Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Double dog dare me...

Having seen a running commercial for the Walmart Savings Catcher app, I decided to download it,  even though some of the reviews were ... harsh.  I already have an account for, so I signed in using the app and scanned my grocery receipt.  It took four days (not three) to process, but I received $5.25 on an eCard!  The premise is that if you shop at Walmart instead of sale-shopping elsewhere, Walmart will compare advertised sales in your local for the items that you bought and credit you the difference.  For example, the app told me it was scanning from 49 different advertisements in my area.

I received an email notification about the eCard, activated it, and saved it to my account for good measure.  However, using it was easy peasy.  I printed it and then scanned the barcode at the register when checking out!  I don't know why it got harsh reviews.  Figuring out exactly how to scan the receipt is a bit tricky, but I just kept moving my phone closer and further and side to side until the scan captured.  I found greater success on the three receipts I scanned with that square code thingy than the bar code.  Took but a few seconds for each receipt.  I scanned the receipt for when I went back for the proper sort of sweet and condensed milk.  And I scanned my receipt for today, when I fetched milk because somehow I am already almost out.

[Silly Myrtle for thinking two gallons would be enough between times of fetching prescriptions!]

Since I was in the area, I returned the more expensive probiotics from Target that I had bought when Walmart was out.  I returned them because when I went back to the store for the sweet and condensed milk, I found the Walmart probiotics shelf restocked.  Between the eCard and the probiotics switch, I got $10.08 back from my month's shopping trip.  Today, I bought three gallons of milk and some grapes and ended up only adding $2.70 to my month's grocery total by leveraging the rebate eCard and the return funds.  In my opinion, that app is a blessing.  I figured that there won't be price differences in milk and grapes, but I am looking forward to the savings I will "catch" on my next month's grocery shopping trip.

Come to think of it, when I was getting the proper sweet and condensed milk, I noticed that my receipt had a different price for the blueberries.  When I pointed that out to the clerk, she had a manager come look at the price on the display and the price on my receipt dated the day before.  They refunded me the $1.50, plus $1 extra for my inconvenience.  So, really, you could say that my grocery bill has only been added to by $0.20.

I had a half gallon of milk left this afternoon, but decided to go out today as opposed to tomorrow, because we have two more dog days of summer on our forecast.  Today is the coolest of the three.  I had to nap afterwards, because I still am so incredibly exhausted all the time.  And I'm still sore.  And I've forgotten how painful carpet burns can be, especially on an elbow (though the swelling there has gone down).

This evening, aside from helping someone choose a floor tile, I have been resting and reading.
Reading Mark.
And thinking.

Mark 10 has four questions: of divorce, of salvation, of suffering, and of fundamental need.  I have been lingering over the second two more than I would have thought.  In part, it is because of the history embedded into the commentary ... the story.

Mark 10:32 is the first open indication that Jesus and the disciples are heading for Jerusalem.  It is a poignant snapshot.  Jesus is leading, which is probably the norm since he is a peripatetic rabbi.  The disciples are "astonished."  If we review all they have experienced in the last four or five chapters, this becomes clear.  Their world is being turned upside down.  Jesus has spoken repeatedly of his death and resurrection.  Mark has made clear that they do not understand.  Given their confusion, it is probably that they have no idea what waits for them in Jerusalem.  Those who follow, we are told, are "afraid."  It is a mixed crowd with mixed emotions making its way to the holy city.  Along the way they would be joined by other Passover pilgrims and eventually blend into the river of souls making their way up to celebrate God's provision of the Passover lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of the people. (emphasis mine)

I know that the crucifixion happened over Passover, but I am not sure I ever connected Passover with the forgiveness of sins.  By that I mean, Passover was celebrating something that happened back then now now.  Just as the mainline perspective of salvation I learned was something that happened then on the cross, not necessarily now.  Yet, as I learned in the Christian Book of Concord (and the Psalter) that we are always in need of saving from our sins, just as we are always in need of forgiveness.  So, the dolt in me, is thinking ... Well, no wonder Jesus died for our sins on Passover.

When I have heard about Jesus heading to Jerusalem, the imagery ... the story of it ... was sort of a joyous, triumphant if you will, even if it was a humble entry.  I didn't think about throng of people, "the river of souls," pouring into the city.  Hoards of people is always chaotic.  I think about the flashes of memory ... though it is more feeling than actual memory ... of the one time I was in such a mass of folk.  I saved for years and took my best friend with me to Italy.  My one and only real vacation as an adult.  We went to the Vatican museum and saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  In both places, we moved in a flow of others, rather than had control of own direction.  There were so many people talking and gesturing, so many people having their own experience.  It was more than the deafening cacophony of it all ... it was the enormity of the mass of humanity all together.  It's presence pressing in on all sides, against all senses.

