TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Securing the Baby...

ON THE Second Sunday after Pentecost, we study text found early in the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Sure evidence that the writing was wondrously woven together from materials gathered. We read…

And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”
 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Be-elzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.
 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.
 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”, for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”    (Mark 3:20-35)
Get Messy Yet…?
For the writer of this text, some thirty years had passed since our Lord suffered crucifixion and death upon a cross... and was resurrected. The year of writing was approximately 65A.D. The infant church was becoming even more stressed. Isolation from the parent synagogues in city and suburban areas found Christians to be orphaned in worship and greatly persecuted in the kosher marketplaces. Worse yet, Jesus had not returned. In that sixth decade of the first century, the Church found itself suddenly under great persecution while apostolic leadership was fading.
  We find that Saint Paul was likely beheaded from the apostolic scene in approximately 60 A.D. After Roman governance was weakened slightly in Jerusalem after Porcius Festus died, and before his successor Lucius Albinus took office… the religious and political powers of the Temple plotted even more fervently against Christians. James the Just was killed in 62A.D. James, who was likely the brother or cousin of Jesus, had been the beloved head of the Jerusalem church leadership.
 As well, if our sources are accurate, James, the son of Alpheaus was also martyred by 62A.D. in Egypt. Finally, Peter was crucified in Rome by 64A.D.
 The secrecy burden upon Christians then meeting in house churches grew. If we accept the historical dating loosely pinned together here, the elders of the church were fast fading into history. The church of Mark gathered together by the Spirit, therefore, began in earnest to write down the good news of our Lord Jesus. In short, a brief witness the events, miracles, and paths of our Lord was carefully constructed and written. The gospel tradition as a writing thus emerged.
204411: Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
By Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert & Nina Shea
 By the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel story was previously told from many gathered sources. Some of these had been given to the community orally by the disciples themselves as they visited. Other sources were possibly retrieved from Saint Paul’s letters to his communities. Subsequently we find that our lesson today has accounts woven skillfully together, with one scene wrapped-tightly around the other. This witnesses to us of great threat to the early Church and the call of scripture to faithfulness in discipleship. In today's turbulent religious and cultural chaos then, we need to pay close attention.
 We need to bring into view that amid this era, tensions were building for Christians in Jerusalem. James had been killed. In 66 A.D., war broke out between rebellious factions in Israel and the rule of Rome. In retaliation, the Romans desecrated the Temple and forbid any Jewish worship there. Leaders, mostly the Pharisees as teachers of the Law, were therefore driven from the temple of Jerusalem to the coastal city of Jamnia. As time rolled forward, this period of war effectively ended after several years, with the fall of the fortress at Masada in 70A.D. During the latter 60s, however, it had become a common defense for the Jews to point out known Christians as trouble making scapegoats, in order to satisfy the animosity of the Roman authorities.
 Thus we easily see that tensions between various Jewish factions of Zealots, Sicarii and some late Messianic claimers were used to attempt sterilization of the putrid social diapers within the messy pot of boiling religious germination. As factional religious wars broke out, the Jews were looked at suspiciously by the Romans, whether they were in Jerusalem, Galilee, Alexandria, Antioch, Asia Minor or Rome. It was within this social unrest that the church of Mark was compelled by the Spirit to write.
  Consequently, we read very early in the Gospel According to Mark that Jesus’ family had been concerned over his pell-mell ministry alongside his disciples. The gospel related that Jesus seemed to be kicking kosher cradle blankets away and was moving too far from his family’s swaddling clothes. His mother… and his brothers... the latter whose relational identity is still challenged even today… rushed forward to gather him up. Whether they feared that some hurtful demonic possession (mental illness or frothy mania) would harm Jesus, or his behavior might reflect on them and their family business, we cannot know. It is here in this reading, however, where we see the wondrous undergarment of Mark’s editorial skills come to the fore.
 We find in Mark that all readers are suddenly placed amid what was spoken of by the temple authorities. Let the reader of our dialog here note that the charge being claimed by his opponents was likely echoed in dispersed synagogues some three decades later. We see that the authorities continually claimed that Jesus was demon-possessed! However, the dialog of our Lord firmly shed the accusations for his own immediate time and thus the Church also similarly addressed the same challenges in the later decades. However, rumors persisted back then and his words preserved are yet tossed about even in our own day.
 His illustrative statement about the “strong man”, as representing Satan I claim, for example tells each of us in our own time… that the evil one must be bound before we can “plunder” his house and free his captives. Additionally, we find that the power to do this great task is given to the Church only by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of the Father and the Son, gives the ability of spiritual power to be used by any believer, whether clergy or parishioner. These are those who would change the diapers on a Church because it doesn’t pass the orthodox smell test.
 Take note the progression of the text here! Ask yourself, "What is it in particular that stinks?" Any who deny our Lord’s influential wrapping for his Church… which is snugly sheltered through the power of the Holy Spirit... will gather for themselves rank eternal separation from God. 
Tough Cradle Love…
Consequently, the message of this gospel reaches those in the Church today who need theological affirmation and centering. We can see now why blessed Mark returned to that earlier text to complete the first scene. As our Lord's family in their concern approached Jesus’ lodging, he voiced a statement that many see today as a rather callous position. He ignored their call to return to the security of family nurture and business. Instead, our Lord stated that any who did the will of his heavenly Father, was and yet still is… his family! This must have been a soothing message given out in the late '60s to Mark's spiritually screaming Church! The good news written was that the yet living Lord was still with them.
As a child I remember that during a diaper change my newborn sister would look at me in protest as she was strapped to the changing table. She would scream and then hold her breath for a prolonged time. If left to her own, I feared that she would do so until she expired. However, my mom was prepared, When the screaming episode and subsequent breath-holding took place, she would wait for just a second or two. Then she grabbed a water-filled sprinkler bottle and squirted cold water onto her infant daughter’s face. The cold shock broke the tantrum. This, I believe... is exactly what was being done for the Church in this text. Remember your baptism!
 In summation, we have that the early Church was severely threatened, finding itself very naked and exposed to surrounding hostilities. Consequently baptized and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church was reminded here that they are the “baptized” …the “sprinkled” of God. What’s more, they were reminded that baptism in the Spirit had made them family. Even as the witness of Mark’s gospel progressed through subsequent chapters, the later Church learned of the often infantile, resistant denseness of our Lord’s apostles. All Christians can now identify with them! You see, both they... and we also… are brought to realize grace poured out, The loving hands of the Father can hold each of us securely in spite of our sinfulness and the rank influences of wayward cultures. Through the powdery dusts of time, we of the true Church shall not roll harmfully from the changing table and perish. Eternal life is given to us through the Son. That promise shall never change.
 Like our Lord resting in the cradle in Bethlehem, by Mark we are assured that we remain securely wrapped by the Holy Spirit into this text even though steeples fall. This is the message of blessed Mark. This is the outlook we need to take with us as we learn to walk steadily into what has continued to be a perilous and hostile world. We are the baptized. We are secured as children of the Most High God.

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