Sunday, January 22, 2006

January 29, 2006 - Year B - Epiphany 4

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

What is our relationship with our various realities? How do we interact with demons, what are they to us. What about the survival issues of food and clothing? G*D is another aspect of living that we need to figure out about how we are going to be in covenant with one another. One of the more exciting challenges is that of new leadership and seeing the best of the past in something just coming into being.

As we go through the week it will be helpful to consider what we have to do with that which presents itself. Do we affirm it? deny it? classify it? ignore it? use it to our own ends? give thanks?


  1. Mark 1:21-28

    Listen to Theodore Jennings as he writes in The Insurrection of the Crucified:

    " is precisely the demonic that testifies to the identity of Jesus as the 'holy one of God.' This is a messianic title formally similar to the assertion that Jesus is the Christ or the Lord. Thus, the confession of the unclean spirit is precisely that confession by which the Christian movement thought to distinguish itself from all unbelief. Indeed, Paul had put forward (or appropriated for his own purposes) the claim that ' one can say that "Jesus is Lord" except by the holy spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:3). this criterion is utterly overthrown by Mark's narrative, not only here but throughout the gospel. The danger which lurks in Paul's use of this criterion is that if it is taken literally it leads to a view of faith which is merely ideological. By placing the Christian confession here in the mouth of the unclean spirit, Mark demonstrates that the mere confession that Jesus is Lord, Christ, or 'holy one of God' is by no means an adequate definition of faith. It may just as well be demonic. Those who loudly proclaim the 'lordship of Christ' may, for all their 'spirituality,' be demonic. The test of an authentic confession is not ideological, or theological but, as we shall see, practical."

    Now, how practical are the words you use to describe the world and your hope in the midst of this world? Do they beg all manner of questions? Do they sidestep a confrontation? Do they absolve you of needing to make a radical decision?

  2. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

    One of the frustrations of language, and, in a perverse way, joys, is the way in which we can't say everything at once. Language is the equivalent of time in the old saw that G*D made time so everything wouldn't happen at once.

    Yes, the strong have an obligation to the weak. What isn't said here is that the strong have no obligation when the weak card is played to tempt the strong out of their strength.

    Here is a fun playing with language as you play with Paul's language. It comes from the "Quick-Start Guide" in The Sufi Book of Life by Neil Douglas-Klotz.

    "A Note about 'Bugs.' The book's 'program' has not been de-bugged. Actually, it has been re-bugged. Paradox and foolishness are built in, as is what is deeply serious. Sufism is a living twenty-first century tradition with many different approaches. Expressions in the book such as 'a Sufi would say . . .' or 'the Sufis . . .' should not be taken to imply that there is one unified Sufi way of being or acting. The program is incompatible with any attempts to use it to find a consistent philosophy, metaphysic, or history that can be called 'Sufi.' The programmers take no responsibility for your rational system crashing under these circumstances.

    Your heart is the browser.
    The pathways are the search engine.
    The universe is the real Internet.
    And there are many addresses to the Beloved,
    whose server is always online.

    Were Christians to follow the Sufis, Paul's cachet would be reduced. I wonder how willing he would be to back off from his standing with the Corinthians.

  3. Psalm 111

    To read this acrostic psalm by itself, without also reading the next acrostic Psalm (112), is to lose one's balance. Here we are marched through the alphabet, seeing G*D in each letter, in all of life. In the next Psalm we are led along the same alphabetical path, seeing people in each letter, in all of life.

    The two together begin to give us another glimpse into the great foci of life -- loving G*D, loving neighbor, loving self. By extension we also love environments and enemies.

    If the right-eye, left-brain attends to G*D while the left-eye, right-brain attends to neighbors, self, environment and enemies -- blink as fast as you can, back and forth between your two eyes, until they begin to blur together. This takes great discipline. There is not a lot of meditation time left for more transient issues. Consider this process to be a means of grace that will change our relationship with those more fleeting issues of survival and ego.

    Attending to this interplay is the beginning of wisdom.

  4. Deuteronomy 18:15-20

    If someone eats food in a way you don't, well, in Rome do as the Romans, eat or don't eat according the weakest link.

    If someone prophecies in a way you don't, well, forget them, they are to be dead to you.

    What is it that has switched here? If you can figure that out you will find it still at work in your life and the life of the world. What are the limits of uniformity and of diversity?

  5. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

    The "values" card has been played for a long time. There seems to always someone who will be injured, no matter which way we go on an issue. I have run into all too many who find their spirit saddened, injured when I speak of the importance of relationship over sexuality (as well as over idol dedicated food). They blame the messenger for their cognitive dissonance regarding sexual orientation. When I am silent, out of concern for their weakness, I injure all those who are being injured by their ignorance.

    How do we measure our compassion to the weakest and those who are held back by the weakest having the power to distract the conversation. We are currently again engaged in a building program. We are told there will be 10% of the congregation who will never get on board with it and will leave because of it. Does that mean we should back off from this expansion because of the 10%? Does this mean we take an extra year and try to bring that down to 9%? In our care for the limits of one person? Do we drop the planning for the ninety and one of us?

    This teaching is a very difficult one to apply to one and very hurtful to more if we apply it. Herein we find ourselves trapped in legalisms and political promises, even Pauline promises to always honor another's conscience. What does it mean to love, are there limits to charity? You may want to check out the newest encyclical by the latest Pope, On Christian Love.

    I wish you better outcomes than I can live with in this dilemma. I see this passage as being about the importance of community and folks need to know their concerns are being heard but also need to know that their concern is not the controlling factor regarding communal decisions. It is time for us all to grow in patience with folks who are not up to speed with such larger issues as, "there is no God but one" and to grow in wisdom, regardless of how reluctant others might be to change at our pace.

  6. Mark 1:21-28

    Fame is not a good thing for Jesus. It is a never-ending trap. To keep fame going requires greater and greater time commitments to fame and resources put into it. To paraphrase the Red Queen, "Now, WITH FAME, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get more fame, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

    No wonder he does what he can to infuse the world with his teaching, not his wonder-working. This is quieter, but deeper. While the healing is a direct outgrowth of his teaching it can't be said, given all the healers around, that a healing will lead to his teaching.

    As we draw near to Sunday, may the words formally spoken lead to outgrowths of healing. Pick the arena in the world where you think the most healing needs to be present and begin talking in such a way that it will grow. Or simply teach what you can, where you are, and opportunities for healing will come along. Either way remember that Mark begins with the baptismal words, "You are my beloved," and your passing those words along will have great healing power.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.