Random Thoughts on Purpose

Sometimes there is a nexus of events that seem random or perhaps purposeful – usually hard to discern the difference. Many years ago when leading a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, one of the participants told me that every evening when driving home from the session (it was summer), he saw a black crow sitting on a fence. He asked if it was a sign. Could be…. or since it was farm country and the fence was bordering a corn field, it might have just been a crow. I have to admit there is a part of me that operates out of the old maxim: if you hear hoofbeats don’t assume zebra, it’s probably a horse. At least it’s a good maxim for the United States. Continue reading

Controversy: the gathering storm

This coming Sunday is the 27th in Ordinary Time of Year B. The gospel is taken from Mark 10:2-12 and involves a question about divorce whose real intent is to bring Jesus into conflict with what the Pharisees regard as the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. As typical of this section of the Markan gospel it follows the pattern of public engagement (vv.2-9) followed by a more thorough teaching for the disciples in a private setting (vv.10-12). 

Our Sunday gospel takes the form of a controversy story in which the Pharisees’ intent was clear: they were testing (peirazo) Jesus. When this word is used in Mark, it is either Satan (1:13) or the Pharisees (8:11; 10:2; 12:15) who are “testing/tempting” Jesus. Their question begins, “Is it lawful…?” However, they aren’t really asking Jesus to tell them what the law says. They already know what the law says: “When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1) Continue reading