|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Fear and faith, chaos and calm – these are the poles around which this powerful story revolves. No wonder that this story is told in all three of the synoptic gospels. For these are things that we all recognise in our own lives and the lives of others. This is not just a miracle story from long ago. This is our story, both as individuals and as communities. The fear and the faith, the chaos and the calm, they all play out in our daily lives. This is a story that has real, physical actual details. It is also a story whose motifs resonate at the level of dream energy and the deep unconscious...
I want to talk about craziness and what makes us think that someone is crazy or even demon possessed;
I want to talk about being ‘cracked’ and how inevitable and how life saving that is;
and I want to talk about companionship and who’s at the table. And I have some questions about insiders and outsiders.
So craziness, being ‘cracked’ and companionship
- these are all in our gospel today. But before I come to those three things, I want to point out a couple of things about the structure of today’s reading, because I think that Mark is talking to us through the very structure he has chosen. For Mark makes use of two clever literary devices to tell today’s stories. The first is something technically called ‘intercalation’, that is to say ‘a story within a story’. So what we have here is the story of Jesus’s family and their relationship with him under stress, interrupted by the story of Jesus’s conflict with some scribes sent from Jerusalem. When a writer puts one story inside another like this, it serves to intensify both, and to create parallels and comparisons between the two. By doing this, Mark is also able to create what is called a ‘chaistic’ story, that is to say one that has a shape that goes in and then comes out, a bit like an hourglass. Think of it as going A1, B1, C, B2,A2. So what we have is the first bit about the family, then a bit about the scribes, then Jesus parables and teaching, then another bit about the scribes and finally another bit about the family. What does that do? Well it helps us know that the really important bit, the bit that makes sense of the rest and transforms it, is in the middle, - not surprisingly in Jesus parables and teaching. This is the inside teaching, aimed at making the outsiders the insiders. You will see what I mean as we go along...
In the opening pages of the excellent historical account of aboriginal dispossession in southern Queensland entitled, One Hour More Daylight, the authors reference a report by Native Police Commandant Frederick Walker . In July 1849 Walter engaged in battle with the Bigambul people of the Macintyre district. The report described protracted conflict and concluded with the words, “ I much regretted not having one more hour of daylight as I would have annihilated that lot.”
It is a powerful phrase. It tells us at once two things. Firstly it tells us that across Australia and certainly in areas very close to here, the aim of early white settlers was not just to subjugate Aboriginal people. It was to annihilate them and remove them from the land entirely. This is our history. Secondly it tells us that the attempt to do this did not in fact succeed. Aboriginal people not only survived, they went on to contribute hugely to the culture and prosperity of modern Australia. This too is our history, but it is a history filled with struggle, ambiguity and pain that has to be acknowledged if it is to heal. It is a history of massacres, of the poisoning of wells and the deliberate exploitation of the defenceless. It is a history of the systematic destruction of languages, culture and ceremony and the connections that those things provide. It is a 230 year history of colonisation, dispossession and subjugation...
As you know I rarely preach just to a text, but these two verses from 2 Corinthians are so beautiful, that I thought it wold be worth spending a little time with them, which is why I have provided them to you as a handout:
“For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (2Corinthians 4:6-7)
In the space of these two sentences, Paul encompasses the essentials of creation, incarnation and redemption and invites us to celebrate our humanity as the focal point of God’s purpose for us and all creation. So let’s take them piece by piece...