Last night was the second of our three evenings at church reflecting on the big themes in Mark’s Gospel. We spent two hours looking at Jesus’ relationship the establishment, the likes of the Temple authorities, the Pharisees, the Herodians and Romans, all of whom were threatened by his presence and ministry, and all of whom formed the coalition which gathered to ensure his execution at Easter.
Reading through Mark again, it’s striking how polemic Jesus’ actions are when facing up to the ‘powers that be.’ There’s an attack on the Pharisees’ ‘human tradition’ which concludes an incitement to the gathered crowd who are told that ‘nothing outside a person... can defile’ (Mk 7:15). There’s the turning over of tables in the temple and an attempt to shut down the buying and selling of goods in its precincts (Mk 11:16).
It’s troubling to compare the practices of Jesus with that of so many of our own churches, especially within our Baptist tradition, where we seem to have lost so much of the edge of our protesting, non-conforming heritage.
And it’s also interesting to think about the current debate on the redefinition of marriage which is causing so much angst within the evangelical community. Lots of churches, including our own, have offered members the opportunity to sign the Coalition for Marriage’s petition voicing concern about the government’s planned changes. But what are we actually doing when we sign a document like this? Are we taking a prophetic stand, asserting our obedience to God and not the state? Or are we asking the state to stay on our side, making sure the establishment rules are still on our terms? Are we trying to have our cake and eat it?