Do Not Follow Your Heart

A wise person, no matter his or her beliefs, understands that human motivations and desires are naturally selfish. We humans think and act from the shallow perspective of personal experience on behalf of our biological imperative: self-preservation. Our view of others, our understanding of the gods we create, and, most importantly, our actions in the world are corrupt because our core motivation, “me, myself and I,” is corrupt. Self-preservation and self-interest are coded in our DNA. How can anyone mitigate an elemental biological impulse? You can’t. There is no ideology, philosophy, or belief system that can change human biology. So how is the Bible different? It assumes the worst. It supposes that all human beings are stubborn and that all human beings will always refuse to change. Its hope is not in humanity, but in the possibility that despite ourselves, a few people with “ears to hear” might be willing to follow a commandment that goes against our nature. In the Gospel of Mark, such a commandment is preached as widely as possible for our sake and for the sake of the common good. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 7:14-23.

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Episode 166 Mark 7:14-23; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Bummin on Tremelo” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Call No Man Unclean

Human communities fixate on self-preservation, naturally forming traditions and customs that protect them from outside threats. The problem of protectionism is amplified when a group’s leaders benefit from it, turning the community against itself—even alienating children from parents—for self-gain. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why religious rules often devolve into an “us against them” paradigm. In human communities, self-preservation is wrongly elevated as virtue, enabling the very behaviors the Bible warns will lead to our destruction. It’s counterintuitive, but in the Torah, self-preservation works against the survival of the community. In seeking to keep the evil out, we neglect the evil within. Unfortunately, by turning away “the unclean” outsider, we cut ourselves off from the life revealed in Mark’s gospel, extended to us from the wilderness, by way of the very outsiders we fear. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:53-7:13.

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Episode 165 Mark 6:53-7:13; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Sunday Dub” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night

According to the website of the US Postal Service, their motto, “chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue,” comes from an ancient account of the Persian Wars by the Greek historian, Herodotus: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The saying lauds the fidelity of mounted Persian couriers who, during Persia’s war with the Greeks, braved all manner of obstacles to ensure the delivery of royal dispatches. To borrow from St. Paul, such men clearly “have a zeal for God,” but insofar as they carry messages from the wrong king in the service of Persia’s war, their zeal is “not in accordance with knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)

In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples are also called to be couriers; not of a worldly message with worldly concerns, but of Scripture. Insofar as their zeal lacks understanding, no matter how hard they row against the elements, they will never match the speed or efficacy of Jesus, who without boat or mount easily achieves “the swift completion” of his appointed rounds. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:45-52.

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Episode 164 Mark 6:45-52; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Crossing the Chasm” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Voice of the Shepherd

When studying biblical literature, it’s easy to fall into the trap of attempting to lock down the meaning of the Bible’s characters and symbols. For example, students of the Bible often assume that “Egypt is evil,” or, “Assyria is evil,” ignoring contradictory evidence in the text. “Egypt and Assyria,” proclaims Isaiah, will be “a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.’” (Isaiah 19:24-25) It’s not that any of these nations are good or evil—in the Bible, no one is good but God—it’s that their value pertains strictly to the Lord’s commandment. If they serve the Lord’s teaching, they function as the Lord’s people, as Paul explains in Galatians, “the Israel of God,” no matter their nationality.

In Mark, the crowds, like Egypt and Assyria, seem to have a negative connotation. For the better part of five chapters, the mobs fawning over Jesus have obstructed his mission to proclaim the Father’s teaching; but does that mean the “crowds are evil?” On the contrary, like Egypt, Assyria AND Israel, their narrative value must be constantly reevaluated relative to the commandment. In Mark 6, the situation with the crowds may look the same, but as the Good Book teaches, human beings should never trust what they see. The only thing that counts is what they hear from the voice of the Shepherd, crying out in the wilderness. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:30-44.

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Episode 163 Mark 6:30-44; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Doobly Doo” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s Your Move, Herod

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” These words, spoken by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese author and civil leader, reflect almost perfectly the biblical teaching about fear and the power of death. King Herod, a man who would sell his people’s honor to appease their occupiers; King Herod, who in Matthew, would murder children to safeguard his throne; King Herod, who ordered the execution of the Lord’s prophet to save face, on an oath made against that which was not his; King Herod, the last in a line of imposters who would dare to sit on God’s throne in Judea. King Herod. You successfully murdered John, but you cannot stop his teaching. There is no wall, no prison, no form of execution that can help you now. Not even the power of death, which you so carelessly wield, can save you. As St. Paul, the least of the Apostles, proclaimed: The Lord, whom you murdered, is coming in power and he will put all things in subjection under his feet. “For He will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance on his adversaries, and will atone for his land and his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) It’s your move, Herod. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:14-29.

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Episode 162 Mark 6:14-29; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Metalmania” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s Not About the Teacher

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes the will of his Father in Deuteronomy, that any prophet or worker of miracles who seduces people from “the way (ὁδός) in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk,” should be ignored, or worse, put to death. Along these lines, in the story of Mark, miracles are given for the teaching; the teaching is not given for miracles. When signs and healings become the focus (as is common among contemporary Christians) we lose focus on the mission of Jesus: to walk on the path and to sow the seed of his Father’s teaching, as commanded. In doing so, we obstruct the teaching, even as we fawn over the teacher, crying “Lord, Lord!” But as Jesus demonstrates and the apostles will eventually struggle to understand, it’s not about the teacher. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:7-13.

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Episode 161 Mark 6:7-13; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Wepa” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Familiarity Breeds Contempt


When people are taught to change their behaviors or to admit their shortcomings, they use whatever means available to transfer blame for their sins to someone else. Almost always, they lash out against the messenger, pointing to the hypocrisy of their teacher or explaining how a person’s identity invalidates the message. In doing so, they shift everyone’s attention away from the elephant in the room: the integrity of the message itself. Can a man accuse a woman of chauvinism? Can a German accuse a Jew of racism? Can a prophet teach his biological elders? Yes. Definitely. But we claim otherwise to avoid accountability. The problem is amplified when people believe they own the message or consider themselves familiar with its content. We’ve all met the Christian who “already knows” what the Bible says. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus comes face to face with this person “in his hometown, among his own relatives and in his own household.” Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:1-6.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/5289474/TBAL%20Episode%20160.mp3

Episode 160 Mark 6:1-6; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Laser Groove” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Give Her Something to Eat

Self-righteousness is dangerous. When people who believe they are “right” apply rules to each other, even rules that were meant to protect us become instruments of abuse, cruelty and exploitation. You need look no further than the barbarity of Twitter mobs—liberal or conservative—to understand this dynamic. For politicians, sooner or later, this lack of humility results in civil strife. For clergy and religious teachers, it leads to a kind of apostasy, in this case, an outcome of teaching that renounces the teaching of the Bible. The Torah was given to show each of us that our behaviors are unclean. Yet, somehow, we always manage to transfer this shame from our behaviors to the person (or persons) of our neighbor. Our neighbor, like the wild man exiled to the Gerasene graveyard, or the woman with a flow of blood, is eventually deemed unclean. This is the sin. This is the apostasy. This is the very thing the Law was given to correct. Have you never heard what was written? The Lord said to Peter, “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.” (Acts 10:15) And again, what Peter himself proclaimed: “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 5:21-43.

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Episode 159 Mark 5:21-43; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Bittersweet” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The First Disciple

When Jesus permitted the unclean spirits to leave the Gerasene, he demonstrated two things: not only his ability to control a man whom no one could subdue, but his total power over Caesar’s legion. You had better believe everyone was terrified by the drowning of the swine, because when you mess with Caesar’s immutable power, you undermine the stability of the country. By freeing the demon possessed man, Jesus is threatening both their political security and their material wealth. It’s no wonder they asked “him” to leave; but the question is, which “him?” Who asked whom to leave and who asked whom to stay and why? Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 5: 14-20.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/5211691/TBAL%20Episode%20158.mp3

Episode 158 Mark 5:14-20; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Mountain Emperor” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Why Are You Bowing?

When it comes to bowing, our culture is schizophrenic. We teach people not to bow down to others or to let others tell us what to do, yet we bow down all the time. We bow to men of wealth; we bow to people and things of beauty; we bow to eloquent speech; worst of all, we bow to power: military power, economic power, and individual power. When Jesus entered the country of the Gerasenes, he encountered a man with the same brand of schizophrenia. On the one hand, he was a man who bowed to no one; a man who could not be controlled or subdued, “not even with a chain.” No one could tell the Gerasene what to do. He was exactly the kind of man our culture applauds. Yet, when Jesus stepped off the boat, this same man (rather, the unclean teaching controlling him) groveled at the feet of Jesus. Why? Not because he placed all his trust in the Lord’s seed, but because–like everyone else in Mark–he was afraid of Jesus’ worldly might. Like the people who marveled at Jesus’ miracles; like the fearful disciples; the Gerasene was impressed with the wrong thing. So he bowed to Jesus the way a sycophant bows to Silicon Valley.

The letters of St. Paul teach us that everyone has to bow down. Even Jesus will eventually bow to Pontius Pilate. In Mark’s gospel, the question is not “should I bow,” but, “why are you bowing?” Do you grovel before Jesus because of the teaching he proclaims, or are you bowing to something else? Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 5:1-13.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/5168817/TBAL%20Episode%20157.mp3

Episode 157 Mark 5:1-13; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “March of the Spoons” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/