bible blog 344

This blog provides a meditation on the Revised Common Lectionary readings along with a headline from the world news
Isaiah 41:1-16
41Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgement.
2 Who has roused a victor from the east,
summoned him to his service?
He delivers up nations to him,
and tramples kings under foot;
he makes them like dust with his sword,
like driven stubble with his bow.
3 He pursues them and passes on safely,
scarcely touching the path with his feet.
4 Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, am first,
and will be with the last.
5 The coastlands have seen and are afraid,
the ends of the earth tremble;
they have drawn near and come.
6 Each one helps the other,
saying to one another, ‘Take courage!’
7 The artisan encourages the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’;
and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
8 But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, ‘You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off ’;
10 do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

almost destroyed Palestinian villlage

This is a fine passage, moving from the assertion that the true God is arousing the victor from the east, Cyrus of Persia, who will defeat the Babylonians and set their captives free, to a picture of desperate pagans fashioning their idols. The true God is the maker of a new history which will vindicate his people, Israel.

How would a Palestinian read this passage? (If you are Palestinian, let me know!). I can only think that it would read like a justification of Israel’s injustices to her neighbours. Yet the words come from the midst of a tiny, oppressed, people who scarcely any longer existed in the eyes of the world. Their faith speaks here, of the God who rescues the defeated. “But does He rescue?” From all times and all places the silenced voices of murdered peoples say, “No.” Christians have to hear this “No” for it is the same “No” which is spoken on the cross. No, He does not intervene. Yes, He does abandon. Only in the very heart and anguish of that “no” does the “yes” of the resurrection have any truth. Only in exile can trust in God’s rescue be other than special pleading. This is how the Gospel of Jesus helps us interpret the Hebrew bible.
Mark 1:29-39
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mayor Lucano and friends in Riace, "Citta Futura"

Mark’s Jesus is always already the crucified and risen Son of God who brings goodness wherever he goes. Already in a domestic setting, he pays attention to a widow who lives with her son-in-law, a woman who perhaps feels her loss of power, and heals her fever on the Sabbath day. This is one of the tiniest of Jesus’ “village miracles”, but to me it’s of tremendous importance: no need is too small for Jesus, no person unimportant. The house Jesus inhabits / visits becomes a house of God and of God’s goodness. As if by a magnet, the villagers are attracted by Jesus’ presence (at the end of the Sabbath!), to bring their sick for healing.
We discover that Jesus’ ability to draw people to God’s goodness is dependent on his readiness to be in the solitary place with God. Nor is his purpose to demonstrate that God’s goodness flows only from his own ministry: it is available to all who trust. That’s why he moves on to other towns. Like Riace in Calabria, Italy, where Mayor “Mimmi” Lucano has revived his depopulated village by welcoming refugees who arrive by sea, finding them shelter and work. He calls this “Citta Futura”-the city of the future.Through his faith and vision, goodness flourishes there: another village miracle.

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