On Sunday, September 9, 2018, St. Luke’s took some time to hear the entirety of the first chapter the gospel according to Mark. This lengthy reading was inspired, in part, by a book called Mark as Story which was groundbreaking and is still used as an introduction to Narrative Criticism for biblical scholars. It reminded, and continues to remind, scholars, laity, and clergy of the power of narrative and the book calls into question assumptions around what it means to approach a biblical text.
When I was in college, this book was part of the reason one of my assignments included reading the entirety of the Gospel of Mark in one sitting. (I didn’t actually read Mark as Story until grad school.) Regardless, reading the Gospel of Mark in one sitting actually wasn’t that difficult to do cuddled up on a couch at a local chocolate/coffee shop in Valparaiso with a large mug of cocoa. Until that moment I hadn’t realized that those who wrote biblical texts had things they were trying to say that were contained not only in the words of a pericope — the short sections we read on a normal Sunday — but also in the structure. It was amazing to me to find out that there was a climax to the Gospel of Mark and that it wasn’t the resurrection…but that’s another blog post entirely. To say the least, I was excited to hear that St. Luke’s was going to approach at least one Sunday in such a unique way.
Deaconess Claire Schoepp (she/her/hers),
Administrative Assistant at St. Luke’s
On Fall Kick Off Sunday, St. Luke’s broke up the forty-five verses with testimonies from various members of the congregation. We will only publish two of the six. Mark Wilhelm shared his story after verse 11:
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Own, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
A guiding principle of my life is that I cannot know a thing about God except what Jesus has shown us. Otherwise God is hidden and quite unknowable. This is part of what it means to have faith in Christ. We live by faith, not by certainty. I cannot with certainty know what God is up to, but by faith, I can trust that whatever God is up to in my life and this world will prove to be consistent with what Jesus said and did.
The principle that reliable knowledge of God is limited to what Jesus shared with us flies in the face of all the well-intended but bone-headed claims of many people about discovering God’s will or plan for their lives. There is no such plan for me—or you—to discover. The information is already there in what Jesus said about God and God’s will. The challenge is not knowing what God wants me—or you—to do; the challenge is living up to God’s expectations that we know about because of Christ.
And so, for me, the worship life of the church is central given the challenge that Jesus sets before me.
First, in worship, I am reminded who I am and that I’m freed to keep at trying to follow Jesus even though I often miss the mark. Through sharing with you the presence of Jesus Christ in Word and the sacrament, I can be confident of God’s acceptance of my efforts to meet the challenge of the Christian life. I can remember that the words we just heard read from Mark’s gospel, “You are my Own, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” apply to me—and you—as much as they do to Jesus because of our union with Christ.
Second, in worship, I am reoriented to live as God wishes. Reorienting, of course, implies the need for correction. Without shaming, worship reminds me to not only bask in God’s pleasure. I also gather in worship with you to correct—even reprimand—and reorient myself so that I may join you in more active and faithful living for the hopes and plans of God as disclosed through Jesus Christ.
Instead of foolishly wasting time and energy casting about to discern God’s plan for my life, in worship I remember and am reoriented to the plan already set before me—and you—through Christ.
Justin Perkins shared after a story about an exorcism which concluded like this:
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! This person commands event the unclean spirits, and they obey.” At once Jesus’s fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
A poem on occasion of the Occupy Palm Sunday march to fund a community mental health center in Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale.
How frail the branches, drenched in heavendew,
Held adrift in our palms, cries swaying the air,
Rocking together fronds like fissures
Unweaving insurrections of light.
Dry branches cut from trunk’s distant crown
We gather together
Lives comprehended by shadow,
Grievings of fallen stars,
Betrayals of thought,
Warped memories hewn in skeletal husks
No container to fill
What spills from fear-blushed thoughts.
And we, the lonely prophets of errant tongues;
The soul’s ventriloquists.
What divinity arrives beside the hull of despair?
What source gathers the wayfaring breeze beneath the raven’s wings,
Raises untamed desires alongside quiet streams?
Once, dawn poured through me like a clouded sieve,
And I, a body wrapped in sand, breaking stone instead of bread.
Yet I have learned to let words fall with the weight of tears,
To shake within the hidden chambers of the mind,
Rocking back the memory that once entombed history.
And so on this Sabbath that marks Christ’s walk toward death
We march, a priesthood bearing salvation’s echo outside the temple
For we will not let the powerful rest
When our unrest is greater.
We make way for the God
Of divergent authority
Who breaches monarchs from the chrysalis of suffering
Who speaks within our beating hearts,
Lifting angels from their ashen wings.