In chapters 2 and 3 of the Gospel of Mark, we read about a revolutionary Jesus.
In Mark 2:1-12, he challenges the belief that people can only be forgiven by the intervention of the religious institution. Jesus casually tells a paralyzed man that he is forgiven, then, at the end of the passage, tells him to pick up his mat and walk. This greatly bothered the teachers of the law. Here Jesus proclaimed freedom from the tyranny of judgement by the righteous.
In Mark 2:13-17, he invited Levi, a tax collector, to follow him, and he ate at Levi’s house. This upset the teachers of the law to whom he replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus proclaimed freedom the tyranny of social customs that isolated people.
In Mark 2 18-22, in a comment about fasting, Jesus proclaimed freedom from the tyranny of wanting to look good to our neighbours and freedom to choose actions that bring us healing and connection.
In Mark 2:23 – 3:6, in stories about his actions on the Sabbath, he proclaimed freedom from the tyranny of religious rules that do not respect the needs of people.
In Mark 3:13-18, in commissioning his disciples to share in preaching and healing, he proclaimed freedom from the tyranny of egos that block the genuine sharing of ministry and service. We ate not alone and we do not need to act alone.
In Mark 3:21, 31-35, Jesus declared freedom from the tyranny of families that block our serving God or doing something new.
Rev. Mark Tremblay, in his message at Evening Grace on June 3, spoke about idolatry and golden cows, putting religious traditions ahead of the needs of people.
To me, the core of the readings above is that we, through the love of God, are freed from any tyranny that blocks loving and caring for the people we encounter.
The following quote is the end of Mark’s digital version of his message.
“The rather terrible implication of this story is that normal and natural religious commitments render us indifferent to human suffering and true community … This conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees contrasts religion that hardens hearts with the gospel that opens hearts to the ubiquitous presence of God and gives birth to compassion and joy.” Most of us might naturally side with the religious leaders against Jesus. But to do so, while recognizing the need for the consistency and continuity of our faith may expose our forgetfulness or misunderstanding of what the purpose of faith is, of the reason we confess Jesus as messiah. “Jesus did not go to the cross to tell us how bad we are, but to point us to new life.” Being pointed to new, abundant life in Jesus almost requires us to remember that the status quo is not ok.”
The big fly in the ointment is that this freedom comes with one or more costs. While God grants us this freedom, people will exact a price. In the case of Jesus, it was his life. God gives us permission to resist tyrannies in their many forms. The perpetrators of those tyrannies tend not to be so agreeable.
And so we are called, as followers of Jesus, to put people ahead of rules, golden cows, and other forms of idolatry and to do so believing love matters more than anything else in the world.
After posting this, I started reading my latest copy of Kolbe Times. It started with an interview with Brian McLaren about his latest book. The interview can be found at http://www.kolbetimes.com/brian-mclaren/. His answer to her first question was, “Yes – and you would think that would be obvious when one of Jesus most essential statements was “Follow me.” It wasn’t “Stand with me” or “Sit with me”. He wants us to follow him, because he’s going somewhere. And when Jesus left, he said, “Hey, listen, there’s a whole lot more I want to teach you, but you’re not ready for it yet. When you’re ready, the Spirit will continue to guide you.” So everything in the New Testament sets us up to see that this would be an unfolding, ongoing trajectory, just as you said. But for a whole lot of reasons that are totally human and totally predictable, we find ways to stop the motion and to dig in our heels and act as if we’ve got it all figured out – and that we just have to circle the wagons and defend, rather than keep moving or growing. But then at different points throughout history, people come along to wake us up and challenge us to move forward.” The title of his book is The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be a Christian.
I missed the tyranny of resisting change in my list of tyrannies above.