Gospel: Mark 1:40-45.
The theme which strikes me in this reading is about the fame of Jesus – questions of who can or should be told about the healing, and the results of the news spreading, seem to be uppermost in this passage. The result presented here is not entirely positive; although it might be good that “people came to him from every quarter”, a position where you can “no longer go into a town openly” is presumably a problem even to people who like the hang out in the desert anyway.
Issues of fame are clearly present today for any number of people, but let’s stick with Jesus for the purposes of this blog post. I think that a lot of Christians – and I know that a lot of Quakers – find the issue of when to talk about Jesus and how to be a sometimes thorny one. If you have a traditional, set liturgy, that helps with the issue when you’re at church (although there’s still always some optional content – hymns to choose, that kind of thing – which can raise the same problems), but there’s also the issue of when to talk about what outside the context of worship. For Quakers, there’s an issue about what to say during worship, too – I have heard plenty of stories, usually told in a tone of horror, about Meetings which never/always have ministry about Jesus. (At present, the ‘never’ and the ‘always’ stories are running about even.)
Outside worship, there are plenty of examples of people who talk about Jesus more/less than we would prefer. (As far as I can tell, this is true whatever your preferred about of Jesus-talk happens to be – although if you’re reading this, I guess/hope your favoured level is at least ‘some’!) There’s also the matter of what is said. In this example from Mark, the healed leper is presumably sharing his own experience; in today’s world, although many people do share their first-hand religious experiences, there’s also a lot of talk about Jesus which draws on texts and traditions instead. These range from serious attempts to understand the texts we have (as in academic christology), through semi-serious discussions of issues raised (such as this blog) or retellings of the stories (many of the films, and even some of the musicals, might count in this category), right through to the huge range of cartoons which feature Jesus as a prop or a punchline.
Sometimes I can’t help wondering if we’d be better off for a bit less talk about Jesus!