Mark 1:18

They left their nets at once, and followed him.


readiness
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
announcing
hearing
walking
fishing

passing alongside
is never passing alone
water
Simon
Andrew
destination

a very smallish sea
still a sea
storm
sunrise
sunset
stolid

Franciscan relatives abound
sister this brother that
see
here
there
saw

each found at sea shore
with and without starfishers
begun
continued
paused
anon


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
adversary

 
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!

Mark 1:11

and from the heavens came a voice – “You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy.”


self-contained heavens
create deafening echoes
whereupon splitting open
out rush inchoate hope
while an in-rushing gasp
shoves in the gap
a birthing groan sighs

awareness dawns
as newly washed ears

attend to the unheard
and there was music
connecting old horizons
to one widely precious
simple next breath

echoes like crashing surf
block all accumulated identities
until a song of myself
out waits a heaven bound
breaking heart
be love beloved
begin a new echo

voice to voice
calls deep to deep
heaven to hearth
opened to open
calls each to each
love times love
claims steady joy


A voice. Resonant baritone? Young girl whispering? Siri? Carried on the wind?

In Matthew we have “Beloved” as a title. Here it shows Mark’s understanding of Christ-Messiah that will blow apart every closed system to reveal a pleasure principle that has staying power. The older phrase of “steadfast love” would do well here.

Recognizing that Jesus does not live up to the usual measure of a Messiah—just look around at the lack of change in a world before and after Jesus—moves us into a re-creation of Messiah.

This important line, too easily glossed over as a statement of faith rather than the explosive reorientation it is, needs more looking at. To catch a glimpse of this listen to C.S. Mann on Mark in the Anchor Bible series.

The complexity of the declaration in this verse … can hardly be exaggerated, since it combines motifs from the soteriological ideas of Genesis 22, a messianic designation in Psalm 2, and the Servant of Isaiah 42. The combination of motifs is startling, yet all the elements are at home in Palestinian Judaism.

However you entered into overhearing this voice, it is a blessing. Look around for who else has heard and is working on allowing it to flow through and from them. Look, also, for those who haven’t heard. Bringing these two together is Messiah work.

Mark 1:10

Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove,


every little once in awhile
Sylvie brings needed water

while in deep water
we are ungrounded

are centering down for enough
to flip into a new orientation

have we stayed down long enough
to gasp at beauty open-eyed

every little once in awhile
a level of awareness is leapt

our ungrounding and regrounding
occur together—beyond a while

heaven breaks loose from eternity
and opens a newly seeded path to explore

into Noah’s hand comes an olive branch
land ho! time to release all pent up tensions

a next game is afoot as our treading finds sea floor
and we bounce to a strange shore

every little once in awhile
life’s tides ebb and flow through us

we move from drowning in prevenience
to jumping from justification to justice


The unbinding of a lost stone needs a name that stands for what it holds and is drawn forth.

In later mythology King Arthur finds a stone within water that holds a sword named Excalibur. This sword becomes his weapon whereby he rules.

Here the Jesus stone has his authority coming to rest solidly within. The two are wedded in a way not available to Arthur whose sword is finally lost to him.

A contrast between stones may be instructive.

Excalibur (a hard cut), pulled from stone, is quite different from Beloved (a generous welcome), invested in what seems to be lost in dim memory and of no account. Now a Messiah message of a split open and loving “Paradise” or “preferred future” is to be carried into every wilderness.

Mark 1:9

Now about that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.


acknowledged or not
a next generation
builds on
past gains/losses

none of us are
our own strength

we call to vocation
each to their part
in common choices
and overarching journey

heartily sorry
for ancestral choices

we gather to see
what’s left
what’s surplus
what’s needed

heartily sorry
for relational choices

we gather to hear
a lament
a dance
a stillness

from no-town
to river of consequence

we drop our sorrow
claim our everyday
within and beyond
hospitality’s restraints


From promises of old we begin an urgent journey with a retreat to the wilderness.

Jesus “happened” to come from the hills of Nazareth in the north to a river, probably South Jordan near Jericho. In a sense Jesus is preparing his own way just as all of us do. Lots of things “happen”, so how do we come to be at all the important events of our life?

These simple location points say much about how revolutions take place. They take place when there is nothing left to lose. Nothing good is expected from those in Nazareth. The experience of Nazareth will be critical, but the shift will not take place there first. One needs the experience of being so close to seats of power and seeing what it does before gathering an insight as to where its failure point lies.

So we move from being at a loss, wandering without understandable direction, to a place where previous wilderness times have ended. Here we pause to let the waters flow around us as it does a rock.

A picture comes to mind of rocks lifted from the Jordan to be an enduring memorial of moving from wilderness to realized promises. (Joshua 4).

Jesus arises ready to be a living stone that wherever he wanders hopes will be raised and self-captivity will no longer rule.

This is spare language for an event which shifts seismic plates within intentionality.