January 31, 2007

Mark 6.30-44

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.

And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.

Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.

But he answered them, "You give them something to eat."

And they said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii ["The denarii was a day's wage for a laborer"] worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?"

And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see?"

And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish."

Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people, and he divided the two fish between them all.

And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

January 27, 2007

Mark 6.14-29

King Herod heard of it; for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, "John the Baptiser has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him."

But others said, "It is Elijah."

And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old."

But when Herod heard of it he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Phillip's wife, because he had married her.

For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it, even half of my kingdom."

And she went out, and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?"

And she said, "The head of John the Baptiser."

And she came in immediately and with haste to the king, and asked, saying "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptiser on a platter."

And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.

He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.

When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

January 22, 2007

Mark 6.7-13

And he went about among the villages teaching.

And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts--but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

And he said to them, "Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them."

So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and annointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

January 21, 2007


Faith. Trust. Not "beliefs", not any number of beliefs, but trust.

Where do you put your trust? Faith in the Tooth Fairy won't do it.

There's something here to be known, like you know 2 + 2 or like you know the ground under your feet or the person who raised you.

And you can trust it. You can't always trust your ideas about it; these come from it and point to it, but they aren't the same.

Ideas about it can be collected, classified, marketed, used to scare people out of their savings or to let them imagine that having the ideas makes them special.

You can test people on the ideas, separate the A's from the F's, lead them around by the notions, make them do tricks, face death or kill each other.

You can't do that with What-It-Am. You can use the words; there's no way to patent them; but "There's something here to be known."

If you yearn for that, and all you're getting from your own teachers are the same old ideas that haven't done it for you yet--and may not have led them anywhere closer--Well of course you'll look in other religions. Sometimes you'll see what's been buried in plain sight among the relicts of your home tradition, whether or not you ever come to recognize it there. But that is not what Jesus is complaining about in this latest passage. These people know all the words, and if they'd found it anywhere, they would recognize it in him. But they don't, and they aren't even looking.

Can you tell if someone else knows it? Once you know what it looks like in yourself, it can be perfectly obvious when someone else is talking about the same "thing". What if he's fooling you?--What if he's only learned some good words and is just running them through his inner word processor? Well, then, someday he will connect the words with their meaning; and truth meanwhile can still come to you through his words. God is a source of truth and understanding, not a charm against surprises or a recipe for infallibility.

But where do "beliefs" come into this? They are not the same as "knowledge", but they do matter; they can lead us closer to knowledge or further away. It may or may not be worth asking: "How and why do they end up affecting what actually happens to us?"--but that's for another post.

Beliefs by definition are what we think we know, so we aren't given an operational means of making the distinction... unless we simply find God directly.

That's my definition of Quakerism--not that any number of men can render themselves foolproof, but that God is available to all. Be still, ask, expect to be answered.


Hello Folks.

I seem to have lost my power to make changes to the settings on this blog. I was mucking about in the settings last week some time so I likely unchecked my own administrative rights.

If one of the active members -- I think Crystal Larry and Forrest all have admin rights -- could go into "change settings" and then click on the membership tab -- you can see if I have an admin box checked or not. If not you could re-check it for me.

Alternately you delete my membership entirely if you wanted -- then I could be a kibitzer like Marshall :)

Advanced thank yous for whosoever reads this first.

January 19, 2007

Mark 6.1-6

He left that place and went to his home town accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue; and the large congregation who heard him were amazed and said, "Where does he get it from?" and "What wisdom is this that has been given him?" and "How does he work such miracles? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" So they fell afoul of him.

Jesus said to them, "A prophet will always be held in honor except in his home town, and among his kinsmen and family."

He could work no miracle there, except that he put his hands on a few sick people and healed them; and he was taken aback by their lack of faith.

January 17, 2007

Mark 5.35-

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"

But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

And he allowed no one to follow him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping,

And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.

Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Tlitha cumi", which means "Little girl, arise."

And immediately the girl got up and walked (She was 12 years of age) and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

January 16, 2007

on the uses of satire

Laughing at the blind -- Forrest makes an important point -- and its not always easy to tell/discern the difference between legitimate social comment and intellectuallly (or morally) superior self-aggrandizment. When the Pharasee and the Publican stood side by side in the temple only one went away justified. And yet there may still be a place for satire.

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD, and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him,

"There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him."

Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

Samuel 2:1-9

January 15, 2007

Mark 5.21-34

As soon as Jesus had returned by boat to the other shore, a great crowd once more gathered around him. While he was by the lakeside, the president of one of the synagogues came up, Jairus by name, and when he saw him, threw himself down at his feet and pleaded with him. "My little daughter," he said, "is at death's door. I beg you to come and lay your hands on her to cure her and save her life." So Jesus went with him, accompanied by a great multitude which pressed upon him.

