Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 3.31-35

Mark 3.31-35

Then his mother and brothers arrived, and standing
outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him,
"Behold, our mother and your brothers are outside
looking for you."  Answering them, he said,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"  
Looking around at those who were sitting around him
he said, "Behold, my mother and my brothers!
For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother
and sister and mother.
Mark 3.31-35

* Question: What if Jesus had gotten up and gone outside to his mother and brothers?  What would that have communicated?

* Jesus is both relativizing family and re-drawing the boundaries of family obligation.

* Jesus seems to be defining the "doing the will of God" around himself.  Sitting and listening to Jesus was doing the will of God.

* Four times: "mother and brothers"
-Then Jesus mentions "sisters"
-Jesus had men and women sitting around him
For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified
are all from one Father, for which reason he is not
ashamed to call them brethren.
Hebrews 2.11

* Jesus is my brother and he is not ashamed to call me "brother."
-This seems to intimate and yet it is the Word of God!  The roles are not reversible.  He is the sanctifier and I am the recipient of this grace--the sanctified.  Jesus is the author of salvation.  He tastes death for me (Hebrews 2.9)
* Also, it is not just about me--there are others gathered around Jesus whom he calls brothers and sisters.  Jesus redraws the family lines and he is much more inclusive than I am.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 3.20-30

Mark 3.20-30

* Jesus gathers extensive crowds due to his ministry
* Jesus is opposed by
-hometown: "He has lost his senses." (v. 21)
-scribes from Jerusalem: "He has an unclean spirit" (vv. 22, 30)
* Jesus responds in parables
-Why? Forces them to think and respond to the truth
* Jesus is recognized by his opponents as having power to cast out demons (v. 22)
-They didn't dispute his power--they challenged its source
* Jesus is plundering the "strong man's house"--people are being set free from demonic control.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 3.13-19

Mark 3.13-19

* Jesus goes up on a mountain (symbolic of Moses?)
* Jesus appoints 12 to be with him yet one will betray him (v. 19)
* Jesus wants them to be with him and to send them out to preach and cast out demons
* Jesus gives (his) authority to cast out demons
-Jesus empowers for ministry
And he went up on the mountain and summoned those
whom he himself wanted, and they came to him.
And he appointed twelve, so that they would be with him
and that he could send them out to preach,
and to have authority to cast out demons.
Mark 3.13-15

-Be with Jesus
-Jesus sends them out: (1) to preach and (2) to have authority to cast out demons

* Our job is to be with Jesus.  He will send us out as he sees fit.  He will empower us for ministry in the Word and Power.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Commission on Unalienable Rights

The official announcement (text and video) regarding the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights: Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press (July 8, 2019)

Pompeo Launches New 'Commission on Unalienable Rights' by Lauretta Brown National Catholic Register (July 13, 2019)

Mary Ann Glendon has been chosen to lead the Commission on Unalienable Rights.  For a sample of Dr. Glendon's work in the area of human rights the following are indicative of her approach:
Renewing Human Rights with Seth D. Kaplan in First Things (February 2019)
The Universal Declaration Turns 70 with Seth D. Kaplan at The American Interest (December 19, 2018) 
Reclaim Human Rights First Things (August 2016) 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 3.7-12

Mark 3.7-12

* Jesus is followed by great multitudes from all over Israel
-"a great multitude" (v. 7)
-"a great number of people" (v. 8)
-"the crowd" (v. 9)
-"he had healed many" (v. 10)
-"all those who had afflictions pressed around him" (v. 10)
* Jesus is recognized as the Son of God by the unclean spirits
* Jesus has power to heal and to heal many
* Jesus' presence is powerful: the unclean spirits fall down before him
* Jesus will not let the unclean spirits tell who he is

-There is a distinction between his disciples and the crowd (vv. 7, 9) 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 3.1-6

Mark 3.1-6

* Jesus is the center of attention--"They were watching him..."
* Jesus takes command of the situation
* Jesus asks challenging questions
* Jesus is angry--grieved at their hardness of heart
* Jesus is the object of their hatred and opposition

* The hardness of heart displayed by the Pharisees is amazing.  They do not care about the hurting in their midst.  The man with a withered hand is a mere prop--at tool to catch Jesus.  The Pharisees don't doubt Jesus' power.  They know he can heal.  They don't rejoice in the healing and restoration of people.  They are seeking to trap Jesus because of his alleged Sabbath violations.

