Out of Empire and into the Margins: Exploring the Gospel of Mark

Kevin Burgess I Spirituality & Religion I Analysis I June 11th, 2014

The following is a three-part analysis exploring the book 'Say to This Mountain' by Ched Myers, a study in Mark's gospel.

Part 1: Inbreaking on the Margins (Mark 1:1-20)

As part of the formation of a community, it helps to have an anchor, so to speak, in the form of something tangible to get folks on the same page.

The way my own little community is doing this is to come together regularly for liturgy and book study. Currently, we are reading the book " Say to This Mountain " by Ched Myers. The book focuses on the Gospel of Mark; the oldest, shortest, and perhaps most intense of the synoptic gospels.

I would like to note that I am not a scholar, only a very average fellow trying to follow Jesus. As such, this series of posts will often be a retelling of Myers' points, though certainly not in a way that is as complete nor as insightful as his.

Our church decided to 'start again' by going back to the basics of our faith through the exploration of the most simple and direct of the four gospels. So many of the basic teachings of Jesus are never truly heard by more casual church-goers, or perhaps they have been heard so many times that much of the meaning falls on deaf ears. It is my intention here to explore my own reactions to the gospel, as well as summarize what we are reading. To be honest, I am writing this for myself in order to clarify my own thoughts through a deeper exploration of the texts, as well as to be reminded that in the most basic teachings of Jesus we can find the inspiration and renewal to 'turn around,' and explore how those teachings can be embodied in our ordinary lives. I hope that others might be interested in hearing about this gospel that feels quite like a manifesto for repentance, resistance, and hope.

Mark 1:1-8

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God's Son, 2 happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
3 a voice shouting in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight."

4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, "One stronger than I am is coming after me. I'm not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

The word 'gospel' is from the Old English godspel, meaning "good news." The word comes to us from the Latin evangelium, which in turn came from the Greek euangelion. It is associated with propaganda used by the Romans to announce the 'good news' of military victory or the acquisition of power of a new emperor. From the get-go, the lingo of the dominant power is being subverted, announcing the coming of a new 'king,' but one quite different from what was expected by the people of Israel. This one shows up on the margins, calls his first followers from the margins, and embodies a kingdom centered in the margins, without the dominance or expression of power that is expected of kings that command troops toward military victories.

Also what occurs here is a lot of tie-ins with the Hebrew scriptures, with quotes from Isaiah 40:3 ("A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"), Malachi 3:1 ("'I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the LORD Almighty"), and Exodus 23:20 ("See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."). Something easily missed in the text of Malachi is the word suddenly, which is understood as conveying God will come swiftly and with a judgment against those who "...defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice (Malachi 1:5). Mark has John dressed as Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8 ("He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist."). Elijah was announced in Malachi 4:5 as the one that would return to call for the people to repent, to "turn their hearts around."

All of these tie-ins emphasize how very important it is to Mark to demonstrate that Jesus is the one that was promised, the messiah, breaking into history to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, to break the chains of those who have been enslaved and oppressed. He is the King that has come to displace all others, forever.

Mark 1:9-13

9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River.10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness." 12 At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

Jesus comes from Nazareth, which in John's gospel is criticized as a place of nobodies ("What good can come from Nazareth?" - John 1:46). Heaven being 'torn open' has a decidedly apocalyptic (literally an 'unveiling') tone, with Jesus again revealed as the messiah. The dove imagery is from Isaiah 42:1 ("Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations."). Myers writes that in the gospel story a key element is that the story of liberation moves from the center to the margins. Jesus doesn't come to Jerusalem, which was understood by Jews as being the center of the world. Instead, Jesus comes to the 'wilderness,' to the margins, bypassing the place where wealth and privilege have their strongholds. He comes to those who are often dominated and oppressed.

