March 8, 2018

Thursday after the Third Sunday in Lent

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.  Mark 14:60-65

 

As the parent of a three year old, I have seen Moana, Disney’s latest animated feature, more than a few times during the last few months. In the film, the title character, a restless teenager torn between her wanderlust and her responsibility to her people, is called to journey from her home to save the world. Though she encounters challenges along the way, her mission is most threatened by her own self-doubt. Just before the climactic scene, Moana is asked, “Do you know who you are?” Moana’s response allows her to overcome the shadows of self-doubt and fulfill her destiny, revealing how powerful it can be when we know who we are.

We see a similar revelation in this passage from Mark. Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ true identity is kept hidden from most of the people around him. In this passage, where Jesus is questioned by the high priest, Jesus finally reveals who he truly is. When the high priest asks if he is the Messiah, the one anointed to usher in the reign of God, Jesus, recalling the language God uses at the burning bush, responds, “I am.” In a gesture of deep lament, the high priest tears his clothes. The high priest’s reaction is less about his anger and more about the threat that Jesus’ claim represents. Jesus’ true identity is a fundamental challenge to the status quo. It reveals that God’s purpose will be accomplished irrespective of the religious or political authorities.

We are often reminded that our purpose as Christians is to proclaim the good news. While this true, it is helpful to remember that the truth of the gospel is not contingent on our participation. In fact, this passage from Mark’s gospel reveals that we can find our true identity by framing our lives within the the mission and destiny of Jesus the Messiah.

 


Almighty and most gracious God, in your son Jesus Christ you revealed your true purpose for creation. Help us to find our identity in his life, death, and resurrection, so that we may know who we are. Amen.

 

The Rev. David F. Romanik
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

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March 4, 2018

The Third Sunday in Lent

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

 

The most remarkable aspect of this story is the verse that is probably least noticed. It appears to be merely an afterthought appended at a much later date: “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this.”

What actually captures our attention is the unexpected violence of Jesus’ actions. His outburst seems out of character — a rare moment of exception, when anger gets the best of him. And we wonder then what to make of this and how to justify this very physical manifestation of his fury. Our focus often remains fixed on the particulars of his reaction and what it was about these mundane transactions that caused his eruption. It’s easy to imagine grounds for complaint or postulate some kind of injustice whenever business is negotiated. But Jesus’ violence should not be taken as a form of social protest; it was, quite differently, a moment of revelation.

Violence is a mode of communication. It happens when “I want to say something to you that really cannot be said to you, that you are not in a position to hear, and when, yet, I insist that you are going to hear it.” More pithily, violence declares the “alienation of what is to be from what is.” Jesus’ actions disrupted not just the trade that was happening that day; they were his declaration that the very logic on which any transactions depend have no place in the economy of God. In the temple there could be no room for any manner of quid pro quo. Jesus was not just overturning tables. He was “overthrowing everything” — even the very “way in which God will create the future… in utter contradiction of every standing order.” And this violence is as good a description of resurrection as we can get.

All quotations from Robert Jenson: Essays in the Theology of Culture

 

The Rev. Peter T. Vanderveen
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr