Mark 1:21

They walked to Capernaum. On the next Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.

we are always moving
between our separations
even corporate fishers
live on chaotic waters
becalmed     stormed     working
ashore it is mending time
nets     bodies     boats
active elements recuperating

another day another vocation
same tasks under different guise
especially called folks
live in connected waters
gates     markets     temples
in cities it’s meeting time
questions     testings     responses
deeper elements released

and still today syn-ing
syncing synthesizing syn-kyrosing
simply new creations
live alongside chaotic connections
active     awaiting     new acts
wherever silence calms obsession
breath     sigh     ahh
quiet elements received

Characteristic of a movement is a sense of urgency and energy available to move to places where commitment can be demonstrated. At the first opportunity for a structured gathering (Sabbath), Jesus and followers move toward that opportunity (synagogue).

A synagogue, as a place of non-sacrificial assembly, opens the consideration of alternatives, of local option and contextual variants. A rote process of bleeding and burning animals, each according to the law’s letter, does not provide options.

When ritual strictness is set aside there is an opportunity for raising pertinent questions—teaching. Here we don’t need to detail the teachings as they will vary from synagogue to synagogue depending on their context and history of engagement with the cultural realities around them.

It is fruitful to reflect on how to assist a wide variety of people to leave the trap of fatalism that all we have is a promise of a plan that someday will rescue us. This reminds us that kairos time is always proved in its immediacy, in its doing. This will later aid Jesus-followers to make “good messaging” visible through their living. Likewise, their eventual ability to change direction from follower to leader will encourage similar μετανοέω (metanoia, “repentance”) in others.

Mark 1:20

Jesus called them at once, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the crew, and went after him.

in any given moment
calls are heard
responses are risked

never before or again
this call comes
that response continues

always again and yet
a call clarifies
a response specifies

for now and still now
	to hire on
	by quitting

ancestors are bereft
calls defeat traditions
responses break bonds

descendants are freed
calls accumulate
	on shoulders
responses ease
	rolled away

Discipleship is not solitary. At the least it includes a community of learners.

Established fishing companies such as Zebedee and Sons with partners and workers may be poor in the eyes of conquering Rome and the religious leaders in Jerusalem, but are appreciated in the local community.

We are looking at community stalwarts, not naïve cult-followers. Simon, Andrew, James, and John are of an age where they look for meaning beyond financial security. They would be part of the equivalent in their day of Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, Stonewall Riots, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter,.

There is also no reason to suspect that they were not supported, both morally and financially, by their families.

However, at this point there is not much other way to describe followers of John and Jesus than as cultists. We might also call them early-adapters.

The zeal required to follow a leader in the context of Roman occupied Palestine and previous failed revolts also carries blindered vision. The important thing is being present, a true-believer, and uncritical in recognizing any dissonance between strategy and tactics.

We will see how followers of Jesus are found by Mark to be a bit slow on the uptake. They get the healing ministry and its financial opportunities, but anything that would make them uncomfortable, such as suffering and dying, comes later.

Mark 1:19

Going on a little further, he saw James, Zebedee’s son, and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.

there is no end
to inviting and being invited
for a next step
guaranteed to complexify
and simplify a journey

every Tom John and James
every Mary Mary and Mary
added brings drains
on energy and time
choices false and intriguing

one less TV reality show to watch
one less book to creatively underline in blue
one less dollar to pile up in a pension
one less conversation featuring empathy
one less page written for the ages

a community can only hold
three hundred before splitting
there seems to be no lower limit
as we’ll even do ourself in
in-tension-ally invite a repairer of networks

It is time to double down on the net imagery. Mark sets Simon and Andrew in the foreground work of fishing the Sea of Galilee, casting nets. Now James and John are doing the background work of fixing nets that were damaged in previous casts.

Both casting and mending take a great deal of energy and diligence. It is not difficult to understand why a call beyond would not have an immediate response. At the same time, established fishers were not landless peasants. This relative success does raise questions about how easy it would be to leave a lucrative, even if difficult, profession.

What beside seeing the current wilderness of occupation and loss of resources through taxation tribute would elicit such a quick, even BANG, of a decision?

Those called know their current political reality. They also have their own fantasies such as becoming the wingmen for Jesus when the revolution comes. Were they joining a Holy Club (though Mark goes on to disabuse readers of their ability to learn even the handshake)?

The reader knows of a realized theosis of Jesus but the characters are often in the dark and off balance with Jesus’ evident fame as a healer and his resistance to trade in healing to elevate his status. Why doesn’t he charge? Why isn’t he Surgeon General for Tetrarch Herod?

Mark 1:18

They left their nets at once, and followed him.

assent or resistance
to a presumed arrangement
needing but a nod more
requiring body and soul

in ordinary times
our assent is automatic
solidifying a status quo
confirming all is a need be
a comfort an opiod

there is no easy way
through a soft web
resplendent in bread and circuses
slowing both thought and reaction
only resistance

in ordinary tasks
known to the nth degree
proceeding mindlessly
one more opportunity
to breathe a deeper breath

with everything to lose
staring us in the face
we affirm our invasive species-ness
in an unknown here and there
as we shall be and where

Immediacy, urgency, is available to us. It can lead us into our own wilderness.

