Mark 3:20

Jesus went into a house; and again a crowd collected, so that they were not even able to eat their food.

every house
carries a wilderness
under its slate
or roof of fronds
exorcism and blessing
a daily need

a nightly dream
lingers through the day
a tired response
forgotten thank you
a guest or party

in some room
another encounter
with too much or
not the right enough
scarcity can be dealt with
but o that abundance

one healing
or seventy
sets a center
disrupting stasis
circling outward
to an emperor

We have quickly changed locale from lake to mountain to a house. Surrounded by a great cloud of need, the gathering of an inner-circle comes back down the mountain to find the never-ending work as present as ever.

When a crowd “again” (palin) gathers it gives opportunity to reflect on what has happened every other time a crowd gathered around Jesus and those who responded to his call to follow.

Not only is there no rest for the weary, the wearying task is ever the more wearying with a lack of time to breathe quietly or eat leisurely or converse convivially. There is only a proto-Protestant Work Ethic to attend to.

There is a sense in which we are in a Groundhog Day cycle of repeating the same old pattern.

“House” and “Crowd” can act as a relief for each other. A house is simply not zoned for business. The scale of intent and lack of resource is too large to overcome. A house is a suitable setting for hospitality and clarifying relationship, though there is nothing automatic about a setting and a result.

Though the energy seems to be with the crowd, the arc of Mark’s announcement continues on with questions about house and home. The crowd will become a witness, not an initiator of action.

Some leadership issues have been dealt with on the mountain—who is the Rock and who the Betrayer. We are about to further clarify family/communal relations in a house—what breaks us apart and where is our solidarity located.

Mark 3:19

and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him.

even the one not to be named
is named in foreshadow

eventually this last one
will play a leading role

the scene is set but not stolen
by being played too early

a teller today wouldn’t give away
this information but presume it

as institutions flutter by
beginning stories become boring

what betrayal will next reveal
am I called and sent to join Judas

Judas gets his own verse. Try a midrash on Judas as someone exorcised for greed, who slowly backslid. In Eleven chapters this will play itself out.

In the meantime we have opportunity to reflect on betrayal which here is a handing over to be judged or imprisoned (exiled, set aside).

Betrayals come in quiet forms of not objecting as well as in formal ways that have a tangible payoff in communal approval or some amount of quid for an act showing your privilege over someone else. These non- and intentional acts are basic affirmations that community is to be homogenized on the basis of my qualities or desires. Implicit in this is an understanding that where advantage can be gained over another it must be followed. This sort of capitalizing on another’s weakness shows up in economic capitalism’s dictum that short-term profit takes preference over all other value measurements.

This foreshadowing of a later betrayal raises questions about predestination and fate. Don’t leave this verse too quickly.

It raises questions about Jesus’ judgment and the healings that Mark has recorded to date.

We are also faced with our own judgment about giving up on people and the way we interact with free-will when it is in the court of someone else. And now we are back to quiet betrayals, people deserve what they get.

Questions about our involvement in setting other people up, of allowing them to face the consequences of their actions, of judging worth on the basis of results, and any number of other communal fractures are deep—how do we wish to be engaged when we break faith with another or a group other than ourself? Do our responses vary according to the perceived value of the action and its results?

Mark 3:18

Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot,

a horde of names
crawl up the screen
as credits roll

most folks get up and leave
without a brief honoring
of what it took to produce today

since this is an old production
we early see support people
in scenes brought to you by The Twelve

in the silent a rock logo is used
in the talkies rolling thunder signifies
in days to come an event horizon will do

do note no animals were harmed
by those whose story was shown
be ready for the post-credit Easter Egg

through our work we find a place
where our name is known and noted
thank you for being the best you

There are many tangled webs here as we listen in to this list and compare it with other lists. Perhaps we can let it lie lightly with an understanding that followers of Jesus come with a variety of gifts appropriate for particular times.

The different lists reveal a very diverse second circle beyond Peter, James, and John—one that includes women and expands in each generation. Each list is accurate in its time and place. The gifts needed for the well-being of the whole shift over time. To get caught insisting one list has it over all the others is to fall prey to a misplaced sense of order and hierarchy.

