So many choices! Forgiveness/healing, or inclusion, or fasting, or conflict with the authorities, or home economics! What will you choose?
That is my first reaction to reading the passage from Mark (2:1-22) for this week, 5 different sermon starters jumped out at me. You can read the passage here. I suppose in part that is a result of having a short period for our hop skip and a jump through Mark to get to chapter 16 by March 27th — long passages. And in Mark, who seems to be moving through life at a pretty good clip as it is, long passages mean you get lots of sermon fodder.
SO is the passage mainly about forgiveness? And in the story does Jesus proclaim or offer forgiveness when he says “your sins are forgiven”? Is he actually doing the forgiving or is he stating a fact, similar to the priestly function of the Assurance of Pardon?
OR is the primary focus of this passage the beginning of open conflict with the powers that be? A conflict that will eventually lead to the cross. The Working Preacher commentary highlights this function.
MAYBE the passage is pushing us to look at who is shut out and who is welcomed in? This is of course also a healing, and is closely tied to forgiveness as a way to that healing.
THEN there is fasting and feasting. Which is more offensive? Which is more appropriate?
FINALLY we have the last couple of verses. How does one patch cloth? What sort of wine-skins does one use? Is this possibly the piece that unifies the passage (assuming there is one piece that unifies the passage)? Mark’s Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming that the Kingdom is at hand. The time is now, the day has come. Does this perhaps mean that it is time for new cloth and new wine-skins? Are the healings and the teachings and the conflict signs that there needs to be a new way of looking at things? Even more, is there a hint that it is difficult to live the new way using old patterns?
It seems to me that this is the challenge of Christian faith. Mark has been clear thus far that interacting with Jesus changes life completely and immediately. [Mind you in Mark everything seems to happen immediately, when does anybody get a chance to rest in this Gospel?] And yet human nature, particularly within faith communities perhaps, tends to resist major change. We tend to try to slow it down, to make it incremental and reforming rather than sudden and revolutionary. We want to patch the hole, to make use of the old containers. This seems to be common sense. This seems to be prudent. This seems to be making best use of what has been handed down to us. Unfortunately it also seems that it often doesn’t work.
What cloth in your midst has been patched but is about to tear? What wine-skins have been used one or two times too many? Is there a need to punch a hole in your ceiling to allow wholeness to come in? Where is the new trying to break through?
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