A Storm Blowing From Paradise…

By Ched Myers (4 Pentecost: MK 4:35-41)

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

This Sunday’s gospel text is the poignant story of Jesus and his disciples caught in a storm at sea, which threatens to drown them. It is a profound, archetypal scenario that Mark narrates twice (again in 6:45-52). Because today is the day that Pope Francis’ historic encyclical on climate crisis is being published, I will focus on how this appeal addresses the storm that is Climate Catastrophe. A month from now I will return to Mark’s sea stories for Pentecost 8 (on which day the Lectionary inexplicably hops over the second boat journey in its piecemeal gospel selection, which we’ll rectify!).

Continue reading “A Storm Blowing From Paradise…”

Sowing Hope

By Ched Myers, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 4:26-34)

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

This week the lectionary gives us the last third of Jesus’ parables sermon (hopping over the famous parable of the Sower and its allegorical interpretation, Mk 4:2-23). This section begins with a sober warning:

And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear: ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away’.” (Mk 4:24-25)

Mark’s Jesus cautions his audience to “beware” of the anti-Jubilary ideologies they hear from elites, which counsel resignation in the face of injustice (4:23). The assertion that the gulf between haves and have-nots will inevitably grow was the “realism” advanced by wealthy landowners to justify their privilege (4:24). These two verses are omitted by the lectionary portion, but in fact are the point to which the next two parables serve as radical counterpoint, as Jesus repudiates such rationalizations of economic stratification (in the spirit of another parable-spinner, Ezekiel, see Ez 18:1-9).

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Binding the Strong Man: Jesus’ Master Metaphor

By Ched Myers, for the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 3:20-35)

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

The first major narrative cycle in Mark’s gospel (1:16-3:6) ends with Jesus’ rejection by the authorities in a Capernaum synagogue. The following episodes serve to regenerate the story by a withdrawal and summary scene (3:7-12) and then by a reconsolidation moment (3:13-19a). The latter mountaintop scene boldly re-contextualizes two of the most revered traditions of Israel: God’s covenant with Moses on Sinai, and Moses’ founding of the free tribal confederacy in the wilderness. Jesus, who has taken the torch from the prophets, prepares to pass it on to twelve disciples he has called, named, and commissioned to proclaim, heal and exorcize (3:14f). Shortly they will be sent out to practice this charge – a second regenerative episode that follows upon another synagogue rejection (6:1-13).

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Land Day

A Holy Week check-in from Ched Myers, movement elder, author and activist.

Holy Tuesday was Land Day in Israel/Palestine, always the occasion for protests and police violence (see here). Almost a decade ago, in 2012, I had the privilege of being on the streets with Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center staff Omar Haramy (pictured) during Land Day demonstrations in east Jerusalem. It was a poignant catechism in what our friends are up against (see my blog from that memorable day at https://chedmyers.org/…/blog-2012-03-31-friday-reality…/). Please keep Sabeel folks and all Palestinians organizing for justice especially in your prayers this week.

PALM SUNDAY AS SUBVERSIVE STREET THEATRE: SIXTH SUNDAY IN LENT (MK 11:1-11)

By Ched Myers

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

Jesus’ long march to Jerusalem takes Mark’s story from the margins of Palestinian society (the Jordan wilderness and Capernaum in Mk 1) to its center. Arriving at the suburb of Bethany (11:1), Jesus prepares to enter the Holy City not as a reverent pilgrim demonstrating allegiance to the Temple, but as a subversive prophet challenging the foundations of State power. Mark 11-12 narrates Jesus’ second “campaign of direct action.” In the first campaign in Galilee (1:20-3:35) he confronted the status quo with his powerful actions of exorcism and healing. Now he takes on the Temple system and its stewards: the Jerusalem clerical establishment. This campaign, like the first, will culminate in polarization and rift, and will conclude with Jesus’ withdrawal to further reflect upon his mission in a second sermon about revolutionary patience (13:1ff; see 4:1ff). Continue reading “PALM SUNDAY AS SUBVERSIVE STREET THEATRE: SIXTH SUNDAY IN LENT (MK 11:1-11)”

There is Still No More Compelling Alternative

Happy Birthday to Ched Myers! Today, we honor this cherished mentor and elder with an excerpt from Binding the Strong Man, Uncle Ched’s groundbreaking political reading of Mark’s Gospel. Written in the late 80s. More relevant than ever!

The radical discipleship movement today is beleaguered and weary. So many of our communities, which struggled so hard to integrate the pastoral and prophetic, the personal and the political, resistance and contemplation, work and recreation, love and justice, are disintegrating. The powerful centrifugal forces of personal and social alienation tear us apart; the “gravity” exerted by imperial culture’s seductions, deadly mediocrities, and deadly codes of conformity pull our aspirations plummeting down. Our economic and political efforts are similarly besieged. The ability of metropolis to either crush or co-opt movements of dissent seems inexhaustible.

