Second Sunday of Lent 4.3.12. Mark 8. 31-end Sparks Fly

22 02 2012

Sparks Fly

We have quickly moved towards the middle of Mark’s gospel and find ourselves eavesdropping on a very lively exchange.   There is no nice way of putting any of this. Truths are spoken without compromise. Feelings are raw. This is edgy and tense stuff.

Mark 8.31-end

Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflections and Questions

‘rejected’ v31. It is possible to miss this word when it is surrounded by words like ‘suffering’ and ‘killed’. But is it not the case that rejection is always painful and that it aggravates all other distress?  So too does abandonment and betrayal. More than that, rejection is an experience that just about everyone can relate to. What is your experience of rejection and how might it help bring the interpretation of this passage to life?

‘rebuked’ v 32 and v 33. Peter rebukes Jesus, and Jesus returns the compliment.  This is more than just a tit-for-tat.  But who rebukes whom in your life? In your Church? What happens afterwards?

‘deny themself, take up their cross and follow me’ v 13. This seems to be the discipleship package for Mark. We may wish that it were not so demanding but – it is.  And all three parts need to be interpreted.  That interpretation involves words but people also need actual living examples of self-denial, cross-carrying and following.  What does your example look like to others? Do you, like Mark, see all three as profoundly connected – or are you more of the ‘candidates may attempt one’ cast of mind?

‘ashamed’ v38  ‘Shame’ has been the subject of a great deal of interest in the last 20 years or so. But we still find it difficult to be clear about.  Shame is a muddling emotion and yet it is also (in my view) one which is profoundly connected with spirituality.  The question of being ‘ashamed’ is a deep one.  What do you know about shame and being ashamed?  How might sharing that help others to grow in faith?

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First Sunday of Lent 26.2.12. Mark 1. 9-15 Wilderness and Good News

16 02 2012

Wilderness

Today we have an amazingly dense passage full of action and spirituality and with a cast ranging from wild beasts to angels. We could spend the whole of Lent absorbing the truths of these seven verses alone.

Mark 1.9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Reflections and Questions

‘the Spirit’ v10 and v12. People often say that Mark’s is a very materialistic gospel. But here the Spirit is prominent – and busy. And we see it in two modes: descending in peaceful affirmation and then roughly driving Jesus out.  We all know which mode we prefer to Spirit to be in for us.  We all love affirmation. But what is the more everyday experience? What can you say about being driven out?

‘Wilderness’ v 12. You can think back to the liberated but compass-less Israelites or forward to the Egyptian monastics, for some of whom 140 characters would be verbosity itself. Either way, the wilderness is a place where spirituality happens.  How might that challenge our views of spirituality today?  Where are the wilderness places close to home? And why does God meet is in such challenging places?

‘tempted by Satan’ v 13. Mark does not claim to know what happened between Jesus and Satan.  This gives the preacher a little more scope to use their imagination or inner experience to talk about temptation.  Is true temptation resistable by human beings?  How serious and honest are we when we talk about it? Does Satan announce his presence or come in disguise?  What disguise?

‘John was arrested’ v14   There really is no let-up here. We are only 14 verses into the gospel and such a lot has happened. And yet it is gospel, good news. Mark uses the very word. ‘John is in prison but come and hear good news.  Oh, and, by the way, it is time to repent and believe too.’ What does true repentance look like today?  And true belief?  Now – why is all this gospel?