Jesus Still Goes Before Us

BindingAn excerpt from Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (1988), reflecting upon the open tomb ending of the first Gospel.

We should not be surprised that the women are overcome with “fear.” The disciples have in fact been described as “fearful” (phobeisthai) at several important “passages” in their journey with Jesus: both stormy boat crossings (4:41; 6:50), his transfiguration (9:6), the portents of his execution (9:32), and the journey up to Jerusalem (10:32). And does not this closing scene represent the most difficult passage of all? For in it the martyr-figure beckons the disciple to take up the journey afresh, to return to the beginning of the story for a new reading-enactment. The young man’s invitation ought to provoke trepidation in us, if we take it seriously. As Bonhoeffer paraphrased Mark 8:34 in Cost of Discipleship (1953), “When Christ calls a person, He bids them to come a die.” Continue reading “Jesus Still Goes Before Us”

Risky Midrash: The Jubilee Pertains to Our Enemies Too

NaamanHappy Birthday, Ched Myers!!! 

To honor Ched, we feature this piece he wrote three years ago on Luke 4:22-30. Behold, the lectionary cycle always comes back around! 

Also, we’ve got 48 hours until registration closes for the 2019 Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute. Join Ched and others conspiring for indigenous justice and Christian faith. Click on and sign up!!!!

The audience reaction to Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Nazareth is somewhat ambiguous (4:22). Though they “witness to him” (the Gk emarturoun with the dative is usually positive), they also “wonder” about him (ethaumazon, which can connote surprise in a negative sense; see Lk 11:38), no doubt skeptical about how such eloquence can come from a humble construction worker’s son. This explains Jesus’ immediate move to the defensive, then quickly to the offensive. Continue reading “Risky Midrash: The Jubilee Pertains to Our Enemies Too”

The Nazareth Sermon as Jubilee Manifesto

Nazareth 2By Ched Myers, on Luke 4:14-21, for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany (originally posted Jan 24, 2016)

Note: This post was part of a series of Ched’s occasional comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016.

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”

Nature Against Empire

chedAn excerpt from Ched Myers‘ must-read article “Nature against Empire: Exodus Plagues, Climate Crisis and Hardheartedness.” Digest this taste-tester and then spend time with the entire piece, where Myers weaves together climate science and our sacred Scripture. Join Ched and other theological animators at the 2019 Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute in February.

British theologian Michael Northcott’s important 2013 Political Theology of Climate Change argues that our modern worldview offers no frame of reference for the “politics of slow catastrophe” stalking our history through ecological catastrophe.  He shows how traditional cosmologies, including the Bible, saw climate as political.  That is, the actions of nations influenced the health of nature; when people behaved badly, the earth behaved badly back.  Modernity, however, banished that notion as superstitious and unscientific.  Humans and our technologies are now in control, we believe, while nature is depersonalized, demystified and at our disposal.  That paradigm may have “worked” for a few centuries, but now we are realizing that nature seems to be biting back. Continue reading “Nature Against Empire”

World on the Scales: The Apocalyptic Season of the Church Year

King CrimsonBy Ched Myers

Note: These thoughts were shared on the 26th Sunday after Pentecost at Farm Church to give context for the readings and theme of the service. They are germane to this long but informative issue of the BCM Enews.

Yesterday Elaine and I attended the memorial service for my oldest friend’s mother. She was the last of the parents of our tight-knit neighborhood group to cross over during the last year, a string that began with my mom’s passing. We gathered at the venerable old St. James Episcopal church in South Pasadena, where I was baptized as an infant. The memories shared yesterday were about the halcyon days of our little suburban community—and it was by all means a very privileged and insular context in which to grow up. But as I listened, I was mindful of the fact that actually, from puberty onward, I was a pretty alienated kid. In 1970, I was 15, a vegetarian, and already marching against the Indochina war, to the great exasperation of my father, a veteran of two wars. This was on the heels of the 60s, and my older brother was stuck in Vietnam, sending me coded antiwar letters—in Elvish script! Continue reading “World on the Scales: The Apocalyptic Season of the Church Year”

Rooted in Story and Struggle

BindingFor our final Sunday installment celebrating 30 years of Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus, radical disciples weigh in on both Ched and his book. 

