The Narthex Loving each other, and God, in the way of Jesus. Tue, 20 Jan 2015 02:00:37 GMT Tue, 20 Jan 2015 02:00:38 GMT en-us Fargo v1.68 @frankm frank.mcpherson The Bible Tells Me So, Chapter 3: God Likes Stories <p><b>What Happened?</b></p> <p>Stories of the past differ because storytellers are human beings. Recalling the past is actually never simply a process or remembering but of creating a narrative.</p> <p>The biblical storytellers recall the past, often the very distant past, not "objectively" but purposefully.</p> <p>Four Gospels and two different stories about Israel's past.</p> <p>What drove the Bible's storytellers to recall the past the way they did was the quest to experience God in the present, a sometimes volatile and catastrophic present.</p> <p><b>The Stories of Jesus</b></p> <p>Even though Matthew, Mark, and Luke are clearly consciously connected to one another somehow, each Gospel writer clearly has no problem whatsoever going off and telling the story of Jesus in his own unique way.</p> <p>Luke's Gospel even begins by mentioning that "many" have written their own accounts of Jesus.</p> <p>John's version of Jesus "cleansing the temple" is in the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, Mark, Matthew, and Luke have it at the end.</p> <p>More than the other three Gospel writers, John is big on Jesus's divine authority over the religious leaders.</p> <p><b>Little Baby Jesuses</b></p> <p>Mark and John don't even have birth stories.</p> <p>Matthew's portrait of Jesus serves his purpose: he drops into his Gospel images of Jesus that remind you of Moses and the exodus story. In this way the writer is saying Jesus needs to be understood not at a distance from Israel's story, but as God's way of taking Israel's story to the next, climatic stage with Jesus at the center rather than Moses.</p> <p>Luke's Jesus is very "kingly" right from the start.</p> <p><b>Who Saw the Big Moment?</b></p> <p>The end of Jesus's story, namely what happens Easter morning, is reported very differently by the Gospel writers.</p> <p>Matthew's is the only one that has Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. Mary Magdalene and the "other Mary" are the ones who find the tomb empty.</p> <p>Luke's has a veritable women's club at the tomb: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the "other women." They see "two men", run off to tell the disciples, and Peter comes back to see for himself.</p> <p>Mark has Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Solome going to the tomb. They are frightened, run away and tell no one. (Note that there are two endings to Mark, with the second, longer one added a couple of centuries later to reconcile it with Matthew and Luke.)</p> <p>John's story has Mary Magdalene going to the tomb alone, she runs back to get Peter and "the other disciple" and they race to the tomb, and "the other disciple" gets there first. </p> <p>If we are fixed on the Bible as a book that has to get history "right," the Gospels become a crippling problem.</p> <p><b>The Stories of Israel</b></p> <p>Israel's period of the monarchy, six hundred years from Israel's first king, Saul (around 1100 BCE) to the end of the monarchy when the Babylonians sacked the capital city of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.</p> <p>The Old Testament has two stories of this period of the monarchy The first is found in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings and the second is in 1 and 2 Chronicles.</p> <p>The Christian bible places Chronicles immediately after 2 Kings, but in the Jewish bible it is at the end of the Old Testament.</p> <p>Chronicles was intentionally crafted to give a very different take on Israel's past. The two stories differ because they were written at different times to answer different questions.</p> <p>Samuel/Kings written during the exile in Bablyon. "How did we end up in Bablyon? What did we do to deserve it?"</p> <p>Chronicles was written about 200 years later, after the Israelites were back from exile for generations. "After all this time, are we still the people of God? Is God ever going to show up and fix this mess? What is our future?"</p> <p>Around 930 BCE the northern kingdom of Israel (capital Samaria) and the southern kingdom of Judah (capital Jersusalem) split</p> <p>Each kingdom had its own line of kings. 1 and 2 Kings deals with all of them, Chronicles leaves the northern kings out because by then the northern kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians.</p> <p>In 2 Samuel, God makes David a promise that his house and dynasty will last for a very long time.</p> <p>In 1 Chronicles the house and dynasty is God's not David's. </p> <p>Why does it matter? At the time of 2 Samuel its possible for David's line to continue, but by the time of 2 Chronicles that line of David had been broken for many generations. The Judahites might have wondered whether it was a sign that God had given up on them. But the writer of Chronicles says, "No, You see, it's not really David's dynasty, anyway. It's God's." (location 1327)</p> <p><b>The Past Serves the Present</b></p> <p>In 2 Samuel Solomon alone builds the temple, in 1 Chronicles David has a major role in building the temple. </p> <p>These two portraits of David and Solomon aren't "basically the same" with some minor details shifted around. They tell two irreconcilably different stories of Israel's founding kings. Why? Each writer was speaking to his time.</p> <p>For the writer of 2 Samuel, bad leadership is why the kingdom split and carried off to captivity. God is just and they deserved it.</p> <p>David and Solomon of 1 and 2 Chronicles are a blueprint for the future, where a king would arise to lead them again to political independence.</p> <p><b>A Warm-Up for the Main Event</b></p> <p>The plight of Israel's kings is the heart and center of Israel's story.</p> <p>34 of the 39 books of the Old Testament deal with Israel's storyline. 27 of the 34 deal with the period of the monarchy, exile and the return</p> <p>The other 7, the first seven (Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; and Joshua and Judges) are stories of Israel's deep past or "origins stories." They explain how things came to be, why things are the way they are, and most important, how Israel got to be Israel -- a kingdom with a land of its own.</p> <p>The period of the monarchy is not only the meat of the Old Testament narrative of Israel. It's also the period when Israel's grand narrative was written.</p> <p>Israel's stories of kings and exile are the most historically verifiable of all the Old Testament books.They match up well with historical records from other nations like Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.</p> <p>Little archaeological evidence for the origin stories. "If Israel's storytellers took the recent past, like stories of David and Solomon, and shaped them creatively to speak to the present, we can bet good money they shaped the distant past with the same creative and present mind-set." (location 1478)</p> <p>When you read the origins stories you see embedded in them previews of coming attractions.</p> <p><b>A Sneak Peek at the Political Map</b></p> <p>Israel's entire national political map is already laid out in the origins stories.</p> <p>In the late nineteenth century archaeologists found a Babylonian story known as Enuma Elish that includes a section on the creation of the cosmos. It looks similar to the creation story in Genesis. </p> <p>Babylonian culture is much older than Israelite culture, so it seems the Israelites modeled their creation story along the lines of the Babylonian story to do it one better. Israel's God is superior to all the gods of Babylon because he is the true creator</p> <p>The overlap between Israel's ancestors and the political realities of the monarchy is not a coincidence. Genesis previews what's ahead, the meat of the Old Testament -- Israel's life in the land.</p> <p><b>Playing Favorites with Little Brother</b></p> <p>All through Israel's origins stories, God has this unexpected habit of favoring younger brothers over their elder brothers.</p> <p>Able over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; Joseph over his older brothers; Moses over Aaron</p> <p>After the nation of Israel splits into northern and southern kingdoms, the one to survive, the one to return from exile and reclaim the land, is the southern kingdom, the "younger" of the two.</p> <p>Note that the kingdom that came out on top is the one that compiled and composed Israel's story in the wake of the crisis of exile</p> <p>Israel's origins stories, with God's preferential treatment of the younger sibling, were written to explain why the southern kingdom, the "younger brother," survived Babylonian exile whereas the elder (and larger and more powerful) northern "brother" was wiped off the pages of history by the Assyrians 150 years earlier. (location 1576)</p> <p>Israel's stories of the deep past were not written to "talk about what happened back then." They were written to explain what is. The past is shaped to speak to the present.</p> <p><b>Adam, Who Art Thou?</b></p> <p>The story of Adam previews Israel's entire story from beginning to end.</p> <p>Obey and you stay; disobey and be exiled. Israel's story follows the same pattern.</p> <p>The story of Adam, from life with God to death in exile, is an abbreviated version of Israel's story. Rabbis have noticed this since at least the medieval period.</p> <p><b>The Exodus Story</b></p> <p>Modern historians are puzzled that no ancient source, including Egyptian ones, even hint at an event of the scope of the exodus.</p> <p>Stories of Israel's monarchy have no problem mentioning names of hostile kings, but the Pharaoh who enslaved the Israelites and who ruled for four hundred years is not named.</p> <p>As history, the exodus story has some challenges. But as story, it carries serious punch that we will miss if focus on the historical angle. Through this story, Israel's storytellers are tying their people not simply back to Adam but to the first moments of creation itself.</p> <p><b>When Gods Fight</b></p> <p>Back to the Enuma Elish. In this story we read of the god Marduk winning a cosmic battle at the dan of time by slaying Tiamat, who is Marduk's great-great-grandmother and the symbol of watery chaos. But cutting Tiamat in half, Marduk made the chaos a habitable place.</p> <p>Marduk is the god who handpicked Hammurabi, who was king of a new Babylonian dynasty. Since Marduk handpicked Hammurabi, to contend against Hammurabi was to contend against Marduk himself.</p> <p>Exodus is a story of Israel's beginnings, rooted too, in a battle between the gods: Yahweh versus the Egyptian gods.</p> <p>The story of Moses throwing his staff before Pharaoh and it turns into a serpent. Pharaoh's advisers do the same but then Moses's serpent eats the others.</p> <p>The ten plagues:</p> <p>The Nile turned into blood; the Nile was worshiped as a god</p> <p>Second plague, frogs multiple all over Egypt. The Egyptian goddess of fertility, Heqet, was supposed to have control over that and was depicted by the head of a frog.</p> <p>In the ninth plague, Yahweh darkens the sun. the high god of Egyptians and the patron god of Pharaoh is the sun god Ra.</p> <p>The plagues aren't random tricks. They are a "one-sided cage match" of Israel's God, Yahweh, versus the Gods of Egypt.</p> <p>The knock-out blow is the parting of the Red Sea. Israelites march to freedom and a nation is born, which echos the si<img title=':stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:' alt=':stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:' class='emoji' src='' align='absmiddle' />ay story of creation in Genesis chapter one.</p> <p><b>What's with All the Water?</b></p> <p>Biblical scholars relying on geological findings believe that a great deluge in Mesopotamia around 2900 BCE was the trigger for the many flood stories that circulated the ancient world.</p> <p>The stories reflect the belief that the flood was divine punishment. In the Atrahasis epic the flood was divine punishment for humans making too much noise and so keeping the gods from their rest.</p> <p>The biblical story takes a different approach by not placing the blame on gods but on human wickedness and evil.</p> <p>The Hebrew word for ark is tevah (TAY-vah), and it occurs in only one other place in the entire Old Testament: the story of Moses</p> <p>In all of these stories God is in full control of water</p> <p><b>Stories Work</b></p> <p>Did what the Bible says happened really happen?</p> <p>The Bible and history is a polarizing issue resulting in two sides: the "now we know the Bible is a pack of lies" side and the "Bible has to be historically accurate to be the Word of God" side.</p> <p>Both start from the premise that any book worthy of being called "scripture" has to, if anything, get history "right."</p> <p>Both sides have painted themselves into the same corner. </p> <p>Ironically, the passionate defense of the Bible as a "history book" among the more conservative wings of Christianity, despite intentions, isn't really an act of submission to God; it is making God submit to us.</p> <p>Over the years I've grown more and more convinced that "storytelling" is a better way of understanding what the Bible is doing with the past than "history writing." </p> <p>Maybe God likes stories</p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 00:21:13 GMT The Bible Tells Me So, Chapter 2: God Did What?! <p><b>How Not to Treat Other People</b></p> <p>Have you encountered the "theological problem" of violence in the bible, particularly genocide, before? If so, how have you handled it? </p> <p>"Whatever we do, we certainly can't hide under a blanket and wish this away." (location 489)</p> <p><b>Those Wicked, Horrible Canaanites</b></p> <p>The Canaanites are decedents of Noah's youngest son Ham, who was cursed by Noah because he saw his father (Noah) naked. <a href=";version=NRSV">Genesis 9:20-27</a></p> <p>Canaanites occupy the land that God promises to Abraham he will give to his decedents a hundred years later. <a href=";version=NRSV">Genesis 12:4-7</a></p> <p><b>Marching Orders</b></p> <p>What is your reaction to God's instructions on what to do with the Canaanites?</p> <p>"the extermination of the Canaanites is not an afterthought. According to the Bible, Israels's God planned it from the days of Noah and the flood, and he carries out the plan with bracing determination and precision, patiently encouraging and even training the troops to get it done." (location 578)</p> <p><b>If Jesus Sends People to Hell, What's So Bad About Killing Some Canaanites??</b></p> <p>"God is the sovereign king of the universe, and his unfathomable will is not to be questioned by puny mortals, so shut up about it." (location 591)</p> <p>"Sure, Jesus talks about loving your enemies, but Jesus also talks about throwing sinners into hell to burn forever."</p> <p>Our view of hell comes from medieval Christian theology.</p> <p>In the Gospels the word we think is "hell" is Gehenna, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew <i>ge' hinnom</i> meaning "Valley of Hinnom," an actual valley located just outside the walls of Jerusalem.</p> <p>Gehenna refers to God's punishment to come upon his own people for ailing to recognize God's presence and follow God's ways. Jesus, preaching to his fellow Jews, jumps all over this symbolism.</p> <p>The only time a Canaanite makes it into the New Testament, and she becomes a model of faithful persistence, her faith in Jesus led to her daughter's healing.</p> <p>To sum up: leave Jesus out of it. Nothing Jesus said or did is worse than God telling Israelites to kill Canaanites. </p> <p>"But does this mean that God's hands were tied, that he he had to buy into the system?"</p> <p>The biblical writers believed God is a warrior who likes waging war against the enemy and acquiring land.</p> <p><b>God's Nicer Side</b></p> <p>It is true that the Old Testament portrays various sides of God in diverse ways. </p> <p>An example is the book of Jonah</p> <p>"My only point is that these stories don't erase God's command to exterminate Canaanites." (location 714)</p> <p><b>Worst. Sinners. Ever</b></p> <p>The Canaanites got exactly what they deserved because they were utterly morally corrupt.</p> <p>There are other examples of sin in the bible equivalent to that which the Canaanites did that did not result in extermination.</p> <p>"However immoral the Canaanites were, the real problem isn't <i>what</i> they did, but <i>where</i> they did it." (location 735)</p> <p>To leave any Canaanites alive would (1) contaminate the land and (2) threaten Israel's devotion to their God.</p> <p>"If we were reading a story like this in some other religious text, we'd call this genocide, ethnic cleansing, and barbarous, pure and simple." (location 764)</p> <p>Is there a better way to think about Canaanite extermination that doesn't get God cheaply off the hook?</p> <p><b>It's a Tribal Culture Thing</b></p> <p>God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed God told them to kill the Canaanites.</p> <p>If true, why is the story in the Old Testament at all and how would it have been heard at that time?</p> <p>Israel's culture was shaped by their tribal neighbors.</p> <p>"We are the good guys, and all of you out there are the bad guys."</p> <p>Similarites to how a story carved on a ninth century BCE stone monument from Moab. (location 809)</p> <p>Failure to "put to the ban" everyone and everything as directed by your god was a great way to make your god extremely angry.</p> <p>"Israel was an ancient tribal people, and they thought and acted like one. But knowing that doesn't really solve our problem, does it?" (location 824)</p> <p><b>Digging for Answers</b></p> <p>"Biblical Archaeologists are about as certain as you can about these things that the conquest of Canaan as the Bible describes did not happen." </p> <p>Where did the biblical story of the conquest come from?</p> <p>Possibly from a series of smaller skirmishes that the story tellers exaggerated over time.</p> <p><b>God Lets His Children Tell the Story</b></p> <p>Why would the Israelites write a story about God that isn't true -- and what are we supposed to do today with a Holy Bible that makes up lies?</p> <p>If God is behind scriptures -- if the Bible is God's Holy Word -- and if we, too, are to meet God in its pages, why would God allow himself to be cast in the role of a majorly hacked of tribal deity if he wasn't? </p> <p>"The Bible -- from back to front -- is the story of God told from the limited point of view of real people living at a certain place and time." (location 899)</p> <p>If the writers had somehow been able to step outside of their culture and invent a new way of talking, their story would have made no sense to anyone else.