Friday, July 31, 2015

Jesus, Crowds, Disrupting The Marketplace - Moral Mondays Illinois

And wherever Jesus went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, 

and begged… -Mark 6:56a

Photo by Ben Adams, Taken at Moral Mondays Illinois, June 15, 2015

The text above is a small excerpt of a larger chapter in the Gospel of Mark which was read in churches and denominations all over the world just a few weeks ago

It comes immediately after a story about Jesus feeding thousands of hungry people, and a story about Jesus stilling the sea in the midst of a terrifying storm—both remarkable stories, following many other remarkable stories up to this point in the Gospel, all of them involving the miraculous: healing stories, exorcisms, the Spirit descending like a dove… 

This story is remarkable for another reason, a reason that hasn’t anything to do with superhuman powers or the miraculous (but certainly does have to do with the Holy Spirit). And, it is remarkable not because of what Jesus or his disciples say or do or teach in it. 

Rather, it’s remarkable because of the people. 

And it's remarkable because of what the people do. 

It is remarkable because the people who have gathered around Jesus: the crowds, the multitudes, the ones who have been fed once, in one place through a temporary taking-place of God’s Kingdom (where in a different sense of the miraculous—though, here, still by an act of Christthe one who had some food, actually shared some food, and in that act of sharing, all who desired for sustenance were filled, and had no need for left-overs); the crowds, the multitudes, the fed a day or two or three after that sacred event, remain the hungry. The people who had gathered remain the poor, remain the-ones-waiting, remain the ones longing and hoping for the fulfillment of the expectation of the unending Feast of justice that (perhaps) took place as a fore-taste, but had yet to remain in-place, but has yet to endure as eternal. 

The people were still the hungry. 

And this story is remarkable because of the work of those people. 

And this story is remarkable because of what the people do.

After Jesus fed thousands, after the storm was stilled, when the disciples returned to their routine of preaching repentance and the possibility of change and redirection, and to the work of casting out demons, and healing folks of those ailments and oppressions that restricted them, that kept them in bondage, that keep us captive, preventing us from growing into the call toward abundant life… after Jesus did these things, something took place that had not yet taken place in the Gospel. 

Because here, in the sixth chapter of Mark, here at Gennesaret, here, in the villages, cities, farms, 

Here (unlike previous occasions), when Jesus came into town, Jesus' very presence (his very act of showing up) induced more. 

Here, Jesus' presence induced more than feel-good events, "worship experiences," and sacred memories. Here, Jesus' presence provoked something other than praise and awe due to a feeding or a healing, a wondrous sign or a clever saying. Here, Jesus' presence brought with it more than all of those responses to all of those commodities that spiritual consumers love. 

Jesus' presence even did more than gathering do-gooders in the dozens, do-gooders united to help the masses gathered, the crowds, the multitudes; do-gooders gathered to then promptly and shamelessly share about it on Facebook, their friends dubbing them heroes, saints, "good seeds" or “I-wish-my-kid-did-things-like-thats.”  More than hunger walks. More than arena-style-God-rock. Jesus' presence induced more. 

Here (unlike previous occasions), Jesus' presence brought with it more feelings than "good" or "satisfied," and more responses than "awe." And Jesus' presence stroked something much deeper than the disciples’ egos. 

Because, here, suddenly, simply by virtue of showing up, 

Jesus’ presence also brought disruption

Here, the presence of Christ became disruptive, upsetting, inconvenient. 
A pain. 

Because, here, now, suddenly, “wherever [Jesus] went: 

into villages or cities or farms, 

they laid the sick in the marketplaces. And begged.”

They laid the sick in the market places! And begged. Right in the middle of everything!

In the middle of the buying and the selling and the trading.

There they, the crowds, the multitudes, 

there they laid the people who couldn’t do much buying or selling or trading.

There they laid the people who had nothing, the people deemed useless by the sellers and the traders, the people they considered leeches, users, dispensables

And there, here, they begged.

They begged for healing because they were sick, oppressed, helpless. 

And right there, in the middle of the market place, 

where folks were expected to sell or to trade or to barter, or to consume, 

there they did nothing but receive,  for free!