Whether we think we understand where hitching our life to a star will lead (fantasize prosperity, fame, honor) or not, to leave the known behind is to leave behind any semblance of control. This is as good a definition of wilderness as there is.

If Simon and Andrew were Bedouins they would be asked to leave their herds behind to be herders of people.

Fishers and herders will both find wilderness in following an announcement of change and growth. Fisher folk will experience desert thirst and herders feel they are drowning.

In today’s world, changing jobs has become the expectation. A challenge for an institution is to affirm its own change and growth. This means affirming that every task its members have lived within or trained for needs a larger perspective of leaving usual expectations behind in order to participate in those tasks as a way of sharing a larger vision and changed relationships.

Watching masters of their craft is a joy. We begin to see that their work has been to make their work so natural that they can play within its limits. They take their proficiency both with a light and diligent hand. It is their joy to practice their craft. The practice of sharing good news is both joyful and freeing.

Mark 1:17

“Come and follow me,” Jesus said,  “and I will teach you to fish for people.”

life skills blossom and shine
in strange places and time
knowledge in where to cast
a broad net or thin line
can assist a seed broadcaster
to better direct their hand and eye
toward fertile soil or hungry bird
whether on solid water or liquid land
simple rhythms are looked for
in every evoked vocation
theoretical mathematician
sous chef
money manager
prostitute or priest
master plumber
child minder
and all between friend and foe

we come with more abundance
than a livelihood can hold
previously resigned
invitations fruit and seed
our own small world
not for its benefit alone
but to bind a broken hologram
into another new whole
holographic kaleidoscope
internally lit
revealing tetragrammatical pegs
and uncertain holes
where we’ve all gone fishin’
ahh — so

Being hooked or netted by G*D is traditionally not a good thing (Jeremiah 16, Ezekiel 29; Amos 4, Habakkuk 1). It is prelude to punishment or exile.

I’m going to send hordes of fishermen to catch them, declares the Lord. Afterward I will send out a party of hunters to hunt them down on every mountain, hill, and cave. [Jeremiah 16:16]

A first hearing of this call will appeal to creedalists everywhere. To follow Jesus is to enforce purity internally and overthrow oppressors.

It will only be later that teaching and preaching and exorcizing and healing will be for the saving of both friend and enemy, not their destruction.

Will it be hedging-in others or releasing them that would lead you to no longer live for family, for market resources, for place in community, or any other individual-based activity?

Remember later how these first will become last (fearful and running away). Only after a Great Silence will they come to own that there is no longer female and male, slave and free, but a cleanliness and purity in simply being. Only then will they redeem the fishing image to a grand and generous welcome.

Mark 1:16

As Jesus was going along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the sea, for they were fishermen.

in the middle of a story
we are in another middle

passing alongside
is never passing alone

a very smallish sea
still a sea

Franciscan relatives abound
sister this brother that

each found at sea shore
with and without starfishers

Still drawn by water, Jesus sees two brothers. This is different than the same story in John where they stalk Jesus and come to see him. It is also different from Luke who records an encounter with Simon first and Andrew later (4:38, 5:1–11, 6:12–16).

One of the traditions of Mark is that he records Simon’s (Peter’s, the Rock’s) remembrances of Jesus. An interesting resource because of both parts of its title is the 1930’s book, The Memoirs of St. Peter or The Gospel According to St. Mark, Translated into English Sense-Lines by James A. Kleist, S.J.

Kairos time can strike at any time. More often than not it comes to the last folks expected to receive it. This opportune moment arises in everyday living of tending sycamore trees or fishing for a living. As Mark tells it, Kairos time can come out of the blue.

What did Jesus see in Simon and Andrew? A response to that question raises the possibility of that same characteristic being what we are to look for in our own life and the lives of those we encounter. The time is probably right for an intentional look at the lives of those around us and an asking of them to look at our life that their new directions will be followed.

Note that in Jesus’ day, disciples sought out a teacher. Here Jesus follows Elijah’s model in asking particular people to be learners, disciples, followers.

Mark 1:15

“The time has come, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the good news.”

good news is ever present all shall be well
such a time is ripe for the picking

saving time for another time
makes future time uncouth

Mumu was right about dark time
only Bastian could imaginatively rename

good news is not content driven
for creeds are but derivative byproducts

processing experience and opportunity
requires trust beyond belief

freedom generates a next chaos
wherein and wherefrom now and shall embrace

such a time as this
welcomes and moves on

Time that is καιρός (kairos “opportune”) time is seen as present time. This makes this call to be very urgent. No matter what else is going on, there is no one else, no where else, and no other time than this time.

The way we speak of this time is critically important. “G*D’s kingdom” would have been very understandable in Mark’s day as kingdoms were the way the world worked. It was secular or everyday language that communicated very well. “Kingdom”, in particular, has become sacred or holy language that puts it outside of our experience and thus is unhelpful coded language.