</p> <p>"God lets his children tell the story." </p> <p>"These ancient writers had an adequate understanding of God <i>for them in their time</i>, but <i>not for all time</i>. " (location 943)</p> <p>For Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.</p> <p><b>Why This Chapter Is So Important and So Dreadfully Long</b></p> <p>For most, God ordering, sanctioning, or carrying out mass killings in the Old Testament is the most awkward issue that troubles them about the Bible.</p> <p>Some contemporary atheists hail it as exhibit A for the utter stupidity of any faith in the God of the Bible.</p> <p>When ancient Israelites wrote as they did about the physical world, they were expressing their faith in God in ways that fit their understanding.</p> <p>So that's why this chapter looks the way it does -- to put right in front of our eyes the antiquity of the Bible, and to see how embracing that antiquity is the beginning point for exploring the Bible as it is, to accept the challenge to investigate even some of its darker pathways, and so to begin learning how we, too, can embrace Israel's story for our journey.</p> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:28:40 GMT The Bible Tells Me So, Chapter 1: I'll Take Door Number Three <p><b>When the Bible Doesn't Behave</b></p> <p>Enns begins by writing about how many have been taught about the bible. Does what he describes match what you were taught?</p> <p>Some recent movies have provided a remake of some of the commonly known stories in the Bible (Noah, Exodus). What do you think the making of these movies have to say about how society currently views the Bible?</p> <p>After referring to how Israel occupied their new homeland, the land of Canaan, Enns writes, "The God of the universe often comes across like a tribal warlord." Enns goes on to ask:</p> <p>What are we supposed to <i>do</i> with a Bible like this?</p> <p>What are we supposed to do with a <i>God</i> like this?</p> <p>"The Bible can become a challenge to one's faith in God rather than the source of faith, a problem to be overcome rather than the answer to our problems." (location 139, second to the last paragraph of this section)</p> <p><b>The Bible Isn't the Problem</b></p> <p>Has anyone experienced "Bible induced" stress as described by Enns?</p> <p>"The problem is coming to the Bible with expectations it's not set up to hear." </p> <p>"What if God is actually fine with the Bible just as it is without needing anyone to stand guard over it? ... Maybe this Bible has something to show us about our own sacred journey of faith, and maybe God wants us to wander off the beach blanket to discover what that is." (location 183)</p> <p><b>My Life, in Brief, and Such as It Is</b></p> <p>"If I'm going to do this Jesus thing, I'm going to know what I'm talking about." </p> <p><b>Concerning Camel's Backs and Beach Balls</b></p> <p>Writing about his conservative seminary days: "But looking back, it seems we were all caught up in a system that exerted a deep, subliminal pressure on its members to conform -- a system that apparently couldn't hold it together without exercising some serious information control" (location 265)</p> <p>"I was also beginning to mourn the fact that my life, filled with church, Christian college, and even seminary, produced a set of beliefs that could so quickly melt away simply by paying attention to a few lectures and reading some books over the course of a few months."</p> <p>"Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith in God." </p> <p>How did the Israelites get water in their forty-year desert journey between Rephidim and Kadesh? The Bible never tells us. Some Jewish interpreters came up with the idea that the rock at the beginning and end was the same rock, and obviously it followed the Israelites around in the desert for forty years. </p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV" target="_blank">1 Corinthians 10:4</a></p> <p>"I swung my knapsack over my shoulder and said -- and this is an exact quote -- 'Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.'"</p> <p><b>Door Number Three</b></p> <p>Door number one: I could ignore what I just heard that day in Sanders Theatre</p> <p>Door number two: I could take the door my tradition expected of me, which is to push back against what I just heard. </p> <p>Door number three: I could face what I just saw, accept the challenge, and start thinking differently about the Bible.</p> <p>"I needed to learn (apparently the hard way) that trusting God is not the same thing as trusting the Bible -- let alone my own ideas about the Bible." (location 355)</p> <p><b>So What's My Point?</b></p> <p>"My goal for this book, then, is to assure people of faith that they do not need to feel anxious, disloyal, unfaithful, dirty, scared, or outcast for engaging these questions of the Bible, interrogating it, not liking some of it, exploring what it really says, and discerning like adult readers what we can learn from it on our own journey of faith." </p> <p>What do you feel about the three big controversial issues that Enns describes in this section? (location 413)</p> Sat, 03 Jan 2015 18:46:41 GMT The First Book of 2015 <p>We will start 2015 by reading "<a href="">The Bible Tells Me So... Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It</a>" by Peter Enns. Enns currently teaches courses on the Old and New Testaments at Eastern University, and previously taught at Westminster Theological Seminary, Harvard University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Lutheran Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), Biblical Theological Seminary, and Temple University. </p> <p>Enns blogs at <a href=""></a>. </p> <p>From</p> <p>Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.</p> <p>Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job—but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.</p> <p>The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enns’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider—the essence of our spiritual study.</p> Sat, 03 Jan 2015 18:21:21 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 9: Want to Lose Belief? Join the Church <p>If you were a participant in Case Study 1: Fundamentalism, what would you take away, or how would you feel?</p> <p>What do you think is the point of Case Study 2?</p> <p>Re-written Nicene Creed on page 191</p> <p>What is the point of Case Study 3?</p> <p>Page 200: "I hope you will think of this book as a box of matches and these closing words as a plea to go and start some fires of your own. Fires that will burn away the Idols we so tightly hold on to, fires that will melt away the false certainties that we clothe ourselves in, fires that will keep us warm as we go about the difficult task of facing up to our anxieties, accepting the mystery of life, and embracing the world in love." </p> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 00:47:35 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 8: Destroying Christianity and Other Christian Acts <p>In terms of religion every theistic system can be seen to have its atheistic opposite. There are as many atheisms as there are theisms.</p> <p>Would you find value in Atheism for Lent or Omega Course?</p> <p>We are confronted with a more disconcerting type of mystery. Not a mystery that lies beyond the world we understand but a mystery that lies within it. </p> Sat, 08 Nov 2014 20:57:16 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 7: I Need Your Eyes in Order to See Myself <p>What will a community, the Church, that seeks to enter in to and remain faithful to a way of life free from the relentless pursuit of certainty and satisfaction look like? </p> <p>When we take a step back and look at our actions, do we not find that we stay mainly with those people who think like us?</p> <p>When we accept our unknowing and brokenness, we are not weakening our faith, we are boldly expressing it.</p> <p>How do you think you would react if you participated in the Last Supper and Evangelism Project? </p> Sat, 08 Nov 2014 20:38:29 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 6: The Fool Says in His Heart, "There Is Knowing God" <p>The only way to break from our attachment to idolatry and the addiction to certainty is a change at the very core of our being, something that the apostle Paul called becoming a new creation. (<a href="">2 Corinthians 5:17</a>)</p> <p>Have you felt faced with the similar two choices as Finn (the new christian) on pages 122/23 when starting to question the beliefs once taken for granted?</p> <p>Either leave the church or repress your questioning and insulate yourself from the outside world. </p> <p>"It is not when we reject the Idol that we are freed from it but rather when we are directly confronted with the Idol rejecting its status as an Idol." Rollins goes on to say that "The Cross testifies to a liberating logic where the prison of idolatry is shattered from within." </p> <p>Do you agree with Rollin's analogy of how the church today largely teaches us to act like Oliver Hardy when it comes to the Crucifixion? (In the analogy, Rollins describes one of the Laurel and Hardy comedy motifs in which Hardy exhibits an excess of pride and arrogance, only to made to look ridiculous by a situation created by Laurel. It works because Hardy realizes by never accepts the reality of his humiliation.)</p> <p>How do you understand the early church's teaching of Jesus being fully human? </p> <p>I've always taken this to mean he was like me, but Rollins says he is fully human because he is unlike me. In other words, it is me who is not fully human, or not as originally intended. (page 134)</p> <p>Jesus lacked the lack. (without Original Sin)</p> <p>I really like the second to last paragraph of the section "The Missing Link," page 134</p> <p>God of Christ is a reality that we experience as not existing. Instead, this God is present as the source that calls everything into existence.</p> <p>God is not seen but is testified to in a particular way of seeing.</p> <p>Quote at the end of page 138, "By revealing God as love, the Christian tradition rejects the idea that God is a meaningful being...."</p> <p>To make the claim that you know God is actually to proclaim a no-God. It is to proclaim an Idol, masked as God." (page 139)</p> <p>In Christ we are confronted with a different understanding altogether, one in which God is not directly known (either as a being "out there" or as found in all things), but is the source that renders everything known.</p> <p>Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life, of seeing it as worthy of our embrace and even worthy of our total sacrifice.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Ecclesiastes 5:18-20</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Ecclesiastes 6:1-6</a></p> <p>What do you think of Rollin's depiction of the significance of as Christ dies on the Cross we read of the tombs breaking open and the dead coming to life? </p> <p>A life in which the source of all is no longer approach as some being whom we ought to love, but as a mystery we participate in through the very act of love itself. (page 145)</p> Sat, 08 Nov 2014 19:46:28 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 5: Trash of the World <p>Ironic how the original meaning of crucifixion, off being outside of the divinely given order has become the symbol for those who are within the divinely given order. Christendom.</p> <p>Rollins says in page 101 that Paul describes a form of universalism as operating on a fundamentally different level by inviting everyone into a community in which everyone exists beyond or outside the operative power of any given identity, including a Christian one. What does this mean? </p> <p>Based on what Rollins is saying about Paul, do we think that Paul would like the term "Christian?"</p> <p>Page 108, "Paul understands participation in the life of Christ as involving the loss of power that our various tribal identities once held for us." </p> <p>In context of what Rollins writes about "universalism that is captured in the idea of the Christian as the trash of the world invites us to identify with the one who is placed outside all systems" what has been the affect of Constantine's church?</p> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:25:08 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 4: Be Part of the Problem, Not the Solution <p>Zombie movies have become popular in the last several years, what does the rise of zombie movies say about us?</p> <p>The section "Give Me Freedom from the Pursuit of My Satisfaction" really speaks to me. In this section the focus is on obsession of the pursuit. Does the fact that "pursuit of happiness" is written in one of the founding documents of the United States say anything about that obsession?</p> <p>Is selfishness natural or taught?</p> <p>On page 79 Rollins writes, "Indeed, people who are driven to pursue something like wealth or fame are often painfully aware of this reality." If that is the case, why are people driven for more, even when it is to their detriment?</p> <p>"What we see here is a concrete example of how the freedom to pursue our highest ambitions is often not experienced as a freedom from an oppressive system but is itself felt to be oppressive." (page 79)</p> <p>How does the internal protest that Rollins describes on page 80 relating to parents, children and church?</p> <p>Page 86, Rollins says the Good News of Christianity is, "You can't be fulfilled; you can't be made whole; you can't find satisfaction." Do you agree that this is good news?</p> <p>Any comments on the reference to Ecclesiastes on page 91?</p> <p>Any comments about Rollins' take on atonement theories on page 93?</p> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:36:51 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 3: Hiding Behind the Mask That We Are <p>All the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality. "A legend in our own mind." </p> <p>That which we are conscious of in ourselves is called the ego. This ego is the image we have of ourselves, the image that we present on a daily basis through work, recreation, and social medial. (page 54)</p> <p>Our real beliefs are generally not to be found at the level of ego; rather they are more like the operating system of a computer they are the heart of the machine that causes it to act in certain ways.</p> <p>We all have mythologies that we have constructed and adapted from infancy. The problem arises when we fully identify with these mythologies, viewing them as a complete and accurate description of who we are and how the world works. These narratives help us prop up the fantasy that we are in control of our destinies and are masters of our own actions. (page 60)</p> <p><b>What do you think of Rollins' explanation for</b> <a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 23:27-28</a>? (page 62) </p> <p>When we encounter a worldview different from our own, there are four common responses:</p> <p>One is a form of consumption, by which we attempt to integrate the other into our social body. We attempt to persuade them that they should believe and practice in a particular way.</p> <p>The second is a process of exclusion whereby we condemn and reject the other who cannot be consumed by us. "Vomiting the other out."</p> <p>The third is toleration. There is an attempt to accept the other, even they they seem strange to us.</p> <p>The fourth is a dialogue aimed at finding agreement. It is the idea that beneath all our little differences, we're really pretty much the same.</p> <p>In each of these we stand over the other</p> <p>A different way to approach the other involves placing ourselves beneath them in the sense of allowing their views to challenge and unsettle our own. </p> <p>Literalistic listening is different than what we normally do where we filter what a person is saying through our own experiences. Example of what we normally do on page 68. In literalistic listening we take careful note of everything the other says from their position instead of quickly interpreting it in relation to our own position.</p> <p>It means that we don't simply look at the other through our own eyes, but we attempt to look at ourselves through the eyes of the other.</p> <p>The church often turns out to be the most extreme agent of this myth-making: it doesn't simply offer a narrative that tells us who we are, why we are here, and where we are going, but it tells people that this narrative has been directly delivered by the divine. (page 71)</p> <p>The question that faces us, then, is how Christianity, in its most radical and subversive form, critiques the church and offers real freedom. </p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 00:05:20 GMT Idolatry of God, Chapter 2: On Not Getting What You Want, and Liking It <p>In this chapter Rollins spends more time deconstructing what is traditionally taught about Original Sin, Idolatry and the Law. </p> <p>Original Sin: A sense of a gap in our lives</p> <p>Idolatry: that which we believe will fill the gap, the answer to all our problems</p> <p>Rollins says (on page 26) that "What we see taking place in the church today is the reduction of God to an Idol...the church ends up mimicking every other industry by claiming that they can take away the sense of loss that marks our life. <b>Do you agree or disagree?</b></p> <p><b>What is your understanding of the Law and its relationship to sin?</b></p> <p>Page 28, According to Rollins, Paul writes about how the Law and sin are actually intertwined and exist on the same side. "For Paul, the Law is the 'no' that appears to be opposed to the very structure it actually creates and upholds." </p> <p><b>Formula on page 29</b></p> <p><b>Reaction to the following:</b> "the 'no' that we are confronted with -- the Law -- turns what was previously an object that satisfies basic needs into an object of veneration. From that time forth we become little industries dedicated to the creation of Idols.</p> <p><b>What is you understanding of the notion </b>of "<a href="">Total Depravity</a>?" </p> <p>Rollins says the phrase does not mean there is no good within us, but instead refers to the idea that there is no part of our existence that is not marked by and influenced by the effect of this separation (Original Sin) and alienation (Law). (page 30)</p> <p><b>Why are movies based on the chase for the MacGuffin so popular?