The Nazareth Sermon as Jubilee Manifesto

Nazareth 2

By Ched Myers, for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany, reposted from Jan 24, 2016 (Luke 4:14-21)

The setting of this famous story is significant. The obscure village of Nazareth has already been well established in Luke’s narrative as the home place of Jesus’ childhood, from Gabriel’s annunciation (1:26) to the Holy Family’s comings and goings (2:4; 39; 51), to the phrase in this week’s lection “where Jesus had been brought up…” (4:16a). Continue reading “The Nazareth Sermon as Jubilee Manifesto”

Kings vs. Kids

magiBy Ched Myers, for The Feast of the Holy Innocents and Epiphany (Matthew 2), re-posted from 2016

This reflection offers biblical context for two feasts of the Christian church: one minor (Feast of the Innocents, Dec 28, 2016) and one major (Epiphany, Jan 6, 2017). These two holy days commemorate the narrative of Matthew 2 (though in reverse chronological order), which we read in Year A. In fact, the “Twelve Days of Christmas”—when re-interpreted through the lens of these two feasts—can truly be a gift to us, if an importunate one.  These counter-narratives provide a much-needed corrective to the holiday season’s saccharine sentimentality and cacophonous commercialism, and equally to unreflective year-in-review rituals and banal New Year’s resolution-making. For they demand that we re-center our lives around the testimonies of those who are at risk in a world of imperial violence.  Continue reading “Kings vs. Kids”

Anchoring the Gospel Story in the Real World

JordanBy Ched Myers, the co-director of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (if you’ve been inspired and challenged by Ched’s posts this year following the lectionary, consider making an end-of-the-year donation to BCM, day in and day out, doing the work of radical discipleship)

Note: This is reposted from Ched’s occasional comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2015-16.  

The second and third Sundays of Advent focus on the ministry of John the Baptist, first locating him in the wilderness (2. Advent), then focusing in on his prophetic message (3. Advent). Following on his infancy (and young childhood) narrative about Jesus, Luke commences the gospel story proper. More than the other N.T. evangelist, Luke anchors his story in real political space, signaling that we ought not be afraid to do the same.
Continue reading “Anchoring the Gospel Story in the Real World”

The End of the World

Arch of TitusBy Ched Myers, for the 25th Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 13:1-8)

Note: This is the last of a series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, originally posted during year B, 2015. 

The final two Sundays in Ordinary Time and the first two Sundays in Advent comprise what I call the “apocalyptic season of turning” in our church calendar. Traditionally the gospel readings speak of the end of the “old order” and the coming of a new world anticipated in Christ. This is appropriate not only as a transition into a new liturgical year and lectionary cycle, but also as a reminder that “in Christ there is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” (II Cor 5:17).
Continue reading “The End of the World”

The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?

WidowBy Ched Myers, for the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 12:28-13:2)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

Special Note From Ched: I apologize for conflating my comments posted last week, in which I treated BOTH Mk 12:28-34 (this last Sunday’s gospel) AND 12:38-44 (this coming Sunday’s gospel), with a heavy emphasis on the latter. Hopefully most of you focused on All Saints themes last Sunday and weren’t disoriented or disappointed. I was traveling and dispatched the blog with too much haste! RD.net is reposting last week’s blog to be of use to those preaching or teaching on this coming Sunday’s reading, which is indeed the story of the “Widow’s Mite.” Sorry for any confusion, and for giving short shrift to last Sunday’s gospel. Thanks for following this series, which now heads into its last few weeks.
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The lectionary leaps ahead this Sunday (which is also All Saints Day), moving to the concluding episode of Mark’s Jerusalem conflict narrative (chapters 11 and 12), in which Jesus clashes with every authority group in the capital city. In this week’s reading it is the scribes, the arch opponents of Jesus. The sequence begins with their challenge to interpret the great commandment, which was a central debating point among the rabbis (12:28). Jesus knows that the “orthodox” answer is the Shema (12:29f; see Dt 6:4), but pointedly attaches to it a citation from the Levitical code of justice, implying that to love God is to refuse to exploit one’s neighbor (12:31; see Lev 19:9-17).
Continue reading “The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?”