From Jennifer Henry, the executive director of Kairos Canada, reflecting on the viral image from Ossie Michelin’s cell phone in 2013 (left), portraying resistance to fracking led primarily by indigenous women:

OssieWhat I have learned from the witness of Ched Myers is that we can bring kairos moments like these into conversation with biblical moments, in ways that deepen understanding of the present day struggle and inspire prophetic action. His life’s work does not just demonstrate that we can build this bridge, but that we must, for the integrity of our faith and its call to justice. It is an intersection that enriches both our grasp of the historic texts and our commitment to current struggle. In Ched’s hands this process is never theoretical, but embodied, wading deep into the bible, but just as deeply into social change movements so that we’re grounded in, both rooted in story and struggle.

Continue reading “Rooted in Story and Struggle”

Counter-Recruiting for the Politics of Nonviolence

BindingComments on this week’s Gospel text (Mark 13:1-8) from Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (1988), the commentary from Ched Myers, celebrating 30 years of prophetic utterance. 

The images Mark uses in 13:7f.–wars, famines, earthquakes–are all virtually generic to apocalyptic literature. One need only consult contemporaneous apocalyptic literature such as John’s Revelation, 4 Ezra, the Assumption of Moses, or the Qumran war scrolls. At the same time, these events could be correlated to contemporaneous history. “Rumors of war” aptly characterizes and describes the way in which news regarding the seesaw political events of 68-70 C.E. would have circulated around Palestine. Was the siege coming? Were the Romans withdrawing? “Kingdom rising against kingdom” might have referred to the wavering fortunes of Rome in 67, embroiled in a civil war and fearing a Parthian invasion. Major natural disasters were also part of contemporaneous history, such as the famine (which hit Palestine especially hard) of the early 50s C.E., or the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that destroyed Laodicia and Pompei in 61-62 C.E. Both Mark and his opponents could–and did–appeal to the “plurivalent” (multi-referential) nature of apocalyptic symbolics in making their respective cases. Continue reading “Counter-Recruiting for the Politics of Nonviolence”

Impoverished By Her Obligations

BindingComments on this week’s Gospel text (Mark 12:38-44) from Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (1988), the commentary from Ched Myers, celebrating 30 years of prophetic utterance. 

The last episode in the temple is a story of a widow being impoverished by her obligations to the temple cultus (12:41-44). Long mishandled as a quaint vignette about the superior piety of the poor, Wright has shown that Jesus’ words should be seen “as a downright disapproval and not as an approbation”:

The story does not provide a pious contrast to the conduct of the scribes in the preceding section (as is the customary view); rather it provides a further illustration of the ills of official devotion. Jesus’ saying is not a penetrating insight on the measuring of gifts; it is a lament….Jesus condemns the value system that motivates her action, and he condemns the people who conditioned her to do it.

Continue reading “Impoverished By Her Obligations”

Orthodoxy is not Enough

Binding30 years in and Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (1988) is more relevant than ever. We’ve got four more Sundays to celebrate it! This week’s commentary homes in on Mark 12:28-34.

The man’s question concerning the “first of all the commandments” is a common topic of rabbinic discussion, but could also be interpreted as yet another attempt to get Jesus to reveal his own political commitments. Jesus’ answer at first glance seems cautious in its orthodoxy: he quotes from the Shema (Dt 6:4f), with minor changes to the LXX text. Suddenly, however, he adds a citation of Leviticus 19:18 about obligation to neighbor, and concludes that “No other command is greater than these.”  Continue reading “Orthodoxy is not Enough”

Seeking True Vision

Binding30 years in and Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (1988) is more relevant than ever. We’ve got five more Sundays to celebrate it! This week’s commentary homes in on Mark 10:46-52.

The community now approaches the suburbs of Jerusalem. Mark opens this second story of a blind man as he did the first: “And they came into” (kai erchontai; see 8:22) Jericho. Mark sets a scene for this episode, which was no doubt familiar to anyone who had gone to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. Jericho was the last stop en route to the city of David; the road out of town, representing the final, fifteen-mile leg of the pilgrim’s journey, would have been the standard beat for much of that city’s beggar population. The odds were good that pilgrims would have the mood and means to give alms. There Jesus, the disciples, and a great crowd meet Bartimaeus, the destitute blind man. Continue reading “Seeking True Vision”