</b></p> <p>Page 37, "One of the primary fuels for hatred of others in the fantasy that they have access to the pleasure that we unsuccessfully seek." </p> <p>Page 39, "If we cannot have the Idol, then we wish to prevent the other from having it." </p> <p>On page 40 Rollins defines sin within the context of what we have been discussing, "sinful acts are simply acts dedicated to helping us grasp the ever elusive Idol." Could include charitable work, marriage, church attendance, prayer, and random acts of kindness. <b>Agree</b>?</p> <p>Page 41, "If an act is designed to bridge the gap between Original Sin and the Idol, then it falls into the theological category known in the biblical text as 'works.'"</p> <p>Jesus bridges the gap. Really? Does it work? </p> <p>Deferment</p> <p>Repression</p> <p>Disavowal</p> <p>Three characteristics of the Idol:</p> <p>We experience it as existing</p> <p>It is felt to be sublime</p> <p>That which is ultimately meaningful</p> <p>Creatio ex nihilo</p> <p>God creates out of nothing.... or</p> <p>Out of nothing (Original Sin), a god is created (the Idol).</p> <p>"the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol." (page 48)</p> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 20:01:34 GMT Peter Rollins: The Idolatry of God, Introduction and Chapter 1 <p>The full title of this book is: "The <b>Idolatry</b> of God, breaking our <b>addiction</b> to <b>certainty</b> and <b>satisfaction</b>." What does this tell us about what this book is about? What are your expectations of the author?</p> <p>Rollins starts the introduction by describing a commonly held belief about the apocalypse, is what he describes consistent with your understanding? (Page 1)</p> <p>What is the "Good News" of Christianity?</p> <p>Page 3: Did Jesus come to abolish religion or set up a new one? Did he seek to show us a way of escaping the world or of embracing it? </p> <p>Page 4: "It is the claim of this book that Christ signals a type of apocalyptic event much more dramatic than the one we find in fundamentalist literature. For in the figure of Christ we are confronted with an <b>atomic</b> event that does not destroy the world, but rather obliterates the way in which we exist within the world."</p> <p>How do you feel about not knowing, and not being satisfied?</p> <p>Chapter 1: The Church Shouldn't Do Worship Music, the Charts Have It Covered</p> <p>Creatio ex nihilio: something coming from nothing</p> <p>In Chapter 1, Rollins suggests that infants undergo two births. The first is their physical entry into the world, the second is the birth of self-consciousness. Rollins says:</p> <p>"One of the fundamental experiences that arises from this second birth is a profound and disturbing sense of loss, for as soon as we experience our inner world, we encounter for the first time an outer world." (page 12)</p> <p>Page 12: "..for when we feel separated from something we assume there was something we once had." </p> <p>On page 15 Rollins introduces the concept of prohibition, and states that this is what Paul called "The Law."</p> <p>Can you think of any examples of a MacGuffin? </p> <p>Rollins says that this sense of loss is a gap we spend our lives trying to fill, and that this gap at the core of our being has an ancient theological name: Original Sin. (page 19)</p> <p>Original Sin is parsed, "sin" meaning separation" and "original" referring to that which comes first.</p> <p>On page 19 Rollins writes:</p> <p>"But this belief in something that would finally bring satisfaction is nothing more than a fantasy we create, a fantasy that fuels the obsessive drive we have for books, talks, and people who promise a life of total sexual, emotional, and/or spiritual fulfillment. This Original Sin is the very thing that causes us to falsely think it is not original at all. <b>This sense of gap makes us think that there must have been something before it, an original blessing that we somehow lost.</b>" </p> <p>I am a bit uncertain about what Rollins is getting at in the bold sentence above. Is Rollins suggesting here that what we think we have lost, we in fact have not lost? It seems so, he goes on...</p> <p>"Sadly, almost the entire existing church fails to embrace the full radicality of what Original Sin actually means, for they presuppose that there is something we are separated from, something that will bring wholeness and insight." </p> <p>Rollins suggests that contemporary church worship music is really not too different from secular music. Do you agree or disagree?</p> <p>Rollins then goes on to make a pretty strong statement about the church today. In observing how contemporary worship music tends to replace secular objects of desire with Jesus, he writes:</p> <p>"When such music is used in a church context, it renders the source of faith into just one more product promising us fulfillment, happiness, and unwavering bliss. The church then takes its place beside every other industry that is in the business of selling satisfaction." (page 22)</p> <p>The statement above raises the questions: </p> <p>why does the church exist? </p> <p>what is the church's purpose?</p> <p>why am I a member of a church?</p> <p>what's in it for me?</p> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 15:28:26 GMT Give Us Today Our Daily Bread <p>A friend on Facebook shared a link to the article: "<a href="">Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)</a>" and it got me asking questions. Is it wrong to be satisfied? By being satisfied I mean to not be driven for more, to not constantly push to "be all you can be?" Our culture says it is wrong to be satisfied, we should always be striving to improve, to achieve more, to accomplish more.</p> <p>Only working a 40 hour week? You are a slacker. Using all of your vacation time? You are a slacker. Wish you didn't have to work all the time? You are lazy. Not saving the world? Then you are not using the gifts God has given you. </p> <p>In my opinion churches ought to counter this cultural belief, but instead we feed it equally well. You've got to participate in more small groups, give more service, and give more money so that either more people can be hired or larger buildings can be built.</p> <p>If you don't do these things, you aren't truly part of our community. Instead of offering relief from a world obsessed with more, the church fully participates within and often encourages the cultural norm.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">In Luke 11:1-4</a>, Jesus's disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, and Jesus answers in what we commonly call The Lord's Prayer. In verse 3 it says, "Give us each day our daily bread." In other words, please provide us just what we need for this day. </p> <p>You remember the words, don't you?</p> <p>The prayer goes on in verse 4, "And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us." In most churches the word sin is used in this verse, I find it interesting that in <a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer</a>, this verse says "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (<a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 6:12</a>). While we seem to want to equate "debt" with the idea of our debt to God, or rather sin, most likely Jesus really meant debt.</p> <p>In the time of Jesus debt, most often in the form of having your land foreclosed on in trade for food and other things one needed to live, was a big issue. The authorities, be they Jewish or Roman, in their obsession for more forced those around them into debt. It seems to me that Jesus is encouraging us to forgive debts on others, just as God has forgiven our debt to him. Or may be put another way, stop being obsessed with more, and be satisfied with "enough." </p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">In Matthew 6:25-34</a> we see Jesus telling us to not worry. Jesus says, "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" In Jesus's day marks of wealth included what you ate and what you wore. If you listen closely enough, I think you hear Jesus saying, "give up your obsession with more and rejoice in having enough. Be satisfied. Peace be with you."</p> <p>For more about The Lord's Prayer, I recommend "<a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1404931050&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=john+dominic+crossan">The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer</a>" by John Dominic Crossan. </p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 16:29:23 GMT The Idolatry of God by Peter Rollins, Chapter 1 <p>I've just started reading The Idolatry of God by Peter Rollins. Of all the books that we have read the last couple of years, Peter Rollins' Insurrection was the most challenging. Rollins' writing is the type you have to read twice, maybe more, to fully understand.</p> <p>Rollins' main motivation in his work appears to be to challenge our commonly held beliefs and practices. </p> <p>In Chapter 1, Rollins suggests that infants undergo two births. The first is their physical entry into the world, the second is the birth of self-consciousness. Rollins says:</p> <p>"One of the fundamental experiences that arises from this second birth is a profound and disturbing sense of loss, for as soon as we experience our inner world, we encounter for the first time an outer world." (page 12)</p> <p>Rollins says that this sense of loss is a gap we spend our lives trying to fill, and that this gap at the core of our being has an ancient theological name: Original Sin. (page 19)</p> <p>Original Sin is parsed, "sin" meaning separation" and "original" referring to that which comes first.</p> <p>On page 19 Rollins writes:</p> <p>"But this belief in something that would finally bring satisfaction is nothing more than a fantasy we create, a fantasy that fuels the obsessive drive we have for books, talks, and people who promise a life of total sexual, emotional, and/or spiritual fulfillment. This Original Sin is the very thing that causes us to falsely think it is not original at all. <b>This sense of gap makes us think that there must have been something before it, an original blessing that we somehow lost.</b>" </p> <p>I am a bit uncertain about what Rollins is getting at in the bold sentence above. Is Rollins suggesting here that what we think we have lost, we in fact have not lost? It seems so, he goes on...</p> <p>"Sadly, almost the entire existing church fails to embrace the full radicality of what Original Sin actually means, for they presuppose that there is something we are separated from, something that will bring wholeness and insight." </p> <p>Rollins then goes on to make a pretty strong statement about the church today. In observing how contemporary worship music tends to replace secular objects of desire with Jesus, he writes:</p> <p>"When such music is used in a church context, it renders the source of faith into just one more product promising us fulfillment, happiness, and unwavering bliss. The church then takes its place beside every other industry that is in the business of selling satisfaction." (page 22)</p> <p>The statement above raises the questions: </p> <p>why does the church exist? </p> <p>what is the church's purpose?</p> <p>why am I a member of a church?</p> <p>what's in it for me?</p> Thu, 29 May 2014 02:06:15 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 8, Easter Sunday <p><a href=";version=NRSV" target="_blank"><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 16:1-8</a></a></p> <p>Easter is utterly central. But what was it? What are the Easter stories about? On one level, the answer is obvious: God raised Jesus. Yes. And what does this mean? Is it about the most spectacular miracle there's ever been? Is it about the promise of an afterlife? Is it about God proving that Jesus was indeed his Son? (page 144)</p> <p>Those of us who grew up Christian have a "preunderstanding" of Easter, just as we do of Good Friday and Christmas, that shapes our hearing of these stories.</p> <p>This widespread preunderstanding emphasizes the historical factuality of the stories, in harder or softer forms.</p> <p>So central is the historical factuality of the Easter stories for many Christians that, if they didn't happen this way, the foundation and truth of Christianity disappear. (page 145)</p> <p>"But we are convinced that an emphasis on the historical factuality of the Easter stories, as if they were reporting events that could have been photographed, gets in the way of understanding them." </p> <p>"When treated as if they are primarily about an utterly unique spectacular event, we often do not get beyond the question, 'Did they happen or not?' to the question, 'What do they mean?'</p> <p><b>History or Parable?</b></p> <p>What kind of narratives are these?</p> <p>When these stories are seen as history, their purpose is to report publicly observable events that could have been witnessed by anybody who was there. (page 146)</p> <p>When we see these stories as parable, the "model" for this understanding is the parables of Jesus.</p> <p>The truth of a parable -- of a parabolic narrative -- is not dependent on its factuality.</p> <p>"Seeing the Easter stories as parable does not involve a denial of their factuality. It's quite happy leaving the question open. <i>What it does insist upon is that the importance of these stories lies in their meanings</i>." (page 146)</p> <p>One should not think of history as "true" and parable as "fiction." (page 147)</p> <p>Both biblical literalists and people who reject the Bible completely do this: the former insist that the truth of the Bible depends on its literal factuality, and the latter see that the Bible cannot be literally and factually true and therefore don't think it is true at all.</p> <p><b>Mark's Story of Easter</b></p> <p>Mark provides us with the first story, the first narrative, of Easter.</p> <p>It is very brief, only eight verses.</p> <p>Mark does not report an appearance of the risen Jesus.</p> <p>Mark's Easter story ends very abruptly.</p> <p>Matthew adds to details to Mark's story in <a href=";version=NRSV">16:3-4</a>:</p> <p>He explains how the stone got moved: there is an earthquake</p> <p>He narrates the presence of guards at the tomb</p> <p>The ending is not only abrupt, but puzzling. According to Mark, the women don't tell anybody. End of gospel. Full stop. The ending was deemed unsatisfactory as early as the second century, when a longer ending was added to Mark (<a href=";version=NRSV">16:9-20</a>)</p> <p>Matthew reports that the women did tell the disciples. (<a href=";version=NRSV">28:8</a>)</p> <p>So does Luke (<a href=";version=NRSV">24:9</a>)</p> <p>In Mark (and in Matthew), the women are to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they will see the risen Jesus. But in Luke, the risen Jesus appears in and around Jerusalem; Luke has no Easter stories set in Galilee.</p> <p><b>Mark's Story As Parable</b></p> <p>Perhaps, as some scholars have suggested, the command to "go to Galilee" means, "Go back to where the story began, to the beginning of the gospel." And what does one hear at the beginning of Mark's gospel? It is about the <i>way</i> and the <i>kingdom</i>. </p> <p><b>Appearance Stories In The Other Gospels</b></p> <p>These stories are the product of the experience and reflection of Jesus's followers in the days, months, years, and decades after his death. Strikingly none is found in more than one gospel -- striking because in the pre-Easter part of the gospels, the same story is often found in two more more gospels. (page 150)</p> <p>Matthew has two appearance stories:</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 28:9-20</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 28:16-17</a></p> <p>In the rest of the story (<a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 28:18-20</a>), the risen Jesus speaks what has come to be known as the Great Commission:</p> <p>To the risen Jesus, God has given "all authority in heaven and on earth." The implicit but obvious contrast is to the authorities who crucified him.</p> <p>Jesus's followers are to make "disciples" of "all nations." Now the commission is beyond Israel. A disciple is not simply a believer, but one who follows the way of Jesus.</p> <p>They are to teach them "to obey everything I have commanded you." What is required is obedience, not belief.</p> <p>"I am with you always." The words echo a theme announced in the story of Jesus's birth in Matthew, where he identifies Jesus with "Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."</p> <p>Luke also has two appearance stories that are considerably larger than Matthew's. Both are set in Jerusalem, not in Galilee. </p> <p>The first is the Emmaus road story, the longest Easter narrative (<a href=";version=NRSV">24:13-35</a>)</p> <p>"If we were to use but one story to make the case that Easter stories are parabolic narratives, this is the one. It is difficult to imagine that this story is speaking about events that could have been videotaped." (page 151)</p> <p>"This story is the metaphoric condensation of several years of early Christian thought into one parabolic afternoon. Whether the story happened or not, Emmaus always happens. Emmaus happens again and again -- this is its truth as parabolic narrative." (page 152)</p> <p>Luke's second appearance story (24:36-49) is set on the evening of the same day, so it is still Easter Sunday.</p> <p>John has four appearance stories spread over two chapters.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">John 20-21</a></p> <p>After the first three appearances, the gospel of John seems to come to an end. (<a href=";version=NRSV">20:30-31</a>) But then another chapter begins, reporting John's fourth appearance story (<a href=";version=NRSV">21:1-23</a>)</p> <p><b>The Gospel Easter Stories Together</b></p> <p>Two themes run through these stories that sum up the central meaning of Easter. The first, in a concise phrase, is <i>Jesus lives.</i> (page 154)</p> <p>Together, the appearance stories in the gospels make explicit what is promised in Mark: "You will see him." They underline the parabolic meaning of Mark's story of the empty tomb: Jesus is not among the dead, but among the living. (page 155)</p> <p>The truth of the affirmation "Jesus lives" is grounded in the experience of Christians throughout the centuries.</p> <p>To state the second affirmation of the Easter stories in an equally concise phrase: God has vindicated Jesus. God has said "yes" to Jesus and "no" to the powers who executed him. (page 155)</p> <p>The stories underline this in different ways. In Luke and John, the risen Jesus continues to bear the wounds of the empire that executed him. In Matthew, the risen Jesus has been given authority over all the authorities of this world.