Mark 1:35

In the morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and went out to a lonely spot, and there he began to pray.

in the darkest before dawn
   wilderness calls
well before a beckoning let it be
   wilderness calls
deep down a fathomless deep
   wilderness calls
from a center of strictest order
   wilderness calls

all too soon we make meaning
   beyond sustaining
our desire for one thing over all
   beyond sustaining
dreams and hopes are literalized
   beyond sustaining
our desire for control betrays us
   beyond sustaining

we beard beasts in their den
   prayer action
data is gathered jot and tittle
   prayer action
dots and numbers are connected
   prayer action
a next quest begins
   prayer action

furthest shores whisper
   call wilderness
strongest traditions
   call wilderness
cosmic egg cracks
   call wilderness
wilderness itself
   calls wilderness

Would it be the healing or the silencing that would drain you the most?

Whichever. It is obvious from the time of arising that there is an urgency to be about the combination of being alone (solitary place) and being in a relationship (prayer).

One of the tricky aspects of prayer is that it is both listening and negotiating. It takes practice to pull off both of these at the same time.

We listen for what is already erupting from deep within us. We negotiate our location within the world and what that means in regard to a next activity.

Listening brings echoes of past prayers and a far-off hymn of a next creation.

Negotiation navigates between our understanding of the principles of life and the temptations that would subtly subvert them.

This is a time of shaking off the detritus of the day to look again, rather than simply plow ahead or take the path of least resistance yet available.

Praying about our praying seems to always be in order that we might better walk between the competing calls of life. To simply be a beloved is not strategic life plan. Implementation is important.

Mark 1:34

Jesus cured many who were ill with various diseases, and drove out many demons, and would not permit them to speak, because they knew him to be the Christ.

my friend was healed
how about yours
well good

I’m glad
but also a bit sad
there were some left out

that blind guy saw better
but not enough to work
that woman trailing blood
never got in the door
nor that little girl
or that Roman Servant
Saul is still prickly
Sorcerer Simon
tried to make it about him
I still can’t figure out
what the Iscariot was doing there

still healing many
was a pretty good show
particularly when
he yelled at Crazy Joe to shut-up

next time I’ll see about my hammertoe
that keeps catching my sandal
see you at tonight’s show
remember get there early

be among the many

There wouldn’t be a story here without the healings of internal breakdowns within the human body and external occupation of a person. So we stipulate that healing took place. Otherwise we start debating how they occurred. There are as many ideas about the mechanisms of healing as there are positions on a scale between any two or more religious sensibilities.

With this second mention of silencing demons added to the personalization of a descending spirit at baptism it is worth asking if this is theologically required or if it is a way of keeping it out of a Spirit v. Spirit contest. Jesus’ authority is better rested on his teachings and variety of actions.

When based on what people experience of Jesus modeling their own theosis for them, we are back to the call to follow.

What are you seeing and how are you putting this together with the rest of what you know? What present systemic demons need silencing? Unhealthy living needs silencing? Fate-talk needs silencing when things simply happen? In such silence-fasts, good can grow.

Mark 1:33

and the whole city was gathered around the door.

a door promises
more than a view
Kafka knew more than most
the futility of a guarded door
where we come to perish
still a door beckons
a new beginning
without even a crack
hopes rise after being dashed
even fearing the worst tiger
we gather in expectation
belovedness personified restored

a cry
more doors
we surge
exploding roofs
assailing heaven
for one
for all
they healed
now me
now mine
then they
for good
we riot

A doorway is a beginning. There is a sense in which we are perpetually attempting to leave our wilderness behind to be able to enter a protective door and have it hold against the hordes.

There is another sense in which we need to leave our stuck place that keeps us bottled up. A door to a great outdoors, even with its suspected dangers, is worth the risk to leave our captivity behind.

Doors have an on-going fascination to cats and dogs. Also to us. We are also perverse enough to always see more wholeness on the other side of the door.

