This blog provides a meditation on the revised Common Lectionary readings along with a headline from world news.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God’?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
I happen to know that Max Mosely has paid women to engage in mildly sadomasochistic sex with him. I didn’t want to know this but a newspaper decided that everyone should know “in the public interest.” Max won a judgment against the newspaper and now seeks a law which would mean that the next time he’s found out, someone will have to warn him before publication. It’ a tricky issue: the press freedom which allows such lip-smacking exposes, is the same freedom that allows for political corruption to be named and exposed. We’ve all have done things we wouldn’t like everyone to know. No, let me amend that: I’ve done things I wouldn’t like everyone to know, so I’d be cautiously in favour of a better privacy law provided it doesn’t inhibit robust investigative journalism.
Today’s passages are to do with what is hidden and what is revealed. God’s wisdom is unsearchable and he is never inattentive. He knows all. But he especially attends to what is most hidden of all, the life of the defeated. The people of Israel, defeated and enslaved in Babylon may imagine that they are hidden from God, but the prophet tells them that their strength will be renewed and that they will mount up on wings like eagles. Our press focuses on celebrity but the eye of God is upon the disregarded and despised people who imagine that nobody cares. The message of Isaiah encourages them to “wait for the Lord”, that is, to trust in God’s care of them. I can only announce that message without hypocrisy if I refuse to ally myself with the powerful of this world, whether they own racing cars or newspapers, and am willing, along with disregarded people, to wait for the Lord.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
These stories also deal with something hidden: the kingdom of God. Or rather, it’s hidden and revealed at the same time. Jesus announces that God’s rule has arrived in the world. He says, “It’s near.” Does that mean it’s actually present or waiting at the door? Mark wants to puzzle the reader as, he suggests, Jesus puzzled his contemporaries. If the kingdom is present already why does anyone need to fish for converts? But if it’s not present, why should anyone be converted? The answer is that the rule of God is present in those who accept it. The rule of God is pure goodness for people and as such it’s immediately recognised by spiritual forces of destruction. If you know people in the grip of evil, look at who they denounce and you’ll be looking at Christ-like people. Jesus’ authority over evil comes from his trust in God and his lack of fear.