Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Lent days 4-5

Well I'm still catching up... There was no day 5 reading (reader's choice) so I'm making this one count for two.

Mark 11:12-26 is so full of ideas it is hard to know where to start. The major theme is one of judgment. The fact that it is about Jerusalem makes it much less PC these days. Jesus saw himself as a prophet (at the very least!) and it was typical of prophets in Israel to call the nation to account and to proclaim judgment and yet also a message of hope. In Jesus these two things come together.

I once heard Peter Singer deny that Jesus was someone to learn ethics from because he cursed a fig tree. While I love trees and want to see them planted more often to absorb carbon, etc, I think Singer heavily missed the point. Here's the deal

Verses 12-14: Jesus finds a fig tree not in season and therefore without fruit, and he curses it for not bearing fruit. A little unrealistic you might think - doesn't he know better.

Verses 15-19: Jesus goes into the temple and finds the money changers, people making a profit over those needing to change their coins to buy animals to sacrifice. Jesus' disruption makes it clear the whole system is corrupt and that indirectly (not so clear hear) that Jesus is the new temple, and hence the old one is soon to be obsolete. Jesus' minor disruption of its workings would become permanent in AD 70.

Verses 20-26: The disciples note that the fig tree is withered, and Jesus speaks about having faith to move mountains - well actually the temple mount. Faith in God was the appropriate response to all of this. This quickly moves to a discussion of faith, doubt and prayer - too big an issue to deal with in this post [as a broader issue but it is linked to what follows], and then onto forgiveness. Jesus tells the disciples to forgive so that they may be forgiven!

Very clearly, this links to the withering of the fig tree. He found no faith in the temple and so it will wither. Forgiveness is for those who are truly shaped by forgiveness in that they freely grant it, and forgiveness is through the new temple, Jesus.

It seems to me then that faith in Jesus and not in calcified or corrupt institutions in how we receive and live forgiven lives. When the institutional church seeks to protect itself rather than seeking forgiveness for evils it has done and makes restitution [let the reader understand], then God's grace might bypass it.

In our lives everyday, given that forgiveness is freely [but not cheaply] given, it also needs to be freely given. It takes a lot of faith to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. The church has a ministry of reconciliation to carry out, so let's reconcile within and without.

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