I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Zooming In on Solitary Jesus

I imagine the sounds of the crowd still ringing in His ears when, in the very early morning, while still dark, Jesus got up and went off to be alone and pray. Peter goes out to find him, because everyone is looking for Him. Peter finds Jesus off by himself, and is like, "Hey, what's up?" Jesus replies, "Let's go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That's why I've come."

Anybody else hear Bob Seger's Turn the Page.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Jesus Heals Many : Jesus Prays in the Desert?

Continuing with Mark's Gospel we come to another healing story. Or rather a set of healings. Here is Mark 1:29-39
Jesus Heals Many
29As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
38Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
I think there is a temptation to skip over these stories. Many Christians, and the vast majority of non-Christians, will read this as a metaphor for Jesus' greatness. Others, will not really ponder very long on whether they think Jesus could make a sick person well, and finally, most Christians will simply accept it as a given that Jesus how power to affect the physical world that others do not--perhaps because of their lack of faith.

A couple things that should give us pause for any of these positions. First, the healing is not by itself evidence that Jesus was the Son of God. Lots of people healed. Healers were all over the place. Second, remember that Mark was writing a generation and half, at least, after these events took place. Mark is the first Gospel, but the author wasn't a newspaper reporter. He put these stories, in this order for a purpose. (Although, my father-in-law reports that the Greek is absolutely atrocious. Literally like reading a book report by a fourth grader.) Third, and this is the reason for the question mark, it turns out that the story says Jesus retired to the deserts in Galilee. Helpful translators have recognized that there are no deserts in Galilee and "corrected" it to "lonely places." As the New Interpreter's Bible Commentary points out, this destroys the parallel between baptism and temptation, (crowd-desert).

So: What does this story tell us about the nature of Jesus? What was his Myers Brigs designation? I'm an ENTJ.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

An Old Question

I'd like to entertain comments about the role of the faithful and the stimulus package. I called McCain and Kyle last night on the way home to advocate for the jobs stimulus package, but evidently Rush Limbaugh's army of listeners in favor of the tax cut stimulus package are way out performing those in favor of public works projects.

Now, with hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month and foreclosures continuing to rise, I certainly think that the economy is the proper topic of the faithful. Indeed, the tax collectors and the wealthy were treated pretty harshly in the Gospel. Much of Jesus' message was about caring for the poor.

I think the church has to stand for putting the needs of the poor first. But once you start talking about specific programs or initiatives, it starts to get hazy. Perhaps the Church could ask with one voice, "Congress persons, what are you doing for the poor?"

We've neglected our roads and bridges, which are crumbling , and our national debt is soaring but some what us to keep our taxes at record lows, and even lower them. Isn't this something Isaiah might complain about?

[BTW, the irony is not lost on me that in Jesus' time the tax collectors took money from the poor and gave it to the rich, and in our current system tax collectors take money disproportionately from the rich and use it for the common good, and sometimes actually just give it to the poor.]

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Question for the Year Revisited

I asked before, "How does one change what one wants?" I poked around a little further in a later post. Today, reading up on Hinduism, it appears that one answer may be, you don't.

It is true, Huston Smith's Hindu would say, that there are greater and lesser desires. The desire for success is better than the desire for pleasure. The desire to serve others, better than the desire for success. Ultimately, you will desire liberation from the finite. But, the point is you will eventually have the higher desires. Maybe not in this lifetime, but eventually.

So, should we try to shape our desires?

Monday, February 02, 2009

A helpful tool?

I got on the train this morning, and shortly after taking my seat, I heard Jesus calling me. "Excuse me," he said--the smell of alcohol on his breath was overwhelming. I looked up and the young man asked, "Hey, man, do you have a couple of bucks I could have? I need to get a new driver's license, which is four dollars, and I don't have any cash."

I lied, saying, "No, I'm sorry I don't have any cash with me." (I had $3 in my pocket.)

He polled the rest of the car, but no one would give Jesus any money. One woman, who like Jesus was wearing pretty scruffy clothes, told him about a place where you could get public assistance for stuff like this on Jefferson Street, downtown. Jesus asked another guy to borrow his phone, a guy who'd already refused to give him any money. I heard Jesus tell the person on the other line that it would be good if he or she could just send $150 dollars to keep him afloat until he got paid by his job. He assured this person that he would not use the money to drink, and that he had not had anything to drink for over two weeks. He said, "I love you too" as he hung up.

The ticket taker boarded the train, and Jesus made a speedy exit--Jefferson Street was still many stops away.

On reflection, considering this very literal view of "whatsoever you do," I wish that I had not lied. I wish I had told Jesus that I would not give him any money. And, I think if faced with Jesus sometime in the future, I would feel comfortable with taking that stand.

What do you think, is "Would You Do This to Jesus?" as good a tool as "What Would Jesus Do?"?