Sunday, June 28, 2015

Remembering Peter: an Evensong reflection

This year it is a pleasure to have the Choir of Christchurch Cathedral in Dunedin and to welcome them for a Choral Evensong.  This brief reflection observes the Vigil of St Peter

Every year when we commission a new Chapter, after a prayer and blessing, I anoint the palms of each Chapter member with simple words that run: “Christ has no hands but yours.”  
They are drawn from the annihilating words attributed to St Teresa of Avila:
‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.’

When we think about these words it is hard not to be overwhelmed and have one’s heart sink – for we know ourselves, our hearts and thoughts, and know well enough our faults, enough at least to feel that our Lord could have chosen better with his followers – and that surely there must be some more dedicated, more loving, and more talented person to do this work.  Yet, there it is, after election at the AGM there is this service of anointing and the work passes on – this is Christ’s work.

Yet it has always been this way.  The words Christ says of Peter … “You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church” (Mat.16:18) are words that point us to the strangeness of God’s grace and remind us that the call of God eludes our understanding.

The experience we have of St Peter in the gospels is underwhelming: he blusters; promises, but backs off; speaks impulsively, but too often gets things wrong.  His heart seems to be in the right place but he hardly presents as the strong unyielding rock upon which the church can be built.

Thank God for that.  There may be hope for us all.   That the gospels don’t cover up for St Peter’s faults is very interesting: think about it, the revered leader of the early church does not have his image and reputation airbrushed in the gospels.  On the contrary, some notable gaffes and failings are diligently recorded.  There is hope for us all.

We treasure the memory of St Peter because we (rightly) see ourselves in him; recognise him in our weaknesses and can yet remember that here is the saint Christ used to build the church.  Christ uses us, weaknesses and all: as Paul said “… we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor.4:7.)

In all our calling in the church to follow Christ, St Peter stands alongside us, a constant reminder that despite our faults Christ uses us for His work and it is his power through us that accomplishes what is done.  Truly, “Christ has no hands, but ours.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Interrupted narrative – “be made well and live”

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 2 Sam.1:1,17-27; 2 Cor.8:7-15; Mark 5: 21-43;

On Saturday morning I spent over half an hour following President Obama’s eulogy to the Rev Clementa Pinckney and the 8 parishioners killed with him in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina.  Running through the eulogy was a constant reference to the grace of God, ‘Amazing Grace’, that grace is the gift that prevails (love over hate, life over death) if we but have the eyes to recognise it.

Now, holding that thought in the back of our mind, look at the gospel we have just heard. There is a something rather strange about it.  It has a big crowd scene, all these people milling about Jesus – a background Mark barely describes but we need to have a keen sense of – in the midst of which something extraordinary happens: Jairus, a leader of the synagogue falls prostrate before Jesus and begs him to come and heal his little girl who is dying.  This twelve-year old life, this other self, this pathway into the future is being taken from him.  This is a big and very public scene and very dramatic!  As readers we are immediately engaged so when Jesus accepts the request and goes with Jairus on this mission of mercy we go as well.  We want to know what will happen.  Will he get there in time?  Surely there is no time to waste.  Imaginatively the speed and tension picks up.  (If this were an episode in a TV programme it would now end and we’d have to wait a whole week for the next instalment.)

But why should we have to wait: after all this is not a story made for TV and yet nevertheless Mark has abruptly stopped this story in its tracks and started another one!

Suddenly everything has changed.  It is as if we have been transposed to another time zone, and to another place.  Suddenly we have been taken into the personal story of a woman whose medical condition has cut her off from her society and from the opportunity to conceive and bear children.  You could say she has been cut off from life.   The full attention of this gospel narrative is now upon her inner life and the commotion and pressure of the crowd slips from our attention as we enter her silent, lonely, desperate world at the very moment that she reaches out for life. 

That moment seems so tenuous in its scope.  Within her she carries this history of disappointment and medical failure; a history of seclusion and abandonment and now, being jostled about in this surging crowd there is only this inner forlorn hope that something may yet happen, just a touch of his clothes and she might “be made well and live.”

