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!