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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

Sacred Conversations


Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Mark 10:35-45

You know the bible has some pretty humorous lines – but you have to listen for them.

Here is one that makes me smile – Proverbs 31 vs 10 – A capable wife, who can find? That one always makes me chuckle.

Another one is what we just heard – God getting Job ready for the conversation of a lifetime – “Gird up your loins like a man!” Cause I got some stuff to say and it just might be a bumpy ride!

Sometimes when I’m down – and having a hard time with my own motivation – I call on this prompt for God to help me get going and get in gear – ok, Arianne gird up your loins like a man – and let’s get to it!

Here’s my point – there are funny – comical even moments in our scriptures. But – you have to listen for them. You have to listen to scripture like you listen to the characters of your favorite novels – or the players in a podcast. You have to imbue the text with humanity.

Because – part of being human – is being humorous.

And – more importantly – when you laugh or chuckle at something proclaimed in the gospel – or read from the lessons – it means you were really listening!

The disciples don’t listen in Mark – maybe it’s more evident here than in any other gospel. You segment this gospel into three chunks. First part – Jesus healing, going around casting out demons, ticking off the authorities because he’s making people whole – bringing them back to themselves – back into their communities. The disciples watch all of this and are amazed.

Second segment – the disciples and Jesus walking towards Jerusalem – where they ask question after question – and never seem to listen to the answer. Right before James and John ask for their promotion – Jesus told the disciples the same thing he has told them – as my mom would say – for the umpteenth time – the Son of Man is to be betrayed, he will suffer, die and rise again. And this time actually – Jesus even got more specific with the suffering saying he would be flogged, spit upon – intense stuff.

The disciples are thinking so much about themselves this whole time – I don’t think there is any room in there for them to really take in what Jesus is saying. Can you relate to that? You’re listening to someone – maybe even me right now – but you’ve got so much stuff going on in your head – either thinking about what you want to tell the person talking to you – or thinking about something else because you’re not really interested in what they’re saying.

Either way – you may hear them – but – you’re not listening – not just to what it is they are telling you – but how the person is telling you who they are. When we listen – we do not just hear information – we increase our capacity to see someone.

I would like to show you something. I made a copy of a print that I bought in Assisi in Italy –

Madonna of the sunsets, Pietro Lorenzetti painted this fresco as part of a series of the Passion between the years 1316–1319. Its in the lower church – the basilica of Francis in Assisi is basically two church one on top of the other.

This print is painting is gorgeous and I love the whole sunset story – but the reason I bought it is because it makes me laugh. Look at the way Mary and Baby Jesus are looking at each other in the picture….

Real people – having real conversations that is what I need from holy people in my life. That’s what all the art in that amazing space is meant to do – get you to listen to the stories of salvation history – of Jesus so that you can listen for them in your life. See the stories of St. Francis as a real person – just like you and me – who listened for God in creation – in conversation – in time set apart.

Later I researched this print a little bit – and guess what – a painting such as this one is called – sacre conversazione – holy, sacred conversation – and they were a style of altarpiece paintings in the Renaissance as there was a movement away from hierarchical depictions of Jesus and Mary and the saints on the altar.

In a sacred conversation altarpiece – Mary and baby Jesus (interesting right) are always at the center – and there are saints like St. Francis and John the Evangelist here on either side – equal to them – and clearly engaged in a conversation without words.

You and I – the viewer – we are meant to pray into this painting – what are they saying – the conversation you hear – if anything – is, can be, a powerful prayer – a way to invite some deep listening of what is on your own heart.

The third section of Mark’s gospel – is the passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ. I know on the copy you have the crucifixion is depicted underneath Mary and Jesus – alpha and omega – the two incarnational moments that changed everything in our tradition.

It’s post-resurrection that the disciples meet Jesus again for the first time – and really start listening. Start paying attention. Start making sense of what happened the first time. In the Acts of the Apostles – none of them talk about sitting on the right hand of God anymore.

They meet people and listen to them – they have dreams – and listen to them. They tell people – even ones who don’t want to listen – that God shows no partiality – that all is sacred – all is clean – and all God desires is to restore people and communities to wholeness.

There is time for us to seek God – Are you there God, its me Job? – and there is time for us to listen to God, for God – laughing is a sign of listening – what else? How are you listening for what is holy? What might you need to look at for awhile – to listen more deeply to your own heart?

As we prayed in our psalm - O Lord, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Hallelujah!

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