At no cost. 

Right there in the middle of the marketplace. 

Disruptive. Annoying. In the way. Crying out. 

“Get a job!” we can hear the marketers screaming.  

Jesus’ very presence, along with the presence of the disciples, 
though accompanied by his ministry of healing, exorcising, and the proclamation that change is possible, 

did something dangerous. 

Jesus’ presence disrupted the marketplace.

Jesus’ presence instigated the crowd. 

To disrupt. 

To inconvenience. 

To agitate. 

Jesus’ very presence instigated the crowds, 

the multitude, 

the still-hungry-gathered...

Jesus' presence instigated the people to bring to the center those whom the children of God are called to prioritize—not the sellers, not the consumers, not the traders, but those in need, those who cry out, and those who (when Christ reigns) receive healing for free, because in Christ’s Reign, people are valued not by what they can buy or sell or trade or consume, but simply by virtue of their existence, by virtue of being a living creature among God’s other creatures. 

The people, the multitudes, the still-hungry-gathered bring to the center those in need, those the gods and kings and sparkling-suited-businessmen of the marketplace confine to the edges, those hidden in run-down nursing homes or prisons or asylums; those sacrificed in warehouses and sweatshops and front lines. The people re-center, upset, re-prioritize, even at the expense of the marketplace, especially at the expense of the profitable. The people move in the Spirit. They are inspired. And the people inspired put people over profit. The people, inspired, role, drag, carry their friends, the vulnerable, into the middle of it all. The people inspired disrupt, interrupt, upset the business-as-usual, stop the flow of goods for the sake of those devalued in an unjust system… 

The people inspired disrupt the marketplace. 

Healing and exorcising and the proclamation that change is possible are all good and necessary activities, no matter one’s inspiration;  

but unless the center of our universe is replaced, 
real, radical, repentance hasn’t happened. 
Re-centering exists only in theory. It hasn't yet taken place. 

Unless greed and consumption and money are displaced from the center of our motives, and replaced with the well-being of the poor and vulnerable (that is, replaced with the desire for the elimination of poverty and oppression) as our priority…

unless we put people and planet over profit,

the cause of sickness, the breeding ground for the demonic from which we desperately need exorcism, 
and the Reign of the Demonic, will all remain in tact,

Unless we replace our fixation on what needs to be paid with who needs to be healed, unless we lay the sick in the marketplaces, and we disrupt business as usual, then all we will ever achieve is feeding a few folks and stilling a few storms. 

Unless we do some disrupting, we haven’t fully joined in in the disruptive work of the Spirit, induced by Christ’s presence among the multitudes and the crowds and the already-fed.

Immediately after this story of mass disruption in Mark’s Gospel, 
those in power start to criticize Jesus.

“Your disciples don’t wash their hands! 
“They’re unclean.” 
“Give us a sign!”
“Where do you get authority from, anyway?" 

"Whose your Daddy?”

(Anything they can think of to discredit or dismiss him). 

In other words: You’re not really a Jew. You’re not really a Christian. You’re not really orthodox. Or Hindu. Or Muslim. Or… You’re not really a person of faith, Jesus. Not when you act like this. 

“The job of the church,” said the leaders of the marketplace and their politicians and their lobbyists, “the job of the temple, the synagogue is to be peaceful, and, you know… to help people, to foster respectable and upstanding citizens, Jesus! And to give out food, like you have been doing. And to give hope. You know. To give something to believe in. And to help people who are afflicted with addictions and other demons. But above all, to keep the peace!”  