And there you have Jesus, knowing that those whom He has been teaching for three years, and has now thrice told of His impending death, have no blooming clue as to what is about to happen.   They are still thinking about their image of a Messiah, the glory sure to come.  They have no idea that the glory is the glory of the cross.  I mean, in verses 33-34, Jesus paints this specific picture of His impending death and the immediate response of two of the disciples (vs 35-37) is Hey, Jesus, can we be your two top guys in glory?  (sit at your right and left hand in glory).

But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you're asking.  Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"

"We are able," they told Him.

Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.  But to sit at My right or left is not Mind to give; intend it is for those it has been prepare for."  When the other disciples heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John.

Micheal Card notes that in Jesus value system, glory is the result of suffering.  He already knows who will be at his right and left hand at Calgary.

How supremely sad it must have been sometimes to know all that Jesus knew.  These two brothers would be the first and the last to die for his sake.  So he is forced to agree with them.  But Jesus will clam in no authority that does not belong to him.  And so he pushes their question aside.

Jesus knew.  He knew and yet He also knew that they simply didn't understand.  When He agreed they would share His cup and baptism, their minds were still on glory, not on martyrdom.  And so when the other disciples took umbrage over the matter, Jesus used it as a teachable moment (I couldn't help myself there), tell them that this wasn't a time for dissension, but of pulling together.  More caddywhompus, too.  First Jesus had told them to be like children, now He was telling them to be like slaves.  As leaders, as rulers, serve others.

The last bit of Mark 10, Michael Card posits as a question of fundamental need.  It is the last healing that Jesus does, once more a healing by the spoken word.  It is also a healing that fits with the repeated theme in Mark of being blind and deaf, of not being able to see or hear, clearly, the message Jesus had come to bring.  This healing is different, in that the person is named.

When Bartimaeus (Son of Thimaeus) heard that Jesus of Nazarene was passing by, he called out.  And his cry was "Have mercy on me, Son of David." As par for the course, the tendency of those around Jesus was to shush those crying to to Him.  But Jesus heard.  He heard and stopped and called out to Bartimaeus.  Jesus asked him what he wanted:  to see.  And so Bartimaeus was healed by faith.

Michael Card points out that Mark noted that Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak to follow Jesus.  The cloak was most likely his means of begging, of collecting coins.  He literally gave up everything he had to follow Jesus, unlike the rich young man who asked of salvation.  And he was the one person to call Jesus by His personal name.

Son of David.
Have mercy.
Upon me.

You have this question about divorce, which is a severing of a relationship.  Then, you have this question about salvation, wherein the answer is not about what man does but what God does.  Next is this question of glory, which is really a question of suffering.  And at the end you have a question of what, in the end, really matters:  mercy.  All of the questions, also, on some level have to do with faith.

My friend Mary has been trying to help me with the difficult and confusing questions plaguing me, which my mind and wounds and years of false teaching make even more difficult and confusing to plow through.  But Mary is plucky and has perseverance.  She, being a genuine Gospel Giver, is trying to find the Myrtle Speak that will break through my own blindness and deafness ... or rather ... the words that will help me understand the Word.  Better yet, she is trying to help me with the story I need to understand the Gospel.

Instead of going over faith (What does it mean to believe?  What does it mean to trust?) for the dozenth time with me, Mary took a different tack.  She talked about faithfulness, but without any nonsense about sanctification or holiness or fruit assessment.

I took notes this time!

Faith is a relational term. Faithfulness between man and wife is about marriage. Faithfulness between employer and employee about the contract. Faithfulness between God and man is about the covenant.

What does every good little evangelical know about covenants?  That God is the one who keeps them!  The only covenant I can remember the specifics of as far as the work and sign is that of God not flooding the earth again.  God makes the promise.  God is the one to keep the promise.  And God makes the sign.  There was absolutely no work or commitment on Noah's part in order for the covenant to be fulfilled.

Of course, Mary followed through with a basic thought:  Knowing that faithfulness between God and man is about the convenient, Jesus, being that covenant, is here to reminded us of what He does and is doing and will do for us rather than to asks us what we are doing for Him.  So, all the talk about the faithfulness of a Christian is really talk about Jesus, about how the Triune God works in the life of a Christian.

What pops into my mind, then, is:  Of course the Israelites were a stiff-necked people; they were sinners!

Up until now, I have been astounded at the commentary, at having the Gospel presented as all about Jesus, the work He was doing, His ministry, His life, His death.  The whole purpose of the story is that Jesus came to bring Himself to us as a gift.

But I have not read on, read further.  You see, I am afraid.  Folk I know can get all gooey and gushy about the Passion of Christ.  They tell the story with tears in their eyes, voice a trembling.  What if ... what if I don't have that response???

