Saturday, 28 January 2012

Sitting uncomfortably

GospelMark 1:21-28 

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
  In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.  ~
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, translated from Turkish

The scribes were undoubtedly learned men with an knowledge and an understanding of scripture and law. But they were primarily bureaucrats with a need and a requirement to 'know' so as to preserve the status quo; so as to support the Temple and its leaders. That this exists in every organisation is undeniable - knowledge is a valuable commodity - but knowledge is not wisdom. 

The Word requires discernment- a personal relationship with scripture that takes time and conversational prayer - including a certain amount of silence and stillness - to find its meaning. And its meaning will change - day to day - person to person. That's a big commitment; sometimes it seems easier to get someone else to do it. 

We do this ourselves - sitting through the Sunday homily -  distracted by the newsletter or fidgety child on the row in front. But we will believe we have heard God's Word. 

The people have spent so much time hearing a mere dictation of the Word of God and now here is the Word being broken by the Holy One himself.  But although the people realise that there is something about this man, seemingly the wisest of them is the demon - the unclean spirit. 

Wise; because it is not like the people talking amongst themselves trying to work out what Jesus is all about; could they trust him; does he make sense; how can this be?   

Mark talks a lot about 'ears that hear' and 'eyes that see'. These onlookers see an authority, a power in Jesus, yet, they are unable to make the distinction between the authority of a clever man and the truth of God's Word. Their ears and eyes see the results; not the source.

The demon simply trusts its instincts. For all this time, perhaps, it  has been 'sitting comfortably' in the synagogue; the prayers and the words of the scribes washing over it because there has been no conviction, no authority. Because the words and the prayers have been learned by rote and not by heart and, in fact, fear, uncertainty and exclusion have only added to its power. 

But the demon was listening, and now, it is afraid.

There is power in names and the demon calls out with both of Jesus' titles - recognises him as human and divine - but, amongst all of the listeners, there is no-one to hear except Jesus. 

It is easy to allow ourselves to be blinded by the wrong kind of authority; to think that if we read enough books; learn enough chapters and verses; listen to enough talks and lectures then we will 'know'. Like the scribes we will have a phrase for for every eventuality and a quote for every topic - perhaps it is part of our humanity that we strive to try. 

As Augustine says 'faith seeks understanding' or Aquinas "I understand in order to believe."

...and there- to prove it - is me quoting! 

But that is not the end or even the beginning of it.

 As the demon saw its own destruction in Jesus so we should see our life - we must know him as he truly is - our Lord and our God.

Each has its lesson; for our dreams in sooth, come they in shape of demons, gods, or elves, come with deep hearts of truth that tell us solemn secrets of ourselves. 
-Henry Timrod



claire bangasser said...

Stupendously beautiful, wise, and deep, Word...
I will sit with your words for a long while.
Thank you.

wordinthehand said...

Thank you Claire; for your time and support m+x

Margaret said...

I find it very easy to trust my books and intellect and see less and less.

Bea said...

Wow, I was just watching some of your videos... you made them yourself? Your voice? Your words? They are peaceful, calming, poetic. I know I've been away from blogging for two years, but you've been quite productive since we last communicated, indeed. I wanted to know how you got the Video Bar added to your blog page. Okay, let me go back and browse your page again. Your teaching is as strong as ever.

Word in the Hand said...

Margaret - we are meant to have beginner's minds like children - and yet there is a human need to gather information - I suppose it is how you to use that information - to ask more questions or settle for what you have. I can tell from your blog you are still in the asking questions mode :) Thank you

Word in the Hand said...

Bea - Glad you are still 'back' it's been a long time since aol :) Two of the poems were written by friends but the rest is me. The video bar is one of the widgets and I set up the youtube channel. O the joys of technology - blessings to you m+x

Jade said...

A bold & wonderful exploration of what it means to 'know.' I will take these thoughts with me into my own reflection time and bible reading. I enjoyed this.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Jade for your visit and comments