</p> <p>Mark, writing most concisely among the authors of the gospels says simply, "You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, <i>who was crucified; he has been raised</i>."</p> <p>Easter affirms that the domination systems of this world are not of God and that they do not have the final word.</p> <p><b>Paul And The Resurrection of Jesus</b></p> <p>The central themes of the gospel stories -- Jesus lives and Jesus is Lord -- are equally central to Paul's experience, conviction, and theology. To these, he adds a third.</p> <p>How did Paul experience the risen Jesus?</p> <p>Those traveling with Paul did not share the experience; indicating that it was a private and not public experience. In short, it was what is commonly called a vision.</p> <p>It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Paul thought of the appearances of the risen Jesus to Jesus's other followers also as visions.</p> <p>Some Christians are uncomfortable with this thought, as if there were "only" visions.</p> <p>Paul came to believe Jesus is Lord because of his experience of the risen Jesus changed his life.</p> <p>His experience had a crucial corollary. It generated the conviction not only that "Jesus lives," but that God had vindicated Jesus, said "yes" to the one who had been executed by the authorities and whose movement Paul was persecuting. (page 157)</p> <p>Paul's third Easter theme makes explicit what is implicit in the gospel stories of Easter. Namely, within the world of Jewish thought that shaped Jesus, Paul, and the authors of the New Testament, resurrection was associated with eschatology.</p> <p>Jesus, Paul, and earliest Christianity claimed that God's transfiguration of this earth had already started, that they also claimed that the general resurrection had begun with Jesus. That, of course, is why Paul must argue in 1 Corinthians that if there is no general resurrection, there is no Jesus resurrection, and if there is no Jesus resurrection, there is no general resurrection. (<a href=";version=NRSV">15:12-16</a>) </p> <p>If, therefore, the kingdom of God has begun on this earth or the general bodily resurrection has begun on this earth, the claim is also being made that all are here and now called to participate in what is now a collaborative eschatology. Or, in the magnificent aphorism of St. Augustine: "We without God cannot, and God without us will not." (page 158)</p> <p><b>Easter And Christian Life Today: Personal and Political Transformation</b></p> <p>Easter completes the archetypal pattern at the center of the Christian life: death and resurrection, crucifixion and vindication. (page 158)</p> <p>Easter is about God even as it is about Jesus. Easter discloses the character of God. Easter means God's Great Cleanup of the world has begun -- but it will not happen without us.</p> <p>As the climax of Holy Week and the story of Jesus, Good Friday and Easter address the fundamental human question, What ails us? Most of us feel the force of this question -- something is not right. So what ails us? Very compactly, egoism and injustice. And the two go together. (page 159)</p> <p>Egoism means being centered in the self and its anxieties and preoccupations, what is sometimes called the "small self." Egoism is centering in the anxious and fearful self and its concerns and desires.</p> <p>The issue is the kind of self that I am, that you are, that we are.</p> <p>Good Friday and Easter, death and resurrection together, are a central image in the New Testament for the path to a transformed self.</p> <p>Johns' incarnational theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus incarnates the way of transformation.</p> <p>We are invited to the journey that leads through death to resurrection and rebirth. But when only the personal meaning is emphasized, we betray the passion for which Jesus was willing to risk his life. (page 160)</p> <p>The political meaning of Good Friday and Easter sees the human problem as injustice, and the solution is God's justice.</p> <p>Jesus's passion got him killed. But God has vindicated Jesus. This is the political meaning of Good Friday and Easter.</p> <p>The anti-imperal meaning of Good Friday and Easter is particularly important and challenging for American Christians.</p> <p>Empire is (also) about the use of military and economic power to shape the world in one's perceived interest.</p> <p>Christians in the United States are deeply divided about this country's imperial role.</p> <p>Just as there is a dangerous distortion when only the personal meaning of Good Friday and Easter is emphasized, so also when only the political meaning is emphasized. (page 162)</p> <p>"Jesus is Lord," the most widespread post-Easter affirmation in the New Testament, is thus both personal and political. It involves a deep centering in God, a deep centering in God that includes radical trust in God, the same trust that we see in Jesus. It produces freedom -- "For freedom, Christ has set us free"; compassion -- the greatest of the spiritual gifts is love; and courage -- "Fear not, do not be afraid." </p> <p>Love is the soul of justice, and justice is the body, the flesh, of love. All of this is what Easter, the ultimate climax of Holy Week is about.</p> <p>Holy Week and the journey of Lent are about an alternative procession and an alternative journey. (page 163)</p> <p>Alternative procession is what we see on Palm Sunday, an anti-imperial and nonviolent procession.</p> <p>"Now and then, the alternative journey is the path of personal transformation that leads to journeying with the risen Jesus, just as it did for his followers on the road to Emmaus. Holy Week as they annual remembrance of Jesus's last week presents us with the always relevant questions: Which journey are we on? Which procession are we in?" (page 163)</p> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 19:14:12 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 7, Saturday <p>After detailing every day from Sunday through Friday of Holy Week, Mark says nothing at all about the sabbath (Saturday). </p> <p>He notes that Jesus was crucified and buried on "the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath." (<a href=";version=NRSV">15:42</a>) Then he picks up the story on Easter Sunday with the finding of the empty tomb.</p> <p>The event -- "he descended into hell" -- mentioned in the Apostle's Creed but omitted in the Nicene Creed is known as the "descent into hell" or the "harrowing of hell." (page 127)</p> <p>"Harrowing" is an Old English word for "robbing" and "hell" is not the later Christian place of eternal punishment, but the Jewish Sheol or the Greek Hades, the afterlife place of nonexistence.</p> <p><b>God's Justice And The Vindication Of The Persecuted Ones</b></p> <p>Mark and the other evangelists were working within a Jewish tradition that had always emphasized how God vindicated those righteous Jews who remained faithful under persecution and were ready, if necessary, to die as martyrs for their faith in God. (page 128)</p> <p>Two models of divine vindication: <i>before </i>or <i>after </i>their death.</p> <p>The classic example of the first model of divine vindication, or salvation at the last minute before death under persecution, is the story of Daniel in the lion's den. (<a href=";version=NRSV">Daniel 5:1-6:28</a>)</p> <p>The first model is helpful for faithful Jews facing ridicule or discrimination, but how would they help them in situations of lethal persecution when God did not intervene and they died as martyrs? (page 129)</p> <p>The second model of divine vindication, or salvation but only after death, appears in <a href=";version=NRSV">Wisdom 2-5</a>, a book written shortly before the time of Jesus and now part of the Apocrypha of the Christian Bible. (page 129)</p> <p>It is, of course, that second model that is presumed behind the gospel stories of Jesus's execution and vindication. That is quite clear in Mark's account.</p> <p>Jesus's vindication was "in accordance with the scriptures" for all those who knew their tradition's second model.</p> <p><b>God's Justice And The Bodily Resurrection Of The Dead</b></p> <p>If, as in the biblical tradition, your faith tells you that this world belongs to and is ruled by a just divinity and your experience tells you that the world belongs to and is ruled by an unjust humanity, utopia or eschatology becomes almost inevitable as the reconciliation of faith and experience. (page 130)</p> <p>"Eschatology is absolutely not about the end of this time-space world, but rather about the end of this time-place world's subjection to evil and impurity, injustice, violence, and oppression. It is not about the evacuation of earth for God's heaven, but about the divine transfiguration of God's earth. It is not about the destruction, but about the transfiguration of God's world here below." (page 131)</p> <p>How did the claim of a general bodily resurrection, surely the most counter intuitive idea imaginable, become part of that utopian scenario of cosmic transfiguration at least within some -- for example, Pharisaic -- strands of Judaism? </p> <p>The general reason was because the renewal of an all-good creation here below upon this earth demanded it. How could you have a renewed creation without renewed bodies? (page 132)</p> <p>The specific reason bodily-resurrection became part of the utopian scenario was the problem of martyrdom during the Seleucid persecution of homeland Jews in the 160s BCE. The question was not about their survival, but about God's justice when faced specifically with the battered, tortured, and executed bodies of martyrs. (page 132) See <a href=";version=NRSV">Daniel 12:2-3</a> and <a href=";version=NRSV">2 Maccabees 7:9-11</a></p> <p>If you believed, as Jesus said and Mark wrote, that the kingdom of God was already here upon the earth, you were claiming that God's Great Cleanup had already started. And if you believed that the first act of God's Great Cleanup of the earth was the general bodily resurrection and the vindication of all the persecuted and righteous ones, then for Christian Jews, the general resurrection could indeed begin with Jesus, but Jesus's resurrection would only be <i>along with and at the head of those other Jews who had died unjustly or at least righteously before him.</i></p> <p><b>Jesus's Resurrection And The Resurrection Of The Righteous Ones</b></p> <p>Jesus descended into hell, or Hades or Sheol, to liberate all the righteous ones who had lived for justice and died from injustice before he himself had lived and died a similar destiny. (page 133)</p> <p>Borg and Crossan look at this tradition in story, hymn, image, and finally silence.</p> <p><b>In Story</b></p> <p>Compare <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:37-39</a> with <a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 27:50-54</a> (page 134)</p> <p>Why did Matthew add those portions to Mark and what do they mean?</p> <p>Matthew uses a very significant term. He describes the resurrection of the saints "who had fallen asleep" (Greek <i>kekoime-meno-n</i>). And that is the standard way of describing the righteous ones who died before Jesus -- they are not so much dead as sleeping and awaiting resurrection for their suffering and tortured or executed bodies. See <a href=";version=NRSV">1 Corinthians 15:20</a></p> <p>Gospel of Peter. It's account of the resurrection is unique in that it actually describes the event itself as actually seen by Jewish authorities and Roman guards at the tomb. (page 136)</p> <p><b>In Hymn</b></p> <p>If the harrowing of hell fits with great difficulty into a narrative sequence, it fits with moving beauty into the poetic language of hymn and chant.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">1 Peter 3:18-19</a>; <a href=";version=NRSV">4:6</a></p> <p>The Odes of Solomon, a collection of Christian hymns from the end of the first century. (page 137)</p> <p><b>In Image</b></p> <p>It is standard in the iconography of Greek Orthodox Christianity to depict the resurrection of Jesus not as that of an isolated individual but as that of a group in which Jesus is the liberator and leader of the holy ones who slept in Hades awaiting his advent.</p> <p>St. Sargius Church in Old Cairo (page 138)</p> <p>Chora Church in Istanbul (page 139)</p> <p><b>In Silence</b></p> <p>Jesus's harrowing of hell may be present in some other places in the New Testament, but those possibilities are very much debated. It is sometimes asserted that it is a late and post-New Testament piece of theology. </p> <p>Borg and Crossan say that <a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 27:51-53</a> is less an example than an epitaph for the harrowing of hell tradition. </p> <p>It seems rather that it was early and leaving as the New Testament was being written rather than late and arriving after its creation. (page 140)</p> <p>First, the harrowing of hell is an intensely Jewish Christian tradition.</p> <p>Second, the harrowing of hell is also intensely mythological.</p> <p>Third, the harrowing of hell could not fit easily into any sequence as the ending of a gospel narrative. How could Jesus arise at the head of the martyred and righteous ones and then appear to his disciples to give them their apostolic mandate? </p> <p>Fourth, there is a somewhat complicated dogmatic problem. If Christians had to be baptized in order to enter heaven, did those holy ones who Jesus liberated from Hades enter heaven without baptism?</p> <p>"For those four reasons and especially in view of dogmatic problems like the last one, the harrowing of hell tradition was necessarily lost to the gospel story, but not of course to the wider Christian tradition, especially to Christian poetry and art, hymn and image." (page 141)</p> <p><b>Kingdom of God, Son of Man, And Bodily Resurrection</b></p> <p>For Mark the kingdom of God is already here because the Son of Man is already present. (page 142)</p> <p>Recall was said about Jesus as the Son of Man in Mark when discussing the trial of Jesus on Thursday, in Chapter 5. Mark insists that Jesus is the Son of Man from <a href=";version=NRSV">Daniel 7:13-14</a></p> <p>For Mark, therefore, Jesus as Son of Man has been given the anti-imperial kingdom of God to bring to earth for God's people, for all those willing to enter it or take it upon themselves. (page 143)</p> <p>The three claims, about the kingdom of God as already begun through Jesus, the Son of Man as already arrived in Jesus, and the general bodily resurrection as already started with Jesus, intertwine with one another, serve to interpret one another, and, taken together, reveal the heart of Mark's theology.</p> <p>If God's Great Cleanup, God's Eastertide Spring Cleaning of the world, had already begun, then it was a collaborative effort.</p> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 00:41:57 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 6, Friday <p><b>Substitutionary Atonement Once Again</b></p> <p>In order for God to forgive sins, a substitutionary sacrifice must be offered. (page 107)</p> <p>For most of us who are Christian, this understanding is rooted in childhood and reinforced in our liturgies.</p> <p>Hence it is important to realize that this is not the only Christian understanding of Jesus's death. </p> <p>This understanding first appeared in fully developed form in a book written in 1097 by St. Anslem, archbishop of Canterbury. (page 108)</p> <p>Anslem presupposes a legal framework for understanding our relationship with God.</p> <p>This common Christian understanding goes far beyond what the New Testament says.</p> <p>"In particular, we will argue that the substitutionary sacrificial understanding of Jesus's death is not there at all in Mark."</p> <p>We most commonly hear the story of Jesus's death as a composite of the gospels and the New Testament as a whole.</p> <p>For example, only Matthew has the scene of Pilate washing his hands of the blood of Jesus and the cry of the crowd, "His blood be on us and on our children." (<a href=";version=NRSV">27:25</a>)</p> <p>Only Luke has the story of Jesus appearing before Herod Antipas as well as three of the "last words" of Jesus. (page 108)</p> <p>The story of Good Friday in John's gospel contains much more dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.</p> <p><b>Mark's Story of Good Friday</b></p> <p>As the earliest gospel, Mark provides the earliest narrative of the crucifixion. (page 109)</p> <p>"That Paul, the earliest author in the New Testament, uses multiple interpretations leads to an important point: there is no uninterpreted account of the death of Jesus in the New Testament." (page 110)</p> <p>The followers of Jesus in the years and decades after his death sought to see meaning in the horrific execution of their beloved master, whom they saw as God's annointed one.</p> <p>Mark tells the story of Good Friday in precisely indicated three-hour intervals.</p> <p>from dawn (6 AM) to 9 AM</p> <p>from 9 AM to noon</p> <p>from noon to 3 PM</p> <p>from 3 PM to evening (6 PM)</p> <p><b>From 6 to 9 AM</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:1-21</a></p> <p>To refuse to respond to authority reflects both courage and contempt. Authorities do not like it. (page 111)</p> <p>As history remembered, the story about Barabbas is difficult. But if we set in Mark's historical context as he wrote around the year 70, it makes considerable sense.</p> <p>Both Barabbas and Jesus were revolutionaries, both defied imperial authority. But Barabbas advocated violent revolution and Jesus advocated nonviolence.</p> <p><b>From 9AM to Noon</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:22-32</a></p> <p>Crucifixion was a form of Roman imperial terrorism. (page 113)</p> <p>It was not just capital punishment, but a very definite type of capital punishment for those such as runaway slaves or rebel insurgents who subverted Roman law and order and thereby disturbed the Pax Romana (the "Roman peace").</p> <p>It was always as public as possible.</p> <p>What made it <i>supreme </i>was not just the amount of suffering or even humiliation involved, but that there might be nothing left or allowed for burial.</p> <p>On the cross was an inscription: "The King of the Jews" (page 114)</p> <p>Pilate intended it as derision and most likely saw it mocking not only Jesus, but his accusers</p> <p>Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified between to "bandits." The Greek word translated "bandits" is commonly used for guerilla fighters against Rome, who were either "terrorists" or "freedom fighter," depending upon one's point of view.