Mark 8:36

What good is it to a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?


why would people gain
their fondest dream
when such dreams
have no end

a realized dream
is a sad ending
to a journey concluded
before it began

life invites life
to ebb and flow
with thankful memories
and next larger calls


“Life” (Hebraic concept) is the preferable translation in these three verses, 8:35–37, to “soul” (Greek construct). There are implications to the interplay of gain and loss, fullness and emptiness, fulfillment and desolation, foreground and background.

The emptying of soul to arrive at life needs a maturity unattached to age or stage. David Galston, in God’s Human Future: The Struggle to Define Theology Today90, speaks about this whole denial, emptying process:

Emptiness is not a let down; it has nothing to do with disappointment. It is awakening. It is part of recognizing the “now-ness” of time, the way time is not set on a predetermined course but is open to new possibilities. The energy of a parable is its vision carved into story in order to awaken the immediate gift of awareness, the recognition of the possible, and realization that the “now” is both all we have all the universe has to offer. The crime is to forfeit the fullness of this emptiness for the deceptive fullness of dogmatic securities.

Sabin-1’s162 use of Wisdom writings and midrash processes also come into play here.

In the Wisdom writings, Wisdom is personified as a woman—inclusively nurturing, attractive and elusive, ceaselessly restoring order and attentive to whatever is life-giving. Mark portrays Jesus as a person with these very qualities of being. In so doing, he also portrays him as the opposite of the typical male hero of ancient writings— who is conventionally royal, rational, and powerful.

These two resources bring needed human/femine perspectives to a difficult conversation about meaning in what Althea Spencer-Miller describes as our current power paradigm of an “Eurocentric hetero-masculine Umwelten”.

This question refocuses a mission of “fishers of people” by shifting the appeal of an attractive call to the realities of living that vision within any economic system that offers gain. The urgent need is for “wilderness” and “emptiness”—a transfiguration of such a temptation.

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