What acts are you seeing today that symbolize a much greater change?
“In Mark 1:21-28, implied social conflict characterizes Jesus’ first public action, a dramatic exorcism in a Capernaum synagogue. Here we encounter for the first time a “miracle story.” The modern debate over whether or not we can “believe” such stories is not only misplaced, it fails to address the function of this kind of narrative. The possibility of extraordinary manipulations of the physical (or spirit) world was never questioned in antiquity. Nevertheless, the “miracle” lay not there, but in what the act symbolized in terms of the wider scope of Jesus’ mission. Mark goes to great lengths to discourage us from seeing Jesus as a mere popular healer or magician (such were common in ancient society). Not only does Jesus constantly discourage people from fixating upon his acts of healing or exorcism (see 1:44; 3:12; 5:18f, 43; 7:36); he actually exhorts his disciples (and the reader) to look into the deeper meaning of his actions (8:17-21).”
“Mark’s prologue portrays the world of Roman-occupied Palestine in political, social, economic and religious crisis. Historically we know that in this context, tensions stemming from imperial forces of domination and “globalization” gave rise to prophets who called their people to radical change. John took his cue from the wilderness tradition, and Jesus from John. If we are to be followers of that Jesus, we must also make choices in the conflicted terrain of our world about what prophetic traditions we apprentice to and what social movements of liberation we help build as individuals and as church. However controversial or consequential such choices may be, such is what it means to be a disciple of the Great Disciple of God’s Kingdom.”–Ched Myers
Read former hedge-fund manager Sam Polk’s excellent article on Wealth Addiction:
“I see Wall Street’s mantra — “We’re smarter and work harder than everyone else, so we deserve all this money” — for what it is: the rationalization of addicts. From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then — that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.”–Sam Polk, For the Love of Money
Then listen to Ched Myers’ “Who then can be saved?“: Jesus and the Rich Man as a Text of Terror and Liberation.
The real plot of the Bible is about the liberation of both humanity and nature from our folly. God’s voice does not come through the centre of civil power but from an imperial defector in Moses, through a burning bush and from a dissident prophet Elijah in the wilderness. These ancient traditions portray a God who needs to be encountered through nature. The Bible also offers numerous peons to creation as a mirror of the creator’s glory. There is a lot of talk these days about our need to rediscover enchantment in nature. Let us take Abraham’s first encounter
with God which occurred under the oak tree of Moreh, an “oracle giver” which taps into an apparently universal tradition of the Tree of Life. Then God appears to Abraham as certain strangers under the oaks of Mamre; and later in Judges, the warrior Gideon is given courage by an angel under the oak at Ophrah.
At Christ in the Desert monastery the electricity and water-pumping at the monastery is solar-powered, as sunshine is plentiful throughout the year.
The mural art reflects a tradition now set in the context of the Chama Canyon wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, but the monks whose quiet cenobitic lives are shaped daily by the art also vitalize the mural through their own daily desert encounters with angels, trees, rivers, saints, bread, wine, work, and surprise.
Ched Myers is the best “Bible animator” I know. Here’s a short reflection from him on Exodus 17 that combines attentive listening to the text and deep earth wisdom.
Exodus 17:8-13 is a venerable old tale, if not a nonviolent one. Freshly liberated by YHWH (with an assist from nature) from Pharaoh’s imperial straightjacket, Moses and his refugee community have commenced their wilderness sojourn. They are having to re-learn primal lessons of subsistence gathering and dependence upon God’s creation (the “bread and water miracles” of Ex. 16-17 are old Bedouin tricks). Amidst this comes the very first resistance to their journey, as they are attacked by Amalekites, a contemporaneous nomadic tribe of raiders that was presumably far more adept at desert skirmishing than the Israelites. So commences the first of what will be innumerable battles with various inhospitable groups in the course of Israel’s liberation struggle.–Ched Myers
Ched Myers is one of my gospeler mentors. A gospeler is someone who sings the gospel – and Ched and Elaine do that with the way they live their lives. In their recent Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries‘ newsletter that Ched and Elaine are working with a local faith-based organic farm in the Oxnard Plain in Ventura County, California. It’s called the Abundant Table Farm Project. (I’m posting a couple of the Abundant Table’s inspiring videos below.
