Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Healing, New Interpretation of Scripture, Reflection, Sermon, Spiritual Therapy

Jesus has no time for triage – Ordinary 13b

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

It’s a narrative of two healings.
A dying little girl, the daughter of  synagogue leader Jairus, and the no-name, hopeless nobody woman who has been that way for twelve years.
It is also a narrative of the man of power. The healing rabbi from Nazareth.
Could it be a narrative about who is most deserving of his attention?

Given the views of sickness and suffering as outcomes of God’s judgement and prejudice for the righteous in Jesus’ day, it may well have been.

If it is, then there is no contest as to who is more deserving.
Jairus’ daughter wins.

She has her whole life ahead of her and anyway she is from the correct family with the correct connections. At twelve years of age she is ready to begin being fertile and menstrual.

The woman in the crowd is a hopeless case. Already judged by the futility of her expended resources and the duration of the disease that renders her permanently unclean, she is a waste of the master’s time and his limited power. Her life is finished.

In fact, the very guerilla tactic she employs by sneaking up on him under cover of the crowd to be healed, is in itself grounds for her disqualification.

With all the drama of a novel rushing to its climax, Mark inserts the older hopeless woman into the story of Jesus’ mission to heal the just girl. The old bleeding woman is an interruption and an energy thief to boot!

Yet, as the story unfolds both are healed. The young and the old, the hopeful and the hopeless.
There is enough time, power, compassion, and grace to go round so that no one needs be written off.

I wonder when our selective, cozy, judgemental congregations will learn that?

We just cannot determine who Jesus should prioritize for his attention.

At times of great disaster medical personnel are trained to practice triage. To decide who is most in need of medical attention and care.  The injured are tagged with tape.  Green for not serious. Yellow for serious. Red for critical. Black for terminal.

If Mark’s edit of the gospel tells us anything it is this…

Christian, pack away your tape and labels.
There is no need for triage in the kingdom of God.

Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Healing, New Interpretation of Scripture, Reflection, Sermon, Spiritual Therapy

And behold there came a great…SMILE! – Mark 4:35-41 Ordinary 12B

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Storms are a phenomena of nature and not just on our planet.

Let’s be grateful we don’t live on Jupiter where the winds can reach 360 kilometres per hour(225 mph)! To put that in perspective, consider that we measure wind on earth according to the Beaufort scale.  On this scale 0 is calm and the maximum of 12 is a Hurricane gusting at more than 118km/h(74 mph). Jupiter’s winds are more than double that force.

The strongest wind gust ever in South Africa occurred ironically at “Beaufort” West (Western Cape) on 16 May 1984 and measured 186 km/h.

Storms are part of nature.

We don’t like nor choose them. We whinge about the wind, yet were it not for the wind the rains would not come.

That great Islamic navigator of the spirit Rumi, said, “..smiles come best from those who weep. Lightning, then the rain-laughter.

Storms of the heart are similar.

In the gospel story of Jesus stilling the storm, there are two interesting phrases.  The first describes the storm as being ανεμου μεγαλη- great wind or more literally, great animation.

The disciples are deeply disturbed by this storm that animates their fear.

Jesus then stills the storm and the state after the storm is described by the second phrase , γαληνη μεγαλη – usually translated great calm, but it can also be read as great smile. When I think about the inner storms of spirit, I like the alternative translation.  Smiling after the storm has blown over, no matter the damage, is for me a sign of trust.

I can imagine Jesus smiling as he settled down in the boat.

Here is Rumi again,  “I do not know who lives here in my chest, or why the smile comes. I am not myself, more the bare green knob of a rose that lost every leaf and petal to the morning wind.”

According to a classic text attributed to Japanese Soto Zen Master Keizan Jokin (1268-1325), The Transmission of the Light (Denkoroku), one day the Buddha silently raised a lotus blossom and blinked his eyes. At this, Mahakasyapa smiled. The Buddha said, “I have the treasury of the eye of truth, the ineffable mind of Nirvana. These I entrust to Kasyapa.”

