Monday, 8 September 2014
texting mark one
Mk1v1-2 The intertestamental hiatus has been too long, 400 years and no sacred texting.. Mark bring us back, he brings me back, back to 'the beginning', back to 'behold', back to 'a baptism', back to that bolt from the blue for the broken and so he brooks no verbiage.. Let us so write urgent, and be so succinct, as distilleries of good news. We live a story and we tell a story that, like John's is anticipated in the OT, motivated by Jesus' divinity and to be spoken, (nay cried, with ragged voice) in the wilder places. Thusly do we prepare a way and straighten a path through our heart and through our city.
Mk1v3 Someone is shouting out in desert. Shouting up ahead. Shouting. Shouting like a speck on the horizon. Shouting with lungfuls of the raw and the real. True existentialism has no pictures to show, no well-gridded snapshots of the life unlived, not even a moving image, not even a second thought. Great gasping breaths after meaning, of longing, of hope, of oh! Oh please, this. This something. This erotic hoped for, this holiness out of reach, this burning beneath the chest's skin, between the ribs. Shouting in the desert for this thing, this ache's reaching. Belly-calls out out to the One to come. The gut calls out - it is happening. It's not a void here, not a nothing, something is happening. Get ready, pay attention, stop everything else, listen, be afraid, be amazed, be desperately dizzy with anticipation, be sick with love. Prepare the way for blinding white goodness. This holiness demands nothing and everything. It bids you to bid it, it wants you to want it. Oh, paths straight; oh, everything under heaven searching for its right place. Oh walk a path in this desert heart, shouting....the Christ is coming.
Mk1v4 Repent & Believe. Turn round & Take hold of. Renounce & Run towards. Leave behind & Lean on. Give up & Give yourself over.
Mk1v5-6 Mark is such a short book, with such urgency to make clear an important message, why then are we told miscellaneous details of John's appearance? I surmise that these are atypical and therefore not invisible elements of a character, included in order to emphasise his emphases. Thus: John lived in a parabolic place, in parabolic clothes, eating parabolic food. This convicts me that mine is no diet of metaphors, there is no sermon in my wardrobe my postcode shocks no one. Not all of us will eat locusts, but insofar as meals are a medium for a message, we should ask what meat speaks and who is listening. Not all of us will be garbed in a hessian wrap girded for hard labour, but.. And as for deserts (qua deserts) these are environments forsaken of the background urban comforts of ready empires and man-made back-up plans. I would venture that you can elect to live as desert-ed regardless your actual location. And when you do, see how it changes your message and its reception. 'All Jerusalem' - what so universal an appetite was being met by John's presentation?
Mk1v7-8 Baptism, the picture of one's death & resurrection with Christ. For you died. & your life is now hidden with Christ. & as Christ appears you will appear Cl1v3-4. Water pictures what the spirit actually does. The spirit actually puts me to death. I died. & through the spirit I am raised to life. The spirit's work is daily resurrection, the truth that makes the symbol symbolise. & through the spirit - where jesus appears, I will appear also.
Mk1v9-10 See here open heaven contrasted with a closed universe, flatland contrasted with realms and dimensions: Christianity thinks, hopes and builds in these terms. If you permit a reality that is so tiered and genuinely antithesised (rather than the infinite extension of a vaguely synthesised sameness), then you have axes to build on. But it is not enough that there should be a heaven, dimensions and holy otherness, unless it is also active, personal and compassionately mischievous to break in despite our deserts. So the 'tearing open' of the heavens is our hope and our praxis, we, Bothersome Men, tear and are torn, and so look we for the peeling edge, the cracks and nooks, the spirit's leading toward an Other City. Come Holy Spirit and interfere, come let us live on the brink of heaven.
Mk1v11 I-you, beloved, favoured, chosen. The God of speech-acts, the God of who hears his own belovedness. It isn't that because the trinity already know they belong to each other they don't keep telling each other. Love keeps speaking. Belovedness needs to keep hearing. You you you. (Jesus teach me, to have & to hold)
Mk1v12 The best trinitarian love-feast followed by a wasteland. I often make the claim that what seem like spiritual breakthroughs are followed by the deepest dark of repetition, boredom, returning, sin & self-loathing, like a post-coital argument. What did Jesus do? He spoke truths out loud, leant on scripture & addressed the spiritual darkness face first Mt4v1-11.
Mk1v13-14 The brevity of Mk's description of the wilderness temptation may be on account of his emphasis that this was but one of many episodes in a life of a constant conflict with the devil. Contrasted with a possible weighting one can misread into Mt's account which graduates Jesus into ministry of having-already-overcome-any-temptation.. The Devil will resist your conversion, your progress, your perseverance. That great slanderer hates the courtship the marriage, the honeymoon, the enduring glory of any lasting relationship/ministry - hating with, if anything, a crescendo of scheming for its destruction. .. Mk alone notes the wild beasts. A coming of age commissioning played out where the Wild Things Are, yet these are not phantoms of psychoanalytic analogy. No bucolic idyll neither, this spiritual retreat communed with the panthers, bears, wolves, lions, foxes, jackels, serpents, leopards of the entirely uncivilised Judean wilderness. How do we consider our being-toward-nature and our being-toward-danger? Jesus is promised as one who can trample lions and cobras (Ps91v13), and for being so able, is also one who can silence those lions (Dn6v22) and so also cause a lasting harmony of lions and lambs (Is11v6)
Mk1v15 This verse on the nearness of the kingdom I have treasured many times, but only today have the sense of jesus announcing himself - I am with you, I myself am amongst you, near you. Here I am, word made flesh, repent & believe.
