Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, December 18th
The Fourth Sunday of Advent:  
3 Women | Prince | God's Radical Love

Jesus and his friends return to Israel after their failed (or was it?) effort to proclaim the gospel good news on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (the Gentile Side, present day Syria and Jordan).  As he returns to his land, his people and his culture, he’s met with overwhelming needs, hopes and prayers.  Our Mark passage today focuses upon a chiastic story: a story (of the bleeding woman who comes to Jesus) sandwiched within another story (the dead girl, whose father comes to him for help).  This was a customary Jewish way of telling stories and writing, a lot like we look for a tight relationship between an introduction and a conclusion.  The contrast between these two women in need of healing and wholeness is also paralleled by the Lectionary texts in Luke 1 which lift up the story of Mary, another woman that God seeks out to involve in his company’s radical idea of a Christmas Party: a reversal of the way things are done in the world.  Today’s texts invite us to take a closer look at the world at Christmas:  God comes into the world not to condemn it, but to heal, liberate and transform it.  Are we then called to flee it, conform to it, or engage it?

What’s the rock star Prince got to do with it?

The 80s rock star Prince, often condemned for overtly sexual lyrics and actions, is commonly recognized as a musical composer, albeit in a different style than Bach or Mozart.  A song of his  “Let’s Get Crazy” lifts up the theme that I see underneath our three scriptures: the incarnation :: God’s radical commitment to our world.  Here are the beginning lyrics of that rock song:

“Dearly beloved;  We are gathered here today; 2 get through this thing called life. 

Electric word life; It means forever and that's a mighty long time; But I'm here 2 tell u; There's something else; The afterworld |  A world of never ending happiness; U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills;  U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright; Instead of asking him how much of your time is left; Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life; Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life; You're on your own”

Granted this is a rock song meant to dance to, yet it lifts up some of the challenges that we face in urban life:  the difficulty in day-to-day survival, in particular in a context that is more comfortable than those facing starvation in Ethiopia or Sudan.  Yet how do we look at life?  Are we on our own?  Do we just need to suck it up and live carpe dieum to the max to find happiness here below?  Is the “good life” only in the hereafter?  What does being alive today mean?  How does our life and actions bring meaning to the universe?

In Mark 5, we see the peripatetic (not pathetic!) life style of Jesus.  That adjective means 1) an itinerant person who walks and travels about; 2) it also refers to those that follow Aristotelian (from the Greek Aristotle) school of philosophy, based upon the notion of journeying to reflect upon life.  Jesus seems to make meaning of life, to teach and encounter the world by journeying – literally walking around – in it.  His is not a removed life of reflective distance, but an up-close, encountering the down and dirty aspects of life prophetic role.  That’s what the incarnation is:  God comes to us to convince us of God’s radically transformative and liberating love.

the bleeding woman:
While setting out to heal the synagogue ruler’s daughter (one of the notables or 1%) Jesus is touched in a crowd by an anonymous woman, who we learn is unclean according to the Mosaic law because of her menstrual bleeding which has lasted for 12 years!  [Leviticus 17:10-14 & Deuteronomy 12:23]  This was a bit mysognistic but also because the ancients believed that the “life force” – the thing that means you’re alive – what we mean when we say “the soul” – was contained in the blood.  Because she’s unclean she’s in supposed to reside outside of the camp/town/village until she’s healed and thus ritually clean.  The problem is that after 12 years she doesn’t seem any closer to wholeness.  Because she’s unclean she is banished from society, the synagogue where she might pray, her family and life in general.  If she touches someone then they too become ritually unclean.  So she’s going against the law in sneaking into the crowd, touching innumerable people and intentionally touching Jesus.  Did you catch her name?  Me neither.  A person without a name isn’t a person in human culture.  But rather than condemning her, Jesus gives her a new name – what is it?  Why does he call her that?  What does it mean..for her?  For the crowd?  In response to his teaching on family in Mark 3:31-35?  The word Greek word used in v. 28 & 29 for healing also means “to be saved”.  How does Jesus save her?; us?

the dead girl:
Jairus’ daughter almost seems like an after thought.  She dies before he can get there because of the encounter with the bleeding woman.  Jesus says another funny thing (like who touched me?) – “She’s not dead merely sleeping.”  It’s eschatological irony, pointing to the way in which God wants to make all things new, a way of looking beyond present appearances to what God will make happen in the future.  Is she really dead?; merely sleeping?  She must be dead as they’re mourning her.  Jesus raises her from the dead, a resurrection similar in a sense to his own.  He tells her to “get up”.  In Greek the word is egeiro! Which can also means “be resurrected” or “return to new life”!  How does Jesus free and heal this daughter?  How is she similar and different to the bleeding woman?

How do you hear God inviting you to freedom, wholeness and love in these texts?
How does the peripatetic God journey with us in Christ? Today?  How are we called to also be peripatetic in the way that we love all of our neighbors as God loves us?
The message of Christmas is that “we’re not on our own!”  How is that revolutionary today?

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