Intently Looking

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Over the past few weeks, we have read together through the first section of Mark’s gospel. We have noted that Mark is a book about power; an insightful review of the many powers at work upon and within persons. We have also recognized that Mark is making an appeal to his readers and asking, “what power is at work in and through you?”

It seems that’s also the question Lent asks of us. What power has you?  

As we enter this Lenten season, we will also begin reading Mark’s second section. Mark uses the story of a blind man (8:22) as a functional literary technique marking the transition from his use of parables/symbols (that reveal the many institutional and biopsychosocial powers at work within and upon persons) to a more forthright tone and revelation of what it looks like to faithfully live within the power of love.

Mark’s transitional story tells how Jesus first provided a traditional medical approach – an ointment of spittle and mud smeared on the eyes – and then Jesus asks the man, “Do you see anything?” The man replies, “I see people; but they look like walking trees.” (8:24) Jesus then compassionately reaches out a second time, but this time Mark provides an important and sudden shift in his telling of the story. Rather than the focus of the story remaining on the action of the Jesus, Mark transitions the subject to the action of the one seeking healing. Mark emphasizes, “he looked intently, and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (8:25)

It seems Mark is illustrating what the journey of discipleship looks like for everyone. And if we pay close attention and engage the work of intently looking…what we will discover along the way might surprise and challenge us.

On this Ash Wednesday, the attention of the Christian story also turns to the seeker. The ash is placed on the forehead as a reminder of our humanness, a reminder of our unavoidable pending death, a reminder of our often limited and blurry view of things, a reminder to look intently at the true reality of our lives.

And it is exactly the work of intently looking that we will seek to engage together in this Lenten season. For, like Walter Brueggemann reminds us…”Now as always, prophetic imagination depends on great intentionality, and it requires a host of reliable companions on the way from a failed world under judgement to a new world of good-news possibility. That ‘way’ is one of relinquishing what has failed (which we are likely to treasure) and receiving what God will give.” (The Prophetic Imagination, 132.)

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These reflections on Mark are written as a recap summary on the weekly discipleship discussions of The Gathering Community. The Gathering Community is a group of seekers who are “relinquishing what has failed (which we will likely treasure) and receiving what God will give.” (WB) Currently we are traveling through the book of Mark, receiving good news for our wearied selves and world.

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