</p> <p><b>From Noon to 3 PM</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:33</a></p> <p>The darkness is the product of Mark's use of religious symbolism. In the ancient world, highly significant events on earth were accompanied by signs in the sky. (page 115)</p> <p>The darkness from noon to 3 PM is best understood as literary symbolism.</p> <p><b>From 3 to 6 PM</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:34-41</a></p> <p>Mark narrates two events that provide two interpretive comments about what has happened. The first is the tearing of the temple curtain. (page 116)</p> <p>This event is best understood symbolically and not as history remembered.</p> <p>That the curtain torn in two has a twofold meaning. On one hand, it is a judgement upon the temple and the temple authorities. On the other hand it is an affirmation.</p> <p>To say that the curtain, the veil, has been torn is to affirm that the execution of Jesus means that access to the presence of God is now open. This affirmation underlines Mark's presentation of Jesus earlier in the gospel: Jesus mediated access to God apart from the temple and the domination system that it had come to represent in the first century.</p> <p>The second interpretive comment is the exclamation by the Roman centurion that "Truly this man was God's Son." (15:30)</p> <p>In this exclamation of the centurion responsible for Jesus's execution, empire testifies against itself.</p> <p>The presence of the women reminds us that Jesus's men followers were not present. They have all fled. (page 117)</p> <p>Why would first-century Jewish women (and slightly later, gentile women) be attracted to Jesus? For the same reasons that first-century men were, yes. But in addition it seems clear that Jesus and earliest Christianity gave to women an identity and status they did not experience within the conventional wisdom of the time. </p> <p>The subversion has been denied by much of Christian history, but it is right here, in a prominent place in the story of the climactic events of Jesus life. (page 118)</p> <p><b>6 PM and the Burial of Jesus</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 15:42-47</a></p> <p>Pilate's granting Joseph's request for the body of Jesus to be buried is a remarkable departure from customary procedure since, as mentioned earlier, the body of a crucified individual was not given an honorable burial. (page 118)</p> <p><b>Jesus's Death as Sacrifice?</b></p> <p>We return to a common Christian understanding of Jesus's death: that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. (page 119)</p> <p>The broad meaning refers to sacrificing one's life for a cause.</p> <p>In this sense, one may speak of Jesus sacrificing his life for his passion, namely, for his advocacy of the kingdom of God.</p> <p>The more specific meaning of sacrifice in relation to Jesus's death speaks of it as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, a dying for the sins of the world. This understanding is absent from Mark's story of Good Friday; it is not there at all.</p> <p>There is only one passage in all of Mark that might have a substitutionary sacrificial meaning. </p> <p>"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (10:45)</p> <p>"To many Christians, the world 'ransom' sounds like sacrificial language, for we sometimes speak of Jesus as the ransom for our sins. But it most certainly does not have this meaning in Mark. As already mentioned, the Greek word translated as 'ransom' (<i>lutron</i>) is used in the Bible not in the context of payment for sin, but to refer to payment made to liberate captives (often from captivity in war) or slaves (often from debt slavery). A <i>lutron </i>is a means of liberation from bondage." (page 119)</p> <p>"Thus to say that Jesus gave 'his life a ransom for many' means he gave his life as a means of liberation from bondage." (page 120)</p> <p>The context of the passage in Mark supports this reading. The preceding verses are a critique of the domination system. The rulers of the nations lord it over their subjects. "It is not so among you," Jesus says. Then Jesus uses his own path as an illustration. In contrast to the rulers of this world, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a lutron -- a means of liberation -- for many."</p> <p>And this is a path for his followers to imitate: so it shall be "among you." </p> <p>How then does Mark understand Jesus's death?</p> <p>He sees Jesus's death as an execution by the authorities because of his challenge to the domination system.</p> <p>As such, Mark understands Jesus's death as a judgement on the authorities and the temple. Judgement is indicated by the fact that, as Jesus dies, darkness comes over the city and land, and the great curtain in the temple is torn in two. And a Roman centurion pronounces judgement against his own empire, which has just killed Jesus: "Truly this man -- and not the emperor -- is God's Son." (page 120)</p> <p><b>Mark's Use Of The Jewish Bible</b></p> <p>At several points in his story of Good Friday, Mark echoes and sometimes quotes the Jewish Bible.</p> <p>Many of us who grew up Christian were taught that the relationship between the two testaments is one of prophecy and fulfillment.</p> <p>These not only demonstrated that Jesus was the Messiah, but also proved the truth of the Bible and thus Christianity -- only a supernaturally inspired scripture could predict the future so precisely.</p> <p>It easily and naturally, if not inevitably, leads to the inference that things had to happen this way.</p> <p>The Jewish Bible was the sacred scripture of early Christians, and many of them knew it well, whether from hearing it orally or being able to read it. Thus, as they told the story of Jesus, they used language from the Jewish Bible to do so. (page 121)</p> <p>This practice produced what we call "prophecy historicized." A passage from the past (in this case, from the Jewish Bible) is "historicized" when it is used in the narration of a subsequent story.</p> <p>It is an attempt to connect that newer story to the earlier tradition and lend credibility to it.</p> <p>The point, rather, is the use of passages from the Jewish Bible in the telling of the story of Jesus and <i>what such use suggests about the interpretive framework of the narrator.</i></p> <p>Now we focus on Mark's primary use of the Jewish Bible, namely, his frequent citation of Psalm 22. (page 122)</p> <p>How are these references to be understood? </p> <p>Within the framework of "prophecy historicized," they are seen as the product of Mark's use of the psalm as a way of interpreting the death of Jesus.</p> <p>As part of the Jewish Bible, Psalm 22 is a prayer for deliverance. The prayer describes a person experiencing immense suffering and intense hostility.</p> <p>Mark's frequent use of language from this psalm suggests that he and his community saw the death of Jesus this way. It was the suffering and death of one who was righteous, condemned by the powers of this world, and who would be vindicated by God.</p> <p><b>Divine Necessity Or Human Inevitability?</b></p> <p>Did Jesus's death have to happen? There are two quite different reasons why one might think so. One is divine necessity; the other is human inevitability. (page 123)</p> <p>By the time Mark wrote, early Christianity had already developed several interpretations of the death of Jesus.</p> <p>The story of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery affirms that even the evil deed of selling a brother into slavery was used by God for a providential purpose. (page 124)</p> <p>Like the storyteller of Genesis, early Christian storytellers looking back on what did happen ascribe providential meanings to Good Friday. But this does not mean Good Friday had to happen. (page 125)</p> <p>Human inevitability -- this is what domination systems did to people who publicly and vigorously challenged them.</p> <p>Jesus's passion for the kingdom of God led to what is often called his passion, namely, his suffering and death.</p> <p>To think of Jesus's passion as simply what happened on Good Friday is to separate his death from the passion that animated his life.</p> <p>The language of substitutionary sacrifice for sin is absent from this story. But in an important sense, he was killed <i>because </i>of the sin of the world. It was the injustice of domination systems that killed him, injustice so routine that it is part of the normalcy of civilization. Though sin means more than this, it includes this. And thus Jesus was crucified because of the sin of the world. (page 126)</p> <p>Was Jesus guilty or innocent? The question will seem surprising to some, but it is worth reflecting about.</p> <p>Was Jesus guilty of advocating violent revolution against the empire and its local collaborators? No.</p> <p>As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes.</p> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 23:24:48 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 5, Thursday <p><a href="">Mark 14:12-16</a></p> <p>In Mark (followed by Matthew and Luke), the meal Jesus shares with his disciples is a Passover meal. In John, it is not. Rather, Thursday is the day before Passover, and the lambs to be eaten at the Passover meal on Friday evening will be killed on Friday afternoon, at about the same hour Jesus dies on the cross.</p> <p>The reason for John's dating seems to be theological: Jesus is the new Passover lamb.</p> <p>In Mark nine verses are devoted to Jesus's last gathering with his disciples, in John five chapters, often called "Jesus's Farewell Discourse." </p> <p>In Mark (again followed by Matthew and Luke) Jesus speaks the words that, in slightly varying forms, have become central to Christian celebration of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist, Mass, or Communion): "This is my body, this is my blood." Johns says nothing about this. Instead, John has the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.</p> <p>"Maundy Thursday" is based on John's story: "Maundy" derives from the Latin word for the "mandate" -- the new commandment -- that Jesus gives his followers in <a href=";version=NRSV">John 13:34</a>: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." </p> <p>Back to Mark... the details in this passage recall the preparations for Jesus's entry into the city on Palm Sunday, but in this case the preplanning has to do with secrecy.</p> <p><b>The Last Supper: A Web Of Meanings</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:17-25</a></p> <p>Three main elements in Mark's story of the Last Supper: (page 90)</p> <ol> <li><p>they eat the Passover meal together</p></li> <li><p>Jesus speaks of his imminent betrayal</p></li> <li><p>Jesus invests the bread and wine with meanings associated with his impending death</p></li> </ol> <p>"The theme of failed discipleship continues to be central; more than half of Mark's narration of Thursday evening and night is devoted to it." (page 90)</p> <p>Four rich meanings of the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. (page 91)</p> <p><b>A Continuation of the Meal Practice of Jesus</b></p> <p>"According to the gospels, including Mark, shared meals were one of the most distinctive features of Jesus's public activity."</p> <p>"The issue is that Jesus eats with 'undesirables,' the marginalized and outcast, in a society in which the people with whom one shared a meal was hugely significant." </p> <p>"They were real meals, not a morsel and a sip as in our observance of the Eucharist. For Jesus, real food -- bread -- mattered." </p> <p>"For Jesus's peasant audience, bread -- enough food for the day -- was one of the two central survival issues of their lives (the other was debt).</p> <p><b>An Echo of the Feeding of the Five Thousand</b></p> <p>"As Mark narrates what Jesus did at the Last Supper, he uses four verbs: <i>took, blessed, broke,</i> and <i>gave</i>. These four key words refer us back to an earlier scene concerning food in Mark, in which Jesus feeds five thousand people with a few loaves and fishes." (page 91)</p> <p>Why this cross-reference from the Last Supper back to the loaves-and-fishes meal?</p> <p>Mark's story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes begins by establishing two divergent solutions to a hunger situation.</p> <p>The disciples: Send them away so they can get something to eat</p> <p>Jesus: You give them something to eat</p> <p>Jesus forces them to participate step by step as intermediaries in the entire process. (page 92)</p> <p>"The point of this story is not multiplication, but distribution. The food already there is enough for all when it passes through the hands of Jesus as the incarnation of divine justice. The disciples -- think of them as the already present kingdom community in microcosm, or as the leaders of that community -- do not see that as their responsibility and are forced to accept it by Jesus." (page 92)</p> <p>"Mark's emphasis on a just distribution of what does not belong to us in the incident of the loaves and fishes links, therefore, to the emphasis on the 'loaf of bread' and the 'cup of wine' that are shared among all at the New Passover meal." (page 92)</p> <p><b>A Passover Meal</b></p> <p>The first Passover (Exodus 12) occurred on the evening before the tenth plague to strike Pharaoh and Egypt, namely, the death of the firstborn in every household in Egypt. (page 93)</p> <p>"The Passover lamb was thus also food for the journey. Moreover, the first Passover was also the last supper in Egypt, the land of bondage. We note that the Passover lamb is a sacrifice in the broad sense of the word, but not in the narrow sense of substitutionary sacrifice. Its purpose is twofold: protection against death and food for the journey." (page 93)</p> <p>"For the empire of Pharaoh, substitute the Roman Empire or any other empire, and the subversive nature of this story is not difficult to discern." (page 93)</p> <p><b>Body and Blood and the Death of Jesus</b></p> <p>"Mark's story of the Last Supper leaves the connections to Passover implicit. What it makes explicit is the connection to Jesus's impending death." (page 93)</p> <p>Noting the differences between Mark, Matthew and Luke about the words of the Last Supper, the authors write "The different versions indicate a degree of fluidity in how the Last Supper was remembered and celebrated. What they all have in common, however, is an emphasis on body and blood, bread and wine." (page 94)</p> <p>What, then is Mark adding here that was not present before?</p> <p>"First, the point of Jesus's meals -- from the loaves-and-fishes ones to the bread-and-wine one -- is to insist on shared meals as the mandate of divine justice in a world not our own." (page 94)</p> <p>"The language of body and blood points to a violent death. When a person dies nonviolently we speak of a separation of body and soul. But when a person dies violently we speak of a separation of body and blood. That is the first and basic point of Jesus's <i>separated </i>bread/body and wine/blood words." (page 95)</p> <p>Another level of meaning in Mark. "It would never have been possible to speak of Jesus's death as a blood sacrifice unless, first, it had been a violent execution. But, granted that fate, a correlation becomes possible between Jesus as the new paschal lamb and this final meal as a New Passover." (page 95)</p> <p>Writing again about participation, the authors write, "Finally, Jesus does not merely speak of bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood. Rather, he has all the Twelve (including Judas!) actually partake of the food and drink -- they all participate in the bread-as-body and blood-as-wine. It is, as it were, a final attempt to bring all of them with him through execution to resurrection, through death to new life. It is, once again, about <i>participation </i>in Christ and not <i>substitution </i>by Christ." (page 95)</p> <p>"The Last Supper is about bread for the world, God's justice against human injustice, a New Passover from bondage to liberation, and participation in the path that leads through death to new life." (page 95)</p> <p><b>Gethsemane, Prayer, and Arrest</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:26-52</a></p> <p>"The prayer is remarkable both for its way of addressing God and its content. Jesus calls God <i>abba</i>, an Aramaic word that Mark includes even though he is writing in Greek. In Aramaic, <i>abba </i>is the familiar or intimate form of 'father,' much like the English 'papa.' It is used by children to address their father not only as toddlers but also as adults." (page 97)</p> <p>"The prayer reflects not a fatalistic resignation to the will of God, but a trusting in God in the midst of the most dire of circumstances." (page 98)</p> <p>"It is instructive to compare Mark's story of the arrest with John's account. In Mark, Jesus is a vulnerable human being. In John, Jesus is in charge and is even acknowledged as a divine being by those who arrest him." (page 98)</p> <p>"We have already mentioned how central the theme of failed discipleship is to Mark's gospel and to Thursday in particular. Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies him, and the rest flee. They now disappear from the story of Holy Week. Mark does not mention them again until Easter." (page 100)</p> <p><b>Interrogation and Condemnation</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:53-65</a></p> <p>Some historical comments:</p> <p>Most likely, Mark (and other early Christians) did not know exactly what happened. (During the "hearing" or "trial.") Thus the trial scene may represent a post-Easter Christian construction and not history remembered.</p> <p>It is unclear whether we should think of Mark as presenting a formal "trial" or an informal but deadly "hearing." </p> <p>The temple authorities did not represent the Jews.