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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Blogging towards Easter - Mary Magdalene, passion and a new politics

A somewhat delayed finishing of my blog towards Easter using Samuel Wells study Power and Passion: six characters in search of resurrection due to attendance at the National Folk Festival.

Mary Magdalene stands clearly at the end of our journey. Mark 14:1-11 with its account of Jesus' anointing  unites the twin themes of passion as voluntary suffering and as overwhelming love.  Mary here shows a passion which shows the intimacy of touch, a transformation of self that is extravagant and not bound by scarcity and expresses beauty. Jesus' passion and power here are intertwined with the poor with whom he is present in a way that they were never a 'they' but always an 'us'.

In Mark's account of the passion it is the women who are able to face the reality of the cross. what do the women do that the men cannot? simply that they follow Jesus. Wells observes that ... the debate in the following centuries would not have been on the question of whether women could lead God's people but about whether men could. (p.173)

Jesus according to Wells in closing the study invites a new kind of passion because he brings a new kind of power, the power of the resurrection.

No longer is passion simply an erotic or idealistic distraction from politics; no longer is it a cultivation of self or sentimentality in the face of the realities of sin and suffering.  In the light of the power of the resurrection, passion is now any and every intimation or reflection of the yearning love of God for his people and his longing to restore relationship with them, even if it means the cross. This passion is patient, because it waist as long as God does. Sometime is is painful ... It is tender in the way the anointing at Bethany was tender.It is persistent in the way that Mary Magdalene's vigil at cross and tomb was persistent. It is never ending as Mary Magdalene's search for Jesus ... is never ending. It is invariably in the home of the sick and in the company of the poor as we saw at Bethany.  And it is on a cosmic scale, as it consciously or unconsciously displays the fundamental pouring out of God's love and restoration of friendship. It is a passion as crazy as the crazy heart of God.
I call this "the politics of power and passion" because it highlights that the new power and the new passion have truly social significance. These are not simply personal things ... the old power assumed that certain things were given - most of all death - and that what mattered was who controlled the maximum of resources, especially those that were publically accountable ... and who enforced compliance via coercion to the point of death. Passion in this context is just window dressing - a distraction from the serious business of politics which is about negotiation and manipulation of power. But into this situation comes the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the overturning of the power of death.No longer can coercion to the point of death maintain a stranglehold on power; there is here a greater power. No longer can the distribution of scarce resources be the characteristic nature of politics. Politics becomes the reorientation of life according to the freedom made possible by the power of overcoming death and not just death but sin - through the power of forgiveness.  thus those aspects of society that had previously just been window dressing - lament in the face of death, bitterness and regret in the face of sin, in short passion - now become the key points of transformation, the nerve centres of the new politics. We still need laws and we still need taxes, but the control o9f these things is no longer the definition of politics; politics is the reordering of passion in line with a new order of power. Now in the resurrection of Jesus, we can see that every small gesture of reconciliation or care of the vulnerable is part of the way God is transforming the world. Power and passion come together at last. (pp.184-5)

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