Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Good News from the Gospel of Mark

from w
Peceli and I were privileged to hear a lecture yesterday (one quiet sit down in a hectic day as Peceli packed up to fly Air Pacific to Fiji) by Brendan Byrne, a Jesuit scholar, who was invited to Geelong East Uniting Church. The event was organised by the Presbytery and we had a delicious roast dinner afterwards. Brendan was an engaging speaker, using language without jargon, with points spelled out using a data projector, as he showed us that the Gospel of Mark is much more than a 'cinderella' book, much more than bare bones without flesh. Line by line he gave us possible meanings and in one hour 20 minutes we had only covered about two chapters! He gave printed handouts so Peceli reckons he has seven sermons-in-progress if he has to preach in Fiji in the next four weeks! During the presentation I kept thinking how relevant this all was to Fiji's situation and the Methodist Church there.

Here is some cut and paste about Brendan Byrne and his commentary on Mark’s Gospel.
Brendan Byrne’s A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel. (Liturgical Press, 2008. RRP $ 29.95)
A sample of his writing is on the web.
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat -

This Good News according to Mark is essentially a message of freedom - a freedom, however, that does "not come about without cost: a cost to Jesus, a cost to the Father, and a cost to those called to associate themselves with his life and mission." Mark holds out to us both the price and the promise of freedom.

And some bits from a book review:
Timely commentary on Mark’s Gospel
Published Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009, by Anglican Media

The invitation to place ourselves in the shoes of the disciples, who despite their failure of Jesus are extended an invitation to meet with him again in Galilee, provides a strong note of encouragement. It is the fallibility of Jesus’ disciples that make for a robust strand of goodnews to those who have tried to follow Jesus and feel that they failed. “As the disciples failed, we too fail – but that does not mean that Jesus ceases to be the Shepherd who will gather the scattered remnants of our loyalty and lead us to a new beginning in ‘Galilee’.”

The reflective conclusion of the commentary still leaves us a sizeable challenge – discerning the “demons” of our day - agents of control which oppose the rule of God or as Byrne puts it, “forces, frequently transpersonal and socioeconomic, that stunt human growth and freedom, alienating individuals from each other and from their own true humanity”. Byrne suggests that there are other commentators (such as Ched Myer who wrote the Markan commentary Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus in 1988) who have suggested whence lie the demons of their age, but that every generation and group must do this act of hermeneutics afresh as “sociopolitical conditions change and new challenges arise”.

Byrne believes that there is a particular relevance of Mark to the Western church increasingly conscious of its Post-Constantinian state. “We are now witnessing the end of the “Constantinian church” in which leaders were accorded honors and symbols of rank more reflective of worldly power than the values of Jesus, and where the institution itself was built into the fabric of society. The pain that goes along with the loss of status and honour is perhaps akin to that experienced by the disciples of Jesus as they struggled both to hear and to resist what he was saying. Like them, we are all on our way to Jerusalem with Jesus.”

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