Once upon a time, on a little farm, there lived a boy named Jack. He lived on the farm with his mother, and they were very excluded from the normal circles of economic activity. This cruel reality kept them in straits of direness, until one day Jack’s mother told him to take the family cow into town and sell it for as much as he could. NEVER MIND the thousands of gallons of milk they had stolen from her! NEVER MIND the house of pleasure their bovine animal companion had provided! And forget about the manure they had appropriated for their garden! She was now just another piece of property to them. Jack, who didn’t realize that non-human animals have as many rights as human animals –perhaps even more – did as his mother asked.
On his way to town, Jack met an old magic vegetarian who warned Jack of the dangers of eating beef and dairy products. “Oh, I’m not going to eat this cow,” said Jack “I’m going to take her into town and sell her.”
“But by doing that, you’ll just perpetuate the cultural mythos of beef, ignoring the negative impact of the cattle industry on our ecology and the health and social problems that arise from meat consumption. But you look too simple to be able to make these connections my boy. I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll offer a trade of your cow for these three magic beans, which have as much protein as that entire cow but none of the fat or sodium.”
Jack made the trade gladly and took the beans home to his mother. When he told her about the deal he had made, she grew very upset. She used to think her son was merely a conceptual rather than a linear thinker, but now she was sure that he was downright differently abled. She grabbed the three magic beans and thew them out of the window in disgust. Later that day she attended her first support group meeting with Mothers of Storybook Children…
Jack’s mother is upset because she had faith in her son to be able to take this cow, and get some money for it. She had a specific expectation, a reasonable assumption that old Bessie would be worth a few dollars, not a few beans. More importantly she was looking for an immediate response to an immediate problem, and this simple minded son of hers didn’t exactly get her what she wanted.
These last few weeks that we’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark, we keep hearing miracle stories. Demons are being cast out that had tormented individuals for years. A mother-in-law (!!!) is cured of her fever after her son-in-law (!!!!) requested that cure. A man suffering from leprosy is miraculously healed. So with all of these incredible things going on, Jesus has caused quite a buzz. People are seeking him out. Because, just like today, everyone has problems. Some more severe than others. But for each and everyone of them, their problem is especially real, especially burdensome, especially challenging to them.