Tag Archives: Mark 1

March 29, 2015 (Year B, Palm Sunday) Celtic Meditation

Mark 11:1-11

I wonder if the disciples were surprised when Jesus sent them to go get a donkey colt that had never been ridden. I wonder if they were surprised that the acquisition of the colt went as smoothly as it did and just like Jesus said it would. When have we, as a church, followed what we knew to be a clear set of counter-intuitive instructions from the Lord and been surprised to find that we were doing exactly what we needed to be doing when we needed to be doing it?

In hindsight, the disciples recognized that Jesus was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophesy.[1] What happened next is the people’s response to Jesus’ actions also foretold in this same passage of Zechariah’s prophesies. The people responded using a phrase from Psalm 118, but the language might seem odd to us today even though we use this same phrase every week in the traditional eucharistic liturgy. “Hosanna” is Aramaic for “save us, we pray”[2] and is addressed to the blessed one, the one who is to be praised, who comes in the full authority of God. This plea for salvation asks God, from God’s highest dwelling place, to save the people. When Jesus, the long awaited son of King David, entered Jerusalem, the actions of the people matched their words. They pleaded for salvation, a salvation that comes through the institution of the Davidic kingdom by the man whom they accepted as the one approved by God. They used their coats to smooth out the road[3] and they waved branches to celebrate the coming of the Son of David into David’s royal city. What do we, as church, need to be doing so that our actions more clearly align with our words used when we celebrate the eucharist which is the Son of David’s instrument for bringing in his kingdom?

Jesus then went to the temple, looked around, noticed the time of day, and went back to Bethany for the night. Sometimes, even when we know what needs to be done, what we most need to do in the moment is to wait. This week, our practice, as church, is to wait and remember. What does it look like for us, as church, to discern the time and season and wait for the right time to act?

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[1] Zechariah 9:9. For Mark’s use of Zechariah 14, see Paul Brooks Duff, “The March of the Divine Warrior and the Advent of the Greco-Roman King: Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111/1 (1992): 55-71. For the contrast between Jesus’ entry into the city and Greco-Roman traditions of the day, see Brent Kinman, “Jesus’ Royal Entry into Jerusalem.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.2 (2005): 223-260.

[2] USB Greek lexicon

[3] I wonder if this laying down of coats is a way of “making straight the path of the Lord” commanded in Isaiah 45:13 which is repeated in Mark 1:3 but now applied to Jesus. Through John the baptizer’s ministry, many of the people of Israel were looking for the Messiah.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

February 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 1) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:9-15

In this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to consider how our identity as church is formed and confirmed in order to serve out of that identity. Before Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, he was given a clear description of his identity through his baptism. How, for us as church, does baptism supply our identity so that we can stand firm against temptation?

Even though Jesus was away from human company during his temptation, he neither chose this isolation nor was he completely separated from God’s care. God’s holy angels waited on him and cared for him. Even in the wilderness, the desolate forsaken place, Jesus was in community with others who recognized his identity and came to support him in his time of temptation. In our evening prayers, we have the option to pray for God’s holy angels to lead us in paths of peace and goodwill [1] and for angels to be given charge over those who sleep.[2] Angels watching over and caring for God’s people is part of the biblical worldview that we tend to ignore in our day. How, as church, have we experienced God’s gracious care for us in unexpected, maybe even what some might call “supernatural,” ways?

In this gospel account, Jesus does not choose to go into 40 days of temptation. His 40 days are necessary in order for him to enter into solidarity with his people, past, present, and future. To understand how Jesus’ 40 days is entering into the larger story of redemption, we need to re-wind the story nearly 2000 years to the Exodus. God delivered the Israelites from slavery, which included taking them through the Red Sea which is a baptism into a new life of freedom to serve God. But after this mighty deliverance, they refused to trust God completely regarding entering into the land of Canaan. They did not live into this new identity given to them when they crossed the Red Sea. As penance, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus symbolically enters into this penance even though he was not guilty of lack of trust, to demonstrate his solidarity with his people.[3] This action by Jesus signifies how he understands his identity in community. For some Christians, the practice of Lent includes imitating Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness in order to live into solidarity with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the sake of the world. This tradition is one way of practicing repentance, of turning away from what does not support our life as those baptized into Christ and to turn to a fuller expression of the baptismal life of trusting God’s declaration that through baptism we are God’s children (John 1:12). After his time in the wilderness of wrestling against temptation, Jesus returns to city life to proclaim that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. The people of Israel had waited 40 years to enter into the land of Canaan. The people of God had waited for close to 2000 years between the giving of the Law through Moses to experience the grace that is given through Jesus (John 1:17). Jesus calls the people to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. From what, as church, do we need to repent and what do we need to believe in order to live more fully into our baptismal identity?