“To keep the peace, Jesus. The peace that passes all understanding…” 

“Anyhow, you know, Jesus, I mean, no offense, but your followers are just a bunch of hungry people, unfortunate really! Seriously, Jesus. So... how about this? Just feed them. Shut them up. Get them out of the market places, out of site, put them back in a church or a temple or something somewhere where they belong. That’s your job. Take care of them. Leave the marketplace to the professionals. Leave it to us. We know what we're doing out here. You just teach those people how to pray—and how to pray far away from here. We’ll take care of the economy. Trust us. Trust us, Jesus. Seriously… Listen. And, yeah, how about this?: We’ll even give you a place on one of the mayor’s task forces if you want. We'll make you the chair of the mayor's task force on hunger. Or violence. Or you name it! It'll be great. I mean, you are very important, you know. And very well spoken, Jesus. I wouldn't have guessed you were a Nazarene unless you'd told me. You present yourself very well. You know, Jesus, you could even meet the governor. You know, you’re an educated man. You have a great personality. And, c'mon, Jesus, you know what it’s like dealing with those people. Just get those folks out of here. And then, Jesus, then we can sit down, and have a nice “civilized” conversation and work this out. We could even all take a picture and put it in the paper. The Gazette. The Tribune. The Sun-Times. Maybe we could even help you out with some of your programs, we could find some TIF's or something, buy a bunch of bread and fish, and some nice freezers... Whaddaya say, Jesus?”

“Whaddaya say?" 


To which Jesus responded: 

“You hypocrites!” 

“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!” 

“These people praise me with their lips but their hearts are far away!”

And then kept doing what he was doing. 

And then Jesus continued to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and the possibility of and the imperative for change. 

And then he continued to heal, and to exorcise the crowds, the multitudes, the still-hungry from all that would oppress them. 

And “wherever he went: 

into villages or cities or farms, 

they would lay the sick in the marketplaces.”

Wherever he went, 

they continued to disrupt the marketplace.

As a clergy person and a Lutheran, one of the reasons I remain quite excited and inspired as we continue to gather in the Spirit of Joyous Rebellion as Moral Mondays Illinois, is this:

though we as faith communities, communities in general, and community leaders, are called to heal, to cast out demons, and to proclaim change for the better is both possible and imperative, 

in the process, by virtue of our work and the work of the Spirit, 

I also believe that our work together is to disrupt the marketplace. 

Our work together is to upset the buyers and the sellers, to force the gods and kings and queens of the marketplace to replace their fixation on profits with compassion for the poor, rather than sacrificing the poor for increased profit. 

Our work together is to displace business as usual in favor of community as it ought to be, 

with a shared vision of replacing obscenely large and sinfully unnecessary profits that benefit only a few, 
with shared prosperity for all, forming a world where everyone can eat and thrive without the fear and paralysis induced by scarcity and debt. 

I believe faith leaders (and I will speak specifically for Lutherans here) are called to remind the church that it is our work to disrupt, and to call the followers of Jesus out of rooms, locked in fear, and into the public square, even (and especially) if it upsets those in power. Faithfulness to God and participation in the Kingdom means upsetting the norm, and ushering in something New, something just. 

And I believe, with Moral Mondays Illinois, we are just beginning to do that. 

Civil disobedience in a billionaire’s office is a disruptive act of the Spirit. 

Blocking business as usual for twenty minutes, an hour, a day, is a disruptive act of the Spirit. 

Going to a profit-centered marketplace and placing there the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised; those seeking healing, begging, those receiving-for-free in the middle of the buying, the selling, the trading, is a disruptive act of the Spirit. 

Occupying the space of a governor who continues to implement and threaten cuts to those already on the edge, while allowing the ultra-rich to selfishly hoard millions and billions while he and they live in excess and luxury, exploiting tax loop holes and the common good; a governor who makes no effort to tax the two-thirds of the state's corporations who pay no corporate income tax; or occupying the space of a billionaire corporate head who contributes millions to that governor's super PAC,

is a disruptive act of the Spirit.

And it's also a sign. 

The presence of Christ is near.

Friends and clergy, I hope you'll join us at upcoming Moral Mondays Illinois actions. I hope you will find your faith activated in the disruptive work of the Spirit. It's time. Join your colleagues, and join your Bishop in this work. I'd love to speak with you if you are on the edge. I urge you to pray about taking arrest as an act of divine obedience / civil disobedience. Keep posted through the Facebook page, here. Follow #MoralMondaysIL , and please reach out with any questions: We're in this together, through the presence of Christ, and the Spirit of Joyous Rebellion. 

No comments:

Post a Comment