Mk1v16 Here I am, says Jesus, walking by lake Galilee, as you by the Thames. Yesterday Preston Yancey on sacramental theology, riffing Gregory of Nyssa that by his baptism Jesus hallows all waters, so in incarnation hallows all bodies. Achingly near.
Mk1v17-18 Go fish. How much analogy can this metaphor carry before it capsizes.. What is a fisher here? Neither the recreational angler nor the industrial trawler seems quite to conjure the endeavour of evangelism. Fishers of men stand in the legion maritime analogies that shape the Christian: so we as 'we' labour as a crew on a gospel enterprise, through the night, through the storm. So, be rugged, disciplined and ship shape. Cast into the deep and accept dangerous, unglamourous and smelly work. And know, if your nets are tangled, if the mesh is woven too wide, if you neglect to navigate, if you don't bait your hook, you will catch nothing. .. Two things to moderate this.  Mark adds 'become' to Matthew's 'I will make you fishers of men..' It is a process, and Jesus promises to apprentice and equip, to labour for our mature graduation to skilful seafaring.  Devoted and skilful fishermen can toil all night and catch nothing Lk5v5 unless Christ draws the fish.
Mk1v19-20 Love at first sight, & faithfulness unto death. Don't miss it, like the Wheelers missed Paris, don't miss the call of the holy, of the possible, of the right, of the very-alive. Don't reason yourself away from the knowledge in your guts that this Christ who invites is worth the risk. Oh God, I want you to have all my nets & my narrative. What nets keep me from following?
Mk1v21-22 'Authority.' What is it? There is a paradigm of life and teaching which operates apart from authority, a worldview that considers we are simply rearranging pieces in a static inert universe ~ a paradigm marked by timidity, pedantry, and inertia. Now, this is not to say that all authority is good authority, there exists powerplay and tyranny, whose caricatures feature so prominently in a scribe's advocacy for an over-cautiously moderate approach to teaching. What is authority? Permission? Personality? Power? It goes without saying that these should be used with responsibility, but I don't think that is where that battle lies. Mt8v9 pictures a worldview that understands bestowed authority and considers that the spiritual realm is similarly tiered, governed and ordered - a vision quite alien to blithely spiritual milder modes of churchianity. Do you not know, we will judge angels? 1Cor6v3. Therefore go, in all authority Mt28v18.
Mk1v23-24 Screaming. I've done a lot of screaming recently. & yesterday N on his Oshu which screams as a way of externalising chaos. T'is how it feels, often, screaming & swearing as a way of trying to put outside the chaos intensity hatred that is under the skin. Screaming because I am surrounded by dark violence, but screaming towards the light. So which am I screaming at, the darkness or the light? Darkness dwells here, but so does light. Screaming recognises that all is not lost, it is the muteness of all hopelessness that one must really fear. I recognise the Christ, & ask that you would meet me here in my screaming, & lead me from darkness to light.
Mk1v25-26 Jesus says be quiet, and the Spirit came out with a shriek. A quiet shriek? Presumably not. This rhetorical question is certainly not a basis to build any great theology from, but perhaps these verses hint that the process of freedom comes to a concentrated climax before release. Unclean spirits, habits, presuppositions, comforts, familiarities, debts, schemes, environments, commitments, all manner of unclean embroilments we permit ourselves: these attachments may not go silently, but they will go silent. Commentaries note other silencings Jesus achieves: Mt22v34 the Sadducees, 1Pt2v15 the ignorance of foolish men. These and similar untruths and disaffirmations constitute the noise in my life, radio static of an 'unclean' signal. Jesus filters the fuzz and muzzles to mute these and then whispers the still small voice of perfect freedom.
Mk1v27-28 Amazement, recognition of something, the asking of questions, discussion in the midst of life. & by this spreads the name of Jesus. 'What is this?' Really though, what do you think?
Mk1v29 Jesus in a domestic space, working from home, but this is radicalised domesticity. Would that we would that we might do likewise and so find the whole city comes to our door (v33)
Mk1v30 Many immediatelies in Mark, as we know. Sometimes the Spirit v10, v12, sometimes Jesus, v20, v21 sometimes the healing v42, sometimes the circumstance v23. Here the immediate is the disciples' intercession. She is ill. Jesus please help. Tell him immediately. First response, first thought, first aid, stat, asap. Why dither a maybe, why wait for the "right time". There is a nowness to Christian timing and an urgency to prayer.
Mk1v30-31 He takes my hand. He takes my hand the the fever leaves. My feverish fever at work in my body Rm7v15, 23. But he takes my hand, & the fever leaves me. He has. He is. He will. He takes my hand.