Mark 1:14-20

14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God's good news, 15 saying, "Now is the time! Here comes God's kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!" 6 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 "Come, follow me," he said, "and I'll show you how to fish for people." 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19 After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee's sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

This inbreaking, this unveiling of the sovereignty of God is here now. It is breaking into the margins of our world, as it always is. Jesus is calling us to repent, to 'turn around,' to follow him as he brings the justice spoken of in Isaiah 42:1. We are called to be imitators, followers doing all the things that he did. He calls his first followers out of the working class, bypassing the privileged and the learned. He visits the shores, calling for his disciples from the fishermen, which was a trade being taken over by those in power. This commercialization by those in power was dislocating the poor, increasing taxes, and putting the little guys out of business. These are people struggling to get by, and from these Jesus begins to build his kingdom. (see Crossan, Excavating Jesus: Prologue)

Much like his first followers, we are invited to "a new location and a new vocation" (STTM, Chap. 1). We are being called out of Empire, into a new exodus towards the margins, joining with those who have no power, waiting, watching, and working as the inbreaking of God's sovereignty is witnessed. We are asked to ferret out places where our privilege interferes with God's desire to redistribute the surplus of the world, so that all have enough. It is in this very basic understanding of the teachings of Jesus that Mark's good news has its foundation.

Thus, we are asked to consider these questions:

How does our own privilege, power, and access create a world where people can be dislocated; where folks can be abandoned? And how do we repent of that power?

Where do we recognize the places of 'center and margin' in our own world/community/self? And how do we move out of the places where power is used to coerce and dominate, and into places of communion with those who are dominated and oppressed?

How can we subvert the ways those in power use fear and force to keep that power, without resorting to force and power-over? How do we create a mirror for oppressors to see where they have gone astray from their calling to love their neighbors, even their enemies?


Part 2: Expelling False Authority (Mark 1:21-2:12)

The next part of Mark's gospel demonstrates what Myers refers to as "the three essential characteristics of Jesus' mission: the healing and exorcism of marginalized people, the proclamation of God's sovereignty and call to discipleship, and the resulting confrontations with the authorities."

We are beginning to see what Jesus' ministry is going to look like, and so much of what Jesus is about can be found in the first 50 verses of this gospel. From the first 20 verses, we have Jesus showing up as the one announced by scripture to inaugurate a new kingdom that subverts and counters the existing one. He calls his first disciples from the 'nobodies' of the world, as well as calling them out of empire and into the margins to join with the powerless, dislocated, and exploited.

In the next part of the gospel, Jesus performs an exorcism in a synagogue. Whether or not one believes in the literalness of the story, one can still glean what is important here: Jesus is demonstrating his authority over the scribal establishment, referred to below as 'legal experts.'

Mark 1:21-28

21 Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22 The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23 Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24 "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God." 25 "Silence!" Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. "Come out of him!" 26 The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. 27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, "What's this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!" 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

It is no coincidence that the 'evil spirit' speaks through the man in the synagogue. Jesus' conflict with the scribes makes up a large amount of his ministry. Scribes are those who have authority to teach the Torah, and later in the gospel Jesus warns people to be wary of them, for "they like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and, for a show, make lengthy prayers." (Mark 12:38-40)

Basically, Jesus is calling out those who teach the law from a place of pretension, ego, and ostentation. Jesus is invading the turf of the scribes, calling out the 'spirit' of scribal power, which Myers says "holds sway over the hearts and minds of the people." He also points out that the framing of the text suggests that, in verse 24, the word 'us' is being used by the evil spirit on behalf of the scribal class. The demon's voice represents the voice of the scribes themselves, first expressing defiance, and then fear. It should be noted that the true miracle of the exorcism lies not in the literal act of expelling an evil spirit, but in the symbolic act of Jesus as one who has true authority through God, an authority that challenges the very order of power.

Mark 1:29-39

29 After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew.30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. 31 He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. 32 That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered near the door. 34 He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn't let the demons speak, because they recognized him. 35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36 Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37 When they found him, they told him, "Everyone's looking for you!" 38 He replied, "Let's head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That's why I've come." 39 He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.

A surface reading of the verses above might lead one to either remain in or adopt a patriarchal understanding of verse 31. Imagining that to 'serve them' meant that Simon's mom got up and made everybody a sandwich misses not only what the verse is actually saying, but betrays the very typical patriarchal theology that understandably turns so many intelligent people off to Christianity.

