Year B, Lent 2, Mark 8:27-9:1
Bono, Cronulla and Peters Confessional Crisis!
Had a great Seeds for Lent Circle the other night with four of us at the Den. These were our initial questions in relation to the text and some notes we gleaned from various blogs, commentaries, articles as we went. We then moved to stories from our world and experience…
I’ve included the image of the Bible Societies “Power in Action” copies of Mark’s Gospel that are being handed out around Melbourne by evangelicals during the Commonwealth Games. Whilst the testimonies of althletes in it are OK I find the title and the whole piggy backing with the Games ironic in light of the subject of this weeks lectionary. In Mark’s gospel its “Power in Action” that gets Jesus killed! I’m running a Chasin Mark Seeds Circle in Footscray throughtout the uni. year on Thursdays from 4pm with the Salvos at 101 Droop St.
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he 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. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But 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.’ 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. For 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those 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.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Our Initial Questions
Vs. 28 What’s the significance of Mark including John the Baptist and Elijah as possible alternative titles for Jesus?
Why did Peter answer “You are the Messiah” – what was his understanding of Messiah?
Does Peter both see more clearly and stuff up more than the other disciples?
Why does Jesus order silence about his Messianic identity? Vs 33. Peters “thoughts of man, human nature, human things” Why does Jesus shut Peter down? Is Peter Satan? OR Is Peter’s reaction to the horror of the cross a justifiable/ natural human response?
Is “human nature” Satanic? Is it natural/human to believe in or practise “power over” others rather than power from weakness/below?
What are Greek words for Satan in this passage, Mark in general? (We Considered Chapter 3 Beelzebul conflict with scribes. Diabolos in the temptation stories: to throw around confuse )
What does saving and losing life really mean?
What is self denial and taking up your cross really mean?
Is it possible to have the right beliefs/ideas about Jesus but not understand his way/praxis in the world?
Is this what Jesus calling evil/Satan?
How does the Kingdom of God come in power before some of them die?
Much is written about the popular conception of Messiah being a political leader who would usher in change through a violent popular revolution and Jesus subverting this expectation.
The call to take up the cross is not simply about Jesus determined to die to save our sins by fulfilling some divine contract. His death is a result of the way he lived which was a constantly creative response to human power.
I think it was Martin Luther King Jnr. who in the midst of the civil rights struggle over non-violent tactics and suffering once said that if someone hasn’t found something for which they were willing to die they were not fit to live.
Obviously dying for religious causes and ideology hasn’t had great press in recent years for good reason. Martyr means witness….What are we bearing witness to in our suffering?
Faith calls us to give ourselves and our will over to the will of God, who by God’s very nature is self giving love and so sacrifices power against our human nature of self preservation.
I love the terrifying and frightening story of Abraham being tested to offer his son as a sacrifice and the way faith can / must ultimately transcend rationality.
The importance of seeing this story in the context of the discipleship catechism of Chapter 8-10. The three teachings about the way of the cross. The three misunderstandings of disciples and Jesus sayings about self giving. Bookend-ed by the stories of the healing of blind people which mirrors the struggle of the disciples to see clearly.
Word in the World
Confessional Crisis: Germany, Aparthied, Civil Rights Movement.
In a powerful article in Sojourners Bill Wylie Kellerman suggested that in church history, especially Protestant tradition, it is recognized that there are extraordinary times when the church’s very identity is imperilled. If its confession is not made unequivocally clear, nothing less than the meaning of the gospel within the church and before the world is at risk.He outlined critical moments when the church has been faced with such a confessional crisis.
In 1933 Adolf Hitler had just come to power. Swastikas lined the altar of Magdeburg Cathedral and the dean explained from the pulpit: “In short, it has come to be the symbol of German hope. Whoever reviles this symbol of ours is reviling our Germany. The swastika flags around the altar radiate hope—hope that the day is at last about to dawn.” Paul Althaus, a notable German theologian, hailed the rise: “Our Protestant churches have greeted the German turning point of 1933 as a gift and miracle of God.”
Having proclaimed Hitler as a Messiah at a time of great depression the German Church was then faced with a confessional crisis that came in the shape of the Barmen Confession of Barth and Bonhoeffer. Kellerman considered other confessional moments included the Kairos Document critiquing apartheid in South African and efforts at confronting racism during the civil rights movement and asked what is the confessional crisis for our own moment, and would anyone care either way?