</p> <p>Mark's story of Jesus's trial before the temple authorities has three stages:</p> <ol> <li><p>testimony against Jesus in <a href=";version=NRSV">14:55-59</a></p></li> <li><p>witness by Jesus in <a href=";version=NRSV">14:60-62</a></p></li> <li><p>the verdict and abuse in <a href=";version=NRSV">14:63-65</a></p></li> </ol> <p>"Under Jewish law, testimony was required from 'two or three' witnesses in order to convict. In the absence of witnesses who agree with each other, the high priest in effect goes for a confession, and the crucial interchange occurs." (page 102)</p> <p>"His response begins with what is translated as a affirmation: 'I am.' But as briefly mentioned in Chapter 1, the Greek phrase <i>ego eimi</i> can be translated either as a declarative (and thus as an affirmation) or as an interrogative: 'I am' or "Am I?' (page 102)</p> <p>Matthew and Luke both read it as ambiguous. Matthew has "You have said so" (<a href=";version=NRSV">26:64</a>); Luke has "You say that I am" (<a href=";version=NRSV">22:70</a>) (page 102)</p> <p>The rest of Jesus's response shifts the topic to the "Son of Man": "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power," and 'coming with the clouds of heaven.'" "Note the single quotation marks within the double quotation marks; they indicate that Jesus's response includes a quotation, specifically language from <a href=";version=NRSV">Daniel 7:13-14</a>. </p> <p>"We need to pause and reflect on the significance of the shift from 'the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed' to 'the Son of Man.' Recall that when Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah in Mark 8:29, Jesus did not deny it, but reinterpreted or replaced the title immediate with another one. (page 103)</p> <p>"Perhaps for Mark the title 'Messiah' presumed a leader who would use violence to liberate Israel from the military power of Roman oppression. That was not Mark's vision of Jesus, so 'Son of Man' was his preferred replacement to avoid any ambiguity between a violent and nonviolent messiah." (page 103)</p> <p>Mark's quotation of Daniel 7 requires careful consideration.</p> <p>In 167 BCE the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes launches a religions persecution against Jews who refuse to be assimilated into his Hellenistic empire.</p> <p>Some Jews (whom we know as the Maccabees) fought a successful military war on earth against his empire</p> <p>Others turned to visions and hope for an absolute divine judgement against all empires past, present, and future</p> <p>In the vision recorded in Daniel 7, all the major empires, Babylonian, Medean, Persian, and Macedonian are envisaged as beasts</p> <p>The vision includes a trial, and the decision is the eventual destruction of these empires, their replacement is the what is described in Daniel 7:13-14.</p> <p>"The fifth and final empire is given not to <i>one like a beast</i>, but to <i>one like a human being</i>. The previous empires are symbolized by beasts, the kingdom of God by a human figure." (page 104)</p> <p>"Daniel 7 is thus an anti-imperial vision and an anti-imperial text: the empires that have oppressed the people of God throughout the centuries are all judged negatively, and positive affirmation is given to the Son of Man, a symbol for the people of God, to whom is given the everlasting kingdom of God." (page 104)</p> <p>"Jesus as the Son of Man must be read against the general background of Daniel 7. That usage has three interlinked aspects:"</p> <ol> <li><p>Jesus as Son of Man with earthly authority</p></li> <li><p>Jesus as Son of Man in death and resurrection</p></li> <li><p>Jesus as Son of Man returning with heavenly power and glory</p></li> </ol> <p>"In other words, all is not future, but is rather a passage from present into future." (page 105)</p> <p>The kingdom's "presence is now known only to faith (<a href=";version=NRSV">1:15</a>), but one day it will be revealed to sight (<a href=";version=NRSV">9:1</a>)." (page 105)</p> <p><b>Confession And Denial</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:66-72</a></p> <p>The sequence of 14:53-72 is the last of the three framing units Mark created in recording the passion of Jesus.</p> <p>Incident A: Peter follows Jesus to the high priest's house (<a href=";version=NRSV">14:53-54</a>)</p> <p>Incident B: Jesus is interrogated and confesses his identity (<a href=";version=NRSV">14:55-65</a>)</p> <p>Incident A: Peter is interrogated and denies Jesus (<a href=";version=NRSV">14:66-72</a>)</p> <p>Peter is interrogated and responds with cowardice to unofficial bystanders. Jesus is interrogated and responds with courage to the official high priest (page 106)</p> <p>"The framing of Jesus's confession by Peter's denials offers those Christians a triple consolation".</p> <p>First, those who imitate Jesus rather than Peter are applauded for their courage.</p> <p>Second, even those who imitate Peter rather than Jesus are consoled with the hope of repentance and forgiveness.</p> <p>Third, neither denials nor even betrayals are the worst sin against Jesus or God. The worst sin is despair -- loss of faith that repentance will <i>always, always</i> obtain forgiveness.</p> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 21:58:14 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 4, Wednesday <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:1-11</a></p> <p>Another Markian frame, this time in opposite and contrast. </p> <p>The need for a traitor: <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:1-2</a></p> <p>The unnamed woman: <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:3-9</a></p> <p>The advent of traitor: <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:10-11</a></p> <p>"The literary contrast between the framed unit and the framing ones is between believer and traitor, but the depth of the Markian juxtaposition requires an understanding of what each person achieved within the sequence of Mark's story about Jesus." (page 71)</p> <p>It is easy to see why betraying Jesus represents the worst action possible, but why does anointing Jesus imply the best?</p> <p><b>The Need For A Traitor</b></p> <p>"Why, if the Jewish crowd was so against Jesus, was it necessary to arrest him in the darkness of night with the help of a traitor from among Jesus's followers?" (page 72)</p> <p>"The only reason given by Josephus for Antipas' execution of John the Baptizer in his <i>Jewish Antiquities</i> is not the content of John's message, but the <i>size </i>of John's crowd." (page 73)</p> <p>Borg &amp; Crossan point out that Mark emphasized that the "ordinary" Jewish citizens, or the crowds, were not against Jesus, in fact they believed it to be the opposite, but that the Jewish leaders feared their support of Jesus. In Mark 14:1-2 it appears that the authorities have given up, there is no way to arrest Jesus unless they use stealth.</p> <p>"Do the other evangelists follow Mark's emphasis? Less and less." (page 74)</p> <p>"as we move sequentially from Mark through Matthew and Luke to John, that is, from the early 70s to the mid 90s CE, that original emphasis on Jewish supporting crowd versus Jewish high-priestly authority diminishes significantly." (page 75)</p> <p><b>The Twelve As Failed Disciples</b></p> <p>"as we shall see, Peter, James, and John, then the Twelve as a group, and finally Judas all fail tragically but not irrevocably (except for Judas) to accept their destiny alongside Jesus." (page 75)</p> <p>"to be the Twelve (apostles or disciples) in Mark's story is to fail Jesus badly." (page 76)</p> <p>Mark makes this clear with his framing of the journey to Jerusalem with healings of blindness at the beginning and end of the journey. </p> <p>"Between those frames of blindness, Mark focuses the failed discipleship of the Twelve around three prophetic warnings of his death and resurrection given to them by Jesus." (page 77)</p> <p><b>First Prophecy, Reaction, And Response</b></p> <p>"Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but far from applauding him Jesus 'sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him' (<a href=";version=NRSV">8:29-30</a>). Such injunctions to silence in Mark usually <i>do not mean</i>, "You have it right, but keep it secret," <i>but rather</i>, "You have it wrong, so keep it quiet." In other words, "Please, shut up!" (page 77)</p> <p>"Right after that wrong and silenced misunderstanding about Jesus as Messiah comes that correct and open announcement of Jesus as Son of Man." The title of Son of Man will be discussed in more detail in chapter 5.</p> <p>"All three connected prophecies of death and resurrection beget at least incomprehension if not downright opposition from the Twelve." </p> <p>"It is extremely important to underline Mark's theology at this point. For him, Jesus knows in precise detail what is going to happen, but he does not speak of suffering vicariously to atone for the sins of the world." (page 78)</p> <p>"To follow Jesus means to accept the cross, to walk with him against imperial violence and religious collaboration, and to pass through death to resurrection." </p> <p><b>Second Prophecy, Reaction, And Response</b></p> <p>"Even as Jesus is announcing his death buy execution, they are debating precedence among themselves. Here Mark is not only criticizing the disciples; he is almost lampooning them." (page 79)</p> <p><b>Third Prophecy, Reaction, And Response</b></p> <p>"Continues what we have called the Lenten journey theme as Jesus tries in vain not just to foretell but to explain his destiny to the disciples, so that they will be enabled to follow him on the way through death to resurrected life." (Page 79)</p> <p>The third prophecy is the most detailed of the three. (page 80)</p> <p>the "three prophecies emphasize also that Jesus is calling all his followers -- and not just the twelve disciples -- to accept that communal destiny of death and resurrection." (page 81)</p> <p>"that confrontation is with oppressive foreign empire (against violence) and its collaborative local religion (against injustice), that is to say, with any religio-political combination that establishes injustice on earth that belongs to a God of justice." (page 81)</p> <p>"notice that in the first prophecy's reaction and response Jesus was challenging them to die or at least be ready to die with him in Jerusalem. In the second and third ones, however, the emphasis is on how to behave -- and behave as leaders -- both now and hereafter." (page 82)</p> <p>"The function of the three responses is to spell out in some detail what Jesus's destiny of execution and resurrection means for himself, for the Twelve, and for all his followers." (page 82)</p> <p><b>Atonement: Substitution Or Participation?</b></p> <p>"It is probably fair to say that substitutionary atonement is the only way that many or even most contemporary Christians understand faith in the sacrificial and salvific death of Jesus." (page 83) </p> <p>"The basic and controlling metaphor for that understanding of God's design is our own experience of a responsible human judge who, no matter how loving, cannot legitimately or validly walk into her courtroom and clear the docket of all offenders by anticipatory forgiveness." (page 83)</p> <p>"Notice, above all, how repeatedly Mark has Jesus insist that Peter, James, and John, the Twelve, and all his followers on the way from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem must pass with him through death to a resurrected life." (page 83)</p> <p>"For Mark, it is about participation with Jesus and not substitution by Jesus." </p> <p>"And every year, our Lent asks us to repent, change, and participate in that transition with Jesus." (page 84)</p> <p>"What about that climactic conclusion in Mark 10:45, which states that "the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many"?</p> <p>"The Greek word translated 'ransom' is <i>lutron</i>, which means the payment to an owner for a slave's freedom or a captive's ransom. It is not used in the Greek of the Hebrew Bible for anything like vicarious satisfaction or vicarious atonement to God for sin." </p> <p>"How does Mark think Jesus's death is a 'ransom' (lutron) for many? The Markan Jesus has been insisting on the 'how' ever since Caesarea Phillippi -- to the Twelve in particular but also to all others as well. It is not by Jesus substituting for them, but by their participating in Jesus." (page 84)</p> <p><b>In Remembrance Of Her</b></p> <p>"Why does she deserve or her action receive this absolutely unique and stunningly extraordinary accolade from Jesus: 'Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her'" (14:9) (page 85)</p> <p>"She alone, of all those who heard Jesus's three prophecies of his death and resurrection, believe him and drew the obvious conclusion. <i>Since (not if) you are going to die and rise, I must anoint you now beforehand, because I will never have a chance to do it afterward.</i> She is, for Mark, the first believer. And she believed from the word of Jesus before any discovery of an empty tomb." (page 85)</p> <p>"The unnamed woman is not only the first believer; she is also the model leader. Jesus has been telling the Twelve what leadership entails from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem and has gotten nowhere with them." (page 85)</p> <p>"The unnamed woman represents the perfect disciple-leader and is contrasted with Judas, who represents the worst one possible." (page 86)</p> <p><b>The Motive Of Judas</b></p> <p>Mark gives absolutely no hint of Judas's motive in betraying Jesus. Mark, by the way, does not say that Judas did it for money, simply that they promised him some.</p> <p>"Mark's emphasis is not on Judas's motive, whatever it was, but on Judas's membership in the Twelve." (page 87)</p> <p>"The traitor has entered into an agreement with those who collaborate with imperial rule. And so Wednesday ends and the plot has been set in motion." (page 87)</p> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 20:45:27 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 3, Tuesday <p><a href="">Mark 11:20-25</a></p> <p>Tuesday is the longest day in Mark's story of Jesus's final week.</p> <p>About two-thirds of Tuesday consists of conflict with temple authorities</p> <p>The remaining third warns of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, all in the near future.</p> <p><b>Jesus's Authority Is Challenged</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 11:27-33</a></p> <p>"They ask Jesus, 'By what authority are you doing these things?' The question refers to Jesus's prophetic act in the temple on Monday, and Mark's use of the plural 'things' suggests that Sunday's provocative entry into the city may also be included." (page 51) </p> <p><b>Jesus Indicts The Authorities With A Parable</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 12:1-12</a></p> <p>Jesus takes the initiative. Commonly called the parable of the wicked tenants, this story might better be called the parable of the greedy tenants.</p> <p>"The motivation for their murderous behavior is greed: they want to possess the produce of the vineyard for themselves." (page 52)</p> <p>"Christian interpretation of this parable has most often emphasized a christological meaning." but...</p> <p>"The primary meaning of the parable is not christological. Rather as Mark tells us at the very end of the story, it is an indictment of the authorities." (page 52)</p> <p>"The tenants are not 'Israel' not 'the Jews.' Rather, the vineyard is Israel -- both the land and its people. And the vineyard belongs to God, not to the greedy tenants -- the powerful and wealthy at the top of the local domination system -- who want its produce for themselves." (page 53)</p> <p><b>Taxes To Caesar?</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 12:13-17</a></p> <p>"It has been most commonly understood to mean that there are two separate realms of human life, one religious and one political." (page 54)</p> <p>"The heavy weight given to this verse as a solemn pronouncement about the relationship between religion and politics obscures what it means in Mark." (page 54)</p> <p>"To imagine that their purpose is to provide a set of eternal truths about how human life should be ordered is to ignore the larger narrative of which they are a part." (page 55)</p> <p>"Should we pay them (taxes to Caesar) or not?" </p> <p>It's a volatile question. </p> <p>"The spokesmen of the authorities set the trap skillfully. Either answer would get Jesus in trouble." (page 55) Either he</p> <p>Could be charged with sedition or,</p> <p>He risked discrediting himself with the crowd. "Most likely, this was the primary purpose of the question: to separate Jesus from the crowd by leading him into an unpopular response." (page 55)</p> <p>As he did with the question about authority, he turns the situation back on his opponents.</p> <p>"Jesus's strategy has led his questioners to disclose to the crowd that they have a coin with Caesar's image on it. In this moment, they are discredited." (page 56)</p> <p>"Thus, even before the famous words about rendering to Caesar, Jesus has won the encounter." (page 56)</p> <p>"The second half of Jesus's response is both evocative and provocative: "Give to God the things that are God's. It raises the question, 'What belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God?" (page 56)</p> <p>"What belongs to Caesar? The implication is, nothing." (page 57)</p> <p><b>God Of The Dead Or Of The Living?</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 12:18-27</a></p> <p>The Sadducees differed from the "chief priests, elders, and scribes" in two ways:</p> <p>They accepted only the "law," the five books of Moses called the Torah as sacred scripture.</p> <p>They did not believe in an afterlife. (They did not believe there would be a resurrection of the dead."</p> <p>The purpose of the resurrection of the dead was to redress human injustice: Jews who were faithful to God were being executed, and Jews who were willing to collaborate with Antiochus were being spared.</p> <p>"If you're rich and powerful, who needs an afterlife?" (page 58)</p> <p>Levirate marriage: if a man dies before his wife has a child, then the man's brother shall marry the widow and conceive an heir for the brother who died. (page 58)</p> <p>Does personal identity continue in a life after death, and do our relationships continue?</p> <p>Jesus's response is threefold</p> <p>He charges the Sadducees with a deficient understanding of scripture and God</p> <p>He addresses the specific question: "When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (<a href=";version=NRSV">12:25</a>)</p> <p>Borg &amp; Crossan say it is unclear to them what to make of this response.</p> <p>They suggest trying to discern a informative meaning may be a mistake</p> <p>Jesus refers to a passage from the book of Exodus, one of the books the Sadducess did regard as sacred scripture.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Exodus 3:6</a></p> <p>"God is God not of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong." (<a href=";version=NRSV">12:27</a>)</p> <p>"For Jesus, the kingdom of God is not primarily about the dead, but about the living, not primarily about life after death, but about life in this world." (page 60)</p> <p><b>The Great Commandment</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 12:28-34</a></p> <p>For the first and only time in this section of Mark, the theme of conflict disappears, and we have a story in which a connection is made between Jesus and an interrogator.