21 minutes | Sep 19, 2020
Mark 5 - 6 // Naming Your Demons
This passage includes a story about Jesus casting out a demon-possessed man. Regardless of your feeling about the supernatural, it's important to know/remember that all of the miracles that Jesus performs are to support his message of rethinking our relationships to God, our neighbors, and ourselves. We find this man living on the outskirts of town in the graveyard. He's harming himself and possibly those around him. The town has tried restraining him, but that hasn't worked. They've decided it best to live him to his own devices away from everyone else. When Jesus interacts with him to heal him, he asks the man what his name is. The man responds, "We are Legion for we are many." Then the story gets weird. Jesus casts the demon out into a herd of pigs. The town gets mad and drives Jesus away. This man has had his life fundamentally changed and wants to know more about this Jesus. He asks to follow him. Jesus’ response is very telling. He tells the man to stay where he is and tell everyone how he had been restored. How his relationship to God, to his neighbors, and to himself has been changed forever. That’s the message. All of these relationships can be made whole. But first, we have to name the brokenness before we can fix it. That’s a key part of this story. In this man’s situation, no one wanted to acknowledge the problem, they just wanted a quick and easy way to deal with the fallout. Jesus steps in and helps the man name the brokenness and then restores him fully. This needs to be our pattern as well. We need to name the brokenness within ourselves or within our communities and institutions before we can move forward to make them whole. This past summer we saw a lot of people naming the problems in our society. Specifically in regards to institutional racism here in the United States. We also saw push back. People unwilling to name the problem or people whose solution was violence toward the namers. Change and restoration can mean that some people might lose something in the process. So fear takes over and they become unwilling to join in the restoration taking place in front of them.
17 minutes | Sep 13, 2020
Mark 3 - 4 // Overcoming the Brambles
Jesus spends most of this passage challenging aspects of life that can get in the way of us accepting his message—the call to rethink how we view our relationship with God, our neighbors, and ourselves. To see these relationships as they should be, built on love, and live every moment of our lives as if it were true. Jesus challenges religious power, celebrity, status, tribalism, unhealthy family ties head-on. They are laid out one by one as the passage moves to one of Jesus' most famous parables. The parable of the sower. What is a parable? A parable is a story that sets an everyday event or occurrence side-by-side with a spiritual truth. "Parable" literally means "to set side-by-side." This is Jesus' main mode of teaching. He explains in this passage and others that he does this so that those who are ready to hear the truth will. In the parable of the sower, he tells the story of a farmer sowing seeds and the various things that happen to the seeds. After the crowd leaves, confused as to what Jesus meant by this story, he explains it to his disciples, who also were confused. This is the only time Jesus explains a parable. While he's explaining the story, he talks about some seeds that were choked out by brambles. He says the brambles are "the cares of life, and the glamour of wealth, and cravings for many other things [that] come in and completely choke the message." The very things Jesus has spent the start of ministry challenging— religious power, celebrity, status, tribalism, unhealthy family ties—are the very things that choke out the message. These are the brambles we need to actively overcome in order to make ourselves into good soil, bramble-free, so that we can live a life in loving relationship with God, our neighbors, and ourselves.
10 minutes | Sep 7, 2020
Mark 1 - 2 // Something New Is Coming
The gospel of Mark is structured like a Roman imperial proclamation. The opening line is taken straight from a Roman Evangelion. Except, instead of Caesar, Jesus the Christ is named, setting him up as the anti-Caesar. Using a quote from the Prophets, it leads into Christ’s herald, a desert vagabond named John. Again, subverting the empire. There are no generals or politicians here. The message that he proclaims isn’t one of imperial might and victory, instead, the message used is “repent!” In Greek – “metanoia!” “Change your thinking!” “Change the way you see everything!” John couples this new perspective with “sin.” In Greek – “hamartia” This is a relational term that means to “fall short of expectations or of a goal.” In a religious context, this means things we do to break our relationship with God. John’s message to pave the way for Christ is for people to change the way they look at their relationship with God. With the coming of the Christ, everything they think about God is about to get obliterated and the best way for them to prepare is for them to start looking at God, and their relationship to God, in a whole new light. This is where we need to start as well. Our ideas of God can often get in the way of that relationship. We often project our own faults or thinking onto the Divine. We start believing that God's attitude towards us is the same attitude we have toward ourselves. Or we let others dictate the relationship for us. We allow their rules and dogmas to define us and God in ways they were never meant to. This is nothing new. In fact, these two threads – projecting onto God or allowing others to define God – are exactly what John was addressing. "Someone is coming who will change everything. You need to change the way you think about God or you'll miss it."
2 minutes | Sep 5, 2020
For the first decade or so of my adult life, I spent a lot of time as a pastor of some level and bible teacher. Just about every week I was diving into this ancient book and trying to share with others what it might mean for our lives today. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in such a position. A lot of my fundamental beliefs about God, and everything really, have changed since then. So I’m taking a journey back through this ancient collection of biographies and letters. Part of the fun of any journey is sharing it with others. Each weekend I’ll be posting the passage (or pericope, to be fancy) I’m currently in and a quick reflection. I have a roadmap of sorts to take me through the Gospels and Acts in a year’s time. This should be fun and enlightening. I expect to grow and learn through this. I hope you will as well. Blessings and peace, Barnabas