Among them was a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years; and in spite of long treatment by doctors, on which she had spent all she had, there had been no improvement; on the contrary, she had grown worse.

She had heard what people were saying about Jesus; so she came up from behind in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I touch even his clothes, I shall be cured." And then and there the source of her hemorrhages dried up and she knew in herself she was cured of her trouble.

At the same time Jesus, aware that power had gone out of him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

His disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing upon you and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?' "

Meanwhile he was looking around to see who had done it. And the woman, trembling with fear when she grasped what was happening to her, came and fell at his feet and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, "My daughter, your faith has cured you. Go in peace, free forever of this trouble."

January 14, 2007

Mark 5.1-20

So they came to the other side of the lake, into the country of the Gerasenes. As he stepped ashore, a man possessed by an unclean spirit came up to him from among the tombs where he had been dwelling. He could no longer be controlled; even chains were useless; he had often been fettered and chained up, but he had snapped the chains and broken the fetters. No one was strong enough to master him.

And so unceasingly, day and night, he would cry aloud among the tombs and on the hillsides, and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus in the distance, he ran and flung himself down before him, shouting loudly, "What do you want of me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? In God's name, do not torment me!" (For Jesus was already saying to him, "Out, unclean spirit, come out of the man!"

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he said. "There are so many of us." And he begged hard that Jesus would not send them out of the country. Now there happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside, and the spirits begged him, "Send us among the piges and let us go into them."

He gave them leave; and the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs; and the herd, of about two thousand, rushed over the edge into the lake and drowned.

The men in charge of them took to their heels and carried the news to the town and countryside; and the people came out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the madman who had been possessed by the legion of devils, sitting there clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. The spectators told them how the madman had been cured and what had happened to the pigs. Then they begged Jesus to leave the district.

As he was stepping into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to go with him.

Jesus would not allow it, but said to him, "Go home to your own folk and tell them what the Lord in His mercy has done for you."

The man went off and spread the news in the Ten Towns of all that Jesus had done for him; and they were all amazed.

cool jesus

Just found this essay on www.godspy.com. It is so amazing. Just had to share.

January 13, 2007

Mark 4.35--

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose; and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"

And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased; and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

January 12, 2007

Mark 4.33-34

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

January 11, 2007

Thomas logion 97 and Mark 4:26-29/david

If I bracket out [the kingdom of the father is like] from this Thomas saying, it feels more like Aesop than Jesus. It feels folk-tale-ish on the order of "don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

Reintroduce the "kingdom of God" simile and place it on Jesus' lips and it takes on an eschatological referent.

I must say it would not have occurred to me to link Thomas 97 and Mark 4:26-29 together. I read Thomas as linked more clearly with the Philippians passage:
Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.

Creation and then Incarnation was an act of kenosis. A self-emptying of the divine prerogatives. Consequently, using Christ as our model, if we would be godly (god-like) disciples, we too must empty ourselves of self-will.

At a political and economic level this links to the so-called preferential option for the poor of Liberation Theology. And so also to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount/Plain. Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted. Emptied of their own resources they are now in a position to receive comfort and new resources through the grace of God.

If I were then to link all this to Mark 4:26-29 -- then I must go back to me earlier comment. We are called to be faithful not to produce growth. And as Marshall points out we are called to be faithful in circumstances where we have incomplete understanding of what it may mean to be faithful. The growth belongs to God. And so -- bringing Thomas into the picture -- loss also belongs to the grace of God. When our plans wither then too we must say with Job -- the Lords gives the Lord takes away -- blessed be the name of the Lord. Then discern -- does faithfulness in this situation call for change of direction or renewed effort? And again -- discernment will be partial not complete -- we see as in a glass darkly.

Marshall's comment on incomplete knowing as sparked much though in me. In principle I knew this and this has been my main complaint against that kind of biblical literalist who places scripture at the foundation of all Christian faith and practice. Literalism at that level is about eliminating all ambiguity -- when sometimes the whole point is the ambiguity and our responsibility to be faithful in the face of it.

At the same time I also know this is my own failing as well. I have missed many an opportunity to do both good and to do well by seeking certainty before action. There are too many times I could have been faithful but was afraid to risk being wrong.

January 09, 2007

Mark 4.30-32

And he said, "With what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?

"It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

January 08, 2007

Mark 4.26-29

He said, "The kingdom of God is like this. A man scatters seed on the land; he goes to bed at night and gets up in the morning, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he does not know. The ground produces a crop by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then full-grown corn in the ear; but as soon as the crop is ripe, he sets to work with the sickle, because harvest-time has come."

Mark 4.24-25

He also said, "take note of what you hear; the measure you give is the measure you will receive, with something more besides. For the man who has will be given more, and the man who has not will forfeit even what he has."

