Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Getting started with Mark - 'Arise, shine'

Reflection 5th Sunday in OT 2018, 02, 04
Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

I love reading Mark!

Mark is the shortest gospel
It is the only gospel to call itself Gospel.
Mark is generally agreed to be the first Gospel.
Gospel – we all know means ‘Good News’ but that is a rather tired expression – the word Gospel is more a cry of joy: think of it – we are reading the cry of joy about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, according to Mark.

Gospel as art form – somewhere between sermon and sacrament
sermon uses words but holds a larger purposes
sacrament uses symbols to communicate but holds a larger purpose
Gospel has elements of both

Draws us into the narrative so that we encounter Jesus alongside the twelve and we experience the same dilemmas, choices, failures, confusion, anxiety and joy – he writes not to get us to hear his cry of joy about Jesus Christ; but writes to get us to utter the cry of joy ourselves.

There are so many twists, turns, techniques that Mark deploys to various effects:
  • ·       suddenness and immediacy
  • ·       mighty acts high-light the power of Jesus not a creed oriented JC
  • ·       No emphasis on JC as teacher – fewer than in other gospels
  • ·       Vivid, concrete narrative
  • ·       Juxtapositional narrative with contrasts between events
  • ·       The end of the story is the centre of gravity drawing the story toward itself
  • ·       Patterns of doublets and threefold patterns within stories
  • ·       Messianic secrecy
  • ·       Inverse character development – character of Jesus grows whereas  disciples diminish

Why do we have Isaiah as the First Testament reading this morning ? - because Isaiah in the Greek version of the Septuagint uses the Greek word for Gospel (euangelion)  and the Jewish readers of Isaiah will remember Isaiah's announcement of survival, freedom and homecoming for exiled Israel.

Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

In our Gospel this morning Mark gives us a sample day of Jesus in public ministry
It is explosively active and fast moving – short on words but powerful in actions
We watch mesmerised as deed follows deed.  Mark calls miracles not signs but works of power:

Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

Simon’s mother-in-law is healed simply by Jesus taking her hand and raising her. (resurrection hint?)
Peter's mother-in-law is lifted up as in the Resurrection we celebrate in Easter. And she begins to serve - just as the apostles are sent out to serve, as we celebrate in Pentecost. She is the church's first deacon. She announces the Gospel by her action. Healed, transformed, and readily at service she slips into her role as easily as if her life-time had prepared her for it. Which it had, of course. 

She serves, like Jesus himself. For the son of man came not to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45) She receives the Light into her home, she is raised up by the Light, the Light shines through her as she ministers to others. She’s a mother of the Church.

And, say witnesses, the place designated as her home in Capernaum is to this day the site of many healings.
The action expands and we hear that by evening the whole city is gathered at the house:
Some older translations use the phrase "the whole world was pressing up against the door." This is the new gathering place, the new company of Jesus. It embraces those in need of healing and those healed and grasped for the victory of justice, helping the multitudes who come to Jesus.

Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

How might this connect with us now?

The other evening, one of the young cats our grandchildren dote on, had a problem.  A twig had become caught across his upper jaw and he could not free himself.  He was panicking and lashing out fiercely at anyone who tried to help him.  It is terrible to watch an animal suffering and frightened.  We panicked.  We dashed to the local vet and, to the great relief of all the family, his problem was quickly sorted and he was restored to the lovely friendly animal we love.   This domestic crisis got me thinking…

Some of the most difficult experiences in life are those times when we feel trapped.  We may feel trapped in our bodies or in our homes, by sickness, frailty or age.  We may feel trapped in our circumstances, trapped by financial problems, by dysfunctional relationships; trapped in our minds, in our inner being, by depression or mental illness.  At the very least, the experience is frightening and the range and power of the emotions we may feel can be unimaginable, terrifying.  There can be moments when we feel all control is lost and sheer panic takes over.  If you have ever had an experience of this kind you will understand what I am saying and the most basic response has to be to seek help; to remember that such feelings are part of our common human condition; and we get help where we can.  From our local doctor; from friends, family and pastors; wherever we can; just to reach out is to discover that we are not alone.  We turn from the darkness that seems to trap us, to the light. 
Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

What the gospel shows us is the message – just to be close to Jesus is to be in the presence of God.  The presence of Jesus is enough to heal, calm and restore all who are brought to him.  I look back to that prayer we just shared, the prayer that responds to the gospel: “Healing God, in the touch of Jesus the sick were healed, the chains unbound.  Freedom is before us.  Set us on a new path of wholeness, deliver us from all that binds us, turn us to embrace that life giving love.”   Whatever your circumstances may be; reach out and do that; turn from darkness to the light.

Arise, shine for your Light has come… Isaiah 60.1

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