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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[1] Suffrages B in Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, 122

[2] Prayer for Mission, Book of Common Prayer, 124

[3] See Numbers 13; 32:11-12 and Joshua 5:6 then Hebrews 2:17-18

February 8, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 5)

Mark 1:29-39

Last week, in the section of the gospel just before this, Jesus taught with authority in the synagogue. As the people marveled at Jesus’ teaching, a man with an unclean spirit cried out, saying that they knew who Jesus was—the Holy One of God—and asked if Jesus was going to destroy them. Jesus told the unclean spirit to be quiet and come out of the man. The unclean spirit obeyed Jesus; Jesus is more powerful than demonic forces.

Today’s gospel reading picks up immediately after what happened in the synagogue. In Simon and Andrew’s house, Jesus was told about Simon’s sick mother-in-law. A fever, sometimes even with modern medical intervention, is serious. Bolstered by what they had experienced earlier in the day, the disciples trusted that just as Jesus had healed the man with the unclean spirit, he would heal Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus reached out to her, lifted her up, and healed her. She was able to return to her role in the household—to care for her family and guest. She was able to serve, which is what disciples of Jesus are called to do.[1] While we understand disease processes differently today, there are some dis-ease, or dis-harmony, that need Christ’s touch for healing. From what dis-ease or lack of harmony do we need Jesus to heal us so that we, as Church, can rise and enter into the ministry to which we are called?

At the end of the Sabbath day, at sunset, the people who had seen Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits earlier in the day now brought the sick and demon possessed to him for healing. Jesus healed the sick. He silenced then cast out the demons. Sickness prevents people from fully participating in community. Demons isolate, oppress, and seek to separate people from God and community. While we normally don’t talk about demons and demonic possession, we do recognize forces of evil. These evil spiritual forces are the enemy of God’s mission in the world. Jesus demonstrated his power to defeat these enemies, which by the way, are not people but the spiritual forces that disrupt relationships.[2] Because Jesus has already defeated these enemies, in our baptismal vows, we “renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” We “renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” And we “renounce all sinful desires that draw [us] from the love of God.”[3] What evil powers, spiritual forces of wickedness, or sinful desires do we, as Church, need to renounce so that Jesus can free us?

After a time of prayer, Jesus went throughout the region, proclaiming the message of the gospel and casting out demons. Those who listen to Jesus’ message and trust him are healed and restored to community. In our baptismal vows, we say that we trust Jesus as our Savior, put our trust in his grace and love, and obey him as our Lord.[4] What stories of God’s grace and love, of God’s healing and restoration do we, as Church, need to remember so that we, with God’s help, can more fully live into our baptismal life?[5]

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[1] Pierre Simson, “Reconciliation in the Making: A Reading of Mark 1,14-3,6.” AFER 17, 4 (1975): 197.

[2] This is an allusion to Ephesians 6:12. For this verse in context, see Ephesians 6:12-18.

[3] 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), 302.

[4] BCP, 302-3

[5] That is, to “continue in the teaching of the apostles and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers”; to “persevere in resisting evil” and “repent and return to the Lord” when we sin; to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ”; to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourself]”; and to “strive for justice and peace among people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” BCP, 304-5.

February 1, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 4) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:21-28

In this passage we are introduced to Mark’s take on the questions all four of the gospels ask us to consider: who is Jesus?, what does knowing who this Jesus is mean for us?, and how are we going to live in light of this knowledge?

In the beginning of Mark’s gospel, Mark clearly tells us, the readers, that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is also the Christ, the Messiah (Mark 1:1), the one foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and echoed through all the other prophets. The people of Jesus’ day were watching for this Prophet like Moses. Throughout this gospel we are invited to not only journey along with Jesus, but to examine who knows what about Jesus, from what sources do they find out about Jesus, and how do they respond. This careful writing on Mark’s part invites us to ask ourselves these same questions.

The Jewish people who were in the Capernaum synagogue on that Sabbath had a pretty exciting day. Moses had told them that God would raise up a prophet like himself to lead the people. How one responds to this prophet, “the Prophet,” would determine one’s ongoing relationship with God and the people of God. Moses had given the law. All prophets since Moses had explained what Moses had taught. Matthew’s gospel gives us examples of how Jesus taught – and he taught as one who knew God’s mind personally (Matthew 5-7). By being with Jesus and especially by hearing Jesus teach, the people were amazed. This Jesus is very different from any of their teachers before. What do we, as church, know about Jesus from our experiences of being in his presence?

In the Bible, what is referred to as “demons” or “unclean spirits” might be confusing to us in the modern world. In this passage,[1] the “unclean spirit” is a spiritual being that attached itself to this man and either influenced or controlled him. In Mark’s gospel, the unclean spirits know who Jesus is in a way that the people don’t. They have insider information. When they reveal who Jesus is, Jesus first silences them and then he frees the person from their influence. The source of information is important. Unclean spirits are not reliable sources, so even when they speak the truth, unclean spirits are not to be trusted. What sources do we, as church, use to find out about Jesus and how should we prioritize these sources?

In this reading, everyone responded to Jesus. The unclean spirit shuddered and obeyed Jesus. The people were all amazed. They talked about what happened as they sought to understand. They also started talking to people who hadn’t been at that synagogue so that information about Jesus spread throughout the region. Based upon our experience with Jesus and what we have gleaned from other sources, what are we, as church, called to do with the information we have about Jesus?