The extraordinary thing happens: amidst all the chaos and confusion of other lives and diverse needs swirling about in the press of the crowd like so many chaotic atoms in the universe, the two selves connect – this unknown woman who knows she is now healed; and Jesus who knows that his power has been drawn upon.  In this moment of grace the story expands and personal and public worlds merge: the woman’s story is told in the midst of the crowd and she is restored as much to her society as she is in her body: where life was lost, life has been restored.

But in the moment that we celebrate this triumph of grace, disaster strikes as we are now abruptly returned to the story of Jairus’ daughter.   We are told that she has died; that she is beyond any hope that she may be “made well and live”; - so “why trouble the teacher any further?”

This is what we never want to hear.  The announcement of death ends our hopes, it prematurely terminates the story of what a young life might have been and leaves us to despair and weep.  We can guess at Jairus’ feelings at this moment, we can imagine the black pit of grief and hopelessness that rushes up to swallow him.  

A voice cuts across that moment, “Do not fear, only believe”: the same voice that we heard in the readings last week when the disciples were overwhelmed by that storm on the lake.

Under the circumstances that seems an impossible command but the story shows us parallel worlds: on the one hand, the world of the crowd, the commotion of the mourners outside Jairus’ house, the mockery of those who know death when they see it and who laugh when told the child is asleep; on the other hand, the inner world of Jairus, numb with shock and grief but stumbling in hope and love home to his dead child.

There is a world to contemplate in what happens next – but in that quiet room the dead’s child’s hand is taken and she is commanded to get up. A living child is returned to her parents: where life was lost, life has been restored.  How this may be is not explained and silence is commanded.

Perhaps by this point we see that we have not really had two stories but one. The woman with the twelve year history of bleeding has been restored to her community and to the possibility of child bearing.  The dead twelve year old child has been restored to life and to all that the future may hold for her.  In each case, both the private world of the adult and the more public event of the child’s illness and death, we see the effect of the encounter with the one who is the Lord, the source of life. 

This is ‘Amazing Grace’: in the gospel we catch a glimpse of the power at work among us; and that grace continues to reverberate, as in Charleston South Carolina yesterday.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Finding the calm eye of the storm

Reflections for the 12th Sunday Ordinary Time (21.6.2015)

Readings:  2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

Have you ever had the experience of reading something and thought you understood it; then read it again and come away with a very different interpretation?  

Usually when I have read this story of the storm in Mark’s gospel I have tended to focus on the question at the end: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  My assumption while reading has tended to be that the Gospel of Mark tells us who Jesus is and the disciples are being prompted to wake up the the incredible fact that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.  In other words our attention is held by the extraordinary signs and wonder as Jesus stills the storm – and still the disciples wonder who he is – and we feel exasperated that they seem so slow – they just don’t get it!  This focus on the end has some value but I think it’s a bit of a distortion.

You see we are still in that part of the gospel where Jesus has just gathered his disciples (3:13-19) and is just beginning to train them and help them start to understand what he is involving them in.  They have been warned about the mystery of the kingdom and the conflicts and even family divisions that obedience to the call of God may involve.  But maybe this has all been a bit theoretical since Jesus has always been the one at the centre - teaching, healing, telling stories and taking the heat in the conflicts: what might it be like if these apprentice evangelists were to have a bit of a practicum? Everything is about to change and move to a new level.

He takes them on a boat – and maybe that should be a warning in itself!  Think of the boats we encounter in the scriptures – Noah’s ark and the story of Jonah are two that come immediately to mind, but especially the story of Jonah.  The imagery of the sea is as a place of wonder and danger, a watery chaos, the playground of Leviathan and monsters of the deep. I remember my own youthful reading of Melville and Verne (Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea) and the alarming images the sea could hold.  So for the Israelites and the ancient world – the sea was a place of wonder indeed but also of chaos and disorder, of watery behemoths that might drag you down into the depths of some nightmare abyss.

Before we go any further – think about the Old Testament story of Jonah – how he is called by God to undertake a mission but tries to escape on a ship where he goes to sleep only to be awakened by the crew panicking because they are in a storm and fear they will drown.  That leads to him being thrown overboard and the great whale swallows him and delivers him to destination God had in mind.  Here in  Mark there are different nuances – such as it is Jesus who is asleep, calm and untroubled: but clearly behind this passage is the figure of Jonah and the story of the prophet who did not want to go on the mission for which God called him.

