Mark 2:3

Some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, who was being carried by four of them.

supply lines are critical
for an intention to sustain traction

one found paralyzed in their wilderness
needs tending and carrying

one can bring drink or fireman carry
either option will bring two to their knees

two can relay or bear a stretcher
more sustainable but soon it will be three down

three improves the odds of effective care
while also setting up a self-defeating triangle

four begins a trend toward mutual care
and sets creative organizing loose

what are the needs where are the resources
what lever is available where is a fulcrum

five different wilderness weaknesses
intersect to cast a spell strengthening each

Jesus spoke.

What aspect of making a healthy choice would make a good lead in to a surprise healing.

Given our serial wildernesses, some word of reassurance is probably in order. Just what word-spin he used is probably best left to the reader to speak to their own situation.

Whatever the spoken context, we are led into anticipating a next unexpected encounter.

Who would have thought that a crowded doorway would be the scene of a next wilderness, a place where desires are thwarted. This is also a place were the wonder of imagination strikes at the last possible moment.

Every place the demonic side of purity (segregation, exclusion) or power (poverty, war) arises, an everyday word of another choice needs speaking and enacting. “Habits of the heart” need revealing and restoring.

It is silence that allows us to be fooled into excusing our paralysis. We see all too clearly how powerless we are and fail to see the power yet remaining available to choose and witness otherwise. In doing otherwise, a previously invisible door is found. What word sounds in your center and radiates outward?

Mark 2:2

and so many people collected together, that after a while there was no room for them even around the door; and he began to tell them his message.

a full doorway
piques our curiosity
some basic need is being fulfilled
some political meme reached a tipping point
some new trinket is capturing imaginations

without knowing quite how
certainty arises
it is imperative we enter
laws will be broken if need be
a quick rabbit punch a strategic tug
a wriggle a push a bribe a pulling-rank

we’re in
in time to hear sadness
we’re in this together
there has always been enough
stake your life on it

a dove calls
a wilderness awaits
I am bottled up by neighbors
I trip over my own feet and obligations
all my internal conflicts rise at once
I want to learn more here not on my own

a full doorway
blocks a freedom journey
advantage and privilege conflict a community
setting us at odds with self and tradition
constraining a gravitational law of compassion
dramatizing our wild-eyed stuckness

There is a gravitational field around Jesus that packs folks ever closer. This begins a backup of people filling every nook and cranny. It is the way planets are formed. Pack and pack until there is no room and the pressure begins to transform element to element.

This also helps us understand the need to periodically retreat. There needs to be an inhale after every breath and word is squeezed out.
Do note that the attraction here is not wonder-working but speaking, just plain speaking. This is not preaching as we have come to know it, just simple witnessing.

Neighborly talk in a typical home of the day is basic evangelism in every age. Anything more coercive or corrosive/divisive/sectarian will eventually be heard for how it has given into a temptation for power and people will begin to scatter.

Mark 2:1

Some days later, when Jesus came back to Capernaum, the news spread that he was in a house there;

there is so much to-do
it isn’t worth sticking around
to take more abuse
taken advantage of
conform to a social role
see the enormity of need

but everywhere we go
there we are
a beacon in every wilderness
proclaiming it need not be so
in the center or edgewise
a still point between come and go

until where we are
is where we are
where we are is everywhere
in the course of Brownian Movement
we move through every point
some more than once

while others see us home
we are still journeying
through this wilderness
so déjà vu familiar
so alien in smell and sound
our very own home wilderness

The word “immediately” or “BANG” keeps us looking forward. The story is pushed ahead.

Now we are introduced to its companion that will come around with increasing frequently as Mark proceeds, πάλιν (palin, “again”, “back”).
Listen a bit to Robert M. Fowler in his chapter, “Figuring Mark’s Reader” in Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies.

Somewhat like euthys, but pointing in the opposite direction, the Greek word palin stops us dead in our tracks and demands that we look backward momentarily. In Mark palin is usually best translated as “again.” Unlike euthys, which points forward but vaguely so, palin usually points us backward to a fairly certain moment earlier in the reading of the narrative. If we stop to think, usually we can recall the previous moment to which the palin is pointing us.

One effect of this forward push and backward pull is that we readers can see what those in the story do not. This reminds us that Mark is not recording history but is trying to have us engage the wilderness we are in with an announcement of good news, of new living, of new partnerships, through choices we are being prepared to recognize and act upon.

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.