March 5th, 2006

(hidden) wisdom

First Sunday in Lent: Mark

After catching up on LJ -- at which point it was into Sunday -- I tackled Mark.  [Bible Study says he's considered to be the first of the Gospel writers -- 70CE ish; after the destruction of the Second Temple -- and the main source for Matthew and Luke.]  I quit around Chapter 13 (around 1:30am).  I didn't get up until 7am, so I didn't have time to finish before heading out.

Thoughts as I was reading, however:

We start with John the Baptist, no Nativity or anything.
Wow he tells people not to tell about him many times.
Okay, a lot of the lines could be interpreted as disappointment or whatever, but I still have a hard time with Max Lucado's contention that Jesus never gets angry.
And he says a lot of hard things.

Like Mark 4:10-12
10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
  " 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
      and ever hearing but never understanding;
  otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'[Isaiah 6:9,10]"
Actually it occurs to me later to wonder about Mark 4:21-23
21He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
in the midst of all this.  (Oh, and "With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything." totally made me think of that bit in the Gospel of Thomas.)

Anyway.  Other hard stuff.  The Sabbath grain bit seems excessive to me.  I mean, there are no extenuating circumstances like there are in the OT instance he cites.

Oh, and can't forget the infamous dogs anecdote.

Repetition.  Feeding the multitudes twice.  (6:30-44 and 8:1-13; Jesus himself actually mentions this immediately following the second instance")
Is this aimed at a nonJewish audience? -- Mark 7:3-4 explaining the Jewish tradition of ceremonial washing.
Jesus being the only one able to rid a particular demon versus even people other than the appointed twelve being able to do miracles in Jesus' name.  (Incidentally, way to go with the foreshadowing, "Mark" :) )
What up with cursing the fig tree?
How does saying Jesus is right constitute "answering wisely"?  (I feel like he'd be more likely to say, "Of course I answered rightly.  Do you not know I am the Son of God?")
This son of Davd bit weirds me.
Jesus refers to himself as the "Son of God," but what does that mean?

Bible Study

8:15am.  "We have coffee, doughnuts, and bagels."  So I suspected (correctly, as it turned out) that it wouldn't really start until ~8:30 -- though being me of course I was there before 8:15 anyhow.  However, I did think, "Okay, an hour and a half [service starts ~10am], that's maybe enough time to cover an entire gospel."  9:10 we were done.  At that point my guess was that it was because of choir, and lo I was right.  (And admittedly, they were cleaning up until close to 10:00.)

The leader (Mary Ann) mentioned a couple books which sounded really interesting:
      The Four Witnesses (Robin Griffith-Jones)
      Misquoting Jesus (Bart Ehrman)
Thoughts, anyone?

She talked some about a tradition of representing the four Gospel writers with four different animals, representing the different aspects of Jesus each writer emphasized -- human (Matthew), ox (Luke), lion (Mark - royalty), eagle (John - divinity).

She said that in the Roman Empire, Augustus was referred to as "Son of God," "Savior," someone who came to bring peace.  I thought that was interesting.

She said Mark has a very choppy style ("paratactic") and that the word "immediately" appears 39 times.  (Which I think random stuff like the naked guy in the garden of Gethsemane even more bizarre.)

She mentioned that in the closing we go back to Galilee, back to the opening of the book.

As for the very ending, what do we think?  Is it bleak?  Elaine Pagels apparently argues that it's hopeful.

We closed with a Lenten wreath, which I think I remember something similar from First Churches.

Service

The pulpit drapes were purple (color of penitence, royalty, and the robe the soldiers mockingly put on the to-be-crucified Christ ), though more pink than I would have liked.

Meditation:
"It was in this (Rome, circa 64 A.D.) highly charged atmosphere of incipient doom and eagerly awaited glory that Mark composed his story of Jesus."
-Rev. Robin Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses

I was sitting in the 5th pew and there wasn't anyone sitting in front of me, so before service started Pastor Hamilton kinda leaned down and whispered, "Did you get my e-mail?" (from yesterday, rescheduling our evening coffee) which I thought was sweet.  His suggested reschedule was this Tuesday, which is the first of Grace Episcopal's Narnia series, plus I was considering going to "Words Worth Teaching" 5:30pm at Harvard.  I think I'll take his reschedule, though.