Myers demonstrates that the Greek verb 'to serve' (where we get the term 'deacon') appears only two other times in Mark, one being 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." which likely had little to do with matters of the kitchen. The other time is in 15:41 "In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there", which Myers claims was a "summary statement of discipleship: from beginning (Galilee) to end (Jerusalem) these women were true followers who, unlike the men (see 10:32-45) practiced servanthood." Through the healing of Simon's mother, and her subsequent discipleship, Mark is demonstrating another of Jesus' conflicts with authority, in that Jesus is making it quite clear that the diminished status of women and the continued degradation of them by a patriarchal theology is about to be turned on its head.

Jesus becomes much sought after, so much so that "the whole town gathered at the door." So begins a cycle of engagement and withdrawal, where we find Jesus balancing the needs of the poor and sick, with time to perhaps process and clarify his intent and focus.

Mark 1:40-45

40 A man with a skin disease approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, "If you want, you can make me clean." 41 Incensed, Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do want to. Be clean."42 Instantly, the skin disease left him, and he was clean. 43 Sternly, Jesus sent him away, 44 saying,"Don't say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them." 45 Instead, he went out and started talking freely and spreading the news so that Jesus wasn't able to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, but people came to him from everywhere.

Mark 2:1-12

2 After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. 3 Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. 4 They couldn't carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven!" 6 Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, 7 "Why does he speak this way? He's insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins."
8 Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, "Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 9 Which is easier-to say to a paralyzed person, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take up your bed, and walk'? 10 But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins"-he said to the man who was paralyzed, 11 "Get up, take your mat, and go home." 12 Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his mat and walked out in front of everybody. They were all amazed and praised God, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"

In these final two parts of the gospel we are discussing, Jesus performs two healings. Regarding the first, Myers brings up two principles that are basic to Levitical regulations regarding the healing of the skin disease. First, the impurity was communicable, and second, a priest must preside over a ritual cleansing. To quote Myers, "Our modern worldview assumes that the gospel healing stories relate 'supernatural' cures of medical disorders. In the ancient Mediterranean world, however, illness was primarily perceived as a 'socially disvalued state,' an aberrant or defective condition that threatened communal integrity."

Healing a person meant that they could then be welcomed back into the community. But to do so in Jesus' culture meant that a 'sick' person would need to be confirmed as 'cleansed' by a priest. In the case of the first healing, the one involving the man with the skin disease, it needs to be understood that this was not leprosy (as many translations name it) as in what we term Hansen's Disease, but rather some kind of general skin disorder. Any healing of such an 'illness' would not be a cure, in that the disorder would disappear. Rather it would be, as Myers puts it, "covered over."

The man with the skin disease assumes Jesus has the authority to heal him. Jesus was not a priest, however, but a 'nobody' from Galilee, an itinerant preacher and healer, with no authority to pronounce that a person has been cleansed of an affliction. Jesus performs no ritual, but rather touches him and makes the declaration that he is cleansed. Another slap to those with authority: Jesus, by touch (remember, the 'impurity' of the man caused by the skin diseases is communicable) and by word, pronounces the man cleansed, and welcomed back into the community. Jesus does all this with an indignation, which Myers proposes is the key to the story; Jesus' mood throughout the episode "is one of protest, not cooperation." Jesus then sends the man to the priests, who he knows will not accept his authority to heal. Just as Jesus protested the scribal establishment as those cornering the market on the interpretation of Torah, he is also protesting priestly authority to cleanse those who are outcasts to the community.

In the second healing, not only does Jesus heal the physically disabled man by curing his inability to walk, he challenges the collective understanding of sin held by his culture. The social maps of Jesus' time consisted of two codes: purity and debt (the terms 'debt' and 'sin' meant mostly the same thing). As there was no distinction between sacred and secular in his culture, debt and sin were all under the purview of those ordained to interpret and enact the law. According to Myers, "The debt code, under the jurisdiction of the scribal class, regulated individual and social responsibilities, criminal behavior, and economic status. Its rules determined sins of commission and omission." The purity codes pronounced by the law, and interpreted by the scribes, reinforced what defined sin/debt. The codes decided who was in and who was out. It was only through 'proper' channels that those factors could be changed. So, the question comes down to who gets to diagnose or treat those on the margins of the community, or perhaps outside the walls altogether?

