Saturday, 31 March 2012

Used to be

GospelMark 14:1-15:47
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

I have no need for you to be perfect, for you are incomparable. -anon

Palm Sunday always seems to invite me to look at the 'everybody else' of the Holy Week story. Trying to follow my feet and not live in expectation of either 'what I know' or 'what I would wish for' leads me to look at the edges - allowing myself to be distracted.

Mark is not big on distraction; except when his Jesus is accusing others of it. His characters have their place and discretely fulfil their roles - Mark's focus is Jesus.

Another feature of Mark is the pattern of threes; maybe it is simply a storyteller's device maybe it is linked to a triune truth trying to make itself known, But whether crossing the Galilee; evicting demons; feeding the many - all occur in this repeating, rythmic pattern giving seasons to Jesus' actions and deepening the intention, asking us to pay attention.

In the Long Gospel of Mark there is a Three  - they are the Simons.

Simon the Leper opens the Gospel; fortunate enough to have caught Jesus at his height of popularity, he is basking in the privilege of entertaining the notorious prophet. Simon the Leper is most likely 'Simon who used to be a Leper'. Although it is still a matter of debate it is certainly possible that this Simon's title is a reminder of a previous life; of a hopeless and excluded life before  the healing power came to him though an earlier encounter with Jesus. Certainly, if this is the case, you can appreciate why Simon would want to give thanks and Simon certainly does. But I wonder for whose benefit was this celebration - an opportunity to lay the old 'Simon' to rest? To let go of the 'used to be'? There is no empathy with the woman; no appreciation of all that Jesus risks to continue his ministry; no understanding of what it means to follow the road to Jerusalem.

Then Simon the Peter - Simon who loved the 'used to be'. Who with the very best will in the world  would steal Jesus back to the boats of Galilee where his accent would mean that he was home - and home for good.  This Simon who cannot be the rock that Jesus names him, stands in the middle of the Gospel with love, loyalty and hope fighting against the simplest of human fears -the fear of death - and cannot stand. The tears speak more than any words; the betrayal streaming down his face as the road to Jerusalem comes to an end.

Then, on the road out of Jerusalem - Simon the Cyrene; the stranger; the trader who had only come to Jerusalem to take advantage of the festival and found himself now part of the spectacle. Under Roman rule a soldier could force any citizen into carying their pack for one mile - the cross becomes the burden of a warrior - Simon a liegeman to the prince of peace. Simon, whose journey to Golgotha also ends in rebirth. Whose own children, named in the Gospel, become leaders of the early Followers of the Way; who turned his back on 'used to be'.

There are often smiles about the number of Mary's in the Gospel - even scholars finding it difficult to tell if they are all different or simply aspects of the same woman. The Simons could well be aspects of the same man; courage, fear, love, obedience, pride. But this would not fit with what we know about Jesus or his Father. 

Having the same name does not make you the same person; and whoever you are doesn't mean you can never change, or be changed. God's relationship with each of us is uniquely ours, our place in God's hand - uniquely ours, the Love God has for us - uniquely ours.

You may think that you are only one of the crowd - but in God's eyes there is only you.


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