Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mark 1:14-39

Mark 1:14-39
The main character has been introduced, now the scene will be set and additional characters will be brought forward. The story is beginning to unfold with an immediacy that is peculiar to this Gospel.
Jesus preached a simple message, “The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.” What is the good news? That the kingdom of God is near?

Repent is the pivot point. To repent is to not only seek forgiveness for trespassing but to turn around and go a different way. It is as if Jesus is pointing towards the distant horizon and says “the kingdom of God is that way so turn around and go that way. Not only are you all heading the wrong way but you are trespassing on someone else’s lawn.” It just so happens that Jesus is also going that way and can show it to you. But you have to turn and follow him. Or at least turn to go the direction Jesus is pointing.

And some do, namely his first disciples. We are not sure why they followed him. All that we know is that Jesus called and they responded. This cast assembles around Jesus as support to his role as teacher, healer and guide towards the kingdom of God. And as they follow they see amazing things.

Jesus becomes the example of not only of the way to the kingdom but what a repentant heart looks like. A heart that is set on the Kingdom, which is near, is filled with compassion, which Jesus shows again and again. Jesus teaches with authority and heals.

On a Sabbath in a synagogue, Jesus encounters an evil spirit. This spirit knows Jesus identity. One would think that believers at church would recognize Jesus, but it is the evil spirit who does. Who, today, recognizes Jesus for who he truly is, believers or evil spirits? Encounters with the sick and evil spirits become a regular occurrence on the way towards the kingdom of God. His authority reassures the believers that Jesus knows what he is doing even if they do not yet know who Jesus is. They will find out in time the full cost of the way to the Kingdom of God. Jesus shows in word and action what it means to believe and follow.

People seek out Jesus because of his ability to heal them. Jesus seeks out solitary places to pray. Why do we seek Jesus? Do we also go to the solitary places?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mark 1:1-13

Mark 1:1-13
The first thing that strikes me about this Gospel is the lack of a birth narrative: no manger, no angels or shepherds, no nativity scene at all. The first words are a quote from Isaiah, and that quote is not even about Jesus, but rather about John the Baptist. John is the forerunner to Jesus. I get the impression that the first reading audience already knew the story and these two characters. Perhaps they knew John and Jesus from first hand experience and therefore there is no need for a nativity or even a genealogy. There is not yet a need to establish a lineage or identity, it is safely assumed.

But the story of Jesus begins with a back-story, that of John the Baptist. He, John, is the one sent to prepare the way for Jesus and he did so through baptism in water. And the character of John is well known and well understood. He is one of those prophets living in the desert, you know the ones who “wore clothes made of camels hair, with leather belt about his waist, and he ate locust and wild honey” not the tame temple prophet who for a price would give you a nice safe prophetic utterance. No, John was a wild-man on the fringe of society, uncontrollable and far too honest for polite society. And yet a man like that could draw the crowds. He is a thorn in the side of the “institution” and yet a cult hero to the masses. Perhaps?

And then Jesus came and was baptized. God speaks in words and actions, a dove, the sign of peace, and words: “you are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” Peace, love, and pleasure* are the hallmarks of the God/Jesus relationship. And as John gave water so Jesus will give the spirit who passes the hallmarks of God onto the believers’ relationship: peace, love, and pleasure.

The path laid out in Isaiah the Prophet continues through John the Baptist to Jesus, but before Jesus can begin the journey he is ushered into the desert for forty days being tempted. This gospel does not extrapolate on what the temptations were only that it happened immediately after the baptism. That holds true for many believers still today, or for many who set out to do good works. Once one turns towards the Good it seems life, or the devil, steps in to put up blocks and temptations away from the path towards the Good. And yet if one looks closely one will see that the angels are ministering even in the midst of wild animals. Baptism prepares one for the life ahead, and angels are there to preserve the way in the wilderness. But only faith can carry one through to the end. Do you see the angels ministering in your desert experiences? Is life drawing you towards temptations that will undermine the life of peace, love and pleasure that you have set out on?

* A note on pleasure: In today’s culture of addiction and instant gratification pleasure is often confused with a sex, drugs and rock & roll life style. But here we see Jesus pleases God, that is, Jesus brings pleasure to God. It is not about self-pleasure and gratification, but about bringing pleasure, pleasing, others. It is asking the questions: how can I make those around me happy and healthy? I am pleased with myself when others are pleased with me. When I do a good job I know it because it has made some one else’s life easier, more meaningful and more pleasurable. As the Gospel of Mark unfolds we see the actions of Jesus in healing, comforting and teaching that aids others in a more fulfilling life, that is what brings pleasure to God. Jesus is faithful to his message of peace, love and compassion. That brings true pleasure to others, and to God.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mark, First Words

I started my reading with the Gospel according to Mark for a number of reasons. I know that it was the earliest gospel account and served, somewhat, as an outline for Luke and Matthew. So I thought it would be a good warm up run and introduction to the “real” gospels. But, in truth, the actual reason was that I did not like this short, unadorned, unembellished, simple and boring book. I just wanted to get it out of the way, over and done.
But as I worked my way through it and pondered its simplicity and succinctness I came to love this account of the life of Jesus. For all the reasons I shunned it, I now enjoyed it. It is self contained, consistent, simple and to the point. Mark holds together from beginning to end in ways the other gospels do not.
It tells a story, a story of faith being fulfilled by the outsider but missed by the insider. It is a challenge to perceived authority by true authority. It is the development of an ideal in tension with culture, religion and politics. It is a modern story of stereotypes, cultural norms and conflicts of the soul.
I find the Gospel according to Mark to be more than just a simple story, but rather a complex story of faith challenging my own perceived notions of authority, religiosity and faith. But I only found that truth by approaching it as an outsider, surprised by the Jesus of compassion.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reflections on 2012 Readings

I made 2012 the year of the Gospels. I divided the year into quarters and studied one Gospel in each of the three-month quarters. I read each Gospel three times, once per month. In the first reading, I read it independently to let the book speak to me, as it stands alone. The second reading, I read it in conjunction with notes, commentary, and aids to deepen the experience. During the third reading, I reflected upon the first two readings allowing the spirit to speak inwardly as I worked towards understanding and meaning.

I learned much about the Gospels as literature, history, narrative, but mostly as books of faith. I attempted to keep my own academic past from intruding on my readings. I strove to approach the Gospels with open and new eyes. In that process, I found much that I had forgotten, much that I needed to learn and a story of Jesus that was new. Removing, as best as possible, the theological and ecclesiastical expectations allowed me to find a Jesus who was out of the ordinary and fresh.

This blog is an attempt to capture my thoughts, insights and reflections upon this new Jesus. My plan is to post two or three times weekly a short reflection upon a Gospel chapter or section. I will try not to lapse into academic jargon or wax philosophical which is my nature but rather to keep the posts reflective and simple.

I welcome comments and questions. I encourage an active readership. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Coming soon, a whole new direction for this blog containing regular postings, a steady theme (with the occasional aside) and heartfelt introspection.