Mark 4:3

“Listen! The sower went out to sow;

we used to know farm life
we now know grocery aisles

to make a point these days
it is market forces that speak

either we have heard this story too much
or it is too alien to translate

in theory an education system
would help us deal with allusions

test answers never help
in a land of alternative responses

so what if a farmer goes to seed
our minds are filled with weeds

The imperative injunction to “Listen!” is grown-up talk for, “Put your thinking caps on.”

It is time for a story problem that connects with your life and not just numbers. The train leaving Station A is Your Life. The train leaving Station B is Paradise on Earth. A point of connection is already underway. Will you find this connection today?

We are going to begin very easy. There is no rush here. What do you know about farmers? Yes, they farm. What is a farm? Yes, there are plant farms and animal farms and fish farms. On a farm, what happens to plants, animals, and fish? Yes, they grow. You already know a lot about this story.

This is a story about a plant farm. Plants grow from seeds and those seeds need to planted. That’s pretty funny—plants need to be planted.

There are lots of different ways that seeds can be planted. This story is about a method called “sowing”. When you see this word it is not about female pigs. When you hear this word it is not about constructing clothes. Sowing is taking a handful of seeds and tossing them where you want them to grow.

The sower wants to get them as close to the edge of their field as they can. Wind is one reason some seeds might end up beyond the field where the ground is not good for them and they won’t grow. You might think about other ways the seeds could get outside the farm land.

Oh, yes, it will be helpful to know this story is best known by the smallest and poorest farmers for whom every seed is important if they want to eat for another year.

Mark 4:2

Then he taught them many truths in parables; and in the course of his teaching he said to them:

parables turn everything inside out
wild beasts they be
turning lesson plans topsy-turvy
raising questions of questions

just when a point has been made
for the fourth time
a sideways story comes aslant
shooting options in all directions

direct application is thrown out
flights of fancy flutter about
impossibilities are intensified
internal arguments increase

listeners listen accordingly
ears ready for an unexpected word
reflexes alert to flee ambiguity
stimulated by curious congruities

who knew such a lapping shore
harbored a category 5 hurricane
uprooting carefully tended certainties
making way for a new normal

A part of teaching fishing folk to “fish for people” is giving a model of connecting with those who are not them. This will come around again at Pentecost.

The setting is a boat (fisher-folks’ friend) but the content will mostly be about seeds (friends of villager and farmer). Teaching holds together the familiar and the strange long enough for them to engage each other.

We take the skills we have developed with us, but we are also careful to listen first to those we are with so we can use parabolic riddles and other rhetorical mechanisms that connect to those with whom we are relating.

A parable that doesn’t have a connecting spot with those you are partnering with is not a good use of conversation. Without a connection there can be no surprise or “Ah ha!” moment. It is these responses that shorten a longer metamorphosis or arrival at a repentant body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus’ use of parables uses common scenes of the time that are relatively easy to visualize. After nods of recognition and being able to project where the story is going, there is enough relaxation and letting down of defenses (a suspension of disbelief, if you will). Then comes the moment of a surprise twist bringing a crack in a person’s cosmic-egg habits (see The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: New Constructs of Mind and Reality by Joseph Chilton Pearce) so current assumptions about what is possible shift a bit, wobble a tad, and open space for a suggestion to alight on the edge of consciousness.

Mark 4:1

Jesus again began to teach by the sea; and, as an immense crowd was gathering around him, he got into a boat, and sat in it on the sea, while all the people were on the shore at the water’s edge.

teachers learn pedagogy
student levels and environment
shape moments of engagement

teachers teach in situ
never to a passing fad
mistaking facts for meaning

teacher’s plans anticipate
next opportunities built from here
to keep curiosity healthy

teachers stand on desks
sit in boats wander freely
to best meet a multitude of muses

teachers attend to listening
a whisper in an ear
a clear word ricocheting through a crowd

the shape of a moment
calls forth more
than a teacher already has

Yet another beginning. “Again” (palin) reminds us to pause and cast our minds back to previous lake settings of callings, teachings about Sabbath, and lakeside healings.

