A Biggger View
Last week we heard a passage from Proverbs 31:10-31 that many of us read as extolling very traditional roles for women. And it is not unknown for women in particular to not want to read it. There is in fact no getting away from fact that those traditional roles are an important part of that reading. But I also suggested that it is more than that. The women described in this reading were not mousey submissive chattels. They were strong women who ran their households with imagination, and flair, and generosity. It is I think an invitation for men to choose their wives carefully, and to not just look for what their society deemed to be important, and for women to be more than they were traditionally described. And so some read it as championing traditional roles, and others as championing woman taking more significant roles both in their household and in their communities. This week we hear the story Esther, a story of the kind of strong woman proverbs refers to. It is an interesting story – it does not directly mention God once! This young woman, chosen for her beauty, uses all her cunning to save her people from plans of murderous Babylonian Prime Minister, Haman, who ends up hung on his own gallows by his own schemes.
The reading from Proverbs is an example of how we are too often tempted read scripture as a conservative moral voice that either seeks to preserve the status quo, or take us back to the good old days. And we miss how much of it is this radical voice that invites us take much bigger view of world and God’s desire for that world; including strong women. In fact, I wonder what the story of Ester might say to us about how we see and treat immigrants and refugees.
That is also what is going on in Marks gospel. The Jesus presented in Mark’s Gospel just keeps pushing for a much bigger view of what reign of God entails, and what our role is in it as loyal and fruitful followers. Sadly, too often we are still with the disciples still missing the point, lost on conversations about who is in and who is out and who is at the top of the pecking order. Still stuck with the same questions and concerns that our society revolves around.
Last week we hear Jesus talking about leaders being servants and then embracing a child and saying,
“Whoever welcome/embraces one such as this child welcome/embraces me, and whoever welcome/embraces me welcome/embraces not me but the one who sent me!”
To which John replies this week with
“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
Straight back to the big questions of who is in and who is not and how to keep all this under control. John, and sometimes (a lot of the time) we, are not hearing radical nature of what Jesus is on about. What stops us hearing? What do we need to let go of that we really can we “welcome/embraces one such as this child.”