Hello again

My journey through Mark had come to a close. Recently, though, a new stirring has begun toward another wilderness setting—Genesis.

My current schedule is full until the middle of March, so my current plan is to look at April Fools Day (plural fools, rather than possessive ones) as a starting point for another journey.

Likely, this one will not be verse by verse only. With more than 1,500 verses and my advancing years, it didn’t seem prudent to start a four-and-a-half year journey. There will be some larger scenes considered.

You are welcome to come along for the ride and invite others to sign up. As always, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this message.

May your own creative juices find their continuance or renewal.


Mark 1:45

The man, however, went away, and began to speak about it publicly, and to spread the story so widely, that Jesus could no longer go openly into a town, but stayed outside in lonely places; and people came to him from every direction.

entering a wilderness
voluntarily or circumstantially
remains an entering
a recognition
not-wilderness is fantastical

a voice cries
you have heard it said …
and such a voice
is exiled

a voice sworn to secrecy
exuberantly blabs thanks
exiles its source

a baptism without wilderness
is meaningless

wilderness happens

meaning scratches outward
implementing new wildness

sourced from exile
unexpected blessings arise
in what previously was blind

redeemed in exile
language views backsides
revealed through invisible robes
no shying from revelation

receive then wilderness
to open your senses
beyond either flight or fight
for no matter how we arrived
we are where we are

Sure enough, if Jesus can say, “Instead….”, so can the one he said it to.

Choice continues. It continues even more in the clean state than in the unclean. Having been brought back within the community the former leper regains what was removed when he was cast out—his agency to choose.

The urgency of Mark with his immediate healings is transferred to the ones healed. There is no way this person can contain what it was that had happened to him.

Reflect for a moment on the difference in experience between the disciples with their oral call and this man whose life has been turned upside-down in a very providential way. The disciples are still learning and this one is off and about preaching loudly about what he experienced with Jesus.

Whatever else needs saying about this close to a dramatic story, it has to be admitted that brings Jesus back to his reason for leaving Capernaum. Though not entering towns, people kept coming and kept coming. There is no honoring of the law, but plenty of honoring healing.

Mark 1:44

and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offerings for your cleansing directed by Moses, as evidence of your cure

talk is cheap
Eliza asks to be shown
priests likewise

explanations bring forth
alternative speculations
leaving confusion aplenty

evidence is not certainty
it is possible common ground
to further reflect together

show up is basic organizing
show off wounds opens compassion
show off healing shares thanks

secret action has power
revealed eschatology confirms power
common definition shifts decisions

so know
so go
so show

The sternness continues. “Don’t you dare say anything to anyone about this!” “Beware the consequence of crossing me!”

With that reinforced, we find another strand being woven in—“Instead.”

Perhaps the former leper was not to talk locally, but travel all the way to Jerusalem to confront or witness to the priestly priests there. It will be penance to not only sacrifice there but to have to travel all that way.

On the one hand this would rub the leper in the face of the priest. See a healing did take place outside the usual boundaries of control. There is a new sheriff in town who is not part of the current cronies and will not be bought off.

On the other hand, Jesus is also hedging his bets with this show of honoring the laws of Moses as they are currently being interpreted (there is no original intent here as we are dealing with a Living G*D). While this cannot be seen as any more than a delaying tactic, it does buy some space for continuing to teach learners who have a long way to go.

Whichever way you tend to read this ambivalent instruction to be quiet and show off, we are beginning to sense that the anger karma is about to bite. Life is never as easy as, “I’m only going to say this once, so be sure you don’t mess up.” Sure enough, consequences are on their way.

Mark 1:43

and then Jesus, after sternly warning him, immediately sent him away,

the deed is done
promises kept

now no lingering
now a next step

what we think is done
expects a confirmation

this leads beyond itself
this makes a difference

there is no wavering
a deal is struck

signed in honor
signed in blood

silence beyond a handshake
proclaims next obligations

As stern as “sternly” sounds it misses the original ἐμβριμάομαι (embrimaomai) sense of snorting like a warhorse.

Now we are beginning to see the drama and have to scratch our head about what gentle Jesus, meek and mild, is doing here. He is apparently still quite angry at this whole episode.

Is it as simple as Jesus is the one doing the traveling and the healing on his terms. This leper seems to have crossed some personal space boundary and gotten under Jesus’ skin.

So put upon, does Jesus touch and announce only because his mercy was called into question with the leper’s provoking question in verse 40? This is not the best motivation, but who is not to say that even as baptism for the remission of sin implies sin, that temptations were always successfully avoided.

The false image of an irenic healer needs a larger context or it is all too nice and neat. To read the G*D stories Jesus grew up on is to recognize that G*D’s steadfast love is neither an easy love or a hard love—it is a really engaged love that changes and is changed. This is not the last of the snorting Jesus will do with those who request a healing for themselves or someone else.

