But it’s provocative

Lent 2b – Sunday 4th March 2012
Mark 8: 31-38

Continuing my musical theme from last week…

Jay-Z And Kanye West…we drop in for a moment on the wonderful world of Jay-Z and Kanye West, who’ve collaborated on a new album, Watch the Throne. They’ll be no album track this week, as the language leaves little to the imagination, and even listing lyrics is difficult. But I like his records, with The Blueprint 3 probably my favourite, and Watch the Throne not far behind. Good music if you’re out for a jog! Anyway, in one of the tracks of Watch the Throne:

Kanye West raps: “And they’re going gorilla’s”.

And taking a plug from the film Blades of Glory we hear Jon Heder say, “I don’t even know what that means!” To which Will Ferrell replies, “Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative. Gets the people going.”

I was reminded of those words as I prepared for this week’s lectionary readings, and my browser landed on the website of the Scarlet Letter Bible. I enjoyed reading the blog for this Sunday, and as I turned to find out a little bit more about the website I came across this explanation:

The Scarlet Letter Bible is so named because it’s likely to be just a little scandalous to the folks who think Jesus really said everything verbatim in the Red Letter editions commonly found in Christian bookstores.
The scarlet part is part translation, part paraphrase, part imaginative interpretation. The aim here is to convey a provocative reading of the Bible’s intent that can be understood in current terms. It’s not about technical linguistic accuracy, more like impact accuracy.
The black part is commentary. It’s meant to be edifying for people who read the Bible from the point of view of spiritual seekers, disaffected Christians and other Jesus followers for whom the traditional line no longer makes sense, pastors and all churchgoers in stuck churches who want to get their church unstuck, agnostics, atheists and secular humanists who are open to receiving wisdom from ancient texts, people of other faiths who are curious about the Bible and want to read it without being proselytized.

But it’s provocative…

That’s what I like about the Bible. Whilst it may be comforting, reassuring and encouraging, it’s also provocative, challenging and painful to read. Take, for instance, this Sunday’s reading:

Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

The contrast between what we often perceive the Christian journey to be and what is actually required of us is often huge – poles apart. Likewise, the expectation that Jesus envisaged for himself – suffering, hardship, persecution and death – and what Peter imagined things would be like – the anointed Messiah – didn’t bear any similarities. For God to come and live among us and not experience suffering, pain and rejection – even death – would make it an inauthentic expression, a token gesture. But as Caspar Green says:

Far from being a super-man with extra-human power, Jesus begins to teach them about being authentically human. Mark’s Jesus insists that to be authentically human is to be willing to suffer, to be rejected, even to die, in order to take the side of the oppressed and abused. There is no glorious rescue from beyond. There is only the human work of restoring to the human family those who have been dehumanized for the profit of the rulers, the religious, and the bureaucratic task-masters.

Mark’s Jesus insists that the only way to truly live, to be immortal, is to give oneself completely over to that cause. Paradoxically, fitting in, going along to get along, failing to stand up to the powers of oppression inevitably lead to an inauthentic unsustainable humanity. For Mark’s Jesus, authenticity is life, in-authenticity is death.

Occupy LondonNow that’s provocative.

Having just watched the Occupy London protest being evicted from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral I have the sneaking suspicion that their action has a more authentic ring to it than much of our Christian protest and action. We like things to be a bit more comfortable than camping out for four months.

Now that’s provocative.

I see that Matt Redman and LZ7 have just gone to number one in the Amazon MP3 download chart with their single Twenty Seven Million. The single has been released because there’s an estimated 27 million people caught up in human trafficking today – the highest in documented history. They are modern day slaves, victims of organised criminal activity including prostitution, migrant smuggling and child labour. Tragically, fewer than 2% of those affected are rescued. The single supports the A21 Campaign in its mission to abolish the injustice of human trafficking by preventing trafficking, supporting survivors and prosecuting traffickers.

Now that’s provocative.

The Bible is challenging and life changing. Jesus embodies all that in the life he lived. The call to us is to live authentic God-filled lives for our families and communities today.

Now that’s provocative.

I need to be challenged more. I’m off to listen to some more Jay-Z…

Happy days


About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
This entry was posted in Lectionary, Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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