Again and again we go down to the sea where, according to E.E. Cummings:

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Jesus’ musings about life (a future life available now) are about to tumble out in a series of parables that will put us at sea, trying to catch up and keep up with the images.

A part of our experience of wilderness is going in circles. Without a compass or other guide our tendency is to follow a leaning or habit and return to where we have already been. Parables assist us by having a surprise, beyond what we ordinarily see or think. If we are to season our tendency for repetition of the past with an increasing dose of a preferred future, shocks help lift our eyes.

Note that Jesus’ teaching is not oriented toward the passing of a written test. Given that testing is endemic to life and there are a multitude of reasons for not resisting a temptation, we are going to hear stories of ordinary items that will surprise us into reorienting our lives away from an old normal to a new relationship with the future—from fish to people, so to speak.

Mark 3:35

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

whosoever will
find a point of pain
listening it into revelation
is a friend of mine

when hope slips away
those who notice
who raise alarm
are friend and ally

when faith contracts
creatives not successers
demonstrate needed trust
to cross friendship limits

when love dims
the slightest steadfastness
anchors rebuilding
friend to Friend

whosoever will
sets a wider welcome
that mysterious others might become
mutual friends

G*D’s desire is notoriously difficult to discern.

Additionally, there is the difficulty of forgiveness. Do we remain a certified partner or beloved of G*D regardless of whether we correctly discern and follow that desire with appropriate action?

Is there a universalness to our relationship that arches over and under any particular moment of agreement with or challenge to a desire? Where does bargaining fit in to the will of one partner or is this just a hierarchy playing at mutual identity reflective of interactive imagery?

These questions are important because of the tendency for such seemingly egalitarian sentiments to fall back into colonial tyranny exemplified by Rome and Temple. Later Christian history and attempted control of heavenly rewards will show this danger as real.

Mark tends to show Jesus as absolute authority of G*D’s “will” and authority is but a generation away from authoritarianism. Believers are infantilized to only go as far as the latest creed can travel. There is still insider and outsider language going on, just different insiders who argue over their place and look to some form of retributive justice they can use to their advantage. In a “second-coming”, power is held to judge who followed orders better and to wipe out those below a certain score. [Condensed from: Abraham Smith, “Cultural Studies: Making Mark” in Mark and Method, pp.203–207]

When hearing someone appeal to the “will of God”, it is wise to place finger-tips together, bow, say “True”, and continue beloving.

Mark 3:34

Then he looked around on the people sitting in a circle around him, and said,  “Here are my mother and my brothers!

everywhere I look
there they are
my people

my people are
sister sun
father moon
mother rain
brother sea

anonymous cousins neighbors
are everywhere
my people

my people are
mother Belva
brothers Larry Tim
sisters Kathy Margy
father Russell

ancestors galore and any yet to come
veiled and revealed
my people

my people are
sister friendly
father exploring
mother equipping
brother challenging

in dance and shadow
we reach and touch
my people

This chapter began with a deep look into those who questioned the healing of a withered hand. It is that same look that scans those present to delve into hearts and understanding.

That look shifts from finding a lack of compassion in the face of need to now seeing sparks being struck that connect previously scattered intersections of life.

Here, in this round, we are partnered in mentoring, mothering, and learning, brothering, with one another.

This dynamic of tender support and clear-eyed challenge is a very difficult way to go as followers stand on their caller’s shoulders and launch, pressing back and down for their quantum leap. This process is very difficult as mentors push their followers well beyond theory, all the way to learning from experience.

A second look, also reveals such difficulties having to be dealt with ever and anon.

This new family configuration will have the same question asked of them in days to come, “Are you still my mother? My brother?” Different responses will come forth. “Yes”; Messiah. “No”; Kiss. “Yes”; Distance. “No”; Run. “Yes” and “No”; Galilee.