Of course the disciples are terrified by the storm – they have been taken to a frightening place.  That is the perfect image of what their call to follow Christ is all about; it is the same for us too. We are drawn into situations where we do not have control over what happens; where we will be stressed and frightened.  We have all known storms of this kind: the phone call in the middle of the night and a desperate rush to the hospital or police station; the medical specialist who has news we did not want to hear, and our world starts to disintegrate; the long slow storm of a relationship gone awry or a career that is broken, the helplessness we feel as it tears away at us and our ordered life turns into chaos.  No life without storms.  Storms happen.

Of course the disciples make the storm the centre of their focus for Jesus.  He is asleep.  We’ve known those moments ‘Lord, help me. Don’t you care?’ We’ve all said it or something like it.  We’ve been desperate – and that’s the trouble with the storms we encounter in life, they rage within us and tear us in shreds.  Jesus simply says “Why are you afraid?   Have you still no faith?”  The storm is not really the issue  - the problem is what the storm does to us and Christ requires that we set our faith in him and find the calm eye of the storm alongside him.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Watching Maungatua, Hill of the Spirits

The Monday off has now turned to slush and cold rain as the front moves up from the south. Walking the dogs on the hills I could see the front across the ridge I think is called Maungatua, meaning Hill of the Spirits, and surely a name to pay heed to.  
The wind was icy but before the rain arrived I was able to load up three giant garden sacks with holly hedge trimmings from the out of control Serpentine road border and get them through the chipper.

As the day darkens, I dip into Eliot's Choruses from The Rock and discover again what I had forgotten.

Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.
In the vacant places
We will build with new bricks
Where the bricks are fallen
We will build with new stone
Where the beams are rotten
We will build with new timbers
Where the word is unspoken
We will build with new speech
There is work together
A Church for all
And a job for each
Every man to his work.
What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is God Just or Fair?

Brief Reflections at Choral Evensong

Readings: Jeremiah 7:1-16 Romans 9: 14-26;

I suppose I should be forthright about Paul's Epistle to the Romans (and I am sure that the fault is mine rather than Paul's) but the truth is that I don't really like his argumentative style and rhetoric.  To read him sometimes feels as if one is being thumped over the head with a bludgeon.

For instance embedded in the segment for this evening is really an argument about the justice of God. It follows from an initial reflection on God's choice of the people of Israel and how the whole process of salvation is entirely on God's terms.   So if Esau seems to have been treated unfairly or Pharaoh has been arbitrarily chosen  to demonstrate God's power there is nothing to be said or complain about. You could say 'God is God' and "he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses".  The question is not confined to Paul of course: there is that incident in John's gospel where the blind man is healed and the disciples raise the subject (John 9:2):
"As he passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.…" There is an instinctive twitch of unease at that answer - a question about the justice of God - the thought just bubbles up.
Who are we humans to argue with God?  Then there is that illustration - can the lump of clay argue with the potter and Paul launches into apologetics with a series of speculations each beginning with 'What if" - and implies that behind what seems to be displays of power on God's part there is a greater purpose, a mercy and a glory yet to be revealed.

In the Old Testament a similar argument is encountered in the book of Job where, after all his suffering and questions about the justice of God, Job is confronted by God and his complaints reduced to silence by the sheer overwhelming glory and power that transcend anything he can imagine. In terms of the debate the odds are stacked against Job.  I recall Virginia Woolf's observation that "I read the book of Job the other night; I don't think God comes out well in it."

One problem with Paul's rhetoric is that to metaphorically speak of humanity as a 'lump of clay' sits a little uneasily with the biblical understanding of humanity as made in the image of God and it seems to me that we are indeed so made that we will argue at the justice of God, want to protest and attempt to order our world somewhat better.  Perhaps the euthanasia debate could be considered in that context - that euthanasia is our protest at intolerable suffering and what we may interpret as the injustice of a universe where terrible and random things may happen.

