Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bible Sunday

The rich young man in Mark 10:17-22 isn't personally a bad guy; he's simply a normal part of the system in which he's stuck. Thus Jesus calls him to distance himself, or even separate himself from it for his own liberation. Most people are not personally bad or evil, but they are often a part of structures that make it impossible for them to see correctly or wisely. Personal blindness and structural blindness are two different things, although they often overlap.

"Jesus said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.' At that saying, the man's countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." We can tell that he is personally a good man from Jesus’ response to him: the text says, "He looked intently at him and loved him."

When Jesus challenges people, he usually does not call them personally evil or malevolent. Instead he points to the fact that they’re structurally blind, that they can’t see from their present vantage point. Thus he tells them they have to change positions (tax collectors, rich people, people trapped in victimhood, etc.) because otherwise they will never learn to see. Up to now, we have largely addressed evil on a personal level with rather poor results. Jesus addresses evil by also critiquing the invisible loyalty systems which demand most of our allegiance.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Simplicity, p. 139

I sometimes think this is what we are up against in our churches. We believe, we worship, but like the rich young man in the Gospel account, we don't accept the consequences of Jesus' challenge to the systems that undergird our lives.

Today is Bible Sunday. As the writer to the Hebrews says (4:12 NIV), "the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." If we are to be able to receive the gift of eternal life, of freedom now, from Jesus, we have to approach and accept the Bible as more than just a collection of interesting old stories and poems, as more than a liturgical ornament that fits between the collect and the sermon: it is the Word of God, with all the beauty and all the terror that that should convey.

1 comment:

  1. Rorhr's very interesting interpretation of this passage works in well with today's passage about the healing of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus. When he was healed of his inability to see (not something he was born with, incidentally), he was simultaneously freed from the societal structure in which he had been locked and was able to follow Jesus. We all need that kind of healing. Like fish in water, we don't see all the structure that hems us in.