On the “Blind” Following the “Blind”

BartimaeusBy Ched Myers, for the 22nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 10:46-52), originally posted in October 2015

Right: A relief sculpture of the healing of Bartimaeus by artist/minister Charles McCollough, done in honor of our ministry at BCM (at right is the rich man and one of Jesus’ disciples).
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Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This is a longer post because Sunday represents the feast day of “St. Bartimaeus,” whose story has accompanied Ched through his entire ministry (see second half of the post).

In this culminating episode of Mark’s “discipleship catechism,” there is one more polemical role reversal to shock our propriety, and one more blind man healed to give us hope (compare Mk 8:22-26). On the outskirts of Jericho, the final stop before arriving in Jerusalem, we encounter a beggar sitting “beside the Way” (10:46). Bartimaeus will provide a dramatic contrast to the previous two stories of “non-discipleship”—the rich man’s refusal and the disciples’ ambitions—and will symbolize for Mark the “true follower.” Continue reading “On the “Blind” Following the “Blind””

The Subversion of Hierarchical Power

zebedeeBy Ched Myers, for the 21st Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:32-45), originally posted in 2015

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

The last cycle of the discipleship catechism begins, as did the previous story of the rich man, “on the Way.” Here the journey is finally revealed as headed to Jerusalem, the place of final confrontation with the Powers (10:32a). Jesus “goes before” the discipleship community, who are amazed and afraid (10:32b). This snapshot will be important to remember at the end of the story, where at the empty tomb we are told that Jesus “goes before” disciples who are both afraid and “ecstatic” (16:7f).
Continue reading “The Subversion of Hierarchical Power”

The Call of the Rich Man as a Text of Terror

JesusBy Ched Myers, for the 20th Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:17-31), originally posted on October 8, 2015

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This post is 2-3 times longer than previous ones because of the importance of this text to our struggle to be disciples within a capitalist culture.
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The story of Jesus and the rich man lies at the crossroads of Mark’s narrative. From here Jesus will turn toward Jerusalem, a destination of confrontation with the Powers that evoked dread and denial among his disciples then (10:32) as now. But the encounter between Jesus and this affluent gentleman represents a theological crossroad as well.
Continue reading “The Call of the Rich Man as a Text of Terror”

“Defect-ive” Discipleship: Recovering from Domination Culture

JesusBy Ched Myers, for the 18th Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 9:38-50), originally posted on September 24, 2015

This week continues our journey through the second cycle of Mark’s discipleship catechism. Here John boasts that the disciples shut down the work of an exorcist who was not “following us” (9:38). Under these narrative circumstances, never was the “royal we” more inappropriate! Jesus’ attempt to deconstruct hierarchical power is met with the crudest of assertion of “franchise entitlement.” But is not this a poignant (if sardonic) portrait of how we Christians so often look at our faith traditions as membership clubs? Continue reading ““Defect-ive” Discipleship: Recovering from Domination Culture”

The Cross in Everyday Life: Embracing the “Least”

crucifixionBy Ched Myers, for the 17th Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 9:30-37), re-posted from September 2015

In the wake of the “confessional crisis” (last week’s reading), Mark’s narrative now turns to a triple cycle of object lessons and teaching I call the “discipleship catechism.” This Sunday’s gospel text comes from the second and longest cycle, with its focus of instruction on the less heroic, yet perhaps more difficult, practice of the Way in daily life.

The cross represents more than nonviolent resistance to the Powers; it includes the struggle against patterns of domination in interpersonal and social relationships as well. Thus Mark here addresses several expressions of social power imbalance: greatest and least (9:36f); outsiders and insiders (9:38-41); offenders and victims (9:42-50); male and female (10:2-12); children and adults (10:13-16); and rich and poor (10:17-31). This sequence exhibits certain similarities to catechetical traditions found elsewhere in the New Testament relating to family and community life such as the so-called “House-tables” (e.g. Col 3:12-4:6). Continue reading “The Cross in Everyday Life: Embracing the “Least””