To the scribal establishment, the answer was easy; it was them and their cohorts. In the second healing, they accuse Jesus of blasphemy, and claim it is God alone who can forgive sins. Of course, this is convenient for them, as it is they who get to define sin. They are very interested in maintaining their authority, and to have Jesus make such pronouncements as 'Your sins are forgiven' just isn't going to fly. But Jesus bypasses their authority, acting in a manner intent on 'liberating the captives.'

So, demons? What, in this modern age, are we to do with that? They're real, and we see demons all the time: demons of poverty, racism, classism, drug addiction, violence, depression. We see purity and debt codes deeply ingrained in our institutions, cycling over and over, keeping people in debt and making sure they remain outcasts. Consider who you know that is too poor to get health insurance in the ACA, or why so many of the nation's soldiers come from the poorest communities.

Even mainstream news sources are confirming this institutionalized evil. According to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, "In states that expand their Medicaid programs, millions of adults will gain Medicaid eligibility under the law. However, with many states opting not to implement the Medicaid expansion, millions of adults will remain outside the reach of the ACA and continue to have limited, if any, option for health coverage: most do not have access to employer-based coverage through a job, few can afford coverage on their own, and most are currently ineligible for public coverage in their state."

In a report from the Associated Press in 2007 that "nearly three-fourths of [U.S. troops] killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

Institutional evil exists, just like it always has. Myers makes the case that "Jesus relentlessly critiqued the purity and debt systems of his day because they tended to segregate and exclude rather than integrate and restore." He still does.


Part 3: Food Emancipation and (in)security (Mark 2:13-3:6)

So far we have had Jesus challenging the authority of both the priests and the scribes, those who control and interpret the purity system and the debt system, respectively. In both instances, Jesus makes it clear that there is a new teaching (which in fact isn't new at all, but rather the original intention of God), and it does not allow for those in power to use the law to further their own agendas, nor allow them to maintain their power over those seen as outcasts and nobodies.

Jesus now turns his attention to the Pharisees. The Pharisees had the goal of holding the common folk to a fairly rigorous observance of the law, but in a way that was focused more on the village life rather than the Temple. Myers points out three practices that were important to the Pharisees: restrictive table fellowship, public piety, and Sabbath observances; and also how Jesus challenges those examples.

Mark 2:13-22

13 Jesus went out beside the lake again. The whole crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.14 As he continued along, he saw Levi, Alphaeus' son, sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, "Follow me." Levi got up and followed him. 15 Jesus sat down to eat at Levi's house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples. Indeed, many of them had become his followers. 16 When some of the legal experts from among the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, "Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?" 17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn't come to call righteous people, but sinners." 18 John's disciples and the Pharisees had a habit of fasting. Some people asked Jesus, "Why do John's disciples and the Pharisees' disciples fast, but yours don't?" 19 Jesus said, "The wedding guests can't fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they can't fast. 20 But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 21 "No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes; otherwise, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and makes a worse tear. 22 No one pours new wine into old leather wineskins; otherwise, the wine would burst the wineskins and the wine would be lost and the wineskins destroyed. But new wine is for new wineskins."

Tax collectors were often Jews employed by a foreigner who worked for Rome. They would collect taxes for the Empire, as well as a little for themselves. They were not a popular bunch, and served as living reminders for how Israel was in debt servitude to Rome. The calling of Levi out of such business is another example of Jesus calling his followers from those who are despised. Levi, as a tax collector would not have been a popular fellow, but Jesus calls him, and redeems him. Myers points out how the very next scene of Jesus eating at Levi's house with a mixture of those in debt (sinners) and those enforcing the debt obligation (tax collectors) was "extraordinary table fellowship indeed!"

