The Ark of the Covenant

In today’s first reading, the Ark of the Covenant is prominently featured and a locus of the story. While the Ark is an icon of the people of the Exodus up to the Babylonian exile, I fear most folks know little about the Ark apart from “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” the 1981 blockbuster movie – now 40 years old. Of course the very title of the movie begs the question: when did it get “lost.” The Ark is perhaps the most sacred relic of the Israelites. It consisted of a pure gold-covered wooden chest with an elaborate lid called the Mercy seat. The Ark is described in the Book of Exodus as containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, it also contained Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna. Continue reading

Restored

Today’s gospel is one that always needs 1st century context. Jesus has just been at synagogue where he cast out an unclean spirit from a man. Then we read, “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He [Jesus] approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1:30-31)

Over the years, in more than one Bible Study, a participant has commented, “Really, healing the woman so that she can get up and serve a bunch of men.” Pheme Perkins (Mark, New Interpreters Bible) writes:

Peter’s mother-in-law lies wracked with fever. She cannot fulfill the role of preparing and serving a meal to the guests, which would have fallen to her as the senior woman in the household. Jesus’ healing restores her to her social position within the household. Many women today react negatively to the picture of a woman getting up after a severe illness to serve male guests. That sentiment hardly seems appropriate to the complex gender and social roles involved in the household. Certainly, Peter’s wife or a female servant may have prepared food. The privilege of showing hospitality to important guests falls to Peter’s mother-in-law as a matter of honor, not servitude. We even exhibit similar behavior. When special guests are expected for dinner, no one gets near the kitchen without clearance from the person who has the privilege of preparing the food. (p. 546)

Think about how often the healings of Jesus return people to society from their place “outside the camp.” It is clear and obvious in the healing of lepers, the man born blind, and so many other stories. They are returned to “inside the camp” where there are places of honor, duty and commitment. Mark is also writing about a larger “inside the camp.” In the healing that is described just before our gospel, consider the contrast:

  • man – woman
  • synagogue (holy place) – house (common place)
  • (supernatural) unclean spirit – (natural) fever

Jesus works to bring all creation “inside the camp” – and asks us to do the same – to reach out and heal a relation, to restore honor and place, to extend hospitality.

Astounded and Amazed

In today’s gospel, the Evangelist concentrates upon a single Sabbath when Jesus’ synagogue teaching provoked a reaction from the people present. The two words that describe the people’s reactions are: ekplessomai (v. 22) and thambeo (v. 27) – “astounded” and “amazed.” The first term, more literally means “be beside oneself” – or in the slang, “to be blown away”  It comes from something that is so incomprehensible that one’s mind can’t fathom what has been experienced. Continue reading

The Time of Fulfillment

Although only 14 verses into the gospel narrative, Mark has already introduced us to John the Baptist, Jesus has been baptized and tempted in the desert. Then, in a typically abbreviated style, Mark merely refers in passing to the whole story of John’s denunciation of Herod for immorality, and John’s consequent imprisonment and death.

But now, from this moment begins the preaching of the good news by Jesus. Mark’s “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” began at v.1; now the “good news of God” begins, as Jesus’ first words are heard: “This is the time of fulfillment” (v. 15). Continue reading

The Significance of Baptism

One of the habits I hope we all have (or will incorporate into our lives) is to continue to read so as to enhance our spiritual lives. These days there are all kinds of sources: books, podcasts, video, blogs, and more. We do not lack for differing source materials and perspectives. Of course, there is no much, it is hard to know what might be the best mix for you. A good place to start is to try the recommendations of friends, spiritual advisors, folks at church, or links within links within links on what you are currently perusing online. A great way to develop the habit is to sign up for daily/weekly emails or text messages from sources.  Continue reading

What lays ahead?

Today, January 6th is the traditional day for the celebration of the Epiphany. It is a word taken from the Greek epiphaneia meaning “manifestation, striking appearance; from epiphanes meaning “manifest, conspicuous,” and from epiphainein “to manifest, display, show off; come suddenly into view.” In a post earlier today, I asked “What is revealed this day.” It was a small reflection, but what came to mind when I thought about all that the Epiphany might reveal.

January 6th a year ago today was an epiphany of another sort. Continue reading

Office protocols for the future

Today is typically a day off and that provides some time in the morning to read and write. There is time for a second cup of tea. There is the Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day” to consider. If the Tampa Bay Lightning played the night before I can watch their highlights online. It is a space in the day, after morning prayer, to catch up on the news, emails, and let curiosity lead me where it will. Today, curiosity lead me to an article about “returning to the office.” Continue reading

Who knows where the love of God goes?

Some forty-six years ago in November 1975 an intense low pressure system crossed the Great Lakes, with winds gusting to well above hurricane force, and waves the size of mountains. The forecast had been for clear sailing. Over 200 mariners were lost that day. Among the lost souls that day were the captain and crew of the large iron ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald.

Storms and loss of lives are part of life on the Lakes. This event was made famous by Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” For me, one verse stands out: “Who knows where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours.” Continue reading