Monday, November 02, 2009

Mark 12:38-44

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Mark 12:38-44

To bring this passage up-to-date, be sure to substitute “pundit” and “TV evangelist” for “scribe”. No matter their good intentions, celebrity status accrues and care-for-self takes first and only place.

Can one give away all that one can live on? From a perspective of money, of course not. Even John Wesley, as he expects generosity no matter what one’s financial state, doesn’t expect anyone to give to the point of needing assistance or harming their health. It makes no sense to give up one’s ability to further invest.

Can one give away all that one can live on? Of course. The widow is a parable, in and of herself, reflecting that G*D’s creation is rich enough to provide for all of creation to flourish. If there is poverty, it is because some in the creation have taken more than their share and filled their pockets first. The widow’s action is high prophecy. She reveals how far short we have fallen from caring for one another as Neighbor, as Image of G*D.

The paragraph above takes much from Provoking the Gospel of Mark by Richard W. Swanson. Among the several suggestions he makes about how one might dramatize this pericope, the following extended comment is intriguing:

“... What if [Jesus] attacks the scribes’ alleged practice because he has the scribes in his sights, and the widow is simply a rhetorical image that he found ready to hand, serviceable for a generic political attack on an opponent? Somehow in election years everyone is the friend of the deserving poor. Even politicians whose policies in every other year are corrosive to the connections that hold rich and poor together in bonds of mutual responsibility, even such politicians can demonstrate, in an election year, how electing their opponent will be bad for the poor. That is because the poor have no real standing in such wrangles, they are just there as a figure of speech. When real policy-making demands real attention to the causes and effects of poverty, it will generally emerge that figures of speech do not vote or make campaign contributions or lobby effectively. Or, as in the scene at hand, they show up as stock figures that can be used to illustrate something else entirely.
     "What if Jesus were revealed in this scene as such a politician? Christian expectations will surely militate against such tellings of this story. Jesus is, and has long been, the right answer to every question, the solution to every problem, without ever having to demonstrate any effectiveness whatsoever. Before you decide how to read this scene, soak in it for a long time. Remember, it is possible that Mark is telling a story that carries an embedded criticism of Jesus. That may not be an expected practice, but that does not mean that this old script does not preserve something that is foreign to the contemporary world, something strong and surprising, something that may turn out to be a key to other locked problems in the text.” [pp. 246-247]

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If you were to make a chart and put it on the refrigerator to check your daily balance of being beholden to the economics of the day or beholden to the fecundity of creation, where might this week fall? Is that the balance you are looking for in yourself?

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