“We read the gospel as if we had no money,” laments American Jesuit theologian John Haughey, “and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the Gospel.” Indeed, the topic of economics is exceedingly difficult to talk about in most First World churches, more taboo than politics or even sex. Yet no aspect of our individual and corporate lives is more determinative of our welfare. And few subjects are more frequently addressed in our scriptures.
The standard of economic and social justice is woven into the warp and weft of the Bible. Pull this strand and the whole fabric unravels. At the heart of this witness is the call to Sabbath and Jubilee, a tradition we might summarize in three axioms: The world as created by God is abundant, with enough for everyone— provided that human communities restrain their appetites and live within limits …
Here’s a 2-minute video about the Abundant Table Farm Project:
“We are a young intentional community of five interns (sisterfriends) living and working on a 10-acre family farm on the Oxnard Plain. Though we come from far and near, our internship grew out of the campus ministry founded by the Episcopal Church at California State University Channel Islands. To learn more about our organic farm and Community Supported Agriculture program, please visit www.jointhefarm.com.”
Senior producer Jim Melchiorre at Anglican Stories visited The Abundant Table Farmhouse Project, a young adult internship program of the Episcopal Service Corps. Below is his excellent 10-minute video.
Let’s be honest. Most of us have what money we have in some big bank because of a) convenience or b) our little bank got eaten up by a big bank and we just didn’t have the time or energy to find some place new.
Last year I went through several hoops to get my accounts out of Bank of America only to find that, 2 months after I switched, my new bank had been taken over by Wells Fargo. Argh!
It’s time for Americans to reinvest in community banks. This movement has been building for a number of years. Churches in particular have made community economics a priority.
Ched Myers and the folks at the Sabbath Economics Cooperative have been educating on community investing as a faith act for 25 years. Now, what was once only practiced by a few is graduating into a mainstream movement of the many.
Eric Stoner over at Waging Nonviolence has a nice post on the movement to get Americans to shift their money out of big banks into community banks and credit unions. There’s also a great little video (below) out promoting the Move Your Money campaign.
Sojourners’ Jim Wallis also just put out a book called Rediscovering Values on what the Bible teaches us about our current economic debacle and had a good piece in the Washington Post called A Religious Response to the Financial Crisis.
Wallis says, “The market’s first commandment, “There is never enough,” must be replaced by the dictums of God’s economy — namely, there is enough, if we share it. … Already, pastors, lay leaders and innovative faith-based practitioners are suggesting creative answers: mutual aid; congregational and community credit unions; and new cooperative strategies for solving such problems as hunger, homelessness and joblessness. If these initiatives succeed, the economic crisis may offer congregations a rare opportunity to clarify their missions and reconnect with their communities. ”
Tell me your stories on where you store the green stuff and what it helps to grow!
There is no better Bible-buster/activist teaching today than Ched Myers and the good folks at Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. Here are two up-coming residential week-long intensives–the Bartimaeus Institutes–in lovely Ventura County, CA, for you to check out. And watch the fantastic video! It’s visually rich and theologically exciting.
January 18-22: “A N.T. Theology and Diverse Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.” We are pleased to announce that Revs. Murphy Davis (right) and Eduard Loring of the Open Door Community in Atlanta will be joining Rev. Nelson and Joyce Johnson of the Beloved Community Center and Rev. Geoff Broughton from Sydney, Australia as special guests. Murphy and Nelson were interviewees for the second volume of Elaine & Ched’s Ambassadors of
February 22-26: “Ecojustice, Sabbath Economics and Luke’s Gospel.” This Institute is co-sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, whose missionary Dorothy Stang (right) was martyred in Brazil five years ago. We’ll hear her story and Ched will look at Year C lections from the third gospel as they relate to our economic and environmental crisis.
Friends Elaine Enns and Ched Myers of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries in Oak View, California, spoke in Philadelphia a few weeks ago at a conference of the historic Peace Churches (Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren). You can listen to Ched’s talk on Jesus as a “Kingstyle” nonviolent activist online: