Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Seeking snakes and demons

GospelMark 16:15-20 

The Ascension of the Lord

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
  And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

The world of men is dreaming, it has gone mad in its sleep, and a snake is strangling it but it can't wake up. D H Lawrence

There is a lot of debate about this part of Mark's Gospel; the research being that it is a late addition; an attempt to bring the Gospel to a glorious close rather than the confusion of the empty tomb. Although, we are still talking about scripture from as early as 160AD and that has 'stuck', so it must have meaning even with its odd and seemingly superstitious references.

When this was written there were witnessed accounts of snakes being charmed and poisons being drank by the disciples of Christ; St Paul records that he was bitten by a snake and survived. And the other gifts of devil casting and laying on of hands were already part of the commissioning of the disciples by Jesus before and after his Resurrection.

This is certainly a piece of writing to inspire confidence and courage at a time when Christians were being condemned and sent into exile; at a time when it would have been easy to stay in their little home churches and thank God that at least they were saved. 

But that is not the mission for Christians. Remember in whose footsteps we follow. We are not to look for the easy or the safe path; there is too much at stake if we are to build the Kingdom that Jesus entrusts us to do.

They may be seen as signs and symbols now but we all come across demons, poisons and dangerous snakes in our lives. Those that inhabit our own minds -turning us away from God; feeding our egos and tempting our darker selves. 

And then there are the others that feed on the world with the institutional sin that Paul speaks of; those who take advantage of the weak; who exploit the poor; who poison the minds of lost; those who would allow suffering to continue because it is none of their concern.

There is nothing and nowhere that is not our concern; we have been given the stewardship of the whole world. Baptism is intended as a true initiation into the life of Christ - perhaps it's a pity that it becomes a gift we give to babies and then fail to nurture into fruition. It is our breastplate, our sword and our shield; our clothing in Christ; in Christ's love.

Baptism gives us the titles of priest, prophet and king. They are not titles of privilege, they are expectations of authority and responsibility and it is our duty then to live up to them.  

In recognising the dignity in ourselves we should honour the dignity of others. In knowing God's hand in our own lives we should want to bring healing to broken hearts and spiritual fractures that hurt our society.  In having our eyes opened we should want to be challenging what is wrong in the world - even when it is dangerous to do so - even when we feel like the only one - even when it seems hopeless. 

Let God's love for us enable our love for others; let the signs of our faith become the signs of Jesus’ eternal relationship with our world.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew.”St Francis de Sales



Philomena Ewing said...

Interesting DH Lawrence quote -that has me pondering !! The snake is also a symbol of transformation.

Word in the Hand said...

It is - and who knows what the transformation may be. The DH Lawrence made me think of Oubouros the world serpent eating its own tale and a conversation the scripture group had about the more things change the more they stay the same.
blessings to you

claire said...

So much to think about here. Thank you. Following in his steps... What a challenge!
Thank you for your wisdom, Word :-) It feeds me.