“I wish you would let me cook for you.”
These were the words of a neighbour of ours, a widow and mother of 5 children. She had lost her husband about a month before the pandemic exploded in Montreal. We connected through the food bank at the ministry I directed, the only activity we were allowed to run in person.
By Jenna Smith
I’m fascinated by this entire exchange. “Not far” means the scribe is near, and possibly still on the way, but hasn’t quite arrived. I know for me “not far” is not close enough. Somehow, relating to Jesus and knowing the right answers didn’t quite do it. So what are we to take from this exchange? If we listen closely, I believe we can hear an invitation to reside inside the very heart of God.
By Sue Hudacek
To the embarrassment of those around him, the blind beggar yells and screams until Jesus decides to stop, inviting Bartimeaus to a public meeting with him in the middle of the street. Those around Bartimaeus had tried desperately to shut him up in an attempt to save him from impending shame. Bartimaeus, however, sees (discerns) something special in this moment and refuses to let Jesus pass him by.
One has to admire James and John’s audacity, as misguided as it was. But it appears they had either forgotten, or missed, what Jesus had already told them about the nature of power and where it resides. I empathize with them. I get it. They probably felt justified in their request.
On the surface it seems perfectly obvious. Jesus tells a wealthy man to sell all he has and give it to the poor. When the rich man hears this he is “shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” It seems Jesus’ words also shocked the disciples too, who wondered, if this is the expectation, then “who can be saved?”
By Kris Rocke
I don’t believe this is a text just to people who are divorced or considering divorce. That’s not who Jesus addressed it to, and we shouldn’t relegate it to a limited audience either. Jesus is speaking to all of us as he calls forth a way of being that is one flesh, one humanity. This, I believe, is a word of compassion for us all. Yes, compassion.
There was a pause, some nervous laughter, and then a recognition that she had named something important: as long as we are more focussed on finding new followers for our own project than on the faithful work to be done, we will always be divided rivals competing for the victory of our mission.
By Joey Ager
Imagine if just one of the disciples had been able to set aside their insecurity to ask Jesus if he would say a little more? Would that have freed up the others to ask their questions? What kind of conversation might have ensued? Would it have fostered more trust and greater understanding between the disciples instead of competition and the need to posture with one another?
By Pat Thompson
The house, the house, the house! We finally had it, and yet the deeper impulse behind the desire remained elusive. After a few months of living crammed together, we began expanding our home’s footprint. It wasn’t just going to be sufficient, it was going to be the biggest house in the whole development. The yardstick for our desire, our success, had moved.
By Joel Aguilar
I’ll be honest, today’s passage makes me cringe. The language Jesus uses is cannibalistic; it’s scandalous. “Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.” Yuck. Am I right? As someone who presides over the communion table, hearing Jesus speak about His body this way makes me super uncomfortable.
Fear, it appears, has just as much to do with our own disposition as it does with the message itself. The headline of 300 murders solicited a fear of destruction and violence. Jesus’ headline of a new, albeit very diiferent kind of life, released a fear of change among those listening: a fear of letting go of beliefs that bound them, a fear of what might happen if the way of Jesus really was true.
There is a tendency with this passage to spiritualize it, to contrast the bread that is made of wheat, yeast, salt, and water with bread that is made of love, justice, peace, and hope. All of which sounds nice but can taste like so much air to a hungry person.
Jesus resists this temptation. He does not use the opportunity to advance himself. Jesus shows us what is at the heart of incarnational ministry: coming alongside those we serve and inviting them to participate in their own healing.
At first glance, the fifth chapter of Mark is full of stories that appear to be mostly about healing. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus casts out demons from a young man; and today, we see him heal a woman and raise a girl from the dead. Healing is clearly an important and wonderful part of the narrative.
As I was telling David how terrible hell would be, he turned to me and said, “And what do you think this is?” He pointed to the rotten wood poles that held the rusty tin sheets that served as walls for his shack. The metal sheets had as many holes as a slice of swiss cheese. Then, I heard the two children he had already brought into the world even though he was just fifteen. And I smelled the rottenness of the dirt floor, wet with the sewer water that came from the toilet next to us. At that moment, I realized that I was sitting with him in hell.
By Joel Aguilar
At the start of Holy Week Manila and nearby provinces entered into another lockdown, causing difficulty for many, especially the most vulnerable. This pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities. Many people in the under-resourced areas of Manila are living on daily wages, and when these meager means to support their families are cut off, you can feel the fear in the air.
By Fred Laceda
It’s Holy Saturday and Mary is on my mind. Actually, she’s at work in my heart. Maybe that’s because I too am a mom.
I love being the mother of two sons. They have drawn me out in ways I didn’t think possible. For example, I think of myself as even-keeled and chill. Like Mary, I can hold a lot in. However, I came to discover that’s not always the case.
