“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”
There’s an almost-comedic tension running through this first half of the Gospel of Mark, and it’s set up in the reading we heard tonight. Jesus tells us plainly: he came out to “proclaim the message,” to preach and teach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. But Mark’s Gospel doesn’t have time for long, flowing speeches: the story we’re given is one of action, signs, miracles, healings. Jesus moves immediately from scene to scene, from Synagogue to home to countryside, from Galilee to Judea to surrounding Gentile territory and back to Judea—with some silent nights to pray to the Father and catch his breath in the Spirit. Maybe he wants to stop and preach, and in the other Gospel accounts we get to hear what he has to say, but in Mark it seems like all he does is miraculously transform creation, and then move on.
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
I’m not an optimist by nature, which is all the more reason for me to intentionally look for the good in every situation. And I don’t believe God willed this pandemic into being, but I still think it’s helpful to ask why God allowed it, what God is doing with it and despite it. After all, we can only offer God what we have on-hand, and trust Him to make something of it even when we have no clue how or if that’s even possible. So what is God calling us to offer—who is God calling us to be, as we embark on this phase of the journey as it finds us in the year 2021?
“In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.”
I speak to you in the name of Christ, the Word made Flesh. Amen
You may have noticed that the Christian Tradition has always had a complicated relationship with the End of Time. Most of the New Testament was written with the view that God’s culmination of history was just around the corner, a perspective that changed dramatically as the centuries wore on and Roman Europe became Medieval Christendom. In times of prosperity, we prefer to emphasize the stability of the here-and-now. We exaggerate Scripture’s promises of blessing to kings and priests, throne and temple, and downplay the impending judgement and consummation of the created order.
“Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!”
I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Life has always involved struggle, on a personal and societal scale. From the struggle of the exiles in Babylon addressed by Jeremiah, to the struggle of Black and Indigenous lives here in North America, from the everyday stresses of parenting, to the challenges of staying connected in the middle of a global pandemic. We can wonder if we’ll actually make it through, wonder where our hope is to be found, be it personally or as a society. The stark Christian answer, in fact, is that on ourown we aren’t up to the challenge, can’t hope to make it through.
It feels strange, even disingenuous, to reflect on Christ the Good Shepherd at a time like this. When we feel locked up in our pens just as the pastures outside are turning fresh and green again. By now, many