Those only heard of once played their important part, alongside those mentioned twice, thrice, or more. This leaves plenty of room for current lists of followers to also be more open than simply the official leaders in a given moment. This would also have an impact on those who would legislate the absence of leaders because of one characteristic or another (gender, race, orientation to start the list).

It is worth spending time with a good dictionary of the bible to review this list, knowing that it is but the tip of a few selected in accord with the tenor of the times (patriarchy). The very anonymity of some may give permission in our day to acknowledge our blind-spots when it comes to the many gifts needed at any given time and in any given circumstance. Many disciples; many expressions of a living spirit moving where it will.

Mark 3:17

James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John (to whom he gave the name of Boanerges, which means the Thunderers),

lighting strike
in a moment
lasting no longer

earth and sky
stored energy

too fast
for eye
in ear

fresh scent
heart stopping

may beloved
be your

The various listings of disciples gives fits every time we try to link one list to another. This verse exemplifies the difficulties.

Nicknames are extended past Simon/Peter/Rock to the next two of Jesus’ “kitchen cabinet”—James and John. This tradition of second names ends with “Boanerges” that has no good translation.

As “thunderers”, are James and John, and, by extension, all followers, to thunder out a message of goodness? Or are the more entertaining suggestions of The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible more apt—“they either spoke boldly and vigorously, experienced a sudden awakening, or perhaps survived a lightening strike.

It would seem that Jesus H. Christ and George W. Bush at least have a penchant for nicknames in common. [Go ahead: smile.]

While we are paused here, there are ancient traditions regarding twins that may show up in the calling of brothers (twins?) and others in pairs. There is also the sending out of followers in pairs.

There is sometimes a sense of twins giving us insight into the human/divine relationship with both having both attributes or one caring the human and the other carrying the divine. Depending on how far back one goes there are tales that will support every combination. The Cult of Twins (Dioskouroi) was still being noted in the church by the fifth-century pope Gelasius I. The connection with Castor and Pollux and at least Pollux’s father Zeus (a God of Thunder) adds to unnumbered stories that can be triggered by the uncertainty of Boanerges.

Additional connections have been noted with a fourth-century depiction of the iconic twins alongside the Apostles, Lazarus, and Peter [beginning references for these last two paragraphs can be found in the Wikipedia article, “Castor and Pollux”].

Mark 3:16

So he appointed the Twelve – Peter (which was the name that Jesus gave to Simon),

there are twelve
among them Simon aka Peter
a rock of many names
always standing at the last
the Mary Magdalene
of male disciples
needing special counsel
intuitive impulsive
resistant repentive

in turn we each
have another twelve
we order by our time and
energy with them
in each we see more
than their name can carry
revealing us to us
through their responses
less and more than we thought

The Common English Bible (and the web-based Open English Bible used in this blog) we have used as the translation of Mark is here out of sync with older translations by starting with “Peter” and then noting this as Jesus’ inside-the-family name for Simon. Most begin with the Hebraic tradition of “Simon” and explaining that he has been nicknamed, Peter.

To try to get at this a bit more, reflect on your own name and ways that people know you at home, among friends, at school, at work, and in other public settings.

Which of these various ways of being named do you claim for yourself? What emotional distinction do you make between them?

In Mark, Peter doesn’t fare all that well. One moment, a hero, and the next, an adversary. In the end he is as absent as everyone.

We can celebrate Peter’s growth and commit to continuing our own deepening of what we understand to be true. While there are sparks of greatness in Peter, it is not until after Mark has finished challenging readers that Peter can be seen as a “rock” which is suggested by his new name. Peter does become reliable, a foundation, a person of steadiness with his early leadership, counter-cultural vision, preaching, and prison stories.

Peter will come to exemplify an important kind of rock as he faces new community challenges. Does Jesus reach out to those not like him? Is this what a sense of belovedness within and without is like? The keeping to a deeper value over a shallower one comes to Peter in a vision and its subsequent implementation at the Council of Jerusalem that opens Jesus’ teachings to the Gentiles (Acts 10, 11, 15).

