xbn .

Mark Davis

Essays

The Politics of Baptism Stories

Biblical stories about baptism are connected to, but also at odds with, historical theology about baptism as well as the current liturgical practices of baptism. Reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism together with contemporary theologies offers a glimpse of the radical solidarity of Jesus.

*This post originally appeared on the Politics of Scripture January 2, 2017.

The Politics of Re-membering—Matthew 26:17-30 (D. Mark Davis)

In celebrating the Eucharist, we are engaging in an act of remembering those who were remembering those who were remembering. To remember is to ‘re-member’, to re-attach ourselves to the great story of God’s deliverance.

The Politics of Scripturing—Matthew 5:21-37 (D. Mark Davis)

Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount unsettles many biblicist ways of understanding Scripture. It may even be better to move from speaking of ‘the Scriptures’ as a noun, to speaking of ‘Scripturing’ as a verb.

The Politics of Baptism Stories—Matthew 3:13-17 (D. Mark Davis)

Biblical stories about baptism are connected to, but also at odds with, historical theology about baptism as well as the current liturgical practices of baptism. Matthew’s account of Jesus’s baptism gives us a helpful window into the reality.

The Politics of Foolishness—Psalm 14 (D. Mark Davis)

Psalm 14:1, though popularly employed to dismiss non-theists as foolish, is principally targeted against practical atheism, against those who believe that justice is without force in the universe and that all that matters is power.

The Politics of Asking the Right Question—Luke 10:25-37 (D. Mark Davis)

In response to a question designed to test him, Jesus presents a lawyer with a series of questions in response, which evade his trap and undermine the lawyer’s attempts at self-vindication. Through his conversation, he reveals the importance of asking the right question.

The Politics of Noticing—Luke 7:11-17 (D. Mark Davis)

When a large crowd of admirers met a large crowd of mourners, Jesus noticed the widow, a political act of directing attention to one whose life was most imperiled. Followers of Christ would do well to do the same.

The Politics of the Spirit’s Presence—John 14:23-29 (Mark Davis)

The question of the status and authority of the church after Jesus’ bodily departure looms large over the Farewell Discourse, manifesting both the concerns of the disciples and concerns of a later Johannine community. On account of the Spirit’s presence, the church is empowered to speak with a fresh yet authoritative voice to new challenges.

The Politics of Reconciliation—John 20:19-31 (Mark Davis)

That Thomas’ absence when Jesus first appeared to the Twelve after his resurrection was due to his withdrawing from the other disciples following Christ’s crucifixion is an intriguing exegetical possibility. It also frames the events that follow in a manner that may be instructive for the Church in its witness to those who are doubting and agnostic.

The Politics of the Dangerous City—Luke 13:31-35 (Mark Davis)

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his trial, suffering, death, and resurrection, bring into full circle his journey to Jerusalem that was not shaped by Herod’s murderous threat but by his redemptive obedience to God’s will.

The Politics of Beholding—John 1:1-18 (Mark Davis)

To behold is to stand somewhere between the passiveness of being a pawn in the trajectory of fate and the activity of making the world ourselves. Beginning with the act of beholding grants us necessary perspective upon our political acts and identities.

The Politics of Waiting—Luke 21:25-36 (Mark Davis)

Jesus teaches his disciples the meaning of waiting in a faithful manner. Keeping watch for God’s work within the world requires avoidance of distraction and a desperate faithfulness.

The Politics of Chaos—Mark 4:35-41 (Mark Davis)

The storm at sea is one of the most potent experiences and images of chaos. Jesus’ miraculous calming of the storm is an image, not merely of his power with regard to nature, but also of his mastery over the chaotic political elements that threaten us.

The Politics of Location—John 17:6-19 (Mark Davis)

The term ‘cosmos’ is used in a number of different senses in Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Within the fluidity of Jesus’ employment of this term we find a multi-faceted characterization of the world that can inform our politics.

The Politics of Resurrection Hermeneutics—Luke 24:36-48 (Mark Davis)

The law is a dying and rising reality, not a dead letter etched in stone. Through the hermeneutics of resurrection words once consigned to the grave of the past burst with liberating and life-giving force upon an unsuspecting world.

The Politics of Reckoning—John 3:14-21 (Mark Davis)

Although it is typically read as a passage about individual salvation and enjoyment of the life hereafter, read more closely, John 3:14-21 profoundly demonstrates that the elevation of Jesus on the cross confronts us with our own rejection of God’s gracious provision, our stubborn refusal to accept God’s way, and the radical, communal reckoning that leads to the fullness of life.

The Politics of Bedazzlement—Mark 9:2-9 (Mark Davis)

In the narrative of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ journey to his cross in Jerusalem is interrupted by the incredible event of his Transfiguration. Peter’s rush to speech is characteristic of our frequent over-reliance upon words to process and respond to things that demand our silence and our wonder.

The Politics of Vision—John 1:43-51 (Mark Davis)

Jesus’ calling of Nathanael in John 1 illustrates the way in which God’s vision of us precedes our own. The primacy of God’s vision has implications for our politics and economics, unsettling our assumption that the world is measured and determined by our sight and valuation.

The Politics of Righteous Joseph—Matthew 1:18-25 (Mark Davis)

Righteous Joseph does not publicly shame his fiancée Mary, breaking with common practice in an honor and shame culture. The angel that appears to him calls him to take a further step, to assume the role of father to Mary’s curious child.

The Politics of the Talents—Matthew 25:14-30 (Mark Davis)

Although a superficial reading might suggest a straightforward interpretation of the Parable of the Talents, closer examination reveals troubling contradictions between this interpretation and the broader teaching of the gospel. Reading it as a descriptive parable of economic injustice provides us with a more satisfying, albeit grim, alternative interpretation.

The Politics of Impunity—2 Samuel 12:1-9 (Mark Davis)

King David’s actions in taking Bathsheba provide a shocking and illuminating case study in the behavior and psychology of impunity. The prophet Nathan’s employment of parabolic misdirection in his exposure of David’s sins suggests an effective manner in which such impunity can be confronted.

The Politics of Just Wages—Matthew 20:1-16 (Mark Davis)

In Jesus’ parable of the day laborers on the vineyard, we encounter two competing views of what constitutes just compensation, one determined by ‘fairness’ and the other by need. In its commitment to the human-centered “economics of need,” the Reign of God teaches us to value work—and the worker—in a new way.

The Politics of Doing Nothing—Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (Mark Davis)

In the sphere of political decision-making, ‘the grace of doing nothing’ is usually a losing proposition. However, the parable of the wheat and the weeds invites even the angriest reactionary to consider the complexity of wheat and weeds, good and bad, us and them, and the dangers involved in precipitous action.

The Politics of Religious Laws—Exodus 20:3-11 (Mark Davis)

The idea that the political aspects of the Ten Commandments are confined to the latter portion and that the beginning portion is only ‘religious’ in nature is unsustainable. The politics of the commands themselves as well as the politics of the conversations in which those commands are embedded continue to be instructive for faithful communities today.