Mark 3:33

“Who is my mother? And my brothers?” was his reply.

who are my people
how are people known
what question comes first
is the oldest most basic

questions are more than sanguine
genetic coloring to intentional scarring
class caste craft
shape a decision field

no mater how we’ve come of age
there are more ages to become
my people stretch beyond the present
our station is not stationary

the deeper social location goes
the more comrades it unearths
bringing us back to basic clay
inviting imagination and play

yin finally shows through yang
there are none not mine
moveable blockages are removed
eu-angelistas build common ground

It has been a long journey from the region of the Galilee to the Galilee. How does one go home again?

Having experienced a baptizing prophet and a vision-ended quest with a new name of “Beloved”, life changed.

Having tested his change of life, his new incarnation, in a wilderness larger than his personal one, Jesus began an alternative collective.

The questions here ask who is associated with his coming of age. Who are the prophets who will guide? Who are the comrades who will risk testing?

If the Marcan Jesus were transported to Matthew or Luke he would recognize Mother Mary and her Magnificat as his mother leading him to Mother John. But Mark has a far darker story to tell of on-going testing. Here we are talking larger forces than individual qualities, of which family is one that keeps us wrapped in swaddling clothes. For instance, if Jesus listened to Luke, he would know of Mary’s treasuring him in her heart, making it difficult to let him go into danger that cannot be reasonably escaped.

Families come with a multitude of nuanced relationships that need reinterpreting, year by year, change by change.

Families bring old tapes and knows who has changed whose diapers. Families bring established support for next growth spurts. Families also have difficulty knowing how to shift the gears of roots to wings and back again.

Mark 3:32

There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and some of them said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.”

a crowd gathers for spectacle
soon there will be a you-and-them fight
that can be egged on to cathartic release
and we can all go back to our homes
to keep it alive through re-telling
until we need a next hit of circus

even better than Hatfield v. McCoy
an intra-familial throw down
mother against son and vice versa
brother and sister against a sibling
one against all winner disowning loser
we know this outcome all too well

we knew this was coming
now it has arrived
soon a trigger point will explode
fireworks will light the sky
tag team take your corner
purported hero over there

With an anxious family outside another packed house which has not yet had its roof removed, there is sufficient hubbub to disturb those still debriefing the aftermath of an energetically repulsed ambush.

The intrusion of the Jerusalem contingent into the family story suggests that the crowd was not just in a reflective mood but one agitated enough to be ready for another skirmish.

Wildernesses are also sandwiched, one included within another. There is no end to powers from the outside or confusion within. We are born into a world of rules and make up additional protective boundaries in response to difficult situations. Between these external and internal guides to which we give authority there is little room for listening to calls that act like strange attractors. We continue to attend to the chaos of too much information without a deep analysis of what needs disrupting or accelerating.

The fulcrum point identified by Jesus is that of healing which stands in contrast to curing symptoms and reveals the depth of disease within every power structure privileging mine over yours and one over many. Implicit in healing is the destruction of the captivating force. This force, in turn, ups the ante on dis-ease and destruction.

Jesus has been called out. Put down your calling. Remember you are from Nazareth, the center of “nothing good”. What can one person do, particularly if that one person is you? This is just a childhood fantasy like your story about turning a clay bird into a soaring eagle.

Mark 3:31

His mother and his brothers came, and stood outside, and sent to ask him to come to them.

it takes awhile
for families to affirm
their embarrassing members

we will attempt correction
lapse into ignoring
justify our anger
intervene and exile

family status is powerful enough
to willingly sacrifice one
for the benefit of many

we will diminish and disallow
those who disappoint
all this may take a while
eventually it is the only solution

so we look to community belovedness
built on individual belovedness
to repent and trust belovedness

Having just completed a very contentious scene with power from Jerusalem, it is helpful to go back ten verses and skip over the interrupting story.

Life is never solitary. The very forces that oppose the liberation of captive people have an effect on a whole culture and extended family units connected to anyone upsetting their system. Jesus’ family is under the same pressure as Jesus and any follower of his.

This, like the encounter with the Pharisees from Jerusalem, needs to be seen up-close and personal.

Even though surrounded by select followers and a variety of crowds, Jesus is deeply alone. Family is deep relationship that ties us by blood to our tribal roots. Can you actually see Jesus turning his back on his mother who, with sisters and brothers and cousins by the score, wants to protect Jesus before he is grievously hurt by a seemingly immovable force.