And he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm
on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?"  
But they kept silent.  
After looking around at them with anger,
grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man,
"Stretch out you hand."  And he stretched it out,
and his hand was restored.
Mark 3.4-5

* The Pharisees were content with the status quo--leave the man unhealed or heal on a different day.  They wanted to subordinate Jesus and his healing power to the Sabbath, to their interpretation of it.

* Jesus' options: to do good or to do harm; to save a life or to kill.

* Of course, the Pharisees would not sanction active violations of the law in doing harm or in killing.  But Jesus goes further with the law.  The prohibition against killing is not merely negative in nature.  The prohibition should move us to love--to positive action that promotes life.

* For Jesus, to leave the man unhealed is tantamount to harming him--to killing him.

* Jesus asks them a question, "But they kept silent."  Their silence was born of hardness of heart.  They knew that the answer would show an inconsistency in their thinking.  They refuse to be led by the logic of Jesus.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 2.23-28

Mark 2.23-28

* Jesus is the Son of Man
* Jesus is Lord even of the Sabbath 
* Jesus appeals to Scripture

And he said to them, "Have you never read what David
did when he was in need and he and his companions
became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the 
time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated
bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except
the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?
Mark 2.25-26

* Jesus is placing himself in the place of David and his disciples in the place of David's companions.  I can imagine as Jesus makes the statement in Mark 2.2-26--"Have you not read...?--that the Pharisees were thinking, "Of course we know that story!  But that was David--are you comparing yourself to God's anointed one, David?!"

* The Pharisees misunderstand the actions of Jesus because they misunderstand Jesus' identity.

* It's like Jesus is saying, "If you understood who I am and what I am all about, you would understand: (1) Why I eat with tax-collectors and sinners, (2) Why my disciples don't fast right now, and (3) Why I approach the Sabbath the way I do."

Friday, July 5, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 2.18-22

Mark 2.18-22

* Jesus is the bridegroom.
-He brings the kingdom and it is time to celebrate!
* Jesus will be taken away from them.
* Jesus brings something new that reorients everything else.
* Jesus does the unexpected.
* Jesus challenges our expectations.

Mark 2.15-17
Mark 2.18-22
Challenge from…
Scribes & Pharisees
Disciples of John & Pharisees
“Why is he eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”
“Why… your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus is the…

* The presence of Jesus challenges and changes everything!  Everything gets reoriented around Jesus.

* The religious exercise of fasting is contextualized by Jesus.  How it is done and when and its meaning is defined by Jesus!

* Jesus is not concerned about fitting into expected patterns of behavior.  He is establishing new patterns.  His power brings newness.  To recognize this newness in Jesus is to take up his pattern of life.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Falling from Christian Orthodoxy: The Need for a Serious Anthropology

Here is an important article from Rod Dreher: Post-Graduation Fall From Christian Orthodoxy

He interacts with the thoughts of a campus minister.  Here is a section:
He said that in his experience, most of the students he works with graduate holding orthodox Christian beliefs on sexuality, but quickly capitulate. I asked him why. He replied:
You could probably guess it all:
  • visceral aversion to being thought a bigot;
  • not wanting to sacrifice professional success;
  • not wanting to be hated by elite institutions;
  • not knowing how to hope the best for a neighbor/friend without shifting moral norms (not understanding how to differentiate a pastoral mode from a legislative one);
  • being sick of the church;
  • deriving very little joy and peace from worship;
  • a complete lack of appreciation for traditional civic and family structures;
  • a failure to see the end game of identity-politics liberalism (to reduce all mediating institutions to naught, leaving us as a plain of individuals linked to the mother state where super-powered minority identities bring life to all as they self-achieve)
Dreher goes on to comment on this list.  Here are his thoughts on some of the items:
First, I believe that the first three items in his list cannot be overemphasized. Most Christianity in this country is deeply middle class and conformist. People who are really engaged with theology, on either the traditionalist or progressive side, are very few. Most people just go along to get along. Perhaps it has always been this way. When the broader culture was conservative on sexual morality, so were the people in the pews (at least publicly). When it shifted, so did the views of the people in the pews. Now that same-sex marriage is totally bourgeois, we will see most churches accept it, because it’s the easiest thing to do. A big reason same-sex marriage was accepted so quickly, and so thoroughly, is because many people realized they were only against it out of uninformed prejudice.
I recall a professor at a conservative Evangelical college telling me that the students at his institution are all products of youth ministry culture, which is entirely relational. When they graduate and get outside the Christian college bubble, he said, and they find their views challenged in a serious way, they often collapse. “They are terrified of being seen as mean,” he said.
Anyway, if a Christian young person is going to stand firm on Biblical truth on these issues, he is going to have to be deeply grounded and formed in the faith, and have a sure sense of himself. Otherwise, the ordinary pressure of social conformity is going to overwhelm them.
In the comments section, there is an insightful perspective offered by "David":
I'm just a professor at a public community college, but (from the Christian students I meet) I say this again and again - churches, you have to teach people a serious Christian anthropology before they get to college. The world is going to come at them from a thousand directions with a different anthropology, and they need to have immediately ready in their minds what they believe about men, women, marriage, and sexuality, and why what the world believes is wrong. (And I really do mean "ready in their minds" - considered and rehearsed answers they can say at least to themselves when a professor or peer launches an attack on their beliefs.) Or they will fold (or just keep very, very quiet) - in my experience the desire to "not be seen as mean" is a pretty big factor. Well Christianity isn't mean, in fact it is best for everyone - but could the people you're sending to college actually articulate why?
A good place to start this education in "a serious Christian anthropology" is to read Nancy Pearcey's book Love Thy Body!

