Suffering for Community

Mark 9:38-50
Proper 21

How much do we value community?

I find in Mark 9 that Jesus struggles with his disciples understanding of community. He talks about the fracturing of community that is going on in the world when describes how the son of man will be handed over to men and killed. He then found them arguing on the way about which of them was the greatest. Jesus places a little child in their midst and tells them that whoever receives such a child, receives him, and not him but the one who sent him.

Then the disciples get frustrated that someone, besides them, is driving out demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus reminds the disciples that someone working in the name of Jesus is not outside their community.

Jesus talks again about the little child that he had earlier placed in their midsts. This child is a reminder of the powerless or the weak in faith. He warns the disciples that if anyone entices such a child to sin, it would be better him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea.

Jesus then asks the disciples to consider the cost of community.

Jesus talks about a hand that causes you to sin, a foot that causes you to sin, and the eye that causes you to sin. With all these very important parts of the body, Jesus says with a quick imperative, “Cut it off!”

It is better to enter life, the kingdom of God, lame, crippled and with only one eye then it is to be thrown into hell, where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

We must stop vying for power and privilege for ourselves. Freedom is ahead for us in the life of Christ and we get so pre-occupied about our own positions that we forget the community that Jesus is building for us. I would rather be crippled, lame, and blind in the kingdom of God then I would to be whole and thrown into the unquenchable fire of hell.

Jesus moves from the gruesome image of cutting of hands and feet and plucking out eyeballs but he does not move away from the uncompromising importance of living in community that is not compromised by sin.

Jesus also uses the image of salt. Salt works as a preserving agent. But when salt has lost its saltiness there is no way to season with it. Salt loses its saltiness when it gets so mixed with foreign substances that in the resulting mix there is too little salt for the seasoning work to occur.

Our saltiness, our preservation as a community, can become ruined when we allow our own desires for greatness to get in the way of having peace with one another. The imperative is to be salt, to keep peace.

What are the stumbling blocks to living in community with one another? It is not the powerless, weak in faith, lame, crippled, or blind.


Day 2 Preaching the Parables

The structure of this class on days 2, 3 and 4 is for a lecture on the context of each gospel and how the shape and purpose of each gospel influences the interpretation of the parables. In the second part of the class there is a presentation of a parable by a student and then a response to that presentation by the other students and from Tom Long.

So Mark, Matthew and Luke are not identical and the differences are not accidents but purposeful. How do these differences shape the way the reader responds to the parables that Jesus tells?

A parable is similar to the knight move in chess in how the moves do not follow the straight line.

When a parable does not stretch towards the extravagance then we have domesticated the parable and no longer allow the unexpected truth to speak to us.

Fred Craddock – Jesus parables involved no one expecting them to go towards mercy. When we feel entitled that they go towards grace, we have domesticated the parable.

In preaching we have the task of releasing the energy of the parable.

Does the listener become a co-creator of meaning with the telling of the parable?

We end up giving an authority to the listeners, like impressionist painters we paint a picture but the listener becomes a co-creator of what is seen in the sermon/painting

Meaning like dance partners, moving across the floor, contextually bound to how the movement plays out in the largeness of the space in which it is heard.

Fields of meaning, polyvalent in meaning

Sermon is contextual and so how the parable as a genre works is in context

Review of genre

1) Code

for insiders to interpret

drawn into the discourse and faith world for it to have its full power

2) Vessel

Instruments of rhetoric to teach a particular lesson

3) Object of Art

Go into the story and you experience

4) Prophetic Speech

Parable is not a literary device but a description of the world as it is and a call to some action or attitude

Wicked Tenants

Appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Thomas

Each author shows a character to this parable the involves the purpose of their gospel

Mark 12:1-11


Supposed to throw you out of the parable into a text that you already know because you are thrown into Isaiah 5

Is 5 – Vineyard owner is God and vineyard is Israel and God did not get justice from his vineyard, servants rejected prophets/john the baptist

If you don’t know the decoding advise then you are out of meaning tools

Beloved Son/Jesus, the heir, throw him outside of the vineyard/outside of the walls of Jerusalem

Given the vineyard to others/ Jews and Gentile dualism?? or does it mean something else these leaders who have led the people astray will be replaced by others. Replacement of leadership

If you thought decoding was the best method, what then will the preacher do? 

Covert description of the rejection of Jesus by the leadership of his own people


Look for the theological idea that rests in the center of the story.

…death of the son leads to restoration of the kingdom

…in every time and place God entrusts his kingdom to people and they are called to serve faithfully the will of the Father and if they don’t they will be overturned

goal of the preaching

make that idea as your own and constitute understanding of God….a teaching sermon

Object of Art

retell the story to draw the people into the experience of the parable and your gut turns to meaning without evening being told

investing theology with an emotional reaction

In a repeated world of violence, how does God react?

Or focus on the character of the Father and so track the verbs and who is the actor of action and notice the absolutely deeply invested father in the vineyard.

Jesus in Mark and the widow’s mite

– Beware of the authorities who devour widows’ houses

– Fake sacrifice / real sacrifice

– Disciples, “Isn’t that a beautiful building”

– Jesus says that God is going to rip that building down —- the violence of God

…there is crap we are building, that may need to be destroyed

How does the parable fit into the greater Markan theme that God is unpredictable and the absurdity of how God is at work?

Prophetic Voice

Description of land operations in Galilee with absentee landowners

Leaders of Israel have encouraged the peasants to resent absentee landowners and Romans so deeply that they get drawn into fantasies of violence. There is a growing lack of trust in God and so an entitlement to take into their own hands the violence that God should be doing. 

