The Rev'd Robert Warren.
My Old Testament professor at McGill used to break from the usual curriculum, once in a while, to lead a practical workshop on using the biblical texts in parish churches. One of his exercises was to ask each of us to try and find somebody or some group of people in a biblical story from the Old or New Testament with whom we identified.
The question was “Who are you in this story?”
The person I would be today in our story from Mark’s Gospel is different from who I would have been if asked the same question in 1979 or 1980. We were mostly young men in our early twenties enrolled in a program of study where, God willing, we would eventually begin ministries as young deacons (and subsequently priests) in towns or neighborhoods which were not the places of our birth. We hoped our ministries would be effective. We hoped that even our older supervisors would be suitably impressed. In Mark’s story Jesus begins his preaching ministry in the town of Capernaum where he has recently moved. His preaching is successful in a way which surprises the established religious hierarchy in that town. It would be a hard stretch, then, for us as young hopefuls not to identify with Jesus preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. That’s who we would have hoped to be in the story.
As I think back to that crowd of seminarians in Montreal I am keenly aware that many of them had a rough time of it in the following years. Quite a few are no longer active in the ministry of the Anglican Church. Even those of us who made it through the rough bits might have identified, at times, with the man possessed by evil spirits crying out to Jesus in the synagogue. That's who we'd have feared we were in the story.
Now - more than thirty years down the pipe - who do I identify with?
I'd like to put in a bid for the poor voiceless scribes mentioned in the passage. They have opened doors and planned programs and given counsel across the sundry thresholds of their parish. They (along with Mrs Scribe or Mrs Rabbi) will have instructed the young and comforted the old. As current Rabbi they might be rated better than the last incumbent but certainly not as good as old Rabbi Whosits who was in post a decade ago. Now there was a Rabbi! Thirty years on from their own days in Rabbinical College they wonder why it is that the potency and authority they thought they might exercise seems to have escaped them. Willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly they hand the pulpit over to Jesus. Midwives and catalysts, they open the door to grace - just a crack.
Jesus speaks to the assembled throng. A movement of the Kingdom arises.