Gospel of Mark, Guns, Lent

Places of honor (Mark 12:38-44)

Today we went to the State Capitol to be part of March for Our Lives. There were some youth speakers, many of them white. There were a number of adult speakers, who provided some diversity – a local Black poet, a Muslim woman in a hijab who works with victims, a Latinx professor who called attention to the history of gun violence protests and the important work of young People of Color that have been ignored by many. One of our Senators sent a representative, and a teacher spoke, and the president of the teachers’ union. LGBTQ+ people were represented by a school board member (and maybe by some of the youth, but that was not made explicit). There were many teachers in the crowd, a smattering of pussy hats, and among those I saw, some Black Lives Matter t-shirts.

Today’s rally here in Pennsylvania didn’t include the governor or any congressmen. We had a mayor from a small town who made gun violence a cause years ago, standing alongside high school juniors and a pair of 8th grade girls who led us in chants. “What do we need?” Change. “When do we need it?” Now.

One pastor spoke, a colleague in the UCC. I thought about what I might have said in his place. What an opportunity! There weren’t a lot of overtly religious signs among the mostly-white crowd. I have the same sense of a lost narrative that I had during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2014. There is a counter-cultural message available in the gospel, and it is unknown to many. The church’s cultural affiliation with the halls of power and the places of honor tell a story of secular approval that cloaks the real story.

Standing outside the Capitol with no official role to play at the rally, it was easy to imagine Jesus and his disciples at the Temple, off to the side, watching people come and go. Just as I watched a woman pass daffodils out to rally participants, he watched the widow putting her two coins in the offering. I wondered who had ordered the flowers, and how many they got, and what kind of sacrifice it might have been to order many dozens, or whether someone donated the flowers on their slender stalks. Jesus offered a word of warning to those who would take the generous gift of the widow.

This week a story appeared in a major paper about the leader of a network of churches who has been accused of misconduct. It struck me as I read a bit about him that one of the dangers for the church and church leaders when we over-identify with the culture is that our standards can become skewed. Are we forming disciples, or are we attracting numbers? Do we identify with Jesus’ servant-leadership, or do we become enamored of our own press? Can we stand to the side, or will we wrangle for the places of honor?

Lord, help me to know my right place. Amen.

A portion of the crowd at the March for Our Lives, via Prisma

I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent and using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I also sometimes refer to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.

You can find the full schedule here, including links to earlier posts.