</p> <p>"A request to provide a concise summary of what loyalty to God means was not unusual within Judaism, though teachers were not always ready to be brief." (page 60)</p> <p>The two-fold great commandment -- to love God and love our neighbor -- is so familiar to us that it has become a Christian cliche. Miss the radical meaning of what Jesus is saying:</p> <p>"To love God above all else means giving to God what belongs to God: our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These belong to God, not Caesar." (page 61)</p> <p>"To love one's neighbor as one's self means to refuse to accept the divisions rendered by the normalcy of civilization."</p> <p>The scribe repeats what he heard and adds, "This is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." </p> <p>Thus the scribe brings up the contrast that dominates this section of Mark</p> <p>"He is not far from it because he knows its heart, but he is not in it. To be in it means more than knowing this. It means living it." (page 62)</p> <p><b>Jesus Challenges Scribal Teaching And Practice</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 12:35-44</a></p> <p>Now (again) Jesus takes the initiative.</p> <p>"How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?" (page 63)</p> <p>The question challenges the teaching of the scribes that the Messiah is the son of David. But what does this mean?</p> <p>It might be about biological ancestry. It implies that Jesus is not of Davidic descent. This seems unlikely. The tradition that Jesus is a descendant of David is early, such as in <a href=";version=NRSV">Romans 1:3</a>.</p> <p>"Some of Jesus's contemporaries expected that the Messiah would be 'son of David' in the sense of being a king like David -- a warrior who presided over Israel in the time of its greatest power and glory." (page 63)</p> <p>"The message here then is that the Messiah will not be a king like David, not 'son of David' in this sense." </p> <p>"The term 'son David' is not so much wrong as inadequate. The point, rather, is that the Messiah is David's Lord -- that is, greater than David, more than David, different from David." (page 64)</p> <p>Next, Jesus indicts the self-important practice of the scribes. "... and yet, 'They devour widows' houses' (<a href=";version=NRSV">12:40</a>)</p> <p>How do they devour widows' houses? Most likely this is in reference to the scribes' activity as working for the wealthy, they would have administered loan agreements and then foreclosed on widows' property when the loan could not be re-payed.</p> <p>Then we have the passage about the poor widow who puts in the temple treasury "all that she had." </p> <p>This passage is commonly understood as contrasting the deep devotion of the poor widow with the public display of generosity of the wealthy.</p> <p>"An alternative interpretation hears the passage as a condemnation of the way the poor are manipulated to give all that they have to support the temple." (page 64)</p> <p><b>The Temple's Destruction And Jesus's Return</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 13:1-4</a></p> <p>Jesus and the disciples are leaving the temple. One of them exclaims, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Jesus responds by telling them, "Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." </p> <p>Like the prophet Jeremiah six centuries earlier, Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple, and of Jerusalem. </p> <p>"In an important sense, this passage is the climax of the series of conflicts between Jesus and the system of domination and collaboration centered in the temple. The judgement against what it had become pronounced by Jesus's prophetic act in the temple on Monday is here explicitly articulated." (page 65)</p> <p>The disciples then ask, "When will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" (page 65)</p> <p><b>The Little Apocalypse</b></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 13:5-37</a></p> <p>An apocalypse -- the word means "revelation" or "unveiling" -- is a kind of Jewish and Christian literature that reveals or unveils the future in language loaded with images and symbols.</p> <p>This is the longest single speech in Mark's gospel.</p> <p>"At the center of the little apocalypse is an event described as 'the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be,' followed by an aside to the reader, the only such remark in Mark, 'Let the reader understand.'" (<a href=";version=NRSV">13:14</a>)</p> <p>"Chapter 13 uses this language to speak of an event in Mark's own time, namely, the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Rome in the year 70." (page 68)</p> <p>The war began in the year 66 when the greatest of the Jewish revolts against Roman rule broke out.</p> <p>The desolating sacrilege -- the destruction of the temple -- is not the last word in this chapter. Jesus also speaks of "the coming of the Son of Man." It also indicates a time, "But in those days, after that suffering," (page 69)</p> <p>"It refers to a humanlike figure who comes to God and to whom God gives an everlasting kingdom." (page 69)</p> <p>"To use later Christian language, this seems to be a 'second coming' of Jesus text. Mark expected this soon." </p> <p>"In our judgement, Mark's gospel expresses an intensification of apocalyptic expectation triggered by the great war." (page 70)</p> <p>"But beneath Mark's timetable, one may perceive a deeper meaning in his apocalyptic conviction. Namely, what has begun in Jesus will triumph, despite the tumult and resistance of this world." (page 70)</p> <p>"Tuesday has been a long day. By now, it is evening on the Mount of Olives. Darkness is coming on, a darkness that will deepen as the week continues to unfold. And as the darkness falls, Mark commends us, 'Be alert! Stay awake! Watch!" (page 70)</p> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 01:22:47 GMT The Last Week: Chapter 2, Monday <p><a href="">Mark 11:12-19</a></p> <p><b>Markan Frames</b></p> <p>Mark's gospel often contains pairs of incidents that are intended to be interpreted in light of one another.</p> <p>How exactly do the framing of Incident A and the framed Incident B shed light on one another?</p> <p>An example: <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 3:20-35</a></p> <p>Incident A: <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 3:20-21</a>. Jesus's birth-family members are rejecting him as insane</p> <p>Incident B starts at <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 3:22</a>. The Scribes say he casts out demons in the name of Satan. </p> <p>Jesus's rebuttal in <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 3:24-25</a>. The rebuttal points toward the framed "kingdom" or domain of Satan and toward the framing "house" or family of Jesus </p> <p>Incident A then picks back up at <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 3:31-35</a></p> <p>Mark's framing technique pushes hearers or readers to meditate deeply on the intercalation of those two dismissals by Jesus. "Think, it says, and keep on thinking." (page 34)</p> <p><b>From The Fig Tree Hear Its Lesson</b></p> <p>Incident A: Jesus sees a fig tree, doesn't find figs on it, and pronounces a curse that it would never produce figs again, a curse the disciples hear. <a href=";version=NRSV">11:12-14</a></p> <p>Incident B: The temple incident. <a href=";version=NRSV">11:15-19</a></p> <p>Incident A conclusion: Jesus's disciples see that the fig tree has withered away to its roots. <a href=";version=NRSV">11:20-21</a></p> <p>Jesus cursing the fig tree is contradictory, and Mark points this out. </p> <p>It was March or April and there could never have been figs on that tree. Mark explicitly says this.</p> <p>On the other hand, Jesus is hungry, expects to find figs, and failing to do so curses the fig tree</p> <p>"The obvious contradiction between these two aspects of the incident is Mark's way of warning us to take the event symbolically rather than historically." (page 35)</p> <p>"The framing fig tree warns us that the framed temple is not being cleansed, but symbolically destroyed and that, in both cases, the problem is a lack of the 'fruit' that Jesus expected to be present." (page 35)</p> <p>What exactly is wrong with the temple?</p> <p><b>The Meaning Of Blood Sacrifice</b></p> <p>"Most people in the ancient world took blood sacrifice for granted as a normal or even supreme form of religious piety." (page 36)</p> <p>Why?</p> <p>In order to eat meat or to have a feast you had to first kill and animal.</p> <p>Long before animal sacrifice was invented, human beings knew two basic ways of creating, maintaining, or restoring good relations with one another -- the gift and the meal.</p> <p>Sacrifice as a gift to God, the animal was burned on the altar, totally destroying it.</p> <p>In sacrifice as meal, the animal was transferred to God by having its blood poured over the altar as then returned to the offerer as divine food for a feast with God.</p> <p>"In other words, the offerer did not so much invite God to a meal as God invited the offerer to a meal." (page 36)</p> <p>Sacrifice: sacrum facere (Latin), "to make" (facere) "sacred" (sacrum)</p> <p>"In a sacrifice the animal is made sacred and is given to God as a sacred gift or returned to the offerer as a sacred meal. That sense of sacrifice should never be confused with either suffering or substitution." (page 37)</p> <p>"Most Jews accepted blood sacrifice as a normal and normative component of divine worship at the time of Jesus. There is no reason to think that Jesus's action in the temple was caused by any rejection of blood sacrifice, or indeed, had anything to do with sacrifice as such." (page 38)</p> <p><b>The Ambiguity Of The High-Priesthood</b></p> <p>"Today some Christian denominations have priests and some do not, but post-Reformation tensions over the clergy either as function or caste should not be retrojected into Jesus's temple action." (page 38)</p> <p>The Ambiguous status of the high-priesthood at the time of Jesus</p> <p>Jewish Hasmonean or Maccabean leaders, through successful wards against Syrian imperialism, had elevated their status to that of high priests and kings to become priest-kings. Normally there was a hereditary requirement for candidates for high-priests.</p> <p>Recall how the Romans divided territories of Israel amongst Herod's children to rule in their place, but they appointed a governor, Pilot, to rule Judea, which contains Jerusalem.</p> <p>There was no longer a single hereditary dynasty that established the next high priest for life; instead there were those four major families competing with one another for appointment to that office.</p> <p>The governor hired and fired the high priest and will.</p> <p>How could a high priest negotiate with a governor who could fire him? It was a recipe for misrule. Hence the collaboration between the high-priest and the Roman governor.</p> <p>"It was possible to be against a particular high priest and the manner in which he was fulfilling his role without being against the office of high priest itself. There was a terrible ambiguity in that the priest who represented the Jews before God on the Day of Atonement also represented them before Rome the rest of the year." (page 40) </p> <p><b>The Ambiguity Of The Temple</b></p> <p>"That ambiguity of Judaism's high priest as Rome's primary local collaborator spilled over to the temple as well. That building was both the house of God on earth and the institutional seat of submission to Rome." (page 40)</p> <p>After Herod rebuilt the platform of the temple and added the giant Court of the Gentiles, he placed a large golden eagle, symbol of Rome and its supreme divinity, Jupitor Optimus Maximus, at the top of one of its gates.</p> <p>Two Jewish teachers told their students to hack it off the wall since it was contrary to their sacred laws. They were executed, some burnt alive. These martyrs didn't act against the temple, but against the ambiguity of the Roman eagle on the Jewish temple.</p> <p>This ambiguity went back over half a millenium before Jesus. </p> <p><b>Jeremiah And The Temple</b></p> <p>"In Jeremiah 7 God tells Jeremiah to stand in front of the temple and confront those who enter to worship (7:1). About what? About their false sense of security." (page 41) </p> <p>"Do you think, charges God through Jeremiah, that divine worship excuses you from divine justice, that all God wants is regular attendance at God's temple rather than equitable distribution of God's land?" (page 42)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Jeremiah 7:5-7, 11</a></p> <p>"Den of robbers": The people's everyday injustice makes them robbers, and they think the temple is their safe house, den, hideaway, or place of security." (page 42)</p> <p>"There was an ancient prophetic tradition in which God insisted not just on justice and worship, but justice over worship." (page 42)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Amos 5:21-24</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Hos. 6:6</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Micah 6:6-8</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Isaiah 1:11-17</a></p> <p>"What will happen if worship in the house of God continues as a substitute for justice in the land of God?" (page 43)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Jeremiah 7:12-14</a></p> <p>Shiloh, which was destroyed by the Philistines, was the place were the ark of the covenant was enshrined in the tent of God before it was removed to the temple of God built by Solomon.</p> <p><b>Jesus And The Den Of Robbers</b></p> <p>"The Temple incident involved both an action by Jesus and a teaching that accompanied and presumably explained it." (page 44)</p> <p>The action, Jesus:</p> <p>began to drive out the buyers and sellers</p> <p>overturned the tables of the money changers</p> <p>overturned the seats of the dove sellers</p> <p>would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple</p> <p>"It means that Jesus has shut down the temple. But it is a symbolic rather than a literal 'shutdown.'" (page 45)</p> <p>Recall the Markan frame of the fig tree and the temple set up earlier. (page 45)</p> <p>The tree was "shut down" for lack of the fruit Jesus demanded, and so was the temple.</p> <p>In the case of the temple, it is not a cleansing, but a symbolic destruction, and the fig tree's fate emphasizes that meaning.</p> <p>The teaching:</p> <p>"Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 11:17</a></p> <p>Gospel footnotes usually indicate the sources as <a href=";version=NRSV">Isaiah 56:7</a>, for the "house of prayer" part and <a href=";version=NRSV">Jeremiah 7:11</a> for the "den of robbers" part, but the former is given in quotation marks and the latter is not. In other words "den of robbers" is not indicated clearly as a quotation, and that has caused misunderstanding of Jesus's action. "Den" is ignored and "robbery" is taken to refer to what is going on in the outer Court of the Gentiles</p> <p>"But clearly from the quotation's context in Jeremiah 7 and 26, a "den" is a hideaway, a safe house, a refuge. It is not where the robbers rob, but where they flee to for safety after having done their robbing elsewhere." (page 46)</p> <p>"But God is a God of justice and righteousness and when worship substitutes for justice, God rejects God's temple -- or, for us today, God's church." (page 46)</p> <p><b>For All the Nations</b></p> <p>Distinction between what Jesus said and what Mark adds. Borg and Crossan say it's difficult to imagine the historical Jesus using the Isaiah 56:7 quotation because he was standing in the Court of the Gentiles.</p> <p>"In the year 30 CE, therefore, neither Jesus nor anyone else could stand where the money changers sat and the pure animals were sold and say that the temple was not open to all people, that it was not "a house of prayer for all the nations." (page 47)</p> <p>Mark is thinking not so much of Jesus around 30 CE as his own people forty years later.</p> <p>Mark is writing sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE, and explaining to Christian Jews why God allowed it to happen.</p> <p>"Between 67 and 70 the temple was certainly no longer open to 'all the nations,' but had become a stronghold for Zealot insurgents, a stronghold initially against their own Jewish aristocracy and eventually against the besieging Roman legions.</p> <p><b>Twin Symbolic Actions</b></p> <p>Sunday's demonstration occurs at the entrance to Jerusalem, and Monday's at the entrance of the temple. For market these are not so much two separate incidents as a single double one.</p> <p>The structure of Sunday and Monday's events are similar. (page 48)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 11:11</a> connects the two events, and it serves to emphasize that it also was a preplanned action.</p> <p>"Taken together, and they must be taken together, those action-word combinations proclaim the already present kingdom of God against both the already present Roman imperial power and the already present Jewish high-priestly collaboration. Jerusalem had to be retaken by a nonviolent messiah rather than by a violent revolution, and the temple ritual had to empower justice rather than excuse one from it. What is involved for Jesus is an absolute criticism not only of violent domination, but of any religious collaboration with it." (page 49)</p> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 00:50:55 GMT What Really Changed After The Resurrection <p>"But as the world around us becomes increasingly post-Christian, and theological rhetoric no longer holds sway for people who don’t speak Christianese, it has become increasingly more difficult, if not altogether impossible, to simply talk someone into becoming a Christian.</p> <p>And I think that’s really good thing.</p> <p>Because if Christianity is just a list of doctrines to believe in or a magic prayer to say, then it’s worthless and irrelevant in a world of injustice, suffering, and evil."- See more at: <a href=""></a></p> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 17:55:13 GMT The Last Week: Preface and Chapter 1 <p><b>Preface</b></p> <p>This book is about the last week of Jesus's life.</p> <p>"Passion" is from the Latin noun <i>passio</i>, meaning "suffering." </p> <p>In everyday English we also use "passion" for any consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment.