Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bullfighting, business and Bible study


Martin and Teddy are taking a break in the studio. Martin is talking about business. It’s like bull fighting, he says. When the bull is charging straight ahead, he feels in control, indestructible. He is! But if you get him spinning around, he gets all confused. Then you draw him in real close to you, and you take the estoque and you put it in and there! you have him. 

I say, Martin, I think you just told me how you negotiate. 

He says, NO, no, I don’t negotiate....Teddy on the other hand, he’s a natural...

That’s right, Teddy agrees, I am. 

I take a break to go home before Bible Study. Tonight we’re still in the Mark 6. I go back and say that when the crowds back home were criticizing him, not only did they question his paternity, but they are accusing Jesus of abandoning his mother economically. As for the mission of the Twelve, it’s like a guerrilla group establishing  safe houses. Except, that as they gain welcome, they are to stay. And they are never to commandeer food or anything from anyone.  

The John the Baptist/Herod story seems to come out of nowhere. Who does Herod think Jesus is? John the Baptist come again. That is, his movement kept going by Jesus.

Josephus, Jewish historian of the  time,  has Herod kill John because he’s a threat. Mark is more complex. John speaks out against Herod’s marriage to Herodias, who was his brother’s wife. Bur he keeps John around, protects him. It’s Herodias who has the most to lose, which Teddy picks up immediately. 

It’s a birthday party. John R says this is why Jehovah’s witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays. (Bad things can happen?) Who is the crowd? His soldiers, the bureaucrats and leading businessmen. The holy trinity of power and privilege. 

So Salome dances. Herod makes a drunken promise. She asks for John’s head. And even though it grieves him, Herod has it done. As Luisa says, to some, people are expendable.  

Aubrey Beardsley's Salome with John's head

I mention Oscar Wilde’s play where Salome is attracted to John and seeks to have him beheaded when he spurns her. And Aubrey Beardsley’s illustration for Wilde. (I once encountered a woman bar tender in New Orleans who had the whole Beardsley illustration tattooed down her arm. She was impressed that I could identify it.) And Richard Strauss’ opera of  Wilde’s play. (Hearing my then friend Lauren Flanigan sing Salome’s aria to John’s head with the San Francisco Symphony Orchsetra remains  one of the most astounding performances I’ve ever heard. Chills down the spine. Literally.) And now Salome is a regular character on the HBO vampire series True Blood. She has staying power. 

Then we go to Mark’s version of the feeding of the 5000. (Did they come out to protect him, assuming he was taking John’s place?) Here the disciples set the story into motion. Jesus says, You feed them. They say, you want us to spend two hundred denarii for bread? He tactfully does not ask them where they got the money from. He does ask the to see what they have.  Just five loaves and two fishes. (No boy vendor here.) And he divides the people up, starts blessing and distributing  and there’s more than enough. 

He assessed the problem. Took inventory of available resources. Organized the people.The miracle was one of distribution, not production. We have enough.There are enough resources in the world to feed everyone.  It’s a matter of will. 

Teddy recalls the early days of Zucotti Park. There was always enough food. I remember working at Ground Zero after 9-11. How on the first Sunday after our church made 1500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How did we do that? Where did all the bread, pb and j come from? How some of us cut onions at Boule for the gourmet meals they prepared. Our night serving meals at St. Paul's chapel at Ground Zero, The guys who drive up from Louisiana with a truck load of jambalaya. Which we served all night while they played cajun music.

For the first time, we see that the John story is not a random insertion. We see the careful, intentional literary craft of Mark’s work. The John story is, as John R says, a foreshadowing. It’s a warning to the disciples of where their mission could lead. The feeding of the 5000 is the repudiation of Herod’s world of domination and power and privilege. Of military and money. It’s a new kind of community, a new way of being. An ethic of sharing abundance, not hoarding in scarcity. It all fits together seamlessly.

John R says he gets the sharing. It’s forgiveness that is hard. 

A new guy, Jonah, (though some people call me Shiloh) participated after we found him on the table meditating and doing yoga. We’ll see what his story is.

(Bible Study informed by Ched Meyer, Binding the Strongman)

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