Beginning this Sunday, January 1 and through Easter morning, I will be walking sequentially through the Gospel of Mark in our Sunday morning worship. Some of my upcoming posts will be on the passages in Mark I will not be preaching on. You can hear the sermons I do preach on through the church's website. I will also still post traces of God's grace that I notice within my life. I hope these in between passages along with the sermons will help open you to the mystery and power of Mark's story telling.
Click here to read Mark 1:21-45
Jesus begins his ministry in the wilderness through baptism and prayer. It is Mark's nod to Exodus where the Jewish people wandered for forty long years. Out of the wilderness, Jesus gathers and attracts a community of people around him. We often marvel at the willingness of the disciples to leave a job in order to follow him. And yet, in Jesus' day to be invited to follow a teacher or a rabbi was like getting into an esteemed college. It was a huge honor to be asked to be a disciple. And while their were sacrifices, in Mark's gospel we read that there were still connections with family (see 1:29-31).
What sticks out for me in verses 21-45 are the vivid word choices Mark employs. He uses words like 'astonished' (22); 'cried out' (24); 'rebuked' (25); amazed (27); 'fame' (28); and my favorite - Simon and the others 'hunted' (36) for Jesus.
It is odd language. It is evocative and emotional. And not exactly the sort of words we usually associate with the gospels.
Mark uses words like begging, kneeling, moved with compassion (which literally means to 'have your bowels moved), and sternly ordering.
And because Mark uses an economy of words, you center in on this strong words that awaken a strong reaction.
While it is interesting to contemplate why Mark used these active, emotional, strong words.
What sticks with me more is this...
When was the last time you had your faith stirred?
When was the last time you were astounded or cried out or felt your whole self moved deeply or even were bend on finding the sacred?
I grew up in a part of the Protestant faith that is self described as 'heady'. We analyze and hypothesize and intellectualize. I often have felt like our deepest goal is to come up with a sound, rational argument for faith.
Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy thinking. But living in my head can cut me off from emotions and the rest of my body. I believe when God created us in God's image God did so with the prayer that we would be thinking and feeling and living full human embodied beings. God created us whole-ly (and holy). That means if we live too long in our minds or hearts or physical needs/wants, we become disconnected from the other parts of ourselves that are important.
What I love about Mark is that you feel his passion for telling the story about Jesus jump off the page. I image Mark (whoever that was) feverishly writing, unable to do anything else until he got this deeply felt confession off his chest. He invites you into that same feeling.
So, when was the last time your faith was deeply stirred or you felt so compelled to respond to the traces of God's grace in your life?
I hope you will ponder that question as we approach a new year and new beginning. I pray you will sense God's presence within your life in a real way. May the God of active verbs and who loves us fully surround you and sustain you throughout 2012.