginning here and now. (Those of you familar with her work can see that I have referred closely to Morna D. Hooker's The Gospel according to Saint Mark.)

I'm thinking about how differently we do worship than the way that Jesus would have been used to. Mark 1:21, says that he went to a synagogue and taught. Priests served at the temple. Teaching took place at the synagogues. Are our churches more like the temple or more like synagogues? Is what today we call preaching what Mark meant by teaching? Or, was teaching then like what we mean by teaching now?

How come it was an unclean man who first recognized Jesus? BTW, how common was it for people with unclean spirits to attend the synagogue?

We are told that the people were amazed by his evidencing authority and by his ability to get unclean spirits to obey him. What amazes us today?

They were going about their daily routine when Jesus saw them. When he said to them, "Come after me," they dropped what they were doing (note: their means of earning a living), and followed him.

 Questions to consider: 

    Had they heard of him before he showed up at work that day? 
    Was he looking for them specifically, or would anybody he chose have been able to be his disciple, merely because he chose them?  
    What does "come after" mean--do you interpret the term literally, metaphorically, or both?  
    Same question about "followed."  
    Does discipleship have to mean leaving what we're doing, or can we be disciples in place? 
    Why did Jesus not mention any rewards? 
    Mark says that they left their father behind--is that implied in discipleship?

Prayer for Today: Continue to stir us to be part of bringing your beauty and justice to this earth. Continue to stir us to be part of you healing work. Amen.

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