Jesus does not just feel some form of anger, but actually shows it. We know where the anger is focused, on the now clean leper. What we don’t know is what has been building within Jesus or was triggered in this particular case. Can you imagine that this leper was someone who bullied Jesus before he came into his purpose? Those old tapes were not as erased as thought and come back to put Jesus in another choice beyond healing or not—revenge or not.

How are you doing with this verse in your life? Has your ability to snort derisively been reduced in polite company?

Mark 1:42

and he became clean;

immediacies of life
marking quanta leaps
with memory of left behinds
and assurance already arrived
are mostly rare

too many shifts
leave us schizoid
too few narcissistic
it takes time
to figure out what now

even demanded changes
require patience
for who can see consequences
echoing afterward
in habit and opportunity

we face
realized desire
unarticulated hope
blessing accountability
held breath

Presumably everyday folks not carrying the responsibilities of the Scribes and Pharisees didn’t need a formal declaration of cleanliness before they could welcome a leper home. If your eyes see that what once was there is gone, it may be enough.

At any rate, a bit of care needs taking around whatever healing took place and its resultant change in social status. Merging two steps into one is another of Mark’s informal ways of hurrying the story on.

With the gift of parallelism we can connect a touch with a removal of disease and a spoken word with a change in cleanliness status.

It is always interesting to consider where the disease went when it left. Given the issue of transmission of whatever the difficulty was, a touch is still echoing from the previous verse. Did the leprosy come to live with Jesus? Was there a huge spark at the touch that annihilated the disease? With no binding, did it move on to another?

At stake here is a willingness to touch.

It is just as interesting to hear a pronouncement of cleanliness. This is the work of allies in any social justice movement. If no one says another is not of sacred worth the prejudice and discrimination continues apace, deepening.

At stake here is a willingness to pronounce.

As wonderful as this verse is, it is also a transition. It plays both a conclusion to a healing/cleansing encounter and prelude to a next controversy.

Our tendency is to see matters as resolved long before they are. If this is all, we can move on. Easy-peasy. Of course, it is not over

Mark 1:41

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying as he did so,  “I am willing; become clean.”

tombstones force conciseness
for some future reading
    a summary
    what was possible
    was implemented
    however weakly
        an inspiration
        however lofty
        still stands
        and pulls

memorials for nations and cultures
shape our reading
    art occurred
    but never enough
    to offset
        individual heroes
        stand against
        excusing mediators
        true believers

still we work
honoring both
    thankful for models
    revealing investment needed
    that a small group
    can make better
        committed to maps
        based on actual
        lay of the land
        connects more strongly

energy is compassion
compassion energetic

This is one of those interesting moments for translators as they feel their way through descriptive choices. Is Jesus indignant that he would ever be thought to choose to not heal? Is Jesus simply compassionate because that is who beloved people are? Is Jesus angry or, here, incensed at one satanic disorder of the world or another?

Regardless of how you parse Jesus’ internal state, externally his hand is extended, contact is made, and cleanliness is announced.

A measurement of what is religiously and culturally clean or unclean goes beyond the space left on this page. Look up the 8-page article, “Clean and Unclean”, in the New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible.

Initially we have a touch and announcement that moves beyond the binary of clean and unclean as measured and judged by standards old and new. This opens possibilities of a different cleanliness than that of surfaces.

Cleanliness experienced through belovedness-healing can change relationships with current religious mores and cultural norms even before a cure and risk a return before a priest says so.

Mark 1:40

One day a leper came to Jesus and, falling on his knees, begged him for help. “If only you are willing,” he said, “you are able to make me clean.”

when is a question
not an expectation
ready to shift from effacement
to full-blown demand
in one digital flip

such as this very question
about churchiness
aligned with G*D and Guns
to whine and accuse
equally false masks

if you want to
flips the power arrangement
turning generous gift
into expected transaction
based on first blamed guilt

as with every transaction
there are consequential choices
will the outcome shift relationships
will getting one’s way lead to more
will we be gentled or hardened

plea is demand camouflaged
agreement is capitulation
style is non-loopholed fate
social capital is manipulation
questioning questioners opens a quest

After two thousand years of institutionalizing Jesus’ preaching and healing, this question of what we want is difficult to hear addressed to ourselves.

Yes, we affirm Jesus being able to choose. We remain unconvinced that this gift of making-clean is a choice open to us.

It wasn’t very long ago there was an HIV-AIDS epidemic that mimicked the social dislocation of ancient “leprosy”. People were fearful enough to not touch those with HIV-AIDS. It was associated with sexual identity or orientation and claimed to be of sinful origin which falsely justified withholding funds for treating or curing HIV-AIDS.

It was not until enough people began to see the foolishness of trying to closet this disease that, finally, people with AIDS were declared to be of worth and welcomed back into society and progress was made on dealing with the disease.