How far do we have to go to commit someone for their own safety and that of others? We officially sign that they are “out of their mind” because they are “out of their place or status”. If only Jesus had gone to Pharisee school instead of to John!

There is ample evidence already given that Jesus is weakening a system of relationships that keeps at least a little stability in a time of wilderness occupation. Some sympathy and identification with the family is in order, for we have all made the same argument to slow-down or work within the system to someone when their call is disrupting some part of our own life. Mark eventually confirms the family has reason to look ahead and worry.

Mark 3:30

This was said in reply to the charge that he had a foul spirit in him.

when name calling gets serious
serious engagement slips away
leaving a contest of epithets

if you claim my spirit evil
let me show you how evil
even a holy spirit can be

this is no longer a spat
but has escalated to a spite
so there is nothing for you but a spit

roasting over ever-hot coals
puts Prometheus’ punishment to shame
escalate this line at your own peril

Legal experts rely on precedent. In this fashion decisions can be made that give either/or results. This is also the way that the evil of the ages is carried alongside whatever wisdom finally surfaced after ages of injustice showed its harm to all, privileged and unprivileged alike.

It is the misnaming of good as destructive that brought forth the above indictment.

Go back and jump directly from verse 22 to 30. This puts an important  protection around verse 29 and our tendency to apply it inappropriately. Ministries of healing and justice are not blasphemous, but reveal a current unconscious or privileged blasphemy.

A note in the Christian Community Bible is much clearer about this than its successor, The New Christian Community Bible (how easy it is, little by little, to self-censor our prophetic self):

Those who systematically attribute bad intentions to good work done by others, by the Church, by other parties, sin against the Holy Spirit. The one who recognizes the truth but not God is better off than the one who says he believes in God and does not recognize the truth.

Into this life and death confrontation we have the equivalent of, “I’m rubber, you’re glue; your words bounce off me and stick to you.”

Eventually we will find that this is not a debate that can be “won” by verbal sparing in the short-run for it is as perennial as any of the seven deadly entitlements that keep showing up in lives not willing to come face-to-face with them—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. All that is available is to continue acting out of their corresponding virtues and accept that as enough—humility, generosity, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and persistence.

Mark 3:29

but whoever slanders the Holy Spirit remains unforgiven to the end; he has to answer for an enduring sin.”

what spirit worthy
of an adjective holy
takes an insult as final
and so unforgivable

holiness claims a bigger picture
understanding past limits
and overly idealized futures
messing up present trust

to invest one event with eternity
loses track of a growing wholeness
and reduces G*D to score-keeper
with no next season to prepare for

this raises every play
to Super Bowl significance
which turns bitter in the mouth
when a false start occurs

finally a connection is made
prevenient grace and preemptive mercy
meet at universalized salvation
wholeness beats holiness paper takes rock

Those who intentionally “demonize acts of healing and justice” (Myers, et. al.) may leave Jerusalem, but carry its power and privilege with them wherever they go.

Juan Luis Segundo writes in Capitalism and Socialism, “The real sin against the Holy Spirit is refusing to recognize with ‘theological’ joy, some concrete liberation that is taking place before one’s very eyes.”

The consequence of no change lasting eternally, is a state of unassailable certainty that we easily wrap around our lives to be able to keep whatever advantage we have over another. If station is no longer connected with some divine right, “common good” will arise as a primary consideration in decisions to be made. This common good is not a promissory note to come due somewhere down the line, such as a payoff for the poor from a mythical trickle-down economy. There is an immediate result of reordering the present and building on in it the future.

The indiscriminate nature of the healings that Jesus is doing will soon turn to clearer teachings that will reveal the bondage of the powerful to their center of power: heads, I am advantaged; tails, you are disadvantaged—and it is all because G*D wants it that way.

The repudiation of Samuel and the institution of kings (1 Samuel 8) will always lead to the little those have who have but little being reallocated to those who already have much. Unforgivable.