By Lana Rocke
I immerse myself in the brutal agony and devastating beauty of the Via Dolorosa where my soul quickens and finds its home inside the unfolding drama of the ultimate consummation of humanity and divinity. I am among the women standing at the foot of the Cross — those midwives of the cross — bearing witness to Jesus’ labor, attending to his last words, his last breath. I receive “It is finished” in one hand and consider “It has begun” in the other, letting such a juxtaposition work its mystery in my mind and heart. (Christena Cleveland)
Each year at the L’Arche Tahoma Hope community where I serve, we have a Maundy Thursday service that includes a communal foot washing. Like most things at L’Arche, it’s both reverent and comical … lots of laughter and giggles, folks that are ticklish or nervous, moments of silence and bursts of joy. It’s one of my favorite celebrations. Feet are washed, hearts are warmed, walls come down.
By Sue Hudacek
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin’s knee was pressed into Mr. Floyd’s neck as he lay face down in the street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Bystanders pleaded with the officer to stop while Mr. Floyd pleaded for his own life, “I can’t breathe!” The video went viral and the whole world listened to George Floyd call for his mama with his last breaths.
By Pat Thompson
In this week’s text, Jesus foretells his death. He relates it to a moment in the Bible when God used Moses to save the Israelites from snakes by looking at a … snake. It was unusual, to say the least. In the same way, Jesus reminds his listeners that his salvation will happen, but everything about it will defy our expectations.
By Joel Aguilar
n the spring of 2012, a group of students from one of Montreal’s finest universities, Concordia, broke into the Dean’s office and ransacked it. They tore documents, broke the computer, and flipped the desk. This was part of a province-wide student strike against the tuition and fee hikes being imposed on our publicly funded higher education institutions. At its peak, a quarter of a million students took to the streets.
By Jenna Smith
A local Pastor was telling me about her neighbors’ reaction to a proposed winter shelter. It was set to be located in a large and currently empty community center in their affluent neighborhood.
Every year in the Pacific Northwest winter, unsheltered neighbors die of exposure to the cold—the shelter will offer a simple place to sleep during the hardest months. But on this neighborhood’s local social media pages, in the press, on the TV news, and in government hearings, compassion was hard to find.
By Joey Ager
Life had been slowly bleeding out of her for 12 years, so in one final act of desperation she reaches out to touch her last remaining vestige of hope: the edge of the robe of a great teacher in whom she would now put all the faith she had left. Note here that Mark emphasizes the woman’s faith rather than Jesus’s power.
The city where I serve is no different than any other city in this country. A litany of the same issues show up on the city council agenda every two weeks: violence, unemployment, immigration, disparity in the education system, community safety, homelessness, policing, economic development and housing issues, just to name a few.
“Love God. Love People. Nothing Else Matters” became my mantra during my single, young-adult years; life seemed simple without the tether of expectation coming from academic degrees, job titles and the financial responsibilities of parenthood. Those words from the mantra of my youth are a paraphrase from Jesus in our Gospel text this week.
Beautiful questions yield beautiful answers. They open space for the Spirit to work, and involve us in our own transformation. Ultimately, they free us to see in new ways and act creatively. On the other hand, small questions yield small answers. The Japanese word “mu” can be understood to mean “un-ask the question.” Mu is the appropriate response when the question is too small fortruth to emerge. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is, in effect, saying “mu.” He is helping us find larger more beautiful questions, and he uses questions of his own to get us there.
By Kris Rocke
I currently spend my days assisting staff at a nearby elementary school. Our team gets the call when students have serious issues with behavior or cooperation. This week, I was summoned to a normally tranquil kindergarten class, where a five-year-old was out of his seat, hiding in plain sight behind a giant smart board.
“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
“I am suffering, it really hurts. It has been unbelievably painful for me to be confronted with the enormous division that exists in Nicaragua between those of us who profess Christ. Supposedly we make up 41% of the population but we have not been able to find any unity of response in the face of the deep woundedness of our nation. Those who are reacting in an active manner in the middle of this crisis are judging negatively those who have chosen to remain in their churches praying and fasting and those who have chosen to pray are attacking those who are practicing active resistance. And then there are others who have simply decided not to express themselves nor respond in any way whatsoever.”
In the text we’re tackling this month, Jesus is accused of being “out of his mind”…and worse. The scribes accuse Jesus of being Beelzebul, a demon who casts out other demons. Jesus absorbs the deadly accusation and turns it into a teachable moment. That alone is worth a lifetime of reflection.
By Kris Rocke
I can imagine a mingling of terror, fire, and joy within Rev. Henry Highland Garnet as he hobbled to the podium on a chilly February Sunday in 1865. There was certainly a sense of terror during the last months of the Civil War and its steadily climbing death toll of 620,000 souls. Garnet’s fire came from his drive to abolish the institution of slavery and its horrors. Joy must have overtaken him, considering he had been born into slavery not far from the podium from where he spoke. And now he stood as the first African American to deliver a speech within the United States Capitol.