The question of choice is a critical one. Do you see yourself able to be an advocate for someone labeled by the larger community as of no current worth?

Depending on whom you engage in this anti-wilderness work, you will be identified as a liberationist or a law-breaker. Neither is as true as being a baptized (beloved) learner of Jesus’ way.

Mark 1:39

And he went about making his proclamation in their synagogues all through Galilee, and driving out the demons.

the more things change
the more they remain the same
while traveling changes location
it is always ourself making a home

mothers’ anonymous is everywhere
does your mother know you are doing this
preachers are also always on duty
healers always have one more boo-boo to kiss

we find our niche for rehearsal
consolidating technical options
honing gifts and crafts
until we are who we will be

Br’er Rabbit had his briar patch. Jesus has his Galilee. What is the place where you know the lay of the land and the heart of the people?

Wheresoever this place might be is the place of your calling. There your piety and your mercy are to be enacted.

Of course it is not this place alone where we engage heaven with earth. This engagement is also not limited to formal opportunities for preaching and healing.

A conversation with a friend or grandchild is a preaching time, a time to reveal the best you know. Likewise, engaging a political or economic structure as both metaphorically and all too really demonic is a healing time. As we learn more about the strange calling to come learn from Jesus’ relationship/partnership with G*D, we find these categories to be too stilted and limiting. There is no end to the preaching we need to hear or to offer. There is no end to the healing we need to experience or to extend to others.

Discouragement and despair, illness and disability, go hand in glove with poverty. Preaching and healing are the political and practical tools needed regarding the poor and wilderness our decisions and institutions continue to create.

Inasmuch as healing is not just a personal matter, but recreates community by removing barriers and prejudice/discrimination against those whose status is seen as tainted, sinful, unclean, etc., preaching and healing are never private, single, individual acts of piety. The whole of the prophets is found here.

Discipleship practice takes place in the most difficult of places, home territory where we are all too well known and easy to dismiss. These travels of preaching and healing are on-going models for us.

Mark 1:38

But Jesus said to them, “Let us go somewhere else, into the country towns nearby so that I can make my proclamation in them also; for that was why I came.”

creatures of habit
rate repetition high

we know what works
at least what to expect

profit is made off repeat customers
relationships deepen with shared time

let’s go back and do it again
is a predictable response

sometimes we glimpse
an invisible apple always present

something else is needed
than a multitude of yesterdays

dangerous or not
misunderstood or not

we follow a ripple
not a sinking stone

prayer intends to clarify purpose
spark energy to visit beyond

we test our trust
beloved healing ho

When our temptation to be seen as greater than we are has been prayed through, there is increased energy to set a direction less taken. Over time this will make all the difference.

The construct here does make it trickier to figure out when this insight of moving on came. Jesus may have come out of Capernaum to break a healing-only model and this may have been needed with the exhaustion of the previous Sabbath. Jesus may have come out to pray his temptations and in so doing needed greater intentionality given to the preaching part of his announcing good news.

Healing—Preaching. How might these enhance one another? How do they assist folks to turn from a past of getting the same lackluster results from their actions to a future that does find the poetics of Heaven come on Earth to be realized?

When we substitute our past life for Capernaum, our prayer time will ask us what we have come out for? This will be the flip-side of finding our temptations giving us all manner of reasons to return to the tried but not necessarily true.

For the disciples a next town becomes a new wilderness. May they learn more about their temptations and ministering angels there.

Mark 1:37

and, when they found him, they exclaimed, “Everyone is looking for you!”

everyone is relying on you
to do for them
what they do not see
to themselves

such a position sets a stage
for stage fright
freezing in the face of expectations
for others

sanity demands a refusal
a discard from the soul
of need over gift
every good

at the very least ignorance
of tremendous import
wilderness controlling
majority rules

we put fingertips together
and perfunctorily bow
in appealing vanity’s face
popular idols

When found, presumably still in prayer, Jesus may have wondered what his learners were doing there. They had not been taught that the deeper one travels in prayer the closer they come to temptations of power. This makes their foray into a wilderness still needing to be tracked dangerous.

That the beginning learners were novices is evidenced by their recorded question. Rather than recognize their own fear of loss, it is displaced onto others.

They can sneak out of responsibility for their own state of being by being an advocate for those still trickling in for a healing. “We are concerned about the sick! So when are you coming back to continue what you have begun?”

Their question reveals some of the temptations they are facing and are not up to dealing with without the same revelation of belovedness and practice in refusing to let a price be put upon this identity. Belovedness is not lost if it is not commercially viable. Still, belovedness can easily fade, a little at a time, until it is lost within a creed or anything else to be traded for.

In time wilderness/temptation experiences will finally connect with prayer for these announcers of good. Greater deeds will be done. Deeper living into partnership with G*D will develop. Mutual tracking will lead to seeing one another and sharing of gifts will replenish souls and lives.