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…precious to Israel…encouragement to put their trust in God and not need to resort to Roman style violence.

To do this reading you have to steal yourself away from the Christological and allegorical details that are pregnant in text.

Theological and political reading of the text

The attack on the authorities is about the violence that they have been encouraging

Can the parable help examine the violence we commit, what do we think is going to happen when we are participants in the violence?

IF as tenants we begin to attack as owners we are going to bump up against our sense of entitlement that pushes us toward violence.

Expectations of the Sermon

When telling a sermon that does not follow the reader expectation of the sermon it is an act of kindness to the reader to give a clue that the convention is being broken

First person story, a field education student preachers a first person sermon and at the end of the service a kind woman says, “It was a wonderful sermon, but I did not know that you have leprosy.”

The GOSPEL OF MARK as a whole parable to hear the particulars of the parables

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God



Two understandings of who Jesus is but it is not until eight chapters later in Mark that anyone else figures out.

Who do you say that I am?


Centurion: Christ, the son of the living God

As the reader you realize that Jesus to be the messiah, he reveals what it means to be the Son of God

At the Easter Scene: unsettled moment the reader sits there

Go tell his disciples??? Who are his disciples??? See you in Galilee??? Chapter 1:14 In Galilee, “The kingdom of God is at hand

Ancient task of rereading, and that you didn’t get it until the end and then reread it with that knowledge

chapter 5 in the cemetery with the demoniac

and then chapter 16 

Both men are seated, clothed, right mind, telling the wonders of God

Parables reread with all of Mark

Mark 4

The sowers sow the seed

Satan, chapter 8 get behind me Satan

Crowd, betrayal of the disciples

thorns, rich guy that came away and turned away sorrowful

good soil, eschatological

Mary Ann Talbot speaks of rereading parables, then they are read Christological.

A panorama reading of Scripture, stops slipping from one view into another but keeping the whole view.

Gordon Lathrop sees that in Mark  there is humming in the background a document that every educated person had read and every uneducated knew about.

Neoplatonism and Plato was a central world view.

The platonic worldview of ideals

the primer Timaeus

I [interlude] II

The world is a perfectly formed orb that is in rotation around the truth idea, and from the outside we only observe the shadow of the real

The interlude was a hymn to philosophy about a pity for the blind man who believes that if he has sight he would see the truth, but pity him because only the philosopher can see the truth.

II – ethics of living in this shadow

Lathrop argues that Mark is a replacement for Timaeus

Part I

The schizomai is the breaking of distinction and shows that God’s pleasure is in the fullness of reality found in Jesus

Middle of Mark is a counter hymn


The ideal is not in the philosopher but in the servant to the real

Only miracle where the recipient is named is Bar-Timaeus is a blind beggar, sitting beside the way crying out for the Son of David to have mercy.

The son of Timaeus cries to the son of David

Throws his cloak (academic gown in Greek is a possibility)

“My teacher let me regain my sight”

Part II

the ethic is to the cross

In reading of the parables we look for the interruptions of cosmology.


The rest of class involved the presentation by students and reactions from the class and professor about specific parables. I am not going to write about these presentations.

Easter is Happening

On Easter the women bring spices to the tomb to anoint the corpse of their hope. They said to each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

The women then look up and see that the stone had been rolled back. I am thankful for that reminder that I need to look up and see that the stone has been rolled back. It is so easy to remain downcast in my view and miss the work that God has accomplished.

Entering the tomb, the women saw a young man sitting on the right side. This young man, this messenger of God, shared an eternal message of comfort, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

The stone rolled back, the young man in a white robe, the message of the angel…but in Mark 16:1-8 there is no appearance by the resurrected Jesus for us to see. This abrupt ending in the Gospel of Mark invites the readers to become the witnesses to the resurrection. It is in the community of believers that we share with each other how the story continues. We share with each other that Easter is happening.

In the Gospel of Mark the story of Easter is told with eyes downcast that look up to see the stone rolled back. The story continues with the promise, “he is going before you.”

We go towards the unknown…but we discover that we do not need to go forward with eyes downcast. We go forward with promise.EASTER_2012

Interesting day at church

How much do we expect miracles to happen when we come to church on Sunday morning?

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Mark 1:21-28

On the Sabbath day Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach. Everyone was astonished at his teaching. To experience the teaching of Jesus face to face would be a miracle in and of itself.

Immediately there was a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue. This might seem like the beginning of a Sunday school story. What I mean is that this seems like something that happened a long time ago. Sunday stories are nice for the kids, but for me, a rational and thinking adult, do they mean much to me?

The question of this man with the unclean spirit is an important question for me. I don’t think I have a head twisting evil spirit working through me, but dangerous and subtle yet still is my own unclean heart.

He asks, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you are–the Holy One of God?”

What has Jesus come for? What does he desire to do with us sinners who have been made unclean through impure thoughts and wicked ways?

Exorcism stories might seem strange to you, I know that they are almost unreal stories for me. But I know the truth of what it means to live hostile in my heart against God’s desires for me. I know what I want to do according to my faith, but according to my body I seem to daily struggle. I understand the worry of the man with the unclean spirit. My God, I am a sinner. He should want to do remarkably horrible things to me. But Jesus told that unclean spirit, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

I have not been able to give that kind of command to myself. I have tried to tell myself to stop and start following God’s commands. It is the power of the Jesus’ words and works that I need. It is in that synagogue that I find the miracle of Jesus at work. He drives out sin and fills the space with his teaching.

May I obey my savior with my heart and with my deeds. Indeed it will only be by the word of Jesus that I will be made clean.