I heard he'd died yesterday but sat with it awhile. The temptation to rush and post something like "breaking news" is not fitting the style of the man being remembered.
A few thoughts this morning as I reflect on him:
1. To my colleagues and friends, if you have to preface your acknowledgment of his death with how much you didn't agree with him, then own up that such an acknowledgment through this medium is more about your perceived need to cover your own backside than to earnestly pray God's peace to someone in their dying.
2. I met Marcus on a couple of occasions during what was a very regular stop at Calvary Episcopal's Lenten Speaker Series. The benefit of those brief encounters brought together with reading his words and observing through video his very professorial and deliberate approach to teaching provided a conduit through which I felt as if when I was reading him I was in his classroom.
3. The question of my believing what he wrote is irrelevant. I do know this. On several matters about the faith, about my faith, it was he (often in partnership with Dom Crossan) who gave language and form to what I long felt but had not words to express. Or at least they did it in such a way that I could hear it.
So when I preach repentance as announced in Gospel, among the other things ascribed to it's meaning, I hear "to go beyond the mind you have." The Church will never fulfill its truest call to bring everyone round the Table until it can do that. I can't be all I'm called to be until I do that, too.
Holy Week, sacrifice and atonement are the places where most he made his mark on me. At last, words that resonate in my spirit with the God who Is. Is life made sacred because it just is or by what one does with it?
4. Marcus' body of work is significant and it will endure. I am made better by his contribution to the conversation. I am challenged and confronted by questions he raises. And maybe that's the point. Lord knows we've got far too many talking heads content to cash in and validate what we already think, believe. But to those like Marcus who turn the prevailing view on its side for insight at a different angle, even and especially if what it reveals distrurbs as it enlightens, they are truly blessed to be a blessing.
Marcus would be quick to say "Life is short. And we haven't much time to gladden the hearts of those on the way with us...so be swift to love...make haste to be kind."
And if that's his last lesson to us, it may well be his best.