No resolution on these questions is easily made except to note that the greater faith context in which Paul speculates is set about the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ: all our suffering (that may or may not) reveal glory, power and a cosmic purpose beyond imagining is shared by Christ.  The question of the justice of God is caught here: in Christ God shares what we see as injustice; shares our vulnerability.  All this, it seems, as the means to a completion, a fullness, in the order of creation that has still to be revealed (Romans 8:18-23).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Kingdom of God is like ... ?

Reflections for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (14.6.15)

Readings  1 Sam 15:34–16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13),14-17; Mark 4:26-34.

With our main sermon space tomorrow given over to other aspects of the 'Word' as Wallace Crossman shares his thoughts on art and what helps us to 'see', I am simply going to share a few brief reflections - particularly in the anxious context of our time as the relevance of church and faith is so often under question and the great emptiness of our many church buildings demands some redefinition.

What I notice in the Samuel passage is the 'surprise' element to David's anointing and the point that our typical human perception and judgement is not the way God works; the same point recurs in the Corinthians passage with the statement "From now on we regard no one from a human point of view ... if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation... etc."  At this point I think of the theological libraries with shelves on church leadership and the diverse Human Resource processes used to help select and train church leaders and it seems to me that such church practise gives the lie to Paul's assertion and that we are consumed by our "human point of view".  There is little surprise at that conclusion.

Similarly when we talk about Church growth or 'growing the kingdom' there is a vast literature about how to do this and the measure of success is merely the numbers of people who join up or come along.  (My reflection at Choral Evensong last Sunday touched on this with reference to David Hare's 1990s play about the Church of England, Racing Demon.)  In our Diocese at this time there is talk of churches closing and we look about us with real anxiety. Just this week I watched a cut of a video on church growth - it was entitled 'When God Left the Building'.

Into this context where congregations work ever harder to keep their church and prove that they are 'growing the kingdom' Jesus' two parables of the kingdom present an entirely an different point of view .

The simile 'the kingdom of God is like' reminds us that precision is not possible here, that there is an obliqueness about the kingdom that our human perception cannot grasp . Whether it is the seed just sown or the tiny mustard seed itself we are presented with a mystery that is beyond us.  That becomes more obvious when we hear of the man scattering seed and we sense the randomness, the sheer unpredictability of the Kingdom.  In the time of the parable we sense time passing, aeons for all we know, and we hear of a process of growth that occurs without and beyond our understanding until, at a moment, time is brought to an end, the sickle goes in and the harvest is gathered.  Against this cosmic scale we measure as nothing - and are made to feel it.

I think we are uncomfortably reminded that the Kingdom of God is more than any manifestation of the church; more than any understanding of the church; in the midst of the anxiety and the love we feel for our churches - the growth of the Kingdom remains God's business.   That admission demands some rethinking on our part.

Saturday morning

It is a fairly bleak winter morning and I have had to take a strong line with Mac (our elderly setter) to insist he go outside and do what is necessary after a long night slumbering on his couch.  All the members of the household pack were pleased to come back inside like so many refugees and to hunker down by the fire.  (Heck!  I find my simile 'refugees' suddenly grates - how can it not in the light of the human misery the news has uncovered?)

Mac minding the picnic lunch
Preparing for Sunday services, I am really looking forward to the Choral Eucharist tomorrow when the sermon slot will be a 'conversation' with Dunedin artist Wallace Crossman talking about his view on art and the life of the Spirit and exploring something of how he approached the glorious coloured panels of his 'A Tent for the Sun' that are still hanging in the Cathedral's ambulatory.  We had a long preliminary conversation at his home yesterday and I was very grateful that he and his wife (fellow artist, Rosalie) showed me around the studio and allowed me to view some of their other works; I went away impressed, delighted and energised!

I find myself remembering Newton's 'Amazing Grace' and the lines "I once was lost, but now am found;Was blind, but now I see." Worship and faith are all about learning to 'see' and my take on the role of art is very much in accord with that - learning to see. I look forward to what Wallace might have for us tomorrow.

I hope that Wallace might allow us to put shots of his exhibition on the Cathedral website.  (I'm not sure how many have viewed some of the other exhibitions there - but on our website go to the 'About' menu, then select 'The Cathedral' and then select the 'Art in the Ambulatory' tag and scroll from there. Wal Keown and Bill Graham have their exhibitions noted there.)