Mk1v33-34 Behind the veil, there's a lot going on. Know this. See then how Jesus choreographs his own death his own way, with discretion and timing - perfect timing. There are spiritual mischief makers in the unseen realm, there exists active conscious evil in the world. The horror genre gains almost all of its currency in its affirmation of the much suppressed notion that evil in the world is personal. The modern mind favours conceptions of our condition in terms of impersonal, undirected damage, mere brokenness, abstract distortions of a notional ideal. See narratives like climate change lack a personal and a spiritual dimension, thus do we try impersonal and aspiritual solutions by way of technology and policy. When you pray, pray the restoration of the world, the healing of the flesh, and the overcoming of an active personal devil, a devil who 'knows Jesus' and who so seeks chaos and ruin.
Mk1v35-36 Oft used as a reminder of Jesus-as-model-of-perfect-humanity insofar as he goes away alone to spend time with the Father, but what of this as a picture of the divinity of Jesus too? Maybe there's a lot of hiding & seeking within the trinity, maybe they're always pursuing each other. & maybe this is part of what we mean when we say that we get to join in the movement of the trinity, as here - as Jesus withdraws to chase after the father so then Simon & his companions chase after Jesus, searching for him, as sos3v1-2 looking for the one I love. So our triune God can be both deus absconditus and father-of-prodigal, running towards us. Is45v15, Lk15v20. Hiding & seeking, pursuing & pursued I want, I want to play.
Mk1v37 Everybody is looking for something, for someone, for a special somebody and they will satisfy themselves with a substitution if they don't this one.
Mk1v38 "Let us go..for therefore I came" These Jews were made for walking, and that's what so are you. You are here for the going, you are going for the proclaiming, that is your why: a wayfarer's wherefore have we. Therefore go.
Mk1v39-40 'If: causals, conditionals & counterfactuals.' (The title of my next paper when i've exhausted the 'we'). If If If. What if? If only. If x then y. If you can keep your head about you. But if not. The if is the knife edge of our real life, & our real living, present tense: the true condition of our time-bound existence. & not just re time, but re intersubjectivity, for as in this verse, one of the deepest ifs is 'if you'. The word for our limit for our unknowing, our dependence, our humility, the acknowledgement that it all comes as a gift. All of life is grace. & each if can be traced back & back to the highest host, the mystery that is God the creator, redeemer & sustainer. The one in whom all ifs find their rest & restoration, even if they don't lose their iffyness. A multiplicity of ifs make for a multiplicity of meetings, in joy & pain. Hallelujah.
Mk1v41-42 I am unclean: out damned spot. I am unclean: no mere spec in the eye, nor fly in the ointment. I am unclean utterly. Today's hygiene apartheid that would quarantine the great unwashed is more pronounced than ever and I am unclean: sullied, spent, squandered - a used rag bound for the social landfill, the runt of the litter consigned to an unseen class. I am unclean: on the surface streaked rust stains corrupt and sear through uncoated concrete. I am unclean: a crusty veneer of pollutants, a blemish on the face of the city, an embarrassment of failure, the detritus of shame. I am unclean: damp rot rising in my bones, I am unsafe, staggering ~ open wounds sting sticky to the touch. I am unclean: festering over-ripe fruit, writhing infested surface alive only with the parasitic shimmer of death's agents. I am unclean: the odour of morbid flesh clinging to the charred frame of a wasted man, I am the atmosphere of contagion, a percolating peasouper rubbing its putrid oily back on the window-panes. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Rm7v24
Mk1v43-44 Stern & specific words from Jesus. & today, Sept 18th, Jesus wants to speak stern & specific words to us. With the gift comes words, that we become neither grace-refusers nor grace-abusers. Stern words are an extension of grace itself, to direct our steps, to light our feet. Thus, specific. Take seriously the one step our Jesus wishes to illuminate today. Take space. Take heed. It may be stern, but it is part of the healing you were healed for.
Mk1v45 Don't therefore go? The sterness of Jesus' charge in v43-44 make it hard to consider his command mere rhetoric-to-highlight-the-'cannot-but-tell'-ecstatic-moment-of-conversion. I consider that Jesus genuinely wanted discretion in this case - what are the implications for me and my story? The impetus to sympathise with the former leper's disobedience-as-a-side-effect-of-gratitude comes from my own insecurity, subtly influenced by an any-publicity-is-good-publicity mindset motivated to catalyse a mass-movement at all costs. The Kingdom is not such a mass movement. The mob and the mega church may be happy means and modes for a season but ultimately they get in the way, as we see in Mk2, the problem is relieved only by taking the roof off. Be charismatic, be Charismatic, but be wary hysteria and coercion are easy to brew and render the church damagingly impersonal. So, sometimes, don't-go and don't tell. Similar to Of Gods and Men, Jamie Treadwell's Acton community last night embody a don't-go in their praise of stability, constancy and graduality. Don't-tell makes me consider Muller, the Schaeffers, Hudson-Taylor.. who sought supply by prayer rather than publicity. In some seasons shout, in other seasons, God's own still small voice is quite sufficient to make Jesus famous.