Like a Mustard Seed

BindingToday, we continue our celebration of the 30th anniversary of Binding The Strong Man, Ched Myers’ extraordinary political reading of Mark’s Gospel.  Each Sunday, we will post excerpts from Myers’ comments on the lectionary reading of the day.  Today’s passage is Mark 4:26-34.

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)

In the famous parable of the mustard seed Mark one last time expands upon the theme of sowing in the earth (4:30-32).  There can be no question that this similitude concerning the disproportion between the seed and the mature plant is meant to instill courage and hope in the small and fragile discipleship community for its struggle against the entrenched powers.  As in 4:29, the appended scriptural citation places the parable firmly within a political context.  Mark adopts the conclusion of Ezekiel’s cypress tree parable for his own: the “small sprig” planted by Yahweh will bear fruit, and its branches will give shelter to birds (Ezekiel 17:22f).  In late biblical literature the sheltering branch was a common metaphor for political hegemony.  Daniel explains the image to Nebuchadnezzar: Continue reading

Binding The Strong Man

BindingAs we transition into the summer months of Ordinary Time, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Binding The Strong Man, Ched Myers’ extraordinary political reading of Mark’s Gospel.  Each Sunday, we will post excerpts from Myers’ comments on the lectionary reading of the day.  Today’s passage is Mark 3:20-35, the episode in which the book is named after.

But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (Mark 3:27)

Mark has come clean: Jesus (a.k.a. “the stronger one” heralded by John, 1:8) intends to overthrow the reign of the strong man (a.k.a. the scribal establishment represented by the demon of 1:24).  In this parable the oracle of Second Isaiah lives again: Yahweh is making good on the promise to liberate the “prey of the strong (LXX, ischuontos) and rescue the captives of the tyrants” (Is 49:24f).  Imperial hermeneutics, ever on the side of law and order, will of course find this interpretation of the strong man parable strained, offensive, shocking.  Yet Mark drew the image of breaking and entering from the most enduring of the primitive Christian eschatological traditions: the Lord’s advent as a thief in the night (Mt 24:43 par; I Thes 5:2; 2 Pt 3:10; Rev 3:3, 16:15). Continue reading

Re-membering the Asistencia Santa Gertrudis

Asistencia1By Ched Myers

Note: This reflection was given at a Farm Church gathering at the Asistencia memorial site in California’s Ventura River Watershed on Sunday, Jan 14, 2018 (right; young Wesley Lehman waters a newly planted sycamore seedling; all photos of the gathering by Chris Wight). You can also find it on Ched’s blog.

This weekend we as a nation rightly commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So a good place to start our circle this Sunday morning before the national holiday is with this passage from King’s 1963 book Why We Can’t Wait:

Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.

Mattie

PC: Bill Wingell/National Museum of African American History and Culture/Smithsonian.

Dr. King summarizes why we are gathered as Farm Church at this unusual venue and time, for a special commemoration of a history that lingers in this very spot. [Right: Mattie Grinnell, a 101-year-old Mandan tribeswoman, speaks to the press outside the Supreme Court during the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C.]

Mohecan activist Jim Bear Jacobs taught us that westerners tend to steward our narratives through texts, while indigenous cultures understand their sacred history to be embedded in the land. The land holds the stories. And this Asistencia Santa Gertrudis memorial site is just one small, indeed hidden, chapter in the long and sordid history of Settler displacement of indigenous peoples that marks every single square mile of Turtle Island. Continue reading

What Does it Mean that Jesus “Apprenticed” with John the Baptist?

Christ

Re-posting this Lectionary reflection from 3 years ago on radicaldiscipleship.net written by Ched Myers.

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:4-5


Continue reading

Radical Recommendations for Gift-Giving

BWK (1)

Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann and his recent releases

Because Christmas has become so central to the American economy and American consumption is so central to global capitalism, this festival of ‘Holy Days’ has become a central expression and embodiment of American imperial domination, an imperial religion. 
Richard Horsley, Religion and Empire (2003)

Truly, this Season signals a major tension for North American radical disciples.  We resist and reclaim.  Whether it is our love language our not, we give.  But some forms of giving are far more redemptive than others.

It is in this Spirit that we offer gift ideas from more out-of-the-way, up-and-coming, long-suffering and open-hearted thinkers and artists.  Links to their work are provided here and will eventually be added to our now-pemanent “STORE” tab up top.  We hope this list is an Advent-instigator: please add your recommendations to the comments below or email us so we can add them to the store!!!