“Rock” is not unchangeable. Dealing with wilderness can come through requiring Order (limiting converts) or expecting Dignity (expanding family). A choice here affects revival in today’s wilderness.

Mark 3:15

and with power to drive out demons.

you’ll be tempted
to play a sparkly card
to garner attention
a soteriologic card
striking sparks from collisions
of evil with everything else
is mightily attractive

it is this very grave magnetism
that will occlude everything else
until you only see demonic collisions
and your hammer sees only nails
it’s true enough to attract attention
but it is vanity just old vanity
yes tempted

There have been ways of organizing scripture that go way back, our current versification begins with a Greek New Testament printed by Robert Estienne in 1551 (see Wikipedia article on Estienne).

It would be intriguing to know what was going on in the culture of church or society when chapters and verses were added to an otherwise run-on text that would put a verse break here—separating teaching from exorcism.

In the previous verse there was also a mention of “healing” which is no longer thought to a reliable transmission of the text. This would mean distinguishing the expulsion of demons from standard healing as well as from preaching/teaching/witnessing/proclaiming.

Regardless of this versification frustration, this remains an important moment in Mark. The three-fold process of staying close to the source of belovedness Jesus experienced, making the implications of that belovedness of all creation clear through word and deed, and making corrections where these have been forgotten is similar to the General Rules of United Methodism which is presented in reverse order: do no harm, do good, stay partnered with G*D.

Whether lived forward or backward in terms of first, second, and third, the gifts of grounding, support, and correction remain critical components of dealing with being in a wild place. These tools come as a result of wilderness testing and have been reliable down through ages and cultures.

A chart may help to visualize this in your own life. Draw your own. Keep it for a month. Let it inform you about your life.

date what grounded me today?
was it belovedness?
where did I reveal my values in word & deed? how did I relieve pain, loss, trauma, bondage?

Mark 3:14

He appointed twelve – whom he also named ‘apostles’ – so that they might be with him, and that he might send them out as his messengers, to preach,

you whom I have called
I hereby dub you The Sent

sent as a seed
wherever you come to ground

sent to multiply
faster than biologic limits

sent one by one
and two by two and all by all

sent uniquely
within a commonality

sent as me
always looking for the greater than me

sent forever sent
not to replicate but to evolve

Would an apostle by any other name, have as sweet a message? This question comes because of the doubt scholars have raised about the phrase, “and called them apostles”. There are additional textual issues here about a doubled “appointing” and additional words about “healing” that, when added together, basically mean we have no way to put this verse back together.

Basically we can leave it with three points: (1) Jesus designated a small group—a first culling different from Matthew’s sense of a group already functioning as an inner circle, (2) those appointed are to have more contact with Jesus—extra tutoring, and (3) their task will be that of proclamation—messengers (apostles).

When a set-back occurs, such as the formal establishment of a conspiracy to do away with Jesus, it is time to finally get organized. There is a direct relationship between a threat and a more efficient training program that needs to be instituted. This is simply practical.

Jesus’ Way is binary in process but the life is to be found between the poles. (1) Drawing near to Jesus: prayer, retreat, learning, and following—are all inhalations or preparations. (2) Preaching: practiced prayer, putting retreat plans to work, applying lessons learned, and following where the Spirit of a Living G*D leads beyond direct connection with Jesus—are all exhalations or implementations. It is in breathing that the life of Jesus’ Way develops its on-going energy—its ability to be merciful in the face of every loss, trauma, and fear which will come our way.

Mark 3:13

Jesus made his way up the hill, and called those whom he wished; and they went to him.

after breathing out
comes an in-breath
after sea riding
there is mountain striding
after a crowd-only crampedness
a long-view overview

having heard a call to rise
we test by re-calling friends
some were only called once
a reward for promise shown
each challenged to see what I see
heady stuff of teaching and self-care

off we go into a wild blue
baptismal vision re-filled
desert temptation re-met
sickness despairing salved
and for each other we wept
anticipating work to come

Was the small boat a ruse, a distraction that allowed Jesus to leave the crowd behind and ascend a mountain? Mark’s rapid episodes leaves holes for us to midrash upon, to open another story or two or three for which there wasn’t time at the time.