Jesus has just challenged the first important practice of the Pharisees: restrictive table fellowship. Next, he will take on public piety in the form of fasting as well as Sabbath observances. Fasting was important to the Pharisees, and they did so rigorously, as well as publicly. Myers points out that "Jesus...wishes to cut through piety to the real issue: a society in which some can afford to fast while others truly go hungry", as well as reminding us that Jesus makes the point that this "'new' wine of the discipleship movement must not be coopted by 'old' forms of cosmetic piety."

Being able to afford to eat well daily is something that not everyone enjoys. Many go to bed hungry. In my own state, over 17% of the population is "food insecure," meaning that those households may often have to make trade-offs between housing and medical bills versus eating nutritionally adequate food.

According to Bread for the World , a fairly mainstream charitable institution:

· Out of the world's 7 billion people, 1.2 billion still live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 per day.

· Each year, 2.6 million children die as a result of hunger-related causes

· In the United States, the world's wealthiest nation, 14.5% of households - nearly 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children - struggle to put food on the table.

· More than one in four American children are at risk of hunger. More than one in five children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.

· In the United States, hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.

These statistics are a serious rebuke for us. As long as we live in ways that sustain these serious failings of humanity, we are not the 'city on a hill' that the politicians want us to believe America is. The fact that over 2.5 million children will die this year because of hunger stands as a prime example of our complete lack of anything even resembling following the one who said "I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)

Mark 2:23-28

23 Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. As the disciples made their way, they were picking the heads of wheat. 24 The Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look! Why are they breaking the Sabbath law?" 25 He said to them, "Haven't you ever read what David did when he was in need, when he and those with him were hungry? 26 During the time when Abiathar was high priest, David went into God's house and ate the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. He also gave bread to those who were with him." 27 Then he said, "The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren't created for the Sabbath. 28 This is why the Human One is Lord even over the Sabbath.

The disciples are hungry, and as they walk along, they pick handfuls of wheat berries and eat them. The problem is they are doing so on the Sabbath, and the oral tradition of the Pharisees forbids harvesting on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are again placing the needs of the people beneath their own man-made laws regarding (as Myers says) who to eat with, when not to eat, and when and where they should eat.

Jesus basically says "Rules be damned, when somebody is hungry they have the right to food despite what 'the law' says."

Mark 3:1-6

3 Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. 2 Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, "Step up where people can see you." 4 Then he said to them,"Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they said nothing.5 Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man,"Stretch out your hand." So he did, and his hand was made healthy. 6 At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.

The Pharisees want Jesus to commit heresy. There are waiting, poised to 'take him down.' But Jesus turns the tables, and publicly calls out the Pharisees for their attachment to their own man-made laws. Jesus, in many ways the new Moses, reminds us that we have a choice of either following the commandments of God in order that we might live in harmony with ourselves, each other, and Creation, or else we can take the road of death and adversity. ( Deuteronomy 30:15-18 )

Jesus also becomes angry at the lack of response from the Pharisees to his challenge. Myers points out that the word translated as 'anger' here is "a strong one, usually associated with...the phrase 'the wrath of God'" Where Jesus chooses the path of life, the Pharisees have chosen death, and begin to plot against Jesus.

It stuns me every time my friends and I meet to share food with those experiencing homelessness. I am frustrated that this is even an issue in this day, but I am reminded that this is nothing new. The privileged have always maintained that privilege by exploiting others. I am guilty too, for I enjoy a certain privilege as well, as do all of those reading these words. We have chosen en masse a hardness of heart, and we suffer from this disease of the Pharisees. Jesus is showing us what God's intentions are, that all who are hungry are fed, that all who are sick are cared for, and that we have before us two paths: one of life and one of death. So often we have chosen the latter, Jesus invites us to make a big u-turn, and choose the better way.

Kevin Burgess helps operate a small church that meets in various places, but most often in parks. He likes to garden, read, brew hard ciders, watch zombie movies, and engage in holy mischief. His blog is titled, " Marginally Free: On U-Turns and Uncoupling from Empire ." He resides in Springfield, Missouri.