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Saturday, March 22, 2014

More Connections

On Friday we had time of reflection and prayer over the morning prayer readings. In our lectionary we are hearing from Mark each day, so we found ourselves at the end of chapter 4. Based on the basic principles for reading Scripture and we were able to encounter God in a myriad of ways in His Word.

The basic story (plain sense) is a time when Jesus was asleep in a boat during an awful storm. The apostles complain that He does not seem to care if they perish. Wakened by them He calms the storm and asks why their faith is so weak. It ends with the question, "Who is this guy?"

In applying any text to ourselves we always end up using analogical interpretation. Parallels between the boat and church/us, the storm and troubles, and our weak (or no) faith and Jesus' power simply come naturally to most readers. The reader can connect the dots: we all seem to waver in faith when confronted with life's big challenges. The message: Trust more, worry and complain less. Jesus has power.

When the reflection got a bit more challenging was when we began to look for the Jewish Bible texts which Jesus was "filling" (the Bible word, which has become 'fulfilling' in Christian jargon).

The first step is probably easier if we are asked, "what other boat and storm stories do you remember?" Few mention Jonah, most say "Noah!" Noah and the ark... What is that story ultimately about? I would argue it is a Re-Creation text. The parallels in language make it pretty obvious. God allows/causes the world to return to its original state of chaos (preserving a remnant who are faithful) and start all over. Once we make that connection it is easier to make the next step and "hear" echoes of the creation story as well.

This is not allegory. In allegory the representation of one thing by another is pretty straightforward and univocal. Allegories are not hard to see through. With typology, the similarities are there, but not in a wooden way. There are some aspects which will not fit, as they would in an allegory. Typology tends to be paradoxical at times, and also analogical. Analogy allows us to show something is the same, even while remaining different. Or the other word, "spiritual" meaning, (which is different from the contemporary use of the word 'spiritual') which says that the material world in which we live is a veil to an unseen reality which we can know only partly. It is mystery revealed (apocalypse, revelation, unveiling) though not fully explained. SO we can know more than we understand...

At creation the Spirit of God hovers over the waters; or does it? The Hebrew word ruah also means breath or wind. [As does the Greek pneuma]. The word elohim is the plural for God (El frequently appears even in our English translations, especially in names). If you look at the Blueletter Bible it will define the word as God. However, a closer look reveals that in the King James Bible it is translated in another way (great- 2x, mighty 2x and exceeding 1x). So, this raises the question, does it actually say "a mighty or powerful wind was blowing on the waters"? And if so, the Jesus story is now more obviously connected to creation.

The saving ministry of Jesus is often spoken of in terms of reconciliation. And what is reconciliation? It is a return to a previous state of positive relationship. I can forgive someone but not be reconciled. I can decide not to "hold it against them" but that does mean I have returned to a previous situation of closeness and trust.

Jesus' ministry is a re-creation. What God "failed" to accomplish with Adam and Eve, or Noah, or Abraham, or Israel, or King David, or Ezra and Nehemiah---has finally been established and begun in and through Jesus. As Jesus calms the storm we see, in this small story, a bigger story of the God who ordered chaos at the beginning of time (something John makes obvious in chapter 1 of his Gospel using the noun "Word" in place of the verb "said"). Mark unveils a deeper reality. It is not easily discerned, but once we 'see' then we understand.

Jesus encounters a demoniac on the other side, a man uncontrolled and uncontrollable, living in the tombs (death) without family or friend, a land occupied by the Roman army (Legions is both a demonic and military reference); He encounters a man whose spiritual state reflects the turmoil in the sea. And in the end, literally riding  piggyback, the same demons plunge into the chaotic waters, the home of their disordered ways.

I would never claim that such a reading is needed to know and love Jesus, nor does one have to believe it to be saved. However, as we see that the Divine hand at work in the whole Bible has provided all manner of messages for His children, it is fun and a joy to say that the veil has been lifted in, though, by and with Jesus.

In the daily chaos of our lives the sleeping (long dead) Jesus may seem to be unaware of our plight and uncaring about our need. We may even curse the night and lose faith. But always, even in His silence, He is a reminder that we need to trust. "Hush, be quiet, be still." These words, spoken to the storm, are equally desirable for my/our troubled souls.

We long to know: All is well. All will be well. And all will be well beyond your imaging.

At the Gospel's end an angel said, "Why seek the Living One among the dead?"
Jesus is not tired or slumbering any more. He is, in fact ready to speak the word, to cast out the demonic (in nature, in political oppression and in the troubled soul of each individual.) We know this because the Bible tells us so. Hopefully this helps to see that word in a place where it might not have been so obvious!

to see the dictionary reference go to

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