There is hyperbole regarding the number of people gathered, but it accords with the sense that what brought them has an on-going energy. It also sets up a retreat that will be needed because the only way to continually expend energy is to gain it.

To have the whole community gathered in a doorway reminds us of the pressure of a preferred future reaching back through a dove diving in front of an equivalent to creation’s, “It is good”.

Why this is a stand-alone verse is unknown. It could be removed from the text without loss of meaning. As long as it is here we might as well remember another gathering in Sodom around a house (Genesis 19). Rather than gather to call out a curse, here folks gather to enter in for a blessing.

Mark 1:32

In the evening, after sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who were ill or possessed by demons;

sabbath end
ends rest
healings needed
before sabbath eve
and all during
are still needed

we gather
yet again
sabbath constraint
finally cast aside
journeying toward healing
wherever it be

here there
missed again
maybe there
we show
bring a friend
await a touch

new creation
begins again
rhythmic weeks
lead to sabbath
through its rest
and on beyond

constant gatherings
confirm gifts
call good
pre- and post-
healing sets expectations
of everyday work

The end of Sabbath loosens it accumulated limitations. Each restriction was undoubtedly well-intentioned to assist in engaging a rest that restores us to a creative mode. Over time the intention is lost and the form is retained.

The end of Sabbath means people can travel without frowns from their neighbors. A city-ful of restricted lives has gotten the word without Facebook or Twitter. Whether that word came from the synagogue or through the community grapevine, a word of possible healing has gone out.

Another image of urgency is present when we consider an onslaught of people at sunset. Word has gotten out through the day and people are mobilizing at doorways around the city. Everyone pacing and awaiting an agreed upon signal.

As in a gold rush, a health rush can be dangerous in the attempt to have health restored. Some with the sniffles might be able to get there first while those hobbling on a crutch are again the last of the last. Can you imagine Peter’s mother-in-law outside triaging the avalanche of people desiring healings?

This is a dramatic scene we will do well to work out rather than simply read over it as an inconvenient detail. Our resolution of how this plays out in a biblical M.A.S.H. episode will tell us much about how we see our own partnership or mutual deaconing unfolding in everyday life.

Mark 1:31

Jesus went up to her and, grasping her hand, raised her up; the fever left her, and she began to take care of them.

a handout a hand-up
we argue to argue

do one do another
leave the distinction

no choice not really
definition is usage

reach and reach again
it is what is done

reaching is service
being reached service

I give to you me
love forever true

hand in hand
whirling twirling

service no service
it is what is

Here Jesus models the “Silence” he imposed on a prior spirit that interfered with living an everyday life. There is no magic formula, no cloth to send-in to a self-proclaimed healer, no mediation.

This all-too-typically unnamed woman would ordinarily be the chief welcomer, the official hostess, and she is not available. Do note how easily the word διακονέω (diakoneō), when connected with women, means they “serve”, but in reference to a male it changes to a formal position carrying a degree of ministerial authority, “deacon”, one who ministers unto.

Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel gives us helpful language in, The Women Around Jesus:

Time and again, in other Gospels as well, women are said to have ‘served’ – to have been true disciples of Jesus. Peter’s mother-in-law serves. Martha serves, the group of Galilean women serve. This discipleship is never reported of the disciples. Thus in all the Gospels there is still a remnant of ancient experience that women were real followers, wage-earners and participants in the life of Jesus. In Mark, ‘to serve’ is not a humiliating activity but a mutual giving and taking, a self-surrender and mutual acceptance, an exchange of love, tenderness, help and comfort. In that case Jesus did not just have women as disciples; for some circles in the early church they were the real disciples.

In the early days of the Jesus Way, deacons connected the preaching and teaching with the resources of the community so those hungry, naked, and imprisoned would be cared for. Imagine this un-named woman to be an effective deacon. With her healing she is not only freed to minister to Jesus but to get a word out about where he was staying so others could come. This is a deeply-rooted hospitality able to move beyond an immediate setting.