This radical shift from lake to mountain is a geographic form of “immediate”. Now we are here; now there. Moving away from conspiracy and a crushing crowd takes the kind of energy needed for climbing mountains, not drifting away.

With calls to this intentional retreat will come a renewal of becoming a good messenger. There will be commissioning for the purpose of liberation. An unspoken part of this liberation is the emphasis upon the universality of belovedness. By attending to the liberation of others, those called will find their own liberation.

To arrive here will require the leaving of occupation, of power, and the re-establishment of a non-royalist confederation based in the ancient value of hospitality where care for the stranger becomes a sign of a healing meant for all—the crowd with all its interwoven and overwhelming brokenness and possibility.

Just as hearts have their diastolic and systolic motion and lungs have their rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, life has its practice and teaching, its engagement and retreat. We need both active imagination during the day and deep dreams at night. Call and renewal of call is essential to the well-being of any movement because the picture of what we are about fades—as I heard Doug Anderson of the Bishop Rueben Job Center put it, “vision leaks”.

Mark 3:12

But he repeatedly warned them not to make him known.

don’t proclaim the obvious
it only slows the line down

now more will come
drawn by titles not result

the more I say it’s irrelevant
the fewer touches get in

I’ll just say it once more
before their muteness becomes yours

Son of God spawn of G*D
is still beside the point

this is not about you
it is resistance to Empire

Bread and Circuses can be done
but general welfare is beyond fiat

I am about reclaiming Paradise
not continuing trickle-down power

so shush your mouths
until we meet again

We are called to reveal that which we know, who we understand ourselves to be.

What is not a part of our call is to reveal the current identity of who others might be.

A weakness of naming others is our lack of knowing enough. We not only cannot see the depth and breadth of their experience, we are forever running the little we do know through our own perception and developed values. Alongside this is the honoring of others by letting them define themselves. Outing another is not good form.

Perhaps more to the point is the deep-seated sense we have of names being a source of control over another. If you have named another, so it is. This is important in everyday life—defining the situation in which we find ourselves. In the 2016 Presidential election in the USofA, Donald Trump used this force of defining his opponents in the primary and final election seasons—“crooked”, “lying”, “little”, “low-energy”—and raising himself—“tremendous”, “great”, “winning”. He said it so often that the Big Lie effect took hold. With naming comes responsibility. Trump used names to attack like a bully; Jesus asks us to say what we know and not characterize others.

Jesus is seemingly not interested in naming or defining as much as he is with partnering with G*D and engaging others for the purpose of bringing them in better contact with one another.

Mark 3:11

The foul spirits, too, whenever they caught sight of him, flung themselves down before him, and screamed out, “You are the Son of God”!

little tuberculi
broken toes
addictive thoughts
dry eyes
all quiet
in their dismissal

but oh those demonic
what a ruckus
why were they pushing ahead
while yelling bloody murder

with a healer backed up
there was easy escape
and yet they are drawn
where they would not volunteer
who can explain it
or tell you why
such as these are here

as they come to accuse
they find themselves
falling into place
as a fence blocking
water and a wall
baptism and temptation
repeat and reprise

Repeatedly people in need of healing come to touch or be touched. This physical connection is important. Anointing is a socially acceptable way to lay hands on in memory of this touch.

Repeatedly, those in need of exorcism are recorded as seeing more deeply than a usual scan of the area. The presence of an outer authority heightens awareness.

Exorcisms are known for authoritative commands to leave. Convulsion and yelling are two common reports of what happens when two authorities (inner and outer (or even more inner)) come in contact. When there is only room for one positive or negative pole, whichever is in question is stressed when its equivalency is on the scene. Remember your elementary experiments with magnetism and the way same charges repel one another. There is only room for one spirit at a time.

Jesus seems comfortable to go as far as “son of man” as an identifier. C.S. Mann has an interesting idea that the phrase about “Son of God” is an interpretation by the hearers of the inchoate shouting when a spirit of confusion catches and jaggedly lets go under a plate of belovedness. The sound of an earthquake of release goes beyond language but is still attempted to be made sense of and “G*D’s Partner” is what observers understood about their experience without actually hearing the words—it is not an affirmation of Messiah.