Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Urgent Message

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

(Mark 16:6-7 NRSV)

 

The Gospel of Mark is both the shortest and the earliest of the stories of the Life of Jesus in the Bible. It has often been referred to as an “extended passion narrative,” meaning that the author has devoted a good portion of the gospel to reflection on the events leading up to that first Easter. By contrast he seems to have very little to say about what happened after Jesus rose.

Matthew’s Gospel completes the story of Jesus’ earthly mission by sending out his disciples to carry on his work – to teach, to baptise and to make new disciples in every nation. And the Gospels of Luke and John both have considerable details of the risen Lord and his encounter with the disciples – Luke’s account continuing into the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Paul.

But Mark’s gospel leaves us in a strange place, and this is partly because we don’t know if verses 9 to 20 of the last chapter of the gospel were written by the author, or added later as a summary by someone else.

The reason we don’t know is that these 12 verses do not appear in some of the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel. They are completely missing. For some Biblical scholars, they have all the appearance of a summary added by someone else to tidy up Mark’s messy ending.

That’s why many translations of the Bible put those verses in brackets or as a footnote to the Gospel. We don’t know their provenance for certain; you must decide for yourself.

What we do know and what really matters is that the resurrection of Jesus is proclaimed without any ambiguity and uncertainly – Jesus is risen and that, given the somewhat terse writing style of the author, may be all he wants his readers to grasp.

Christ is risen, Mark tells us. Christ is risen, Matthew, Luke and John tell us. Christ is risen, proclaims Paul to all who will listen – and that is what really matters.

Two things follow from the acceptance of this truth. Firstly, we are directed to the identity of Jesus: The Messiah, the Son of God, the Word incarnate – the very presence of all that God is, in human form.

Secondly, we who call ourselves Christians are both challenged and commissioned. We are challenged to do our utmost to live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus – specifically to live lives of love for God and love for those around us. We are called to explore the scriptures to learn and discern God’s purposes for our lives, in Christ. And we are commissioned to share what we know with others, and to encourage, others by our best example, to see the importance of Christ for their lives, too.

To put it simply: Mark’s Gospel proclaims the risen Christ. His proclamation is urgent and brief with the clear intention to encourage others to do the same.

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Consumed

Are we really better off, Lord?

I mean, we have more than we can possibly need,

but we want more, and our consumption destroys your world.

And while we consume, a million babies die on a dollar a day.

 

Consumption is all, it seems.

We’re never satisfied;

and envy poisons our souls so that we consume each other:

the doctor who tries to heal us,

the police officer who protects us,

the employer, the banker, the politician, the celebrity, the worker . . . our neighbour.

We clothe ourselves so easily with the victim’s apparel,

the better to consume with pure hearts,

while the real victims wear the mantle of invisibility.

 

And still we’re not satisfied, so we fight:

we fight for land, we fight for supremacy, we fight for ideologies;

we fight to ignore the refugee

in case she comes with her children and consumes what we think is ours.

 

What we can’t consume we seek to control.

That which might serve to curb our rapacity is pushed aside.

Where once we would seek to protect the innocent in public places;

now from cinema to TV we consume our violence, sex and foul speech,

allowing our children to emulate us,

whilst your prayer is ridiculed, discarded or banned.

 

Your prayer,

which speaks of your holiness;

of your blessed kingdom of love, justice and peace;

of forgiveness;

of our need of your protection – if only from ourselves.

 

But then, you can’t consume a prayer, can you?

And there is a danger that it may make us think twice;

think about you;

so its best to ban it in public, in case it causes offence.

 

But let your prayer remind us of who we are,

and of who we might be.

Let it be a doorway into your realm.

Let it be a song of praise from Earth to Heaven.

Let it be a comfort when days are dark.

Let it speak volumes when all our words fail us.

Let it be a gift to remind us that all our consumption

will never satisfy our spiritual hunger or thirst:

 

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.


Give us today our daily bread.


Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.


Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Amen.