It would be really helpful if anyone viewing this blog gives feedback and comments (whether about the blog or the cathedral website) as interaction is really helpful.

Friday, June 12, 2015

At Choral Evensong: Trying to understand the Church - "Things Fall Apart"

10th Sunday Ordinary Time 7/6/15

Readings: Jer 6:16-21 Rom 9:1-13

I frequently find the sermon or reflection for Choral Evensong difficult if only because so few come to Evensong any longer.  On this occasion I decided to express my own unease and expand on that aspect of faith and questioning.

When I read the lessons set for this evening I felt a certain disconnectedness between the readings and the here and now of our Cathedral life.  The concerns that Paul expressed, while acute to him, seemed to be an argument remote in place and time; the dire warnings of Jeremiah against the hypocrisy and dishonesty of God’s people was more generally relevant, but still so remote from this moment.

I suspect that if I find the readings difficult to engage with, that there may be others who also find that.   It is easy to extrapolate from that to a more general suspicion that the church is irrelevant to many; perhaps also to point beyond the church toward a more widespread sense of disconnectedness and doubt over relevance and meaning.  As someone pointed out to me, one of the most quoted lines used in student essays reflects the post modern unease: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Of course the church is desperately aware of the problem of how to continue as church in a fragmented, sceptical post-church society.  I am intrigued and sometimes exhilarated about how the uncertainties of the church are treated in film and literature.  For example the UK TV series ‘Rev’ starring Tom

Hollander as the Rev Adam Smallbone, Vicar of St Saviours in the Marsh an inner city parish.  The series exposed and celebrated the vulnerability of clergy and people and the hazards of the diocesan machinery and the destruction the church wrought upon itself.

About 25 years ago, the British playwright David Hare did something similar in his very serious play about the Church of England, Racing Demon.  Though not, I understand, a believer Hare undertook a very serious and compassionate approach to his subject.  (His incorporation of gay clergy and a women priest as ‘issues’ suggests how much the church has moved on since then.) 

What fascinated me about Hare’s play was how insightful he was about the position some of the clergy were placed in.  There is the Vicar of the inner city parish – Lionel, a liberal modernist, who struggles within a compassionate but spiritually limited framework.  His opening soliloquy (at prayer) sets the play in motion.

"God. Where are you?  I wish you would talk to me.  It isn’t just me.  There’s a general feeling.  This is what people are saying in the parish.   They want to know where you are.  The joke wears thin.  You must see that.  You never say anything.  All right, people expect that, it’s understood.  But people also think, I didn’t realize that when he said nothing, he really did mean absolutely nothing at all.  You see, I tell you, it’s this perpetual absence – yes? – this not being here – it’s that – I mean, let’s be honest – it’s just beginning to get some of us down.  You know?  Is that unreasonable?   There are an awful lot of people in a very bad way.  And they need something beside silence. God.  Do you understand?”

There is the Evangelical curate Tony, a shallow, treacherous and tacky character with a nasty self-seeking shallow agenda!  His closing remarks are indicative:

“It’s numbers, you see.  That’s what it is, finally.  You have to get them in.  Once they’re there, you can do anything.  But until then you’re wasting your time.
It’s a question of confidence.  If you don’t allow doubt, the wonderful thing is, you spread confidence around you.
And, for ever, so it goes on.”

I admire Hare’s play but I think his examination was aesthetically and practically limited to the surfaces of the church in the 90s (Modernist versus Evangelical) – and the depths of spirituality, theology and prayer never really came under scrutiny. 

But this brings us back to Evensong and the lessons and to the question of the Church and faith in a time when (still) “things fall apart and the centre cannot hold.”  Always, beyond theological positions such as modernism or evangelicalism, the deep life of the Spirit endures.  Its relevance to a fragmented post-modern, post-church milieu is, I believe, absolute.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

An Uncomfortable Gospel: encountering opposition

Reflections for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (7 June 2015)

Readings:  1 Samuel 8 (vv. 4-11, 16-20); Mark 3 (vv. 20-35)

These Sundays after Pentecost (and Trinity) take us into what it means to live the Christian life and live out the mission of the Church.  The fragment from Mark’s gospel this morning sets the scene – and, frankly, it is alarming.  It is a complex passage but there is one part of it that is unique to Mark and that the other gospels have carefully avoided; it is a part that even some early manuscripts of Mark have tried to obscure – I am referring to the resistance of Jesus’ family to the start of his ministry.  This part of the gospel is embarrassing and it raises so many questions and issues of alternative translation; nonetheless here it is: this moment where Jesus’ family seem to oppose his ministry.

