Jeff St Baptist...
In Adult Sunday School last week, we discussed Ched Myers’ book, Sabbath Economics. He talks about the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and he says that the Biblical witness refuses to stipulate the injustice is a permanent condition, and, this is the line that caught some of our attention, “Instead, God’s people are instructed to dismantle, on a regular basis, the fundamental patterns and structures of stratified wealth and power, so that there is enough for everyone.”
[and here, he is speaking specifically in reference to the Sabbath and Jubilee laws - as well as touching on the Manna story, but he would argue that it extends beyond that... ~dt]
One thing that we liked about that sentence is, “God’s people are instructed to dismantle, on a regular basis…” We talked about how we have to continually remind ourselves that what we think we own is not really ours, but rather, God’s. About how hard it is when you grow up in this culture to really get that into your head and heart, how hard it is not just to dismantle an unjust system, but to dismantle predominant beliefs and values.
What have you dismantled lately? What are you in the process of dismantling?
When you look around, what is it that you see that needs to be dismantled?
This morning’s scripture reading is the first of a series of five stories in less than two chapters where Jesus, whose ministry and sudden rise to popularity has been briefly introduced by Mark, clashes head on with the authorities. There are many more confrontations to come, but it begins with this series of clashes.
In Jesus’ day, a physical illness or disability was seen as a consequence or punishment for a sin. If someone was healed from an illness, then in order to be pronounced clean, or forgiven, they would have to follow a certain procedure, in a lepers’ case, for instance, go before a priest, sacrifice an animal, pay some money.
But in this story, Jesus, upon seeing the paralyzed man, pronounces him forgiven, clean, before he’s even healed, before he’s seen the priest, before he’s sacrificed the animal, before he’s paid the money, before the scribes have had a chance to reclassify him.
“Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says, and in those words, Jesus restores him to social wholeness. He’s welcomed back into the fold: You are no longer an outcast, you are no longer unclean. You are brother, you are father, you are son, you are restored to your position as a child of Israel.
Jesus restores him before he’s even been healed. The scribes go ballistic, and "for good reason,” says Ched Myers. “Their complaint that none but God can remit debt is not a defense against the sovereignty of Yahweh, but of their own social power.”
They accuse Jesus in the strongest language possible: “He blasphemes,” they say, which as you’ll remember, is the charge that will eventually be used to execute Jesus.
Jesus restores the man before he’s even been healed. “You can’t do that,” they say. At which point, Jesus heals the man, this time actually restoring his body as well. And so the scribes have been “out-dueled,” and Myers points out that the next time they appear, it will be in the person of government investigators from Jerusalem...
What have you dismantled lately? What are you in the process of dismantling...?