Thursday, January 12, 2012

Meet Mark, This Year's Gospel

Our texts for this Sunday, January 15, are 1 Samuel 3:1-20, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, and Mark 1:9-13. The Old Testament readings can be found here; to read the verses from Mark, go here.

NOTE: During these 5 weeks of Epiphany when we are moving verse by verse through Mark's first chapter, I would encourage you to read the entire first chapter of Mark every week (linked above) sometime before coming to worship--straight through, just 45 short verses from start to finish. What sense of who Jesus is do they give you?

This blog (and our next few weeks in worship) will act as your very own introduction to Mark, the Gospel we will be reading for most of the coming year (that's right, friends--with the exception of a few weeks after Easter, we will be reading Mark more or less from now til Thanksgiving!).

What does this mean for you? Well, you will like Mark if...

1) You have a touch of ADD and/or like people who get to the point: Because Mark does, too. He often begins a story, then gets distracted and tells another story, then comes back to the original story. Mark is the shortest of the four gospels by far. He does not waste words, but tells many of the well-known stories of Jesus life with incredible succinctness. He only tells the stories that he wants us to know, and tells them in an almost Twitter-esque brevity.

2) You love action movies: Because Mark moves FAST. His favorite word is the word "immediately", which appears about 43 times in the Gospel--11 times in the first chapter alone. Especially in his first 10 chapters, Mark is booking it at a pretty fast tempo through the ministry of Jesus, and he doesn't like to waste time. This story is urgent.

3) You have a thing for mystery and/or think actions speak louder than words: In Mark's Gospel, the reader and Jesus know who Jesus is almost from the outset, but most of the characters in the story remain rather clueless. This is largely because of what has been called Mark's secrecy motif--Jesus is constantly telling people not to tell who he is. He wants to show this for himself with the life he lives.

4) You want to get a sense of who this Jesus guy is and what he's about: Mark wanted to paint a picture with quick, clear strokes of who Jesus is--Son of God, Messiah, one with great strength and authority yet who would suffer and die. This is the earliest written account (we believe) we have of Jesus' life, and as a result brings us close to the core of this figure who has changed the course of history. If you want to get a quick introduction to Jesus' ways, Mark is an excellent place to start.

As we start with Mark, we'll be spending the next month or so on the beginning of Jesus' ministry, moving almost verse by verse through chapter 1. In this chapter, Jesus appears, is baptized, is tempted, begins to teach, calls disciples, performs his first miracle, heals, prays, travels, and breaks all sorts of rules and conventions--all in the span of about 36 verses. This first chapter is a good place for us to dwell, for in the beginning of Jesus' ministry we learn a LOT about what his life is going to be about. There is no better place for us to start.

We begin this week with the first appearance of Jesus in this gospel: not in a manger, but in a river, where he suddenly appears to be baptized by John. Why do you think this is the first visual of Jesus that Mark gives us? What does it mean that this is how the story of Jesus in this Gospel begins--with Jesus joining the pilgrims at the Jordan, seeing the heavens turn open, and hearing a voice that had to both comfort and confuse?

Join us on Sunday as we begin our Markan journey by asking these questions together!

No comments: