Monday, February 18, 2019

Pursuing a verb form in Mark’s Gospel

Finding more good in the Good News.

I don't know exactly when this Aha! became a curiosity. I began to notice the present imperative verb form appearing in various places in the Gospels. The word listen in Mark, Chapter 4, when Jesus begins teaching with parables may have been the first. Listen is in the present imperative meaning to listen continuously in the present. Without being any authority I have the impression the Greek present imperative is without a duplicate in English. Call me an amateur with a great interest in how language functions in the communication process.

A slow dawning for a new way of thinking and believing was a slow process over five or six years as I read the daily office with their Scripture selections. I now had the  benefit of the HUB and their interlinear made this search more feasible. All the parts of speech were listed for each word. Before I had been using a bound volume of a New Testament Interlinear without any listing of the parts of speech. There I could only make a guess on the endings of words from my limited knowledge of Greek

My retirement project has been to construct my own interlinear. I am near completion with the four Gospels. Now I have the time to check out some other things.

This is what my Aha! insight has uncovered up to this point. First, Jesus is the one who seems to use the present imperative verb form. That raises a few questions on its own. When he starts his ministry in the early part of Mark's Gospel we find him saying, repent and believe. Both are in the present imperative, The verb form is saying this is not a one time happening in time, this is a process over time, on going. Repenting and believing as you go, daily in every now moment, is lived within this framework/context of continuous.

I am nw collecting these places in the Gospel where the verb form appears. I have a good start already. I will gradually post them here. I will stay with The Gospel of Mark now since that has been the main reading in the Daily Office.

If your as curious about this as I am or if you know others who have pursued this: send me a snail mail to

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 121 West 12 Street, Davenport, Iowa, USA. 52803

Mark’s Gospel, chapters 2 AND 10
Two healing stories, the paralytic and blind Bartimeus.
Here we have Rise and go both place, go, walk, 


Μαρκ 2:9 τι εστιν ευκοπωτερον ειπειν τω παραλυτικω αφεωνται 
σου αι αμαρτιαι η ειπειν εγειραι και αρον σου τον κραββατον 
και περιπατει Ä ? 

9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 

10:49 και στα ο ιησου ειπεν αυτον φωνηθηναι και φωνουσιν τον τυφλον λεγοντε αυτω θαρσει εγειραι φωνει σε Ä 
49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
10 ινα δε ειδητε οτι εξουσιαν εχει ο υιο του ανθρωπου αφιεναι επι τη γη αμαρτια λεγει τω παραλυτικω Ä 

10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 

11 σοι λεγω εγειραι και αρον τον κραββατον σου και υπαγε 
ει τον οικον σου Ä 

11 I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 

Rise is present imperative. It is one of five in Mark. Rise continuously.
Fourteen occurrences all together in the New Testament, five in Mark. 
Again, with one exception with the word rise, Jesus is the one speaking. It is as if healing is not is not a one time event within a person but an ongoing experience in the present which brings a transformation within as well. Life has a before and after the event and the after will be continuous as it is now lived from a different perspective. Another Greek word for time becomes relevant, kairos, when the time is ripe, ready, in the fullness of time, in contrast to chronic, where we get our word chronology. Each of these healing stories in Mark are a kairos moment.
Marlin Whitmer, BCC (Ret.)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bureaucracy is Everywhere

 I am selling a lake home where my first wife and I lived for 21 years before her death. Since then I have lived there most of the time but less for the last five years since I remarried and my new wife has a nice home in town. I kept the lake house for recreation and a big garden. But during the garden season this year I realized the driving was getting too tiresome. And with the kind of hot weather we had from time to time I wasn’t keeping up even though I had some help one morning a week. 

I contacted the realtor who sold us the property in 1990 to get the name of a new realtor. The previous realtor had retired. The new person had seventeen years of experience, even with property along a waterway. She immediately made suggestions, new carpet, new paint, and remove most of the furniture. People like space. We were into a fast pace which continued to the end of October when it went on the market.

Some major issues remained: Flood insurance and a new septic system. A survey was done and Fema was notified. They finally responded in our favor partly. Not all the property is in the flood plain. That makes a difference somehow. A contractor for a new septic system drew up the plans. I submitted them to the Lake Board President who sent a letter back indicating permission.

The winter weather slowed sales but by mid January we had a buyer. Closing was first schedule of February 8th. Questions about a loan moved the closing to the 25thof February. Then the week of the 2nd I received an email from the Board Secretary they had not received my detailed drawing of the septic system. The first was more of a sketch. I was under doctors care for a sinus infection so in no way could I respond. The realtor went to work. Friday of last week some of the board met with the contractor and all questions were answered. They didn’t need a detailed drawing. The President apologized for not making it clear about needing a second diagram.

We are now back on go with letters giving the okay. 

When I received the word for a second detailed drawing, never mentioned before, I send back an email which included this short paragraph.

“Thanks for your reply. This is a great example of a constraint. I could go into greater detail. It is all about bureaucracy. I read a book on the subject and the chapter on constraints was the best. So here we are dealing with a constraint that surfaces three months after the first letter. Not costly to you but we will see how much for me.”

The constraint has been satisfied. But I now have an up to date example of how bureaucracy is everywhere, don’t just criticize the government.


Monday, February 4, 2019

From Blind to Seeing

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, we have a healing of a blind man, but he only half sees at first. As a literary devise he will represent the disciples on the level of understanding, sunsets. They are hanging in there as disciples but they are blind to what is actually taking place. Peter becomes our leader of the half blind, not understanding, "hardness of heart".       