The ancient Greeks had four ways of talking about love. The highest, most idealized form was “agape,” which is divine love. It is the gold standard of love. The other forms of love were assumed to be lower, human or natural loves: “Storge” is the love of a parent. “Eros” is sexual or erotic love. “Phileo” is the love of a friend.
By Kris Rocke
It’s cliffhanger season on TV right now. One of my favorite shows, “Grey’s Anatomy,” has their season finale tonight. I’m expecting something from Shonda Rhimes that will be both spectacular and frustrating. That’s the beauty of cliffhangers. When told well, they keep viewers expecting a great return next season.
To be one “as we are one.” Yes, this really is the heart of it! To become one. Union. Intimacy. The Gospel of Jesus opens us up to the possibility of becoming one in a way that seems utterly impossible – to enjoy unity without being in rivalry with anyone or anything. It is unity with and for everything – over and against nothing, not even death. This is the kind of unity that God enjoys and makes available to us. Impossible, but this is the promise of Jesus. This is Shalom.
By Kris Rocke
Martin Luther King Jr. was unsuitable for white teachers at my school, as he had not been thoroughly sanitized yet. And he was too theologically liberal to be mentioned in the pulpit of my church. The most I knew of him was that we shared a middle name.
It’s Christ The King Sunday in which we celebrate the reign of Christ dawning in this age and in the age to come. But, as we’ve seen throughout the Gospel of Matthew, it is an unusual, upside down kingdom that redefines power and relocates God at the bottom, not at the top.
After dinner we walked to the vigil at the Plaza de la Constitucion in Guatemala City. When we arrived, the square was empty except for four women who stood around a lonely little fire at the center of the park. They were there to honor the memory of the 41 girls who were burned alive at a government orphanage on March 8, 2017 (March 8 is also International Women’s Day).
By Kris Rocke
Joslynn, Nef, and Diane gazed thoughtfully during my clumsy response. They were confused about the many names Christians throw around. “What’s the difference between God, Lord, Jehovah, Jesus, Christ and all that?” was the question asked by some bright urban teens. Their continued attentiveness, a full ten minutes, was surprising. Even the most reticent-to-participate kid was listening carefully as clarity continued to elude me. So much for the notion that urban youth will only listen to Cardi B and The Migos.
Craig Sanders needed three surgeries to survive his injuries after awakening to a severe beating back in January 2013, while detained at Camden County Jail. Giving credence to inmate reports from the jail, accounts of such beatings no longer alarmed me. Those of us working at street-level knew the war stories coming from the overfilled facility…
The striking contrast of two completely distinct, but adjacent worlds, startled my senses and threw me into a state of disorientation. We were in Kolkata, India as part of a weeklong city consultation for doctoral students. One morning, without any particular instruction, we hopped off a bus in a neighborhood swarming with people. Drawn up in the movement of the crowd, we found ourselves in the midst of a high festival day for the Hindu goddess Kali; the crowd was flowing toward her temple.
It’s the second week of Lent and here we find Jesus teaching his disciples that, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31).
By Kris Rocke
One of my brothers was a college football All-American. He broke and set many conference and national records. He was a Heisman trophy candidate his senior year, and the third pick in the first NFL draft. This was in the late 1970’s—well before social media. But for what it was, there was quite a bit of media attention that surrounded him.
I admit to a certain cluelessness regarding the transfiguration. After countless years of exposure to cleverly executed sermons, teachings, and writings by the best of our preachers, teachers, and scholars, I still don’t get what it was all about.
In last week’s passage, we saw Jesus exorcising bad religion as he cast out the “impure spirit” of a man inside the synagogue. The reflection challenged the traditional reading of the text. What if the impure spirit didn’t so much reflect the possessed man? What if it was actually a reflection of the religious authorities?
Jesus does not shy away from conflict in Mark’s Gospel. He turns and faces what most of us flee. In particular, he faces the religious leaders, who maintain the system that sorts people into clean and unclean. This makes the religious authorities nervous.
By Kris Rocke
I’ve rarely been called the n-word to my face, but I know what people are thinking. I’m a scary looking big dreadlocked 300-pound black guy who loves bench-presses and bicep curls. Racists tend to keep their biases to themselves or mask them in implicit language when I’m around.
John the Baptist appears in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and we are told that the “whole” Judean countryside and “all” the people of Jerusalem went out to him. It seems John has become quite the successful, suburban mega-church pastor with a huge commuter congregation. But he is clear that his show is not the best in town.
When the nativity tale declares, “there was no room at the inn,” I usually picture a robed man with a lantern sadly shaking his head “If you’d only gotten here sooner,” I imagine him saying, “I could have fit you in, but now, there’s no room.” But is this true?