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POWER TO SPEAK | WWJD: KIRK CAMERON, CHRISTMAS CAROL PROTESTS AND COVID-19

By Tim Nafziger and Ched Myers, re-posted from Ventura County Reporter (Dec 30, 2020)

“Have you ever sung Christmas carols by candlelight in a time when your state governor has prohibited you from doing that? In America?!”  

These are the opening lines of a video by actor Kirk Cameron on Instagram (viewed 80,000+ times) inviting Ventura County residents to join his second “Christmas caroling peaceful protest” at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks. Hundreds of people responded to Cameron’s call and gathered without masks to sing at the mall on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 13 and again on Tuesday, Dec. 22.  A similar “worship protest” is slated to take place in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve led by self-described “missionary, artist, speaker, author and activist” Sean Feucht. The California Poor People’s Campaign, along with many faith leaders, are calling on Los Angeles elected officials to halt Feucht’s events.

Continue reading “POWER TO SPEAK | WWJD: KIRK CAMERON, CHRISTMAS CAROL PROTESTS AND COVID-19”

Reading History Through the Prophets

ZundAn excerpt from Ched Myers’ classic article “Easter Faith and Empire: Recovering the Prophetic Tradition on the Emmaus Road.” These comments are posted just in time for this weekend’s Gospel text Luke 24:13-35

Luke tells us that Jesus addresses these fit-to-be-tied disciples as “fools”
(24: 25). But the Greek term anontoi refers simply to those who don’t
quite get it, who find the truth as yet unintelligible (cf. Romans 1:14;
Galatians 3:1,3} He knows their hearts are “sluggish” (Greek, bradeis),
as indeed are ours. Because we, like Cleopas and company, forever refuse to embrace the counterintuitive wisdom of the Hebrew prophets.

The prophets tell us to defend the poor, but we lionize the rich. The prophets tell us that horses and chariots cannot save us, but we are transfixed by the apparent omnipotence of modern military technology. The prophets tell us to forgo idolatry, but we compulsively fetishize the work of our own hands, Above all, the prophets warn us that the way to liberation in a world locked down by the spiral of violence, the way to redemption in a world of enslaving addictions, the way to true transformation in a world of deadened conscience and numbing conformity is the way of nonviolent, sacrificial, creative love. But we who are slow of heart–a euphemism for not having courage–instead remain fiercely loyal to ever more fabulous myths of redemptive violence, practices of narcissism, and delusions of our own nobility.

Good Friday’s Warning

chedBy Ched Myers. For Good Friday.

“From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Matthew 27:45)

In this greatest of cosmic “signs” in the gospel narrative–the darkening of the world for three hours—our attention is pointed back to the old Exodus story.  There Yahweh, in the war of myths with Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves, blots out the sun in Egypt for three days–a repudiation of the imperial order legitimized by the sun god Ra. The rhetoric describing this penultimate plague is evocative: “People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were” (Ex 10:23). What a trope for collective blindness, denial and paralysis, so fitting to the culture of empire still today! (For more on this, see my piece here.)

This Good Friday falls at or near the peak of the Covid-19 plague in the U.S. At the “apocalyptic moment” of Jesus’ crucifixion, we are supposed to pay attention to the lesson of plagues: they are the dramatic expression of the great struggle between Creation and Empire–and of the God who takes sides.

Maybe at 3 pm today we should be out on our porches banging pots for that

Ched Myers, an ecumenical activist theologian, is a popular educator, writer, teacher and organizer, committed to animating and nurturing church renewal and radical discipleship, and supporting faith-based movements for peace and justice. Find his blog, many articleswebinars and a few audio recordings at chedmyers.org. You can also find out more about his Life & Activism there. Ched’s books are available for purchase on this site.

The Rich Man and Lazarus: Warning Tale and Interpretive Key to Luke

fyodorBy Ched Myers, on Luke 16:19-31, this weekend’s Gospel text

Note: This piece was originally posted to Radical Discipleship in October 2016. As was the case last week, this is a longer post, because of the importance of Luke 16 to those of us suffering from “Affluenza.” For a recording of a recent webinar Ched did on this gospel text, go here. [Right: Fyodor Bronnikov, “Lazarus at the rich man’s gate,” 1886.]

This Sunday’s gospel completes our journey through Luke 16. How rare it is that the lectionary allows a sustained look at Luke’s narrative argument! Last week’s text was Jesus’ subversive tale of the “defect-ive” discipleship of the beleaguered middle manager of a “filthy rotten system” (16:1-13). I read it as a poignant fable for those who would try to monkey-wrench the dominant economic system to provide a modicum of Jubilee justice for themselves and others.  The “paired” story of Lazarus and the Rich Man represents, in turn, a warning tale about the dark consequences of failing to deconstruct the systems of vast social and economic disparity that hold our world hostage. Continue reading “The Rich Man and Lazarus: Warning Tale and Interpretive Key to Luke”