Now I want to introduce Otter Scharmer,  a professor of leadership and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has an article entitled:" uncovering the blind spot of leadership."

His opening remarks, "Why do our attempts to deal with the challenges of our time so often fail? The cause of our collective failure is that we are blind to the deeper dimension of leadership and transformational change."  Change requires a descent, so goes his Theory U, a big Capital U. on the downward side you have various states of blindness. Lets see if Peter fits as Jesus makes the descent on the way to the cross. 

Jesus big death preparation event is the Transfiguration. Luke's Gospel makes the clearest statement about this. Mark’s Gospel has Peter saying, ""Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified." Terrified, ekphobis in the Greek. We have the word phobic in English for fear. Peter has a phobic reaction on the spot, out of fear, literally.

What does Scharmer have to say about resistance in the descent. One form of behavior is called VOF, voices of fear.  Peter becomes typical then as well as folks today who expressing fear about changes.

Peter's blindness is not over. Earlier At Cesarea Philippi Jesus asks who do people say that I am . Peter has it half right. He half sees. Mark 8:31-38  “Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

Scharmer talks about voices of judgment. VOJ. Peter judges Jesus’ understanding of the Messiah. Peter is not ready for the way of the cross.

Peter’s blindness continues. He oscillates and boldly claims to be courageous. Mark 14 Peter said to Jesus, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." But he said vehemently, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And all of them said the same.

Scharmer talks about Voices of cynicism. VOC. Not an exact fit here. Peter is more arrogant. What does fit is Scharmer’s failure of will. Moving down the left side of the U is about opening up and dealing with the resistance of thought, VOJ, emotion, VOF, and will, VOC.” I’d say Mark’s Gospel anticipates Otto Scharmer rather well. Mark could have taught at MIT.
These examples from Mark’s Gospel and from Scharmer’s article are not the end of the story.  
Scharmer talks about leadership with a difference. He quotes, Bill O’Brien, who’d served as CEO of Hanover Insurance. He first asked, what is the most important learning experience in leading profound change, O’Brien responded, “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.”  Jesus talks about our interior life in Mark’s Gospel, “It is what comes out of a person that makes the difference.”
And the experience of the Risen Christ, without a shadow of doubt, changes the interior life of Peter. He isn’t ready to sing the Halleulia Chorus the first day, huddled with the rest in the upper room, but he is on this way. And the journey is told backwards in the Easter lectionary.  We are now getting earlier accounts of Peter. On Easter Sunday we went fast forward with Peter in Joppa about to have an experience that confronts him as a Jew and his rules for easting what is unclean. His inward change as the Holy Spirit is at work, brings a statement showing blindness overcome. He says to a room full of Gentiles, Not his everyday experience,  Acts 10:34-43 "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”   
We need to spend time with the Greek word Peter uses “I truly understand, I now see,”   katalambano  Lambano is the word for receive. He is receiving a new understanding, a new revelation of Christ at work.  Receive the Holy Spirit will be center stage again.
Jesus says Receive  labete, aroist imperative, a form of lambano meaning, continuously receive the Holy Spirit. Peter is on his way. And this is no one time event. This is a life time of maturation and transformation in the Spirit.
I incorporated katalambano in the Befriender training model where during our reflecting and debriefing times we would receive something new, some insight, some interpretation, some meaning, some consequence, some outcome as they like to say in hospital language. I trust the Holy Spirit to provide Aha! experiences. some with a little a and some with a big A . Aha! katalambano. 
I was a distance learning facilitator on the Healing Power of Story Listening for the Wayne Oates Institute. There health care provided receive CEU’s. At some time during the six weeks one or more of the participants would have an aha! experience. Seeing anew or being renewed in the discipline of listening. 
The Aha!s were not over for Peter. He and Paul still had to work things out in the council at Jerusalem as to what the Gentile mission meant. The same is true for us. The aha’s are not over for us. we don’t have it all worked out here at Trinity Cathedral or elsewhere. Like an early Greek Bishop said, we are in perpetual progress through labete, continuously receiving the Holy Spirit, in order for our blindness to be overcome. Then we too can say with Peter, katalambano. “I truly understand.” 

Marlin Whitmer

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A New Opportunity

A New Landing Site (Beach Head) Feb 1, 2019

Greetings All,

This article from the Quad City Times this week may not be all that impressive to some, but I became very excited. Follow me after you read the article.


In the late 80's we had a project at St. Luke's hospital called Umbrella for Caring. We arranged to follow patients form hospital to home with Befrienders from six chuches doing the follow up. The experience was written up and published in the Journal of Pastoral Care. I gave a talk at the College of Chaplains at the time. The Executive Director insisted it be published when he encountered some resistance.

I have scheduled a meeting with Dr. Jim Bang this coming week. I have no idea where our conversation will lead. I will share the three year study from the late 1980's. Could the project be renewed. A new ingredient would be parish nurses to compliment Befrienders.

If anyone is interested in follow up you can write to me, snail mail, I will give updates from time to time in the blog, even the death sentence if that is what happens. Before the death sentence I will add what I call footnotes that support relational communities, even liturgical communities, for a healthy community. Jesus continues to heal. "Brokenness is not the last word."

The Rev, Canon Marlin Whitmer,
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
121 West 12th Street
Davenport, Iowa. 22803

I have the wonderful title of being a Community Facilitator. Since I made it up I am avoiding certification at all costs. Meaning I am not spending a penny to be certified.