Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Jenny Castro is the coordinator for the Women in Leadership Project of Mennonite Church USA.
Reflections on Mark 11:27-33.
On Thursday night, it snowed in San Antonio, Texas.
It never snows.
My girls and I were out shopping (of all things). They had a choir concert on Friday and needed appropriate footwear. We were coming out of the mall and saw a crowd of people, phones pointed at the sky, smiling and laughing. I led my girls quickly through the crowd not paying much mind.
“It never snows in San Antonio,” I said matter-of-factly as they stopped to gaze at the sky with everyone else. “It’s just ice.”
I pulled them along quickly. The truth was I was freezing cold because the thin layer of protection I’d brought along, a simple fleece, was not cutting it – I hadn’t anticipated the temps to drop so quickly.
As we left the parking lot the girls’ eyes were glued on the sky.
“It is snow!” Mireya shouted.
“I can’t believe it’s snowing,” Frida beamed.
And as we made our way home, I conceded, “Yes, girls, I think you’re right. That looks like snow.” Feathery flakes floated down on my windshield, and I too was caught up in the contagious wonder.
The whole way home the girls giggled excitedly, laughed, screamed and repeated, “It’s really snowing!” Over and over again.
The car had not even stopped moving in our driveway when they hopped out and began frolicking in our winter wonderland. They made snow angels, had snowball fights, built a snowman, froze their fingers off … It was magical and momentous. I stood on the porch watching them. They needed baths, there was homework to do, dinner and all the rest. But I wanted to give them this — the space to bask in a miracle, the freedom to fully experience this gift.
I was content to watch them. There is nothing compared to the delight and awe of children — squeals and screams, smiles and wide eyes, belly laughs and clapping hands. They played for over an hour (keep in mind we’re Texans and have no real cold-weather gear). When they were nearly too frozen to move, we came inside and ate, drank hot cocoa and snuggled up to read stories together — all were satisfied.
As I put Mireya, my youngest, to bed, a moment of panic overcame her.
“Mom, I didn’t do my homework,” she worried.
“I’ll write a note to your teacher,” I said, “I’ll tell her that I decided playing in the snow tonight was more important than homework.”
“You can’t do that,” she exclaimed. “You’re not the teacher!”
As she said that I couldn’t help but smile. I thought of today’s passage in Mark 11. The chief priests questioning Jesus, “Who are you to do these things?” they ask. “By what authority?” Leading up to their interrogation, Jesus has driven out the vendors and money changers from the temple. He is making decisions and assuming roles the “authorities” are not comfortable with. They think he’s overstepping.
“Just who do you think you are?” they must have wondered. “What business is it of yours what goes down in the temple?”
Jesus’ teaching and his actions didn’t jibe with the systems the chief priests and elders have established — systems that exploit and neglect the poor and the marginalized, systems that value piety over active love and care for others. In fact in his public ministry, Jesus actively disrupts those systems. And they don’t like it. Their line of questioning in this passage feels eerily familiar to me.
“Where does your authority come from?” they ask.
Jesus doesn’t have time to justify himself to them. He is too busy kicking over tables and cursing fig trees that don’t bear fruit. Jesus understands that systems only work when they’re based in love — of God and others. He doesn’t do rules for rule’s sake, and we can’t either.
I was part of a conversation recently where someone in the group asked another, “What would it mean for me to be a part of creating a space where you feel whole?” That question has remained with me — days later. What would it cost me to live like that? What would I have to change?
Jesus did that. He routinely created spaces where people felt seen, complete, their full selves, and they basked in his presence, in his miracles, in his wisdom. He introduced them to a new way of being, a new way of seeing themselves and the world around them.
Jesus didn’t waste his time with the interrogators. In fact, he dismissed them with a witty, “I’m not going to tell you,” and went about his business, his call.
I pray this Adevnt we’d sense urgency in our pursuit of love and justice and wholeness for all people. I pray that we’d actively seek opportunities to live into this way of being.
Keep watch; opportunities come and go fast — just like snow in San Antonio.
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