January 06, 2007

Light and Death

Bertrand Russell to table companion: "And what do you think will happen to you when you die?"
TC: "I suppose I shall inherit eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn't talk about such unpleasant subjects."

Here we have a taboo subject, one that's unnerving and highly important in our minds, and what we "believe" about it is hard to say.

I think most of us have been in a church or two where someone was singing or talking about "Oh Death, where is thy sting?" (That's not light, that's rhetoric, bravado even. We aren't expecting Death to come along and show us, not just now.) It is what we are supposed to believe, if we call ourselves Christians-- that death can't really harm us.

But when one of us loses someone to death, even someone quite old, we're supposed to be sorry. Although the worst that can happen to an old person is not death, but the nursing home. (Even those "good" nursing homes, which do exist.) If we hear someone is dying, that's bad news.

We're not supposed to tell survivors that the deceased is doing just fine, because we aren't supposed to really know that and they aren't supposed to let themselves really believe that.

We are expected to have one belief for church-during-the-services and another for secular use--even church-during-the-refreshments.

The situation is a little different in liberal Friends meetings. I think the social expectation is that we will believe in one world (physical) and put no others before it--like proper middle-class academics. But one of us, Katherine Faulkener... She was dying unexpectedly, of cancer treatment. She'd been present when Bob Noble (another fine old Friend) died in committee. It had been quite peaceful (He made an appropriate remark, the other members nodded, and the next time they looked he was dead); she said the experience helped resolve her own fears and doubts. Anyway, her daughter was rushing to her deathbed, dozing on the plane, when Katherine appeared to her, apologized that she'd had to leave early, told her she was fine. Her daughter landed in San Diego a few minutes later and of course learned that Katherine had just died. These things happen often enough in people's lives that we aren't really surprised, but culturally, we aren't supposed to recognize the truth of it.

(I do miss the two of them; the meeting has lost much of its juice since then!)

David said, recently, "I find the so-called 'gospels' remarkably ambiguous about just what this 'Good News' is." Part of that is because gospels needed to be ambiguous, for a Roman readership, because "The Kingdom of God" was a political manifestation, among other things.

But that political gospel was rather quickly replaced by the explicit denial of death's power. That too is implied, for if God reigns, then death is merely his servant, not the absolute power we imagine.

Culturally, we don't really believe that. We just find it safer than expecting the political realm to conform to God's rule. Culturally, we believe in Death. If people misbehave, we bomb them and consider the problem solved. We spend our whole lives avoiding death while being sure that it will get us eventually, and we call that "just being realistic."

If the light we've been given shows us a significant truth about death--but all our lives we've learned to hide that part under a bushel--that's one part of the Good News we unavoidably find puzzling. (I'm not altogether sure what to make of it myself. People are still dying. While I still sometimes experience their presence afterwards--and not as illusions, although I don't seek to prove that.)

Can someone please add a little light to this?

January 04, 2007

Mark 4.21-23

And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; not is anything secret, except to come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.

family matters

I likely won't be about for about a week.

Could folks keep the discussion going -- and if needed post new passages. Thanks.

We've had a death in the family -- my grandmother.

January 03, 2007

sower explained/david

Hope y'all had a good holy-day break.

Perhaps we're still recovering but I don't see this passage generating a whole lot of energy which is odd as it is pretty central to the Christian traditions.

The Jesus tradition -- as captured by Mark -- preserves a story as told by Jesus about this guy who sows his (or more likely his master's) land by broadcast seeding -- i.e., he throws the seed all over the place and hopes for the best. Mark also preserves an interpretation of this same story and places the interpretation on Jesus' lips. This interpretation is mostly allegorical in character. On this paradigm much of medieval exegesis is based. This approach becomes so utterly associated with Catholicism that Protestants end up taking a radically literalist approach to scripture. And so the entire warp and woof of churchianity's approach to scripture can be summed up as a turf war over this little patch of (un)real estate.

As a Quaker I can see this "seed" as the Seed and the sower as God. It undercuts the Catholic/Protestant thing nicely. But I'm not sure that it is true to the intent of the passage.

If this story is about spreading the "Good News" -- then it really says -- let us speak the truth (or the Truth) without regard for results -- the fruits of our speaking (or our actions) are with God and not ourselves. Do good for goodness sake. Deontic ethics if you will.

My trouble with that -- and here I stumble into heresy -- is that I find the so-called "gospels" remarkably ambiguous about just what this "Good News" is. Whatever the "Good News" is for Mark, for the other synoptics, it doesn't seem to be the modern notion of get-yourself-born-again-and-avoid-the-coming-tribulations we see in evangelical sub-cultures.

For a modern take on the Quaker gospel, check out Marshall's blog.