19 March 2006

Marcus Borg: The Last Week

In the tradition of "the other Mike's"* fine series on Miroslav Volf's teachings at the Emergent Theological Conversation (#1, #2, #3, #4), I thought I'd blog some of my notes from Marcus Borg's engaging lecture at the National Cathedral last week, entitled "The Last Week". The lecture shares a title and subject with a book recently published by Borg and John Dominic Crossan, about the last week of the life of Jesus, with an emphasis on the account in the Gospel of Mark. If you'd like to actually watch the talk (highly recommended!), you can check it out here.

*(I know, I know: He's Mike; I'm the other Mike.) ;-)

Notes on The Last Week, a Lecture by Marcus Borg at the National Cathedral, Tuesday, 14 March, 2006
  • With few churchgoers able to attend Good Friday services any more, many churches have replaced the traditional Palm Sunday liturgy with one for "Passion Sunday" - essentially, the Good Friday liturgy moved five days earlier. Why? Otherwise, many would go from Palm Sunday straight to Easter - two triumphal liturgies in a row. "I wonder what the hell happened in between??"
  • In the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was both the center or worship for the Jewish people and the center of "native collaboration with the Imperial domination system of Rome." Those native collaborators were the Temple authorities.
  • Palm Sunday: Two processions. Imperial procession entering from the west to underscore Rome's domination on the occasion of the Passover holiday. Jesus' peasant procession entering from the east. This seems to have been deliberately planned by Jesus. Wealth/power/violence vs. justice/nonviolence/peace.
  • Monday: Jesus overturns money-changers' tables in the Temple. Not a cleansing of the money-changers - they were not gouging anyone. This was a symbolic, prophetic act - "My house is a house of prayer for all nations - you have made it into a den of robbers." Who has? The temple leaders, not the money-changers. If this had occurred in the Old Testament, we would certainly have looked for a deeper, prophetic meaning behind this outrageous act.
  • Tuesday: Longest day in Holy Week in Mark. Borg picked out three dialogues: 1) "By what authority do you do the things you do?" 2) Parable of the greedy tenants. 3) "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; unto God that which is God's." All three describe an escalating conflict and game of cat-and-mouse between the authorities (the "greedy tenants" and Jesus.
  • Wednesday: A woman anoints Jesus for burial, becoming the first to understand the necessity and significance of Jesus' impending Passion. Judas offers to betray Jesus.
  • Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper - a Passover meal, recalling the liberation of the Isrealites from Egypt's empire. Highlights the importance of a radically welcoming table fellowship for Jesus. Bread: the material basis of life. Not bread alone, but, yes, bread!
  • Good Friday: Crucifixion - a political form of execution. "This is what happens to those who defy the authority of empire." Christianity is the only world religion whose founder - as well as the vast majority of its early leaders - were executed by the established authorities. Good Friday is the domination system's "NO!" to Jesus.
  • Easter: God's "YES!" to Jesus. Note well: If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not!
  • Later, Christianity became a religion of afterlife and forgiveness, not life and liberation.
  • The word "passion" has a broader meaning than "suffering". Jesus was passionate about God and the kingdom of God - dream of God - justice, nonviolence, and peace. His Passion in the narrow sense flowed out of his passion in the broader sense.
  • Jerusalem was both the place of his death and resurrection and the place of his confrontation with the authorities.
  • Lent invites us both to personal transformation (Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ.") and to reflection on which of the two Palm Sunday processions we are a part of.
  • To "repent" means to go beyond the mind we currently have.
  • We are called to follow a crucified Lord - what does this mean?I
  • "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" Good question. Here's another one: "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your political Lord and Savior?"
  • Question from the audience: "What do you think was Jesus' intended outcome to his Holy Week actions?" Borg: Good question. This much is clear: he almost certainly intended to confront the authorities, and he certainly knew what that could mean for him.
  • Borg's co-author Crossan asks and answers: "Where did Jesus get his passion for justice?" "He walked out the door one morning in Nazareth and said, 'This sucks!'"
  • Question: "What should the church be about today?" Borg: two roles: to nourish and to challenge. Two central justice issues today: 1) economic injustice, and 2) resisting our country's use of its imperial power.
  • Two authentic Christian perspectives on war: pacifism and "just war". For "just war", among other things, two conditions must be met: the war must be in self-defense,and it must be a last resort. What if our country had applied those criteria in its recent past?
Pretty challenging stuff, no? Like I said, if you want the whole enchilada, you can get it here.


Mike Stavlund said...

Great stuff, Mike! Thanks for sharing.

Important question: who's got the cooler name? Volf, or Borg? Or Mike?

Your fan,
The Other Mike

Mike Croghan said...

I'm afraid Mike is a lame and common name, my friend. Perhaps in the future we should ask folks to refer to us as "Volf Stavlund" and "Borg Croghan".


Cori said...

When using predictive text on my cell phone, when I type 'Cori' the first word that appears is Borg. I never thought there was actually someone with that name!