Our gospel lesson comes just after the story
of Jesus' first "sign": turning the gallons of water intended for
purification rites into the wine that reveals his glory. This week's
story features more contrast and conflict, this time centered on another
key Jewish institution: the temple.
It always takes time to get my bearings when I jump into a week's
lectionary texts, because I'm wading into a story that's already
underway. A week and a half into Lent, we're in Mark 8 and Jesus is well
into his ministry. He has fed the multitudes, twice. He has called and
sent out his 12 disciples. He has preached and healed, and he's
beginning to turn toward Jerusalem.
John Updike, who died January 27 at age 76, was one of the literary giants of our time. As I mentioned in my column in the February 10 issue (written before Updike’s death), I have read as much as I could of his work—ever since I saw him interviewed on television and heard him respond to a question about why religion and clergy appear so frequently in his writing.
In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).