The proclamation of the Word depends, not only upon the preacher, but upon the hearer. There will be those who will reject the truth being proclaimed no matter how poetic the preacher and how convincing the argument. Others will receive the word gladly, only to allow the cares and frustrations of daily life to choke off the excitement.
Jesus comes proclaiming his Kingdom. The preacher and the message are the same. Yet throughout Mark, people receive his Word differently. It is an explosive message he proclaims, which is why he speaks in parables. Just as one cannot look directly into the sun, so the proclamation of God's Kingdom must be given in a kind of indirect speech, a kind of code language, a way of speaking about the things of God in a way that reflects the truth of the Kingdom, in the same way as one sees the sun by observing its rays shining on the grass and the trees. It is a radical message to those who believe that the Kingdom will come by violent power and might, and it is an extreme proclamation to persons who want to keep the Kingdom from coming. The former will reject Jesus' Kingdom message because of the way he says it is now breaking in; the latter because it threatens the status quo, the benefits of which they enjoy.
The Kingdom of God is surely here, but it does not come in the way the religious leaders and the masses expect. So, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom in ordinary ways with ordinary stories containing ordinary things. The Kingdom is like a growing seed, even a mustard seed. The disciples must pay attention to what is being said. The more they understand and the more they seek to understand, the more they will receive the benefits of the Kingdom. If they don't attend to the things that will deepen their faith, they will eventually lose what little they have. Grace is not an excuse to be lazy when it comes to discipleship.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Monday, June 08, 2015
Extraordinary Kingdom, Ordinary Stories: A Lectionary Reflection on Mark 4:26-34
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