Zen practitioners have for centuries contemplated what it was that made Mahakasyapa smile when he saw the flower twirl in the Buddha’s hand.  They know it was the moment of enlightenment.  It is for them the prototypical koan. What was it it?

Perhaps he saw what Rumi saw.

When the storm has stripped us and we have passed our fear of drowning in the chaos.  When all prettiness has been stripped away and only the naked rosehip is left, we who understand Spirit will still smile.

The smile of Mahakasyapa, of Jesus, of Rumi.

The smile born from wonder at the mystery of Spirit.

Sorry, got to go.

The wind is coming up.

So one last line from Rumi.

When your love contracts in anger, the atmosphere itself feels threatening. But when you’re expansive, no matter what the weather, you’re in an open, windy field with friends.

Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Healing, New Interpretation of Scripture, Reflection, Sermon, Spiritual Therapy

The rhythm of organic kingdom growth-Ordinary 11B

Mark 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a 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.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Living as I do in the second half of my life, I recognise looking back, that I really didn’t make much happen.  Somehow my life unfolded.

Was it John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”?

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been occupied and obsessed with trying to strategise and organise, manipulate and manage the direction and flow of where my life was going.  Somehow though, the really good things that have come my way have been more organic and opportunistic than my plans would have plotted.

Knowing this makes me really appreciate the teaching of Jesus for this Sunday.  The kingdom of God happens. It is organic. Alhough we can co-operate with the processes of God we should never think we can control them.

Thank God. Mystery will always triumph over our manipulation.

I love Jesuit Fr. Anthony de Mello’s definition of enligtenment.

“Enlightenment”, he says, “is complete co-operation ith the inevitable”

That is the Kingdom.

Posted in Conflict resolution, Deconstructing Power, Healing, New Interpretation of Scripture, Reflection, Sermon, Spiritual Therapy

“I don’t know.” isn’t a wrong answer.

Mark 3.20-35

…and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

I am constantly amused by my conservative fundamentalist friends. I am not impressed by their fear based paranoia but their inconsistency is a constant source of joy.

Take for example, the matter of evil and demons.  Just this week a young woman called me, deeply concerned that her friends were warning her about read Neale Donald Walsch’s, “Conversations with God“.  “They say it was written by a demon.” she told me.

What I find amusing is that the friends of the young woman, don’t realise that in doing and saying this they are placing themselves in the category of people whom Jesus says commit the unforgivable sin. How strange (and humourous) that the very people who are so hell bent on judging everything and everyone that doesn’t fit their narrow fear-based system, are in fact choosing to head for the very hell they threaten other people with!

How can I say that?

Well let’s look closely at this Sunday’s gospel.

Jesus is teaching in Galilee.  Scribes from Jerusalem come to hear his teaching and judge that Jesus is performing his works of power by the power of the Prince of Demons Beelzebul.  Sound familiar doesn’t it?

Jesus responds by saying that not only is the charge illogical, (how can the devil cast out the devil) but it also is blasphemous.

To call what is of God, of the devil, is to sin against the Holy Spirit. I didn’t say it Jesus did.

How is it that my literalist Bible loving friends don’t get it?

This is the same Jesus who also told his disciples not to forbid others who were healing in his name.

Mark 9:38-41

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

So why are my conservative friends blind to what they are doing? Truth is I don’t know.

Just as I can only guess why the Scribes were blind to the good that Jesus was doing, I can only speculate why my friends are so judgemental and afraid.  Is it possible that we can become so fearfully arrogant of anything different from us that we end up cursing God for what is innovative and different?

When I read the Scriptures it seems that every now and then wisdom is able to transcend fear.

A good example that is contrary to the Scribes of the New Testament and the Conservatives of our day is Gamaliel who was a teacher of the law in Jerusalem when the religious leaders wanted to kill the apostles for what they were saying.  Gamaliel said  “I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; you may even be found fighting against God!” Acts 5:38-39

I have no idea whether or not Neale Donald Walsch, actually has conversations with God.  I do know that his work brings millions of readers closer to God and transforms their lives.

So I am not going to accuse him, nor my fundamentalist friends of demon possession.

Like Gamaliel, I will see what happens and let God be the judge.