From the Poor People’s Campaign, coming to a watershed near you in 2018:

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A beautiful 2016 publication from Philly-based pastor-parent-activist about using the difficult and challenging parts of life as a way to deepen your spiritual path and become more authentic.
The Soul-Making Room by Dee Dee Risher
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There are two new releases from this Detroit-based pastor-activist who has been hauling the sanctuary on to the streets since the early 70’s.
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From the dry creek-beds of Southern California comes this deep collection of young practitioners experimenting with place-based radicalism…
And a older-yet-timely offering…
….and yet another teaming up with a SoCal-based pastor.
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Truly, it is a time of exile for those of us on the left.  Let’s set the clock back to the early Bush years with this re-examination of the Exodus from a Vancouver-based pastor-activist.
And More from Dykstra:
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From two U.S.-based Filipinas displaying a celebration of the beauty, richness, and diversity of indigenous ways.
Back from the Crocodile’s Belly by Lily Mendoza and Leny Mendoza Strobel
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This one takes Jesus out of the over-spiritualized heart and over-futurized heaven and places him right where he was in the Gospels: the street!
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From the foot of Tiger Mountain in Washington State comes a vital perspective on early church history (aka, “the roots of why Christians want to make America great again.”).
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And lest we think gift-giving is only for adults, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination in Minneapolis tells this St. Francis-inspired tale for our young ones.
A Wolf at the Gate by Mark Van Steenwyk
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This year, Charlottesville exposed us all to some of the most vicious forms of American white supremacy.  But far less known, C’Ville is home to some radical experimentation, including sweet sounds from a young singer-songwriter.  Perfect for people defined by death-and-resurrection.
Claire Hitchins, These Bodies
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And this!  From a Minneapolis-based artist and PhD candidate releasing her first album, a powerfully rich blend bursting with beauty, grief, creativity and prophetic wisdom.
Katherine Parent, The Wait for Green
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Probably the most unique musical contribution of the movement is from Philly-based Holy Fool Arts, a voice of and for the wilderness that combines poetry, theatrical masks, ancient rhythms, traditional and modern dance forms, with a heavy side of the blues.
Beast, Groan
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And for those who prefer dance as their desired form of resistance: this Detroit-based DJ dubs in Rev. Barber to raise the roof off the White House.
Peter Croce, Revival
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For much of our own graphic inspiration RadicalDiscipleship.net heads north to Duluth to be captivated by beauty and truth on paper.
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Lastly, a recommendation from author-activist Wes Howard-Brook fair-trade, organic chocolate from Mama Ganache.  From WHB:

They are THE BEST! As we all know, corporate chocolate production is  both a human and environmental horror show. The folks at MG use their profits to support farmers in West Africa in many ways, as explained on their website. I’ve been ordering from them for years!

 

50/500: A Season of Protest and Remembering

PhilBy Ched Myers, originally posted yesterday on ChedMyers.org

RightFr. Phil Berrigan pouring blood on 1-A draft files at the Customs House, Baltimore, MD, October 27, 1967.

Today, October 31st, we prepare to embrace that great feast of remembering, the “Triduum of Saints”: All Hallow’s Eve, Saints and All Souls Day, or Dia de los Muertos (learn more about the Triduum by reading this blog or linking to this free 2012 BCM webinar).

As I have gotten older this season of the Saints has become my favorite time of year.   This morning Elaine and I sat and prayed at our table, pictures of parents and other missed loved ones spread out.  We both cried telling stories.  Tears always help. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Until there is room for no one but you

kContinued from yesterday’s reflections on the lectionary for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 5:8-23

By Ched Myers

Isaiah articulates the contemptible socio-economic disparity in Israel. A series of prophetic “woes” (howy) commences in verse 5:8 that extend through 5:23, and the first one summarizes starkly and succinctly all that will follow. The image of  “joining house to house and field to field” specifically refers to the phenomenon of “latifundialization,” the economic process by which large landowners increase their holdings by foreclosing on indebted small farmers. Theologians Urich Duchrow and Franz Hinkelammert point out that the 8th century BCE saw history’s first wave of “privatization” spread throughout the Mediterranean world, including Israel: Continue reading