Featured Sermon: Reading Mark


(system) #1

We're in the midst of Epiphany - a season which focuses the church's attention on the revelation of Jesus. The readings for Epiphany are about the emergence of Jesus on the public scene. Here is the gospel reading for this past Sabbath.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him (Mark 1:14-20).

As I wrestled with how we can read this text with fresh eyes, and have our own epiphany, of sorts, I tried my best to re-enter the narrative in it's original context and ask what Mark wants to say to us. In order to create a different imagination about a text we have all read many times I wrote a creative retelling of the story. I got some good feedback about it on Sabbath so I decided to work on it a bit more and post it here, after the jump. I'd be curious to see what you think, gentle reader.

A great social revolution is afoot.

But, because of the danger associated with all revolutions, very few people know what is really going on. The established order continues without limitation – or so it appears to those who live from day to day minding their own business, going to work, tending to their domestic responsibilities, raising their children, paying their taxes.

The established order survives by propaganda and appeasement. And so the majority of people are well-fed, social infrastructure is more or less cared for. But under the surface there are people who notice. And at the margins, to be more accurate, there are people who are deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. In spite of the propaganda about a “booming economy” there are people who are being left behind. Certain classes of people never have the basics while others thrive and waste the “plenty” of society.

We hear the official narratives about “national security” and “protecting our way of life,” but at the margins are people who know better. There are some who know that these “soldiers” in the street are not there to protect them but to contain them – to cage them – to make sure they don’t get too close to the accumulated wealth of the upper class.

Every so often a news story leaks about someone who was “disappeared” because they asked too many questions. They are ordinary people, on the one hand, but they have read the ancient literature. They know history. They know the oracle – that one is coming who, it is said, will comfort the suffering, bind the wounds of the broken, lift up the down trodden. This God-anointed one will restore the nation to its original glory, creating a society where all have what they need – where the rich will not prosper on the backs of the poor. Where peace and righteousness are the rule of the day.

And from the margins there are people who are talking. One man in particular is starting to gain a following. This is both good and bad at the same time. People are rightly concerned for his safety because he is opening challenged the power system, saying things like, “You family of snakes! Who warned you to flee from the coming destruction? If you are so repentant let see some real reforms to prove it! Do not pretend to think that because you come from a privileged family that you have any special claim on goodness. God will make new leaders for his people out of these inanimate stones! Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees!"

I mean, these are fighting words. The combination of this man’s direct speech and the attention he’s getting, in spite of being in some far flung place...well, it either means one of two things: the movement is coming of age or this man’s days are numbered. Everyone fears the worst – it feels like he’s out there by himself saying these true, but dangerous words.

Then this guy claims to have found "the One" the oracle predicted would come – the Messiah. Now even more attention is being directed toward him. News vans, satellite uplinks. You could cut the tension with a knife.

Then, just the other day, in dramatic fashion this guy named Jesus, the one John is calling the Lamb of God is baptized in the Jordan. Everyone thought this was the moment for our big move, but then he just disappeared into the desert. No one heard a word from him for over a month

Some said he was dead. Others that God took him to heaven. People’s hopes sank once again. Some said they were finished – they just couldn’t take any more of this expectation and disappointment.

Then, to top it all off, John was arrested by Herod for sedition and blaspheming the Most Holy Caesar and inciting riots.

BUT, just the other day Jesus turned up again. He came to Galilee and everywhere he went he simply said, “It’s time!” It was brilliant. Almost no one knew what it meant, but those with ears to hear, knew! We didn’t hesitate. For a few of us it all started to make sense. He said, “It’s time! God’s reign has come near! Turn and believe the good news!”

So, when he called to me and asked me to follow him, I didn’t have to think about it very long.

This was the moment we’d been waiting for.

This is the moment we’d whispered about, barely risking giving voice to it. The hope we’d kept alive in our hearts, that we could be a part of this messianic movement John told us about. It may come to nothing, but it’s definitely worth the risk.

He said if we followed him we’d be “fishing for the man!” Not sure what that’s all about, but it must have something to do with old Jeremiah’s prediction that God would send fishermen to catch the evildoers. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to bag some Romans.

The sermon went on from there and if you really want to hear it, you can listen on our website (apologies for the sound quality - we're working on it).

In a separate post I'll share some thoughts about the inauguration that I closed that sermon with. This is our moment.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1383