“TALE OF TWO WOMEN”: The Priority of the Marginalized

Jairus DaughterBy Ched Myers, for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 5:21-43) 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. In Mark’s tale of the Gerasene Demoniac (Mk 5:1-20), Jesus brings dramatic liberation to a man “occupied” by the spirit of Legion (i.e. Roman imperialism) on the Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. Frustratingly, this powerful story is again deftly avoided by the Revised Common Lectionary (but you can read my comments on it here in “Sea-Changes: Re-Imagining Exodus Liberation as an ‘Exorcism’ of Imperial Militarism” in Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance, edited by Naim Ateek et al, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center). Jesus then returns across the sea to “Jewish” territory (5:21), where the next episode dramatizes how the poor were given priority in the ministry of Jesus. Mark 5:22-43 is yet another example of “sandwich-construction,” which wraps a story within a story in order to compel the reader to interrelate the two. The setting of the first half of this narrative sequence seems to be the “crowd” itself (5:21,24,27,31). Jesus is approached by a synagogue ruler who appeals on behalf of his daughter, who he believes to be “at the point of death” (5:23). Jesus departs with him on this mission, and we fully expect this transaction will be completed. On his way, however, Jesus is hemmed in by the crowds (5:24). The narrative focus suddenly zooms in upon a woman whose condition Mark describes in great detail (5:25f) with a series of descriptive clauses: Continue reading

A Storm Blowing From Paradise…

Pope Francis delivers his speech in St. Peter's square at the Vatican during his weekly general audience Wednesday, June 26, 2013.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis delivers his speech in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican during his weekly general audience Wednesday, June 26, 2013.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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

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 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

Sowing Hope

Doing the work at the Abundant Table Farm Project in Santa Paula, CA.

Doing the work at the Abundant Table Farm Project in Santa Paula, CA.

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

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 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)
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“BINDING THE STRONG MAN”: Jesus’ Master Metaphor

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

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 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). Continue reading

Pentecost: Divine Polyculture vs. Imperial Monoculture (Genesis 11 and Acts 2)

pentecost1By Ched Myers

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

How is it that we heard, each of us, in our own native tongue?
Acts 2:8

Since the dawn of colonization, the Americas have been defined by the struggle between dominant culture ideologies of conformity imposed by those in power, and grassroots cultural diversity among those on the margins. This tension between fantasies of racial supremacy and realities of racial diversity remains one of the supreme challenges facing the U.S., and thus our churches, today. The future of North American society depends upon our ability to live peaceably and justly with human diversity — and the same can be said of the human experiment as a whole. The question is whether we can, in church and in society, forge models of coexistence-with-congruence rather than unity-by-uniformity.
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“Who Will Roll Away the Stone? A Meditation on Mark’s Easter Story”

MyersTopBy Ched Myers

Note: This year Easter (Apr 5) falls close to the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination (Apr 4). This is an abridged excerpt from the conclusion of Who Will Roll Away the Stone? Discipleship Queries for First World Christians (Orbis, 1994); it appeared in Sojourners (April 1994, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 20-23; King pictures added).
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VERY early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, Mary, Mary, and Salome went to Jesus’ tomb (Mark 16:2).

Sooner or later, we who have tried to follow Jesus find ourselves weary and broken like the Galilean women, on our way to bury him. It is the morning we awake to that inconsolable, aching emptiness that comes only from hope crushed. This dawn does not bring a new day, only the numb duty of last respects. Continue reading

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

By Ched Myers

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.

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