The church has struggled with this for a long time and we are still in the process of trying to find language for the presence of a presence that has a mysterious, yet to be revealed, quality to it and is only able to be hinted at in some graphical way such as “G*D”. Until we crucify and resurrect this “kingdom” language, we won’t be able to do the changing required to radically trust a partnership with G*D. Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish is one of the places we might listen for new partnership of mutual humility between our past and future.

Yes, the time is now, but “kingdom” is only near, not present, and our map to new relationships is still being developed. It will be interesting to see what comes from the intersectionality found in ex-plorations by “emergent” church folks and those represented by Shambala Press.

Mark 1:14

After John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God –

each generation’s voice
rings differently
even when the same words
are sounded

a trumpet call to action
comes also
in a growl of bass sax
plinkity uke

basic announcements extend
between arts
each rallying as only it can
common sense

an announcement of good
accepted belovedness
shifts a motivation to partner
toward because

just because it is good
for one
regardless of past circumstance
for all

which brings us to updates
not automatic
ringing unheard changes
awaiting choice

your new word remembers our path
deeply rutted
your next word arrests our attention
thankfully changed

We are about to make another abrupt chronological and geographic shift. Each of these carries a sense of urgency to address a crisis in any communities listening to Mark. How can we survive in our current wilderness?

Not only has John been arrested, but so have all of us. Occupation and poverty weaken our source of trust, whether that is spoken of in absolute terms or metaphorically.

Jesus enters another wilderness by going to Galilee. Here rules Herod Antipas, who had John arrested and executed. For Jesus it is out of the frying pan and into the fire. Luke recognizes this by recording the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod (Luke 13:31).

It also can indicate that John traveled in more than one wilderness—that of deserts and locusts as well as lakes and palaces.

This act of resisting by showing up is significant for each of us as our anxiety about our own safety or how we are perceived within the church or by our peers leads us to compromise our reception of steadfast love and our embodying it in the midst of difficult times.

Mark 1:13

and he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and among the wild beasts, while the angels helped him.

imagine Eden revisited
within a declared good
a mini-wilderness grew

our friend Satan rose
from energized ground
to climb a fruitful tree

a wilderness whisper
of no consequences
piggy-backed a ripe scent

subtle satan smiled
an elderly couple drew near
promises turned to contracts

traveling to Eden
takes but a moment
forgetting angels and animals

our naming and caring
are set aside
anticipating a wild ride

yet one flaming angel
and a host of same
rally to a tree of life

we sleepwalk through
a poisoned apple stupor
one consequence to a next

one bereft tree

left standing

renamed stump
cross and center
cedar and health

we walk in wildernesses
personal and communal
aching to remember

has it been 40 days already
or only 40 years or hours
we walk again between animals

an old promise
flames back to life
you are ever loved

in wilderness and out
we rejoin satans and angels
and claim a new name

C.S. Mann has the temptation as a first engagement in an eschatological conflict.

Immediately there is a mention of animals and angels which gives a sense of how that conflict will ultimately turn out. The animals become precursors to a new creation, two by two they lead to Paradise Regained after being Lost. Angelic messengers are ready to invite, “Come! Receive life-giving water!” flowing through an unguarded tree of life.

Mark 1:12

Immediately afterward the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness;

a dove’s force
plays both
assurer and

alighting lightly
from above
brings comfort
before conflict

a unity of one
and heaven is tested
to become
all and heaven

without enlargement
assurance is a trap
satisfied with
an inner narcissist

adversity sharpens
an appreciation
an affirmation
practiced in mercy

look sharp
a dove become an eagle
is our standard
to assail heaven

There is no avoiding a hero’s journey. The very blessing giving a token of living a quest leads to a willingness to be tested. Unlike the temptation details of Matthew and Luke or those of Mary and Nicodemus in John, Mark simply notes that temptation takes place. A benefit of a lack of details or examples is that this motif can be seen all through Mark’s telling.

Temptations are not overcome marking some immunity from them. They will continue to run through the story to the final words of forsakenness and fear.

In the wilderness, carrying a deep appreciation of being loved, we understand danger abounds but the blessing already received is greater still. Testing a blessing will anneal it.

Mark’s eleven uses of ἐκβάλλω (ekballō “drove”, “forced”, “impelled”) are connected with exorcism. Blessing, as a cheap grace, needs exorcising. Without this pressurized setting of testing it will be too easy to fall into the façade of a prosperity gospel.

It is at this point that the gentle dove shows its other side—eagle. Nikos Kazantzakis notes this in his statement of faith, Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises, when he has an eagle drop and insert its talons into the back of your neck to drag you where you did not want to go.

While urgency has been present and implied with “beginning”, “Isaiah”, and “repentance”, we have here the first of the urgent words, εὐθύς (euthys “at once”, “immediately”). Richard W. Swanson’s translation of this in, Provoking the Gospel of Mark, has in caps, “BANG”. Swanson notes that “immediately” is too long a word to be immediate, to speed up and intensify a story!