Mark Meditations: Mark 2.13-17

Mark 2.13-17

* Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him.
* Jesus is eating and drinking at Matthew's house with many tax collectors and sinners.
-"for there were many of them, and they were following him" (v. 15)

"Why is he eating and drinking with tax collectors
and sinners?"  And hearing this, Jesus said to them,
"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician,
but those who are sick; I did not come to call the
righteous, but sinners."
Mark 2.16b-17 

* The challenge to Jesus is that he is doing something wrong by eating with tax collectors and sinners.  His reputation is being sullied and he is being made unclean.  But Jesus' answer presupposes something about his identity--that he is a physician.  His actions are for the sake of healing.  Jesus' presence is healing.

* The Scribes and Pharisees want repentance from people but their vision is to stand afar off.  Jesus also wants repentance but he draws near to pursue it.

* "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
-Call to what?  Jesus called Matthew to follow him!
* I am a sinner.  I need Jesus.  Jesus communes with his people in the Lord's Supper.  I sometimes think, when taking the Lord's Supper, that Jesus is saying, "I still choose to eat with you.  I would choose you again to be in my presence."

* The Scribes do not understand what Jesus is doing or why he is doing it.  They don't understand who he is!

* Think of all the people in the narrative: Scribes, disciples, tax collectors & sinners, and Jesus.  In what ways am I like each person/group?
-Am I standing aloof in judgment like the Scribes?
-Am I entering into Jesus' missional mindset?
-Am I eating and drinking with Jesus as a sinner accepted in his presence?
 -Am I like the disciples, caught up in all this while seeing and learning from Jesus?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Mark Meditations: Mark 2.1-12

Mark 2.1-12

* Jesus heals a paralytic man and forgives his sin.
* Jesus is worthy of audacious actions.
-Four men removing parts of the roof to bring the paralyzed man to Jesus
-They must have been his friends.
-I need friends like this to "bring me to Jesus!"
* Jesus sees faith.
* Jesus forgives sin.
* Jesus is aware of the reasoning of their hearts.
* Jesus is the Son of Man.
* Jesus asks challenging questions.
* Jesus makes authoritative declarations.
* Jesus' words are effective and powerful.
* Jesus speaks and things happen.
* Jesus' words and power produce amazement and people glorifying God.

* The people (and we) are amazed at the healing but I tend to overlook the forgiveness of sins.  I need forgiveness of sins.  If I'm in the story I want to shout out, "Forgive me, too!"

Which is easier to say to the paralytic:
"Your sins are forgiven"; or to say, "Get up,
and pick up your pallet and walk"?
But so that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins--
he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, 
get up, pick up your pallet and go home." 
Mark 2.9-11

* "Easier to say"
a) Both statements are "easy to say" if mouthing mere words is the issue.
b) If it means "easy to say" without seeing visible effects then saying "your sins are forgiven" has no discernable outward manifestation.
c)  If it means "easy to say" and to bring about the effect--why should I think it is easy to forgive sins?  Jesus is rendering the forgivenss of God in light of the coming cross.  He is "writing checks" against the future payment of his blood and life.
d)  There is nothing easy about Jesus procurring my release--my forgivenss of sins.  He must suffer and die for my sins.  He must give his life a ransom for many--Mark 10.45.