This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news
Lib Dem Peer says Israel is America’s Air Craft Carrier
25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.26Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed.28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes.30He returned to his brothers, and said, ‘The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?’31Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood.32They had the long robe with sleeves* taken to their father, and they said, ‘This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.’33He recognized it, and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.’34Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son for many days.35All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’ Thus his father bewailed him.36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
The author, having horrified the readers with the prospect of Joseph’s death (readers are more concerned that the hero of the story will vanish than with any cruelty!) now teases them with a new adventure in Egypt. There are elements of folk-tale here but we never get far away from a realism which depicts the divided minds of the brothers and the undivided grief of Jacob, the father, although we may remember his past history as a deceiver. For the Jewish reader of course any tale about “going down into Egypt” carried overtones of slavery, exodus and freedom. In the theological narrative of Israel, Joseph precedes Moses, but the readership of this tale is (probably) living long after Moses, in the kingdom of Israel, after another time of slavery in Babylon. The Joseph story is a daring elegant legend demonstrating the hand of Israel’s God even in a foreign society. The author expects the readers to enjoy the machinations of human wickedness while discerning the merciful machinations of God. It’s an attractive way of doing theology.
Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House
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 –>
A Preaching Tour in Galilee
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.<!– 40 –>
Jesus Cleanses a Leper
40 A leper* came to him begging him, and kneeling* he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’41Moved with pity,* Jesus* stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’42Immediately the leprosy* left him, and he was made clean.43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once,44saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus* could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Mark is also an acomplished story-teller and the lectionary has divided one of his best efforts -an account of “a day in the life of Jesus” which begins with yesterday’s passage about Jesus going to Synagogue and finishes with his dawn prayer the next day. In any case, Mark wants to show Jesus’ bodily presence as carrying the blessing of God, which fights with the established structures of evil and suffering. Jesus physically crosses the lines of socio-religious taboo by for example taking a sick woman by the hand, or touching a leper. The source of his healing power is his secret relationship with God, which cannot be described directly but only seen in its effects on men and women. The story of the leper can be taken as a complete version of what Mark wants to tell his readers about Jesus:
A man in terrible need is drawn to Jesus by his reputation. He trusts that Jesus can heal him-if he wants! -a pitiful trust shows the force of the social taboo which has excluded him from the community. According to the text of the Gospel used by this translation, “Jesus is moved by pity” but a better text gives us a word which must be translated, “moved by anger”, that is his anger against the pitiful degradation of this human life. Jesus shows his readiness to cross the great divide by reaching out and touching the man. His anger, his touch and his words issue the command, “Be Clean!” It is like the command of the Creator in Genesis, “Let there be light!” St Paul says, “when anyone is in Messiah, there is new creation.” That’s what Mark is getting at here. Nevertheless, as Jesus does not want to be mistaken for a miracle worker or hailed as a conventionional messiah, he counsels the healed man to stay within the law and the keep quiet about his healing. The man obeys half of this injunction only.
Of course we may ask how much “fact” there is in Mark’s picture. Yes, that’s a legitimate question but first we should allow the full meaning of the picture to reach us: the eternal goodness remakes the earth through a human being.