He thanked people for helping out with dinner at the last whatever event and said, "And if I leave off your name, feel free to come up and slap me on the side of my head."

     Responsive Call to Worship:
Let us come together as sojourners in faith.  Let us bring, on our Lenten journey, a sense of expectancy, the promise of things not seen, the vision of what could be ...
     For God's creation is not done.
We are called to repent -- to find the right road.
     Let us travel light in the spirit of faith and expectation.
We are called together, here and now!
     We begin again, again we begin.

The idea that "God's creation is not done" makes me kinda twitchy 'cause of "And God saw that it was good." -- even though I get all sorts of twitchy at the various flavors of "oh noes, the oldest natural way is teh bestest."

Processional Hymn: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," which I sang because I like how it sounds, and don't have deep problems with the words.

The Congregational Response was "Santo, Santo, Santo," which I enjoy singing in Spanish, and I noticed it says "Music: [...] arr. 1990 Iona community" :)

     Unison Prayer of Confession:
Ever-present God, forgive me my foolishness in believing there existed only those things which I could see and touch.  Amen.

     Assurance of Pardon
Something about

Scripture: Mark 8.27-9.1 [at the center of the book of Mark, and argued by both Mary Ann and Pastor Hamilton to be the turning point of the book]

Message: "He's a Rebel" (which made me think of "The Rebel Jesus")

The theme of this Lenten sermon series is "Who do you say I am?" and near the beginning of the sermon, Pastor Hamilton said he was going to dismiss out of hand the American Jesus made in our own image and "stuffed into the back of Pat Robertson's Cadillac."  This bugged me because we all make Jesus in our own image.  He mentioned the "gospel of prosperity" as part of what Jesus would be appalled by, and while I get what he's saying, but how many of us are willing to trust God enough and give up all material security enough to do, say, this?  He also mentioned football (which I know he's a big fan of) and commented that when someone makes a touchdown and then thanks God, God actually isn't all that concerned with football.  This grates against my sense of a God who is involved in all the details of our life.

He mentioned that Jesus was loved by the people and hated by the authorities, and yes it's my 4 years at a ragingly liberal institute of higher learning, but that totally pings my "Jesus in your own image!" even though it's very much a correct assessment of the Jesus of Mark's Gospel.

He mentioned that Galilee is lush, unlike the Judean desert, though I forget how that had relevance.

Before he started the meat of his sermon he listed (albeit quickly) his 4 points.  Yay for aiding the note-takers.
1. secrets
He argued that Jesus' teachings were not so much secretive as difficult to put into practice, which I don't entirely buy at least in the Gospel of Mark.
He also said that Mark's (main) message is: you will mess up but you will be forgiven.
2. Messiah:
He talked about how Jesus was not the Messiah the Jews expected (something I was actually talking about with angel_thane over on paper_crystals' journal recently [flocked link for my reference]) and how after giving the correct answer to "Who am I?" Peter takes Jesus aside and Jesus replies with that harsh "get behind me, Satan" and he talked about the temptation to easy discipleship, the temptations of worldly power, and posited that this scene mirrored the temptation in the desert.  (He said the temptation in the desert isn't in Mark, but it is mentioned very briefly.)
3. cost of discipleship:
From "I will make you fishers of men" to "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. . . ."
He said that Jesus was becoming popular and for the disciples it was like they'd gotten on board at the beginning of a startup (I thought of "I'm with the band" from Circle -- another bit in that routine which bugged me, because Jesus so wasn't "with" the Pharisees.) but now he was asking very much more from them, the game had changed.
4. apocalypse:
He said that Mark was concerned with struggle for worldly power.
64 CE: Rome burned for 6 days (2/3 of the city gone in the end); blamed on the Jewish Christians (whose buildings, on the other side of the Tiber River, were unharmed).  And after Donfried's class, oh how I love that he made sure to distinguish that Christianity was not Christianity yet then but was still a sect of Judaism.
66 CE: After a rebellion, Rome burned Jerusalem, crucified 20 thousand and then ran out of crucifixes; burned down the Temple (only the Western Wall was left, still).