Mark 1:30

Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying ill with a fever, and they at once told Jesus about her.

mom’s diner carries comfort
deep nutrition good for DNA
filling even crumb cake
with protective antibodies
for all by herself

so certain we are
no matter what the day or night
a table will be set
success will be relived
failure faded

when the door is not flung wide
we enter on tiptoe
to find a pale ghost
flushed with fever
not rising to this occasion

All is not right
the best of all lost
in confused silence
our wilderness wail
is all the louder

help     disaster     SOS
you’ll be alright
I’ll be alright
ho     help now

we run to tattle
I’ve been wounded
in their woundedness
don’t just do something
but something sweller than swell

we leave it with leaving it
not wanting well again
to be so far far off
wilderness stalked us from the inside
and we are achingly dry

A wild-invaded synagogue has been dealt with. We look around and find that the released demon has found a new home in Peter’s mother-in-law.

As the eldest female, this all-too-typically unnamed woman, would typically be the chief welcomer, the official hostess, and she is not available. The party can’t continue without her.

Just how immediately Jesus was told about this convulsive illness depends on your understanding of narrative as well as the literal meaning of words. It may have taken a bit to overcome the excitement of the exorcism of an unnamed man before attention could be given to an unnamed woman.

Care needs to be taken that Jesus not be lifted up as the Sunday School-expected answer to every situation. What was the chain of command to pass on this word?

Mark 1:29

As soon as they had left the synagogue, they went to the house of Simon and Andrew, along with James and John.

holy places are no more
they leak like a sieve
boundaries are broached
seeds of life sprout
in the midst of certainty
revealing unpatchable cracks

abandon hope sanctuary-naughts
never will you be safe
sanctification regularly fails
in a next moment of choice
no amount of past propping
will keep brokenness at bay

think not that retreat
from communal constructions
are any less vulnerable
than family values or your own
for illness breaks every part
revealing failed faith fantasies

apart happens
public and private
disjunctures happen
unvalued others
reveal aloneness

We need to remember that this is not just a mosey to Simon’s home. This is another BANG. Imagine a quick cut from the interior of the synagogue to the interior of the house.

Imagine, also, the conversations and interruptions back and forth as Simon, Andrew, James, and John try to make sense of what they had just experienced in the synagogue. There would likely be the piecing together of events. When did you notice the man? What did he say? Are you sure? I’m sure that’s not it. These four are part of the news story that will be further spread through the night.

How long do you think this debriefing went on and what role did Jesus play? Was he quietly letting folks talk it through? Giving hints about what to make of it? Also involved in the wondering? Exhausted?

Whatever you imagine, the raw energy of an exorcism would take awhile to settle.

Nothing takes place in isolation. This conversation is going on in other homes. Ideas about individual needs for healing bubble up. Scribes and Pharisees attempt to fit this into current understandings of how G*D works in the world. Sadducees begin to suspect this will further jeopardize their work with the Romans who in turn have omens of something let loose by the arrest of Baptizer John.

Quick cuts to many rooms finds a chaotic mix through which a crack, a fault, has opened. Multiple responses begin to vibrate—agitating hope and fear to an even higher degree of tension.

Mark 1:28

His fame spread at once in all directions, through the whole region of Galilee.

news of disaster
spreads quickest of all

one confrontation with internal conflict
promises another with external occupation

lines are finally finely drawn
no more general self-censorship

champions are drawn
stakes are raised

midnight no more
shadows banished at noon

in energetic bright light
promises are over-extended

past constraints dammed too long
break with unwanted choices

from no choice to too many
promises a flood-roiled disaster

send the news over the waves
standby for an echoing tsunami

News is a neutral word. News also carries meaning that, along with additional news, will set belief structures that shape how next news will be understood.

This is the conclusion to the beginning. Such was announced, a flashback to prophets of old occurred, that line is continued with John unto Jesus, an anointing confirmation is water and a word, wilderness testing is undergone, the ascension of Jesus comes with his owning John’s words, new followers are called, and the wild is confronted in the sanctuary of a synagogue.