It's one thing to be all caddywhompus, it's another thing to be dead inside.  Am I disassociating from the spiritual fear I have or am I just hard hearted.  Am I Saul and Pharaoh??

Hence, I have been too chicken to read past Mark 10, even though I am just about dying to see how Michael Card's commentary ends.  I hinted to Mary she should just double dog dare me to finish the commentary, since girding my loins doesn't seem likely, but who in the world can ignore a double dog dare?  [What Southerner would be able to resist a double dog dare?]  But she hasn't yet noticed that plea buried deep within one of my emails.

I have, however, in pondering the first ten chapters of the Gospel of Mark, thought a whole lot about a praise song from my evangelical days that really isn't as bad as one might think.

Open my eyes, Lord.
I want to see Jesus.
To reach out and touch Him.
And say that I love Him.
Open my ears, Lord.
And help me to listen.
Open my eyes Lord.
I want to see Jesus.

A simple song, in a minor chord.  Sung plaintively and passionately and, as I have long thought, all about man and being faithful to Jesus. I mean, look at all those darned personal pronouns!

But if I make this one change, and you think about the Gospel of Mark, is the song really about man and his faithfulness??

Open my eyes, Lord.
I want to see Jesus.
To reach out and touch Him.
And ask Him for mercy.
Open my ears, Lord.
And help me to listen.
Open my eyes Lord.
I want to see Jesus.

I am grateful to Michael Card for penning a commentary that helped me to see, in at least the first 10 chapters, that the Gospel of Mark is about Jesus, not about me.  And I remain stilled, deep inside, over the profundity of the act of the bleeding woman reaching out to touch Jesus.  Years of suffering. Years of being cut off from community and synagogue.  Years of longing for mercy.  Risking everything, risking even the cleanness of the Son of Man, in order to finally receive mercy.

That one line in the praise song above has fundamentally changed for me:  to reach out and touch Him.  Plus, despite all those personal pronouns, the doer of the work is God, not man.  Hmmm...  You cannot even take issue with the fact that it seems as if the singer is demanding that God do something because the longest psalm of the Psalter is chock full of demands for God, including asking Him to "open my eyes, that I might behold wonderful things from Thy Law" (the Word).  The "Word" is mentioned 46 times, "statutes" 24 times, and "law" 27 times.  "Servant" is mentioned 16 times.  "Keep" is mentioned 23 times.  "Revive" is mentioned 11.  "Save" is mentioned 6 times.  "Answer" is mentioned 5 times.  "Establish" is mentioned 4 times.  As for pronouns, "Thy" is mentioned a staggering 216 times and "I" is mentioned 84 times.  Finally, the psalm is chock full of the same sentence structure as the praise song:  and imperative sentence with the understood you as the subject.

[I wonder, do other ex-evangelicals find that those darned praise songs linger about the mind no matter how much you don't wish them to do so?]

I have heard Lutherans poke fun at this praise song. I have done so myself.  The simplest jab is to say:  Dude, take a look up at the alter and you'll see Jesus!  Given for you.  Shed for you.  His very body and His very blood.  Yet how many times, in those first ten chapters, does Jesus bemoan the fact that folk cannot see or hear?  How many times, in those first ten chapters, does Jesus admonish those around him to see and to listen?  How many healings, in those first ten chapters, have to do with hearing and with seeing?  If you think about the brevity of the Gospel of Mark and then start doing the math on seeing and hearing, suddenly this praise song is not off the mark at all ... except for that one line I polished up a bit with the pure doctrine.

Think about the final teaching Jesus gave His disciples before entering Jerusalem to die.  Don't be like the Gentile leaders, lording their power over others.  Be like a slave, serving others.  Hmmm ... maybe this praise song isn't so bad, either:

Make me a servant
Humble and weak
Lord let me serve 
Those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant today.

If we, as a Church, really were more focused on serving others than measuring their fruitification factor (their faithfulness to God), life on this side of the vale of tears would be a bit easier, more bearable.  This praise song really isn't a poor way to start the day in prayer via song.  It really isn't that bad of a song to have stuck in your head, eh?

[Am I practicing revisionist history on those praise songs or merely reinterpretation?]

Anyway, even though I am fearful of reading the rest of the commentary on Mark, I am already wondering which one I should start next?  Should I read Matthew or Luke, which I have heard are similar to Mark?  Or should I read John, which I have heard is so very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke?


Becky said...

I double dog dare you . . .

Maybe even triple dog dare you.

I hear you're really concerned with what you will feel. I am thinking focus on what Jesus has done and not so much on how you feel about it. As you like to say, I think that is the ex-evangelical in you. (If I don't have the right feelings and emotional response, I'm not a good Christian.)

Becky said...

I wish one could edit one's comment. My suggestion about your what if I don't have that response, in no way invalidates your feelings about it.