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[1] In other instances, what is called an “unclean spirit” or “demon” would, today, probably be diagnosed as a medical condition.

January 25, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 3) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:14-20

John the baptizer had been preaching a message of repentance, marked by baptism, for the forgiveness of sins and was well known in the Jewish community (Mark 1:4). As the last Old Testament prophet, he had the mission to prepare the people of Israel for their coming Messiah. We know from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 14:3-5) that as part of the role of prophet within this community, John confronted the Jewish political leader, Herod, for marital infidelity so that Herod might repent and be ready to receive the good news of God. But Herod responded by throwing John in prison. This backdrop for the gospel reading today provides us with not only a reference for when what comes next happened, but provides us with one example of how one can respond to the call to repent. You can try to silence the messenger, but the message will still ring in your ears.

Jesus continues John’s message: repent and believe because the kingdom of God, God’s reign, is about to break in. To repent means to change a portion or all of the central core of one’s being – one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior – so that one is more closely aligned with God’s will. Repentance can refer to a one time, major overhaul of one’s life or the small, day to day course corrections that happen as we live and learn what God’s will is in a situation. To believe means more than simply accepting a claim to be true. To believe means to trust with all of one’s self so that how one feels about and thinks about a concept aligns with one’s actions. The good news is that God’s rule of the world is about to break in and the call to repent and believe is a call to participate in God’s kingdom. What do we, as a church community, need to adjust in order for our actions to more fully align with our belief about the good news of God’s kingdom?

Repenting and believing for these fishermen looked like leaving their means of making a living in order to do the will of God for their lives. There is continuity in their work: those who were once fishing for fish in order to survive will now fish for people. God used their skills. Repentance doesn’t always mean a complete denial of who you were before you turned to God. What skills are we now practicing that God calls us to transform from survival skills to skills that promote God’s coming kingdom?

When Jesus came into Galilee, he was returning to his hometown. The people that are mentioned in this reading knew Jesus – if they hadn’t grown up with him, they surely had met him in the market place or at synagogue. We know from John’s Gospel (John 1:35-42) that at least Andrew knew who Jesus was because John the baptizer had told him. So when Jesus called to the fishermen and invited them to follow him, this invitation was not “out of the blue” but was in the context of relationship. Immediately, without hesitation, Simon and Andrew, James and John left their nets to follow Jesus. James and John left their father in the boat with the hired hands, essentially walking away from family and putting the family business at risk! Jesus’ invitation is to take risks and make sacrifices for the sake of God’s kingdom. But this invitation to follow without hesitation comes from one that is known and trusted. What do we need, as church, in order to believe and follow Jesus without hesitation?

December 7, 2014 (Year B Advent 2) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:1-8

Mark begins his gospel by telling us who Jesus is:  the Christ, which means the Anointed One, and the Son of God. But Jesus doesn’t just arrive without warning:  a prophet of old had announced that a messenger would come before the Lord’s arrival.[1]   Hundreds of years before the messenger came, the prophet Isaiah had told the people what to expect this messenger to say.[2]   This messenger appeared in an uninhabited place, dressed the way the people of his day expected a prophet to dress, speaking words that other prophets had said, telling the people to prepare because the day that the prophets of old had spoken of was near.   Throughout the history of the church, we have had people who live lives that symbolize that they are set apart to serve the church as prophets.  For the church today, what are the symbols of prophets and what old words do we expect to hear through those voices?

The messenger of God, John the baptizer, stood on the edge of the Jordan River, symbolizing entrance into the Promised Land.  He ate food that symbolized to those people that God was providing for him, moment by moment.  His message to them was to prepare the way of the Lord, which, as we heard in Psalm 85:9, begins with respecting and being in awe of the Lord.[3]    Revering the Lord is expressed by repenting, which means turning away from ways that are not approved by the Lord.  Only in this way can the people cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land.  This baptism of repentance marks the people as a people who are turning toward the one anointed by God.  What ways of being do we, as church, need to turn from so that we demonstrate our respect and reverence for Jesus and his ways?

John’s attitude toward the Son of God is clear:  he does not consider himself to be worthy to even do what the lowest servant in a household of that day would do for his master.  Humble John not only recognized his place in the great story of salvation, but he also recognizes the relative importance of his ministry.  The baptism for repentance is the beginning of the Christian journey.  A greater baptism is on the horizon for the people of John’s day, a baptism that initiates fellowship with the Holy Spirit.   This is the baptism we receive as Christians.  What does it mean, for us as church, to be those who are baptized into fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

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[1] Mark begins by quoting from Malachi 3:1, the messenger prepares a way for the Lord God who will come into his temple.

[2] Isaiah 40:3 also references the coming of the Lord God. Since divine name is used in Isaiah, Mark’s use of this passage attributes full divinity to Jesus which provides the details for what he means by the term “Son of God.”

[3] Here, “fear” means awe and reverence.  See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 3, chapter 1.