The Verbs of Lent: 2

Mark 8:31-38The 2nd Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 1, 2015

“After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Jesus didn’t speak the pleasant, sit-at-the-library-table verb “study me.”

Instead, Jesus said, “follow me.”

Following is scrambling across the worst literal or figurative bridges in life, abandoning the safer side for no good reason other than faith.
Following is scrambling across the worst literal or figurative bridges in life, abandoning the safer side for no good reason other than faith.

It’s easier to study Jesus. I relish settling into my cushy recliner, cracking open a friendly book or two, and gleaning details about the context of Jesus’ era. How can we really understand any of those parables he told unless we understand the role of women in first-century Palestine, or the particular garments people wore, or grasp the pre-industrial techniques of farming, shepherding, carpentry, and so forth? I need to learn about Galilean geography during the Roman Empire so that I can (cleverly) determine when the Gospel of Luke is incorrect about a particular location. I wrestle with translating ancient Greek (should’ve taken more than one semester in seminary), but still like it when I find the nuanced meaning of a word in the Gospel of Mark to wow a congregation or shame an arrogant take-the-Bible-literally colleague . . . Continue reading →

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The Verbs of Lent: 1

Mark 1:9-15The First Sunday of Lent – February 22, 2015

“. . . Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him.” (Mark 1:10)

Baptism-with-ChristJesus saw heaven splitting open . . .

Before the split, there was a flowing river and John the Baptizer.

After the spilt, perhaps split seconds later, heaven was revealed and the dove descended.

In this English translation of Mark’s Gospel, in the grammar of a sentence, splitting is a present participle verbal. It is an action word transformed into an adjective. But verb enough it is.

Heaven splitting open . . . Continue reading →

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True Authority

Mark 1:21-28 – The 4th Sunday after Epiphany – for February 1, 2015

“The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority . . .” (Mark 1:22)

It was in a college class in 1973 when one of my speech communication professors recalled Martin Luther King’s appearance at a rally in the mid-‘60s.

King had captured the attention of every listener.
King had captured the attention of every listener.

The professor was white, highly educated, and had been raised in Depression-era Texas. He described, as he lectured to his students, the remarkable reactions he’d witnessed as King inspired the crowd. There were men and women, young and old, poorly and richly dressed, black and white (along with the other colors humans are labeled with); some sat and others stood while all pressed against their neighbor as they listened.

And they all seemed to be listening. That’s what amazed this professor, a dispassionate evaluator of speeches and debates. At some point, he had reluctantly shifted from King’s riveting words to study those near him. King had captured the attention of every listener.

King spoke with authority.

King’s words—his truths, hopes, dreams, metaphors, stories, confessions, criticisms, and challenges—seemed to impact and impress each individual. One smiled. Another nodded. The next wept. There was cheering, clapping, amens!, and hugs. Continue reading →

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