Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Month: September 2012

Jesus the Pastor

This coming Sunday (Sept 30) the Middle Zone kids will be exploring the Gospel of Mark 9:37-50.  You can read it here:

There are two scenes in this episode in the life and times of Jesus the Preacher of the Dream of God (Mark 1: )we see Jesus the pastor and then preacher in action. (I’m not going to talk about Jesus the preacher in this post, I’ll save that for later!)

The first scene, where Jesus is pastor, is comical really, in the way that great comedy points through humour to a deep truth.  He’s making headway teaching the disciples about this upside down dream of God where the last are celebrated, and the little people are treated like kings, he’s teaching them that the sick and old and young are not to be cast aside – as happens in a kingdom where the human is valued only for her or his capacity to produce or work.   He’s sent them off to ‘live the dream’ – to heal the sick, to welcome the outcast, and he’s probably sighing contentedly, only to have that interrupted by John, who comes rushing up to him in a tizzy.

“Hey, Jesus, there’s this man who’s doing kingdom work, only he isn’t wearing your logo! You’ve got to tell him to stop!!”  Jesus’ answer is what we’d expect: ” Why would you stop someone doing good in the world, just because they are not ‘one of us’?”   We get the wisdom, we get the consistency of message…. but do we really?   It got me thinking about how  I have tended to criticize certain global outreach organizations because they don’t share my theology…..and of the tendency to assume that the Seminary I was teaching at was the only one that could do the job right…… and of the possibility that we might think that the Gospel is really only happening where ‘we’ are, and not where ‘those others’ are.

You see where this is taking me?  It’s all too easy to want to see our way astheway.    But when we do,  what do we lose?  We lose a sense of the expansiveness of this dream of God, we lose a sense of the possibilities of it actually making a difference if we share the dream with people who dream it slightly differently.   We lose a sense of being part of a much larger movement for healing wholeness than can possibly be contained in our tiny corner of the world.  We lose the ground for hope.

Why did I say Jesus was “pastor” in this incident? Because his response to John was truthful and challenging, but the way he offered truth and challenge was also empowering and encouraging. Jesus opened up for John a broader, more hopeful disposition to the world, and that, at heart, is the ‘role’ of the pastor.  To point to the dream of God and invite others  to become part of it in ways that enrich their own lives, as well as the life of the world.

Thank you Jesus, for reminding me.


Identity matters (Pentecost 16 Sept 16)

The Gospel for this coming Sunday is Mark 8:27-38. You can read it at this link:

There is so much going on in this text it’s hard to know where to begin, or stop! I’ve said before Mark is not a waster of words, so every one in this passage is like an iceberg, deep and holding a LOT of water! What follows is a ‘stream of consciousness’, snippets of thoughts that may provoke your own.

Jesus is on the road -again! this time in the Roman ‘model city’ of Caesarea Philippi. Built over an older town, this piece of Herodian hubris was built to impress the locals with his Romanized power, and to try to impress the Romans with his emulation of their style.  Jesus’ question “Who do (those) people say I am?”  is worth asking in that context;  who do the Romanizers think Jesus is? People looking for hand-me-down power from Rome are not likely to think too highly of this preacher, healer, teacher of the very Hebrew God. All his talk of a kingdom of God is as oppositional as the current round of sovereinty talk in Quebec.  Fans and haters. Few on the fence.

And what’s with that condemnation of Peter for getting it right, for once??  8 chapters and finally someone gets it – Jesus is the Christ – God’s anointed one!  Jesus should be ecstatic, not ‘stern’, and certainly not vitriolic!   Something’s going on here, and this is likely where my sermon will take us on Sunday, so do come and see where this question leads us.

Another question that puzzles me is the connection between that initial question about Jesus’ identity, and his sermon in the second half of the passage about ‘denying self’ and ‘losing life’.  Often the two parts are divorced from one another, and I’m not at all sure that they should be.   I’m less convinced that this is about ‘sacrificial Christianity’ than about choices we make about our identity.  Are we going to be defined by “people”  or by “culture”,  constrained by the values of whatever society we live in,  or is the question of identity a call to look deep within, to that place where we know ourselves to be a unique, beloved child of our Creator?  What happens when society’s definition of us is not consistent with this essential core?  (You’re ‘old’ , when you don’t feel old, for example).

Yet again this Gospel digs really deep, while at the same time remaining firmly grounded in a real, flesh and bones world of choices and consequences.

Thanks for reading!




Mother meets Jesus….what happens next?

This coming Sunday we join Mark the Gospeller as he continues to upset our images of a gentle, meek, doe-eyed Jesus. Last week Jesus took on the theologians from the big city as they called him on his lack of attention to ritual detail; he left no stone unturned in berating them (and everyone) on the sullied state of the human heart.

We pick up the story at the next verse: Mark 7:24-30. You can read it here:

As is typical in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is on the move again. He’s left town, and headed northward towards Tyre.  An odd place for him to go if we stop and think about it, especially with what follows.  I wonder if he was heading away from all things Galileean and Judean because he was exhausted. We’re told he went to a house in Tyre, hoping for some peace and quiet. This is obviously NOT a mission trip. He’s looking for downtime.

It’s not to be, as human pain and trouble knocks on the door and invades his sanctuary, in the form of a woman. A foreigner. A mother.  Mark doesn’t waste ink on her name, or the name of her female child.  Very soon, as the story unfolds, most of us forget those details as we reel, shocked at what’s coming out of Jesus’ mouth now.  Last time it was anger directed at the city-dwelling hotshots, an anger many of us would have applauded – until we get caught in the backdraft of it.  But now,  well look what he says:

“Whatever it is you’re wanting, woman, you’ll have to wait. What I have to offer is restricted. For Club members only. ”

(That’s a paraphrase: what Mark records is worse. ” ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

What??!! Did Jesus really just say that, did he just call her a ‘dog’?

You can be sure that this is one of the most interpreted (and rarely preached) texts in the Gospels.  Many rush to defend Jesus:  those who see a human Jesus want to forgive him because, they say, he’s exhausted, he’s only joking, after all the word dog could be translated as ‘puppy’.  Those who want to preserve a theology of Christ’s divinity (he’s God incarnate) cannot permit exhaustion or error, so they suggest that this  not-so-veiled racial slur is part of some divine plan. So they suggest Jesus is testing her, he’s using her as a ‘teaching tool’ to make a point.

I don’t know about you, but none of these excuses are good enough to protect Jesus from the righteous stares all all mothers, all women, all foreigners, this writer included.  Who does Jesus think he is to limit the healing mercy of God to a chosen few?

Wrestling blessing from this text is going to be hard.   That’s my task this week as I prepare for Sunday.  And just to add to the tension, our congregation will be augmented this week by the extended families of two women (and their partners) who are bringing their daughters to be baptised into the community of faith!

Comments, anyone?


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