Mark’s passage shows Jesus being eagerly sought by the crowds who have experienced his healing and he is so much in demand that even a chance to have a meal seems to be denied him. Straightaway Jesus is drawn into conflict – and this passage shows Jesus ‘sandwiched’ between the resistance of his own family who treat him as if he is insane, and the religious leaders from Jerusalem who claim that he is under the power of the devil.

Why is there such resistance and hostility?   Is it because here is something so new, so different that the default human knee-jerk response is resistance?  I think that is part of it.  There is also something darker in the background, a kind of fragmentation at work; something inherently destructive and death dealing rather than life giving.  Something that reminds me of the so-called reality TV shows where people are placed in difficult situations and compete against each other with participants being humiliated and eliminated along the way.  They are thoroughly nasty programs that play upon the least amiable aspects of human nature.  Instead of showing people working together they are shown working against each other.

What Mark shows Jesus to encounter from his family has the ring of truth about it; the feel of reality; a feel that we may recognise from our own family life.  The truth is that family life – even in the most wonderful families – holds conflict and can manifest conflict in various ways.  Here in Jesus’ own household conflict is encountered when they treat him as if he is ‘out of his mind’.  This may well be an expression of their love for him, their concern for him but it is also an act of dissociation from what Jesus is doing – ‘he’s on his own’; within the family network this is a form of social control; an attempt to bring him back into line and stop him ‘rocking the boat’.  Other social devices such as laughter and mockery also come to mind (what family has not experienced that at some point or another?) and in this context the effect is to minimise and trivialise what Jesus is doing.  In other words, ignore him; he is ‘out of his mind’!

The other half of this sandwich of opposition is the Scribes from Jerusalem.  They are institutional figures and embody powerful religious, social and cultural interests – so their opposition is accordingly very significant.  As you can see, they come on strong, they don’t pull any punches.  Their purpose is something we recognise from the way we have seen politicians act: they are out to discredit the one they have determined to work against.  Working like politicians, if the Scribes can discredit Jesus in some way, his influence will be minimised, his followers will fall away and once isolated he can be dealt with brutally, efficiently and without trouble. For their purpose it does not matter whether they speak truth or falsehood, are right or wrong, all that matters is that their tactics will do enough to discredit him – rumours will do – just get people wondering; sow the seeds of doubt; ‘no smoke without fire’, and so on.   The terrible thing, the truly terrifying thing, is that we recognise this behaviour; that it is so familiar to us.  What is being done to Jesus is recognisably a way the world often works – and sadly even it may be with our compliance!

There is an extra and sinister twist to how the Scribes set about their dark purpose: they wilfully misattribute his works of healing and goodness to the devil.  The representatives of the religious establishment deliberately misrepresent the work of God as the work of the devil.  The truth is wilfully perverted and good is misrepresented as evil.  This refusal to see the good and acknowledge it represents something deeply and dangerously amiss in the religious institution of the Scribes.

It reminds me of the painting ‘Christ before Caiaphas’ by Duccio (c.1255-c.1319): where, Duccio shows Caiaphas twisted on his chair and keeping his face turned away from Jesus; Caiaphas disassociates himself from the  one who is the way, the truth, the life.  Is it a matter of expediency; an unfortunate necessity?  What is amiss?  How does this speak to us?

All of this is a disturbing reflection and it comes from an uncomfortable reading to engage with.  Why does Mark present this material to the Church?  If you were to open a pew bible at Chapter 3 you would see that the passage immediately before this reading Jesus appoints the twelve apostles: they are the new ‘family’, the new society, the new Israel Jesus is creating.  They will be the church and this passage gives them (and us) the necessary warning of the hazards to expect and the affirmation for them (and us) - that “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”