2 more notes:
1. Jesus' last words (quoting Psalm 22:1)
My notes include "also M w" but I don't remember what that means.
2. the ending of Mark
He called it a "dead stop," which I enjoyed.
And he repeatedly called Mark's Gospel "stark and dark."
In conclusion: Jesus of the sword and Jesus the Lamb.  Perhaps more important to focus on who we are in relation to Jesus.

It was Communion Sunday, which I'd forgotten about. Kate (Gretchen's mom) was back again, still delirious. 'Twas cute. They were sitting behind me, so I got to listen to Carol prepping her ("When they hand you the tray, take it, hand it to me, take a piece of bread, then hold onto it.")

There are a couple women shut-in currently, and he said he was sure they were pretty lonely, so he audio-recorded the congregation saying "Hi, [name]. We're thinking about you" for both of them, which I thought was sweet. [One of the women in the choir asked where they were -- which prompted a joke about them being in the cassette recorder, no wonder they were so lonely -- and I was kinda bugged that he hadn't mentioned that already; I mean hello, visiting.] He said something along the lines of, he could think of no better benediction than that, so he sent us out. Again with the skipping the Passing of the Peace.

I ended up chatting with various people after the service.  Sharon, the lay reader, was part of the receiving line or whatever it's called and we ended up chatting for a while about Harvard and suchlike.  (And established that she probably recognized me from the library.)  Then in Coffee Hour this woman said hi to me like she knew me, but it turns out she's just very friendly (name's Linda, had daughters in NHS classes of '91 and 96; did a cross-country including South Dakota 1-month trip in 1996).  Saw Mrs. Ingemi, whose daughter's doing a pharmacy program (6 years!).




Emmanuel Lutheran:

The following themes and lessons will be the focus of our Sunday worship services.  We hope that you might read them at home as well, joining us in the discipline of Lenten devotions and prayer.

March 5 - Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15


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My mom commented last night that it's interesting that her son who probably identifies as Born Again doesn't seem to do anything with church, whereas her "decidedly agnostic" daughter is "going to six churches at once."  [A bit of an exaggeration, but still.  "Seeking," my mother says.]
small girl in big world [_extraflamey_]

[Lent: day 5/40]

Signs & Miracles
-Ron Koertge

"If you exist," I said.  "Send me
a pony."

Immediately Jesus appeared
in my bedroom.

I get off my knees.  "You heard
my prayer!"

He quoted Himself: "Except ye
see signs and miracles, you will
not believe."

"Be reasonable, Jesus.  It's hard
to just take Your word for it."

"But I'm here.  In your bedroom.
Isn't that enough?"

"So is the pony outside?"
from Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon (ed. Nick Carbó and Denise Duhamel) p. 3.
hermione by oatmilk

MLA's 2006 "Which book should every adult read before they die?" list

via offbalance: MLA "Which book should every adult read before they die?" list, in order.  Top 30.  [Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) polled British librarians.]

I put + marks in front of the ones I've read.  With commentaries below each listing.  I even broke them up into tiers with subtotals read for each tier.  *is big cataloging dork*

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hermione by oatmilk

3 episodes of CSI > the Academy Awards

Yeah, that was definitely more enjoyable than watching the Oscars would have been.  Will read the flist's writeups (plus the rest of the flist and my e-mail) tomorrow.  Will do my CSI writeups . . . maybe tomorrow; depends on how busy work is.




Yeah, am definitely okay with missing Grace Episcopal's Narnia Day 1 to meet with Pastor Hamilton.  From the most recent Norwood Bulletin:
Grace Episcopal Church to hold series on C.S. Lewis book and Lent
    As part of its observance of the season of Lent, Grace Episcopal Church will host an intergenerational program called "Aslan is on the Move," based on C.S. Lewis' book, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," five Tuesdays in Lent: March 7, 14, 21 and 28, and April 4, from 6 to 8 p.m.  Using games, activities, and discussions, the program will explore some of the themes of Christianity through Lewis's story about four young siblings who walk through an old wardrobe to find a magical world called Narnia.  Participants can meet the characters of Tumnus, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and Aslan.  In each session, a segment of an animated film will be show so everyone will know the story.  A light dinner will be served.