</p> <p>"In this book we focus on 'what Jesus was passionate about' as a way of understanding why his life ended in the passion of Good Friday." (page 5)</p> <p>"We do not in this book intend to attempt a historical reconstruction of Jesus's last week on earth." (page 5)</p> <p>"tell and explain, against the back-ground of Jewish high-priestly collaboration with Roman imperial control, the last week of Jesus's life on earth as given in the Gospel According to Mark." (page 5)</p> <p>"Mark alone went out of his way to chronicle Jesus's last week on a day-by-day basis, while the others kept some but not all of those indications of time." (page 6)</p> <p>"Christian liturgy has started to collapse Holy Week into its last three days and renamed Palm Sunday as Passion Sunday." (page 7)</p> <p>"the loss of Palm Sunday's enthusiastic crowds and all those days and events in between may weaken or even negate the meaning of the death and therefore of that resurrection (page 7)</p> <p><b>Chapter 1: Palm Sunday</b></p> <p><a href="">Mark 11:1-11</a></p> <p>Two processions. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus's crucifixion. (page 9)</p> <p>Standard practice of Romain governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals to be in the city in case there was trouble.</p> <p>"Pilate's procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. According to this theology, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome but the Son of God." (page 10)</p> <p>As Mark tells the story in March 11:1-11, it is a prearranged 'counterprocession.' Jesus planned it in advance.</p> <p>"The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet <a href=";version=NRSV">Zechariah (9:9)</a> in the Jewish Bible." (page 11)</p> <p>"This contrast -- between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Ceasar -- is central not only to the gospel of Mark, but to the story of Jesus and early Christianity." (page 11)</p> <p><b>Jerusalem</b></p> <p>By the first century, Jerusalem had been the center of the sacred geography of the Jewish people for a millennium.</p> <p>"It is the city of God and the faithless city, the city of hope and the city of oppression, the city of joy and the city of pain." (page 12)</p> <p>"Jersualem became the capital of ancient Israel in the time of King David, around 1000 BCE. Under David and his son Solomon, Israel experienced the greatest period in its history." (page 12)</p> <p>"So revered did David become that the hoped-for future deliverer, the messiah, was expected to be a 'son of David,' a new David, indeed greater than David. (page 12)</p> <p>"Within the theology that developed around it (the temple), it was the 'navel of the earth' connecting this world to its source in God, and here (and only here) was God's dwelling place on earth." (page 12)</p> <p>"The temple mediated not only God's presence, but also God's forgiveness. It was the only place of sacrifice, and sacrifices was the means of forgiveness." (page 12)</p> <p>Beginning in the half century after King David, Jerusalem became the center of a 'domination system.'" (page 13)</p> <p>Domination system (page 13):</p> <ol> <li><p>Political oppression</p></li> <li><p>Economic exploitation</p></li> <li><p>Religious legitimation</p></li> </ol> <p>"In this sense 'domination systems' are normal, not abnormal, and thus can also be called the 'normalcy of civilization.'" (page 14)</p> <p>"As the home of the monarchy and aristocracy, of wealth and power, Jerusalem became the center of injustice and betrayal of God's covenant." (page 14)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Micah 3:1-2, 9-10</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Isaiah 1:21, 23</a></p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Jeremiah 5:1; 7:11; 6:6</a></p> <p>"Yet even among the prophets who indicted it so sharply, Jerusalem also retained positive associations as the city of God and the city of hope. Moreover, Jerusalem's future was not just about itself; rather, it was a hope for the world, God's dream for the world.</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Isaiah 2:2-3; 2:4</a></p> <p>"These are images of justice, prosperity, and security. And the creation of this world of justice and peace, in which fear will be no more, will come from the God whose dwelling place is Jerusalem." (page 16)</p> <p><b>Jerusalem In The Centuries Before Jesus</b></p> <p>After a dreadful siege of over a year, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. (page 16)</p> <p>After about fifty years in exile, the Jewish people were permitted to return to their homeland. In the late 500s, within a few decades of their return, they rebuilt the temple.</p> <p>For several centuries Judea with its capital in Jerusalem was ruled by foreign empires. (page 17)</p> <p>It fell under the control of Rome in 63 BCE.</p> <p>Rome appointed as king of the Jews a man named Herod, an Idumean whose family had only recently converted to Judiasm. Herod had a long reign, until 4 BCE, and eventually became known to history as Herod the Great. </p> <p>Herod ruled from Jerusalem, and the city became magnificent during his reign. He rebuilt the temple. Beginning in the 20s of the first century BCE, Herold "remodeled" the modest postexilic temple, but in effect built a new temple surrounded by spacious courts and elegant colonnades, with sumptuous use of marble and gold.</p> <p>Though history knows him as "Herod the Great," he was not popular among many Jews. (page 19)</p> <p>When Herod died in 4 BCE, revolts erupted. They were so serious that Roman legions had to be brought south from Syria to quell them.</p> <p><b>Jerusalem In The First Century</b></p> <p>The events of 6 CE significantly changed political circumstances for Jerusalem and the temple (page 19)</p> <p>The temple replaced Herodian rule as the center of the local domination system. The temple was now the enter of local collaboration with Rome.</p> <p>At the top of the system were temple authorities, headed by the high priest, and included members of aristocratic families. Mark called these "the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes." (For example <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:53</a>)</p> <p>Temple authorities came from wealthy families.</p> <p>"The issue is not their individual virtue or wickedness, but the role they played in the domination system. They shaped it, enforced it, and benefited from it." (page 22) </p> <p>"Their role was to be the intermediaries between a local domination system and an imperial domination system." (page 22)</p> <p>"The temple's role as the center of a domination system was legitimated by theology: its place in the system was said to have been given by God." (page 23)</p> <p>Jesus was not the only Jewish anti-temple voice in the first century. Among other voices were the Essenes, identified with the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. </p> <p>The Jewish revolt in 66 CE was directed as much against the Jewish collaborators in Jerusalem as it was against Rome itself.</p> <p>Forgiveness was a function that temple theology claimed for itself, mediated by sacrifice in the temple. (page 23)</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 2:7</a>, "Their point is not that Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, their point is that God has provided a way to forgive sins -- namely through temple sacrifice. And here is Jesus, like John, proclaiming forgiveness apart from the temple." (page 24)</p> <p>In 70 CE Roman legions shattered the great revolt by reconquering the city and destroying the temple, leaving only the part of the western wall of the temple platform.</p> <p>"The destruction of the temple changed Judaism forever. Sacrifice ceased, the role of the priesthood was eclipsed, and the central institutions of Judaism became scripture and synagogue." (page 25)</p> <p><b>Jerusalem In The Gospel of Mark</b></p> <p>Six of Mark's sixteen chapters are set in Jerusalem; almost 40 percent of the whole</p> <p>"In Mark, Jesus's message is not about himself -- not about his identity as the Messiah, the Son of god, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World, or any of the other exalted terms familiar to Christians." (page 25)</p> <p>"In Mark only voices from the Spirit world speak of Jesus's special identity." </p> <p>"In response to Jesus's question to his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?' Peter says, 'You are the Messiah.' This is the only time in Mark's gospel that a follower of Jesus says anything like this. Jesus's response confirms that this has not been part of Jesus's own message: "And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.'" <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 8:27-30</a></p> <p>Second occasion, on the night before his execution, during interrogation by the high priest, who asks him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" The response of Jesus is commonly translated "I am." (<a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 14:61-62</a>). </p> <p>"In Greek, the language in which Mark writes, the phrase is ambiguous. Green does not reverse word order to indicate a question rather than a statement. Thus Jesus's response, ego eimi, can mean either "I am" or "Am I?" (page 26)</p> <p>The way that Matthew and Luke revise this scene suggests they understood the later mean. <a href=";version=NRSV">Matthew 26:64</a>; <a href=";version=NRSV">Luke 22:70</a></p> <p>"If Jesus's message in Mark was not about himself, what was it about? For Mark, it is about the kingdom of God and the way." (page 26)</p> <p>The Greek word for "way" is <i>hodos </i>and Mark uses it frequently throughout his gospel. Hodos is translated with a number of words: "way," "road," "path"</p> <p>"Repent, and believe in the good news." <a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 1:15</a></p> <p>Repent has two meanings here:</p> <p>From the Hebrew Bible, it has the meaning of "to return," especially "to return from exile"</p> <p>The roots of the Greek word for "repent" mean "to go beyond the mind that you have"</p> <p>The word "believe" has a meaning quite different from the common Christian understanding. For Christians, "to believe" often means thinking that a set of statements, a set of doctrines is true. But the ancient meaning of the word "believe" has much more to do with trust and commitment. (page 27)</p> <p>To whom did Jesus direct his message about the kingdom of God and the "way"? Primarily to peasants</p> <p>Why? The most compelling answer is that Jesus saw his message as to and for peasants. (page 28)</p> <p>The two chapters of Mark following Peter's affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, leading up to Jesus's entry in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday are about what it means to follow Jesus, to be a genuine disciple. (page 28)</p> <p>After Peter's affirmation Jesus for the first time speaks of his destiny. Commonly called "the first prediction of the passion," it is followed by two more solemn announcements anticipating Jesus's execution.</p> <p>Each of these anticipations of Jesus's execution is followed by teaching about what it means to follow Jesus.</p> <p>In first-century Christianity, the cross had a twofold meaning:</p> <p>Execution by the empire</p> <p>By the time of Mark's gospel it had also become a symbol for the "way" or the "path" of death and resurrection, of entering new life by dying to an old life.</p> <p>To underline the centrality of the chapters that speak to what it means to follow Jesus, Mark frames them with two stories of seeing</p> <p><a href=";version=NRSV">Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52</a></p> <p>"The framing is deliberate, the meaning clear: <i>to see</i> means to see that <i>the way</i> involves following Jesus to Jerusalem." (page 30)</p> <p>"Thus we have the twofold theme that leads to Palm Sunday. Genuine discipleship, following Jesus, means following him to Jerusalem, the place of (1) confrontation with the domination system and (2) death and resurrection. These are the two themes of the week that follows, Holy Week. Indeed, these are the two themes of Lent and of the Christian life." (page 31)</p> <p>"Which procession are we in? Which procession do we want to be in? This is the question of Palm Sunday and of the week that is about to unfold." (page 31)</p> Sat, 01 Mar 2014 22:07:01 GMT Pastrix Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19 <p><b>Chapter 16: Dirty Fingernails</b></p> <p>"The notion that our names are spoken by Jesus, and that this is what makes us turn and recognize him, had become important to me, especially in light of how I was called by God." (Page 167)</p> <p>"He confessed that after nine months at our church he still wasn't so sure about this Jesus thing. But he knew something real happened in church, especially in the Eucharist." (Page 168)</p> <p>"The best I could do in that moment was to assure Michael that I didn't care that he felt like Jesus was ignoring him." (Page 169)</p> <p>Nadia reminds Michael about how they first met, and what has happened since. (Easter Sunday sermon at Red Rocks)</p> <p>"Easter is not a story about new dresses and flowers and spiffiness. Really, it's a story about flesh and dirt and bodies and confusion, and it's about the way God never seems to adhere to our expectations of what a proper God would do (as in not get himself killed in a totally avoidable way.)" (Page 172)</p> <p>"New doesn't always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy." (Page 174)</p> <p>"God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over." (Page 174)</p> <p>"Lack of connections is death," he told me as we sat in Hooked on Colfax, nine months after he'd first visited HFASS. "The opposite of that is being able to hug a perfect stranger." (Page 175)</p> <p>There are times when I hear my name, turn, and recognize Jesus. There are times when faith feels like a friendship with God. But there are many other times when it feels more adversarial or even vacant. Yet none of that matters in the end. How we feel about Jesus or how close we feel to God is meaningless next to how God acts upon us." (Page 176)</p> <p><b>Chapter 17: The Wrong Kind of Different</b></p> <p>"It was the summer of 2011, and three months earlier a bad thing and a couple of good things had happened" (Page 178)</p> <p>Bad: HFASS was evicted from the church building they had been in for three years</p> <p>Good: Nadia preached at Red Rocks and the Denver Post cover feature, with her picture, had been printed.</p> <p>"This will change everything, I'd thought." (Page 179)</p> <p>Up to this point HFASS rarely had more than 45 people show up on Sunday</p> <p>"When I dreamed of my church growing, I dreamed of having seventy people at liturgy." (Page 179)</p> <p>"The very next week after Easter -- after the Post and after Red Rocks -- our church doubled in size." (Page 180)</p> <p>"But what we didn't realize was that they were going to stay, and that they wouldn't look like us."</p> <p>"As the weeks progressed during the early summer, I found it increasingly more difficult to muster up a welcoming attitude toward a group of people who, unlike the rest of us, could walk into any mainline protestant church in town and see a room full of people who looked just like them." (Page 181)</p> <p>"I called a meeting for the church to talk about the 'sudden growth and demographic changes.'" (Page 182)</p> <p>"For the two weeks prior to the meeting, I had been engaged in a heated emotional battle, but now I felt calm." (Page 183)</p> <p>"I had lost in what I felt like divine defeat. A few days before the meeting, I underwent what I can only describe as a heart transplant."</p> <p>"A few days before the meeting, I had called my friend Russell who pastors a church in St. Paul with a similar story and demographic as HFASS." (Page 184)</p> <p>"But Russell refused to play along, 'Yeah, that sucks,' he said sarcastically. 'You guys are really good at welcoming the stranger when it's a young transgender person. But sometimes the stranger looks like your mom and dad." (Page 184)</p> <p>Russell was right.</p> <p>"Then Asher spoke up. 'As the young transgender kid who was welcomed into this community, I just want to go on the record and say that I'm really glad there are people at church now who look like my mom and dad. Because I have a relationship with them that I just can't with my own mom and dad.'" (Page 185)</p> <p>"Aaaaand heart transplant healed." (Page 186)</p> <p>"Out of one corner of your eye there's a homeless guy serving communion to a corporate lawyer and out of the other corner is a teenage girl with pink hair holding the baby of a suburban soccer mom. And there I was a year ago fearing that the weirdness of our church as going to be diluted." (Page 187)</p> <p><b>Chapter 18: He's a Fuck-up, But He's Our Fuck-up</b></p> <p>"Being conned is up there with throat cancer in terms of things I want to avoid. I had already been had by a Denver pimp and I hardly was up for repeating the experience with a Denver con man. So when Rick Strandlof showed up at church in August of 2011, my first instinct was to try to get rid of him. You know, like Jesus would do." (Page 191)</p> <p>"Yet the fact that I manage to now move from 'fuck you' to something less hostile, and the fact that I am often able to make the move quickly, well, once again, all of it makes be believe in God. And every time, it feels like repentance." (Page 192)</p> <p>"Repentance in Greek means something much closer to 'thinking differently afterward' than it does 'changing your cheating ways.'" (Page 192)</p> <p>"Repentance, 'thinking differently afterward,' is what happens to me when the truth of who I am and the truth of who God is scatter the darkness of competing ideas. And these truths don't ever feel like they come from inside me." (Page 193)</p> <p>"the real Rick has a history of childhood neglect, mental illness, and alcohol abuse." (Page 193)</p> <p><b>Chapter 19: Beer &amp; Hymns</b></p> <p>"Singing vespers in a bar is something even we had never done, but it was July 20, 2012, and nineteen hours earlier and nine miles east of us, a gunman had walked into a midnight showing of a Batman movie and opened fire, killing twelve people and injuring dozens more. Some of our friends had been in that theatre." (Page 196)</p> <p>"It took a few minutes for me to pinpoint the uniqueness of how these hymns were being sung. But then I knew. It was defiance." (Page 197)</p> <p>"The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. And Mary Magdelene is the patron saint of just showing up. Showing up, to me, means being present to what is real, what is actually happening." (Page 197)</p> <p>"And it was her, a deeply faithful and deeply flawed woman, whom Jesus chose to be the first witness of his resurrection and to whom he commanded to go and tell everyone else about it." (Page 198)</p> <p>"To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold's funeral, that death is not the final word." (Page 201)</p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 01:33:43 GMT