Mark 4:6

but, when the sun rose, it was scorched, and, because their roots were not deep enough, withered away.

itsy-bitsy spiders
know the sun dries up all the rain
seeds are just as wise

spiders can climb again
seeds can but wait and trust
valuable gifts but impractical

seed qua seed
does not flourish everywhere
but has a high mulch value

so no harvest this year
but imagine those to come
built on buried bodies come alive

how do we gather perspective
on ships and sails
and seeds and spiders

Just as with the birds, quick fixes usually mean there will be a bigger repair bill already on its way.

With our little seed relatives, we have found ourselves being a big frog in a small pond, a king of the croakers who continues to croak even as changes in climate push the heat beyond what can be borne. In this thought experiment variant, we are unaware of how we are increasingly imperiled, all the while denying a problem.

The joy of seeing only the sunny-side has led into a trap of prosperity gospels and positive thinking where a lack of common welfare and real science stokes a revolutionary fervor.

We feast on sunlight being chlorophylled into sugars that invite diabetes. We burn in sunlight damaging skin cell DNA and leading to cancer. There is no good without a corresponding limit that requires thought and discipline.

Even our favorite model of “premeditated mercy” (see book of the same name by Joseph Nassal) needs to recognize the reality of dealing with narcissistic and other sociopathic personalities who have no reciprocal response available to them other than taking advantage in the short-term and bringing death in the both short- and long-term.

A manipulative mercy has very short roots and turns into whining martyrdom. Mercy, holistically developed across generations, can give rise to increasingly diverse expressions of creative “it is good”s.

Two iterations of seed-landing locations have come (paths and shallow soil) and two opportunities for seeds to grow have gone. The story is still going on in Mark and it is still going on around us today. We are not through yet, even though we want to hurry on. Take another breath and let this story further wash over you?

Mark 4:5

Some fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and, because the soil wasn’t deep, sprang up at once;

rocky soil is not mature
shallow     granular
lacking earthworms
good for one crop
soon depleted

it is exciting
to turn a quick profit
but slow and steady
return customers
is long-term gain

individualized capitalism
has its built-in failure
favoring money over labor
a division fomenting revolution
nouveau riche is juvenile

As with all good intentions, some don’t even make it to the drawing table, much less move to next levels of implementation and finally payback.

Sometimes the first blush of inspiration or first crush, puppy love, sets us all aglow. Our energy is high and expectations higher. This is a grand moment when we can see we are ahead of everyone else.

The poor can see themselves as successful entrepreneurs, if only they had a break. Their fantasy: surely this is the year when everything is all going to break my way.

Can you remember your own best plan that took off like a house on fire? Well, maybe that isn’t the best image for soon you will be without a house. At least it garnered a lot of affirmation from those around you and even a first draft was looking good.

Don’t we wish that this story would move more quickly! While it may be our contemporary visual pacing of television and movies that drives us ever faster, there are other factors as well. One of them spans the generations—our real agenda.

Our ulterior motives keep us from doing simple, active listening. We keep thinking about what we are going to say next. How we can shine. In the story of Mark we have come to expect another healing right around the next urgently turned corner. And it may be mine!

The quicker Jesus can finish up this shaggy-seed tale, the quicker we’ll be back to the action.

Yes, seeds can grow quickly in shallow soil. So do our desires. To change metaphors for a moment, this part of the story is about boom-towns that spring up overnight to benefit special someones more than ordinary laborers who are here today and gone tomorrow.

Mark 4:4

and presently, as he was sowing, some of the seed fell along the path; and the birds came, and ate it up.

routine walking wears ruts
where grandest opportunities
go to die

there is no need to glance down
where some little nothing
sparkles in dust

we know where we’re going
who it is that goes this way with us
habitual friends distract

survival takes all the time we have
in the end it all goes up in smoke
no rose smelling

what got them in the end
putting one foot in front of the other
not paying attention

No matter how controlling we attempt to be—birds!

Even in the midst of deep fertile soil on the prairie where mechanical monsters plow, plant, and cover all in one efficient movement, birds still gather for they know how to glean before a harvest as well as after.

When scattering seed a fistful at a time, the number of seeds available to the birds probably goes up. No matter how we construct our risks there are always scenarios where the seed doesn’t stand a chance from the get-go.

With enough cameras with high enough resolution to image an individual seed on its journey from hand to land, we could even come up with an average of how many seeds made it to germination within the bounds of the field. Your homework is to search YouTube to see if you can find examples of broadcasting seed and estimate how many seeds fall somewhere where they are immediately available to an alert seed-feeding bird.

From our life-journey so far we might begin to see where the best soil for growing is and where it is too well-traveled, mapped, and otherwise owned. Hypothesis: The best place to sow seed or to fish for people is among the desperate. Those who are poor with no access to the medical care of the day provide an easy place to start a movement to make things better. A not-great place to expect an increase is with the rich and powerful, either religiously or politically.

Even the best and most practiced sower of seeds finds there are places where learning seems to have stopped—in deep, dark, packed ruts. Just acknowledge this and keep sowing.

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.