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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mark 3:20-35

Mark 3:20-35
“...again a crowd gathered,” This is a repetitive theme. Jesus draws the crowd. But he does not use this power to control the crowd or to gain position in the community. He guides and heals them and sends them on their way. And because of his proper use of authority the religious leaders call him demon possessed. They cannot understand why he does not translate that power into control, for they certainly do. His actions are so far outside of their norm the only explanation they can think of is he must be demon possessed.

Even Jesus’ family is concerned, for family always seems to know better when someone is acting outside of expected behaviors. But Jesus easily pokes holes in their arguments and concerns. A united house is strong; a divided house falls. If he is from Satan then Satan is already lost. But if he is not? Then something new is happening. Pay attention and listen to God’s will for that is entrance into the winning side, the united side, the family of God. Jesus, by his act of compassion, draws crowds. The religious leaders try to explain it away instead of accepting it as true and valid evidence of God. Jesus is showing the right way to act, where his own family and the religious leaders do not. Do we act as family members with Jesus in compassion towards others? Or as a religious elite finding excuses to judge and seeking control or position over others?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mark 2:23- 3:19

Mark 2:23- 3:19
 Remember we already know that God is pleased with his son. We are, in part, searching for the answer to: why is God pleased with Jesus? In this section we see the religious leaders are displeased with Jesus for he is breaking or allowing to be broken the Law of God, or rather their understanding of the Law. But Jesus has already shown that the way to the Kingdom is compassion and healing. That is the role of the Sabbath. It is not a time of strict religious observance, but a time of rest when wounds can have a time to heal, even wounds of the earth. A Sabbath rest is important for the soul, the community, and creation. God is pleased with Jesus and his understanding of what the true Sabbath is about, but the religious leaders are displeased and it takes them down a dark path. It is not easy to hear the truth when one has heard nothing but half-truths, propaganda and even lies. But the truth of compassion will draw crowds seeking healing which they are not finding in the established institutions. Jesus offered something the religion of the day could not: hope and healing. The common people will seek what is good for them even in opposition to authority.

Jesus frequently withdraws into the hills, valleys and lakes to create a space in nature where the city and the institutions can be left behind. In that open space of nature, truth of healing and compassion can be experienced. Important decisions take place on the mountain, such as choosing the Twelve Disciples. Do you find a Sabbath rest that nurtures the soul and body? Do you escape into nature to find truth and healing?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mark 2:13-22

Mark 2:13-22
Jesus does not make it about religion or sin or cultural expectations. The religious leaders do that. Jesus makes it about healing, about being the medicine/doctor who the sick need. Jesus is not about religion but rather about living. Religion says, “fast now, observe this rite, attend that meeting.” Jesus says, “celebrate now, have life and have it abundantly.”

And here we have a wonderful parable that sums up Jesus and his teachings. He will always be at odds with the Old Faith for he is new wine, which does not go into old wine skins. Jesus is new and only a new understanding of faith will contain Jesus. He does not fit onto an old cloth or teaching, it would be a bad fit and ultimately destructive. Not that the newness of Jesus supersedes the Old, only that it is different and requires a new perspective. The Old Faith cannot understand nor accept this newness. The new that is Jesus is not because he is novel, but rather because he is fresh, spirit inspired. When the spirit infuses faith old norms, understandings and traditions tend to fall away. Look for the spirit and faith to see the newness of Jesus. Is Jesus still new today or have we turned his life and teachings into an Old Faith?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mark 1:40- 2:12

Mark 1:40-2:12
Jesus meets a man with leprosy who desired to be healed. The man knew Jesus’ ability to heal and yet after the healing did not follow Jesus words which instructed the man to follow the Jewish law at the Temple. Compassion leads to healing that should lead to obedience but instead the man spreads the word about Jesus. Jesus becomes a “faith healer” drawing crowds. Did the crowds understand the teachings that went with the healing?

The teachers of the Law question Jesus methods and motives. Healing and forgiveness is the realm of God. One can be a conduit through which God can heal, but forgive sins? Impossible. For Jesus, both are part of the word “repent.” The faith of the paralytic shows the desire to repent which is both forgiveness and healing. The teachers of the Law fail to understand the simple teaching of Jesus, as many others will. It is not about sin or sickness but about repentance which is turning, in faith, towards wholeness and healing. It is health in the most complete form possible.

If the teachers of the Law were to understand that the Law as a way of life bringing one to God then they would be less concerned about the Law and more about God. Today we still struggle with the same concept. It is not about right theology or even sin and shame or dogma, but about repentance as turning and walking with Jesus in health and wholeness. And that health and wholeness comes through the words of Jesus. Healing is the first step of repentance. But continuing on the journey of faith through compassion and obedience keeps one heading towards the Kingdom of God. Both the leprous man and the Teachers of the Law failed to grasp the full understanding of Jesus and repentance. Healing or forgiveness is just the beginning of faith, not the end.

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.