Bono as Messiah
Having all watched the interview on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope on Monday night. We discussed Bono as potential Messiah material. His argument was that the issue of Africa and what he describes as ‘stupid poverty’, such as children dying from easily preventable diseases, was the confessional crisis of our age. In light of this we considered whether “Take up your “Make Poverty History Wristband” and Follow me” is akin to taking up your cross in our context or merely consumer “slacktivism”?
One of the most hotly debated aspects of his talk around Urban Seed was his “Red” proposal. Apparently in his talking with financial heavy weights one neo-liberal economist who was opposed to ideas such as debt relief had taken him aside and said if they wanted to achieve their ends they would need to approach it like a corporation would a new market. In order to raise money for such an approach Bono was promoting a credit card style rewards scheme where instead of getting rewards the money would go to raising the profile of global poverty campaigns.
We considered the compromises of campaigning for justice locally and globally of how we ourselves fund what we do and compared what we feel is necessary or pragmatic alongside what Peter felt was necessary and pragmatic. We considered if Jesus would say “Take up your Red Visa card and fund a marketing campaign to save the world…it wont cost you more than 1% on your normal purchases.” Somehow the cross seems a bit lost in all this….Didn’t Jesus himself say “Render unto Visa what is Visa’s and God God’s?”
Whatever you feel about Bono, I was impressed with the way that he answered in very careful and measured ways when Denton tried to corner him on matters of faith. He didn’t quite say get behind me Satan but he was pretty keen to avoid being typecast as Messiah material….for a rock star at least!
Four Corners and the Cronulla Riots
The other essential viewing of the previous evening had been the Four Corners expose and analysis on the Cronulla race riots in Sydney interviewing both “Surfies” and “Lebs” who had been involved in the race riots over Advent.
Kate was disturbed by the personal risks that seemingly ordinary people were willing to take for such a vacuous cause such as “Beating up the Lebs” and “Defending the beach.” If the Markan passage acts as a “call narrative” we considered the power that the so called “dog whistle politics” of our political leaders hold as a potential call to a costly discipleship of racist nationalism.
This lead us more deeply into the question is it natural/human to believe in or practise “power over” others rather than power from weakness/below. Does something happen to make these human tendencies turn into something more powerful, evil violent racist attacks? I
In light of taking up one’s cross Kate was disturbed that she felt that she didn’t know any Christians who would be willing to get out on the street so passionately for a cause that they believe in. Whilst small in comparison, Luke took heart in recalling that numbers of Christians had gathered on the street for vigils over the same period to protest the execution of Van Nguyen the young Australian man arrested for couriering drugs in Singapore.
Kate then recalled a story which for me at least captured some of the essence of this reading for our context. She was walking back from the Van Nguyen Amnesty Vigil carrying the Credo Cross. The cross was made in memory of one of Urban Seed’s open lunch volunteers who died of an overdose. It’s a sizable piece of timber but it’s big enough for one person to carry with some difficulty and so its has become a bit of an icon for us at protests and vigils.
Literally carrying the cross back home past Flinders Street Station, Kate was getting the usual wry comments and jeers when a group of Christians came up and put a video camera in her face. Here comes the confessional crisis! They were doing a vox pop for their Advent services about what Christmas means for you. I’m not sure if they saw the cross on her shoulder or not but Kate responded by talking about what she had been doing at the vigil that night and why. She said they stared at her blankly and simply asked the question again. “What does Christmas mean to you?”
I’m so often exactly like these Christians. The invitation to, demands of and even people carrying the cross stand right in front of us. I feel at best like the blind man in the passage immediately preceeding this one whom Jesus takes two goes to heal. He sees people “but like trees moving about.” (the story is placed there by Mark for this exact reason).
Like Peter’s disciples right through this section of the gospel I’m enthusiastic about the life of discipleship but its hard to ‘get it’. The power of weakness and the weakness of power is such a counter cultural call to all that we know.
Raised in a culture of privilege and consumer choice where freedom is sold as keeping options open at all costs, Jesus’ call to discipleship asks questions that disturb our comfort, that polarise the compromise and the comfort of the easy peace and false truces we make with power…What is worth suffering for? What is worth dying (or even more difficult sometime) living for?
What is worth giving oneself too generously, utterly and completely?