What news is there to spread at this point but speculation and gossip. In a time of occupation and rebellion, a time of religious sectarianism within the larger Hebraic community vying for leadership with how to deal with external and internal conflict, such announcers as Jesus might be considered a dime-a-dozen. There is a plethora of leaders with a claim as to how to get out of an ever-present captivity.

News is spreading but it is uncertain news. Questions about which party Jesus belongs to will rise. Is this a new way? How reliable are the witnesses and are they trustworthy to report the pertinent in-formation or did they get caught up in their hopes and over-sell?

Mark 1:27

They were all so amazed that they kept asking each other, “What is this? What is this, a new kind of teaching? He gives his commands with authority even to the foul spirits, and they obey him!”

Whaa . . .
Well I’ll be a monkey’s cousin
Just when I thought all settled
   law got graced
   certainty got cracked
   resignation got pricked
   circumference got expanded

So . . .
We’re not done yet
Thinking caps to the fore
   common sense is not primary
   inertia is for physics
   experience is generative
   givens aren’t

Now . . .
Questions re-abound
Response Abounds the more
   intersections are exponential
   twinkles are for eyes
   it is time to laugh again
   be ready to laugh again

By what authority would you chose to connect the word “authority” with “teaching” or with “command”. This word is a pivoting place.

Are we still battling the scribes and so authority further distinguishes what has begun rather than what is being carried on? Is this an expression of freedom to have agency when confronting breakages of spirit or plain old bullies?

When this question is resolved in favor of action being where authority lies, we can better see “teaching” here as a passive event or as a “doctrine”.

People might well ask if this episode reflects a new thought. It doesn’t. The newness here is in applying a creation-long learning, leaning, and bending toward mercy in a larger context than any current moment is ready to acknowledge.

In the disruptive work of Love Prevails we find that authority is usually connected with order. Order is a most prized teaching of an institution and where it runs into its first barrier against beginning again or returning to the energy of a movement. When a new application of an old teaching begins to take hold, an early response is “we don’t do it that way”.

This institutional convulsion of the people is as strong as that of the person here whose spirit has become clean, new. A difference is that an institutional church is stuck convulsing without entering into the urgency of another beginning.

Mark 1:26

The foul spirit threw the man into a fit, and with a loud cry came out from him.

unclean spirits
are not seen
in their recreation glory
only in their present discomfort

as with other unseens
we respond scream for scream
refusing a larger picture
settling for a pea in a bed

so we shake and shake
ourselves and others
to more clearly see
what our descendants will see

it is a coming out
that disappears an unseen
such revelation is for no purpose
beyond a sorting out for later

transforming unseen to clean
is a dramatic story
told and re-embellished
full of sound fury

now it is ours to use
to escape
a needed next shaking
care well for what is loosed

Shaken to our foundation we are called and call out for both relief and a source worthy of jumping from to land in a larger life. Conversion is convulsive.

This section nearly dismisses the person possessed by an external or internal compulsion or addiction in order to show command over whatever the times identify as outside nature, the demonic that divides a self from itself.

Positively, this moment describes the result of a decision to repent. A consequence of repentance is space opened that it may be able to be transformed to prevenient mercy toward others. This space may or may not arrive at a shift from wilderness to intentional partnership with all of creation—water, land, air, and energized/evolving beings. It is difficult to shift relationships from domination to mutual consent.

Negatively, human beings become but carriers for kind or mean spirits. Our significance is not in our being, but our representation of some either/or/both/and of good–evil.

A part of our work some two-thousand years later is to deal with whatever agitation lies within our lives. That which jerks us around needs confronting. To put off this confrontation at the Pettis Bridge, Stonewall Bar, Standing Rock, or a local setting is to give-in to a bully. Be thankful for the convulsions that transform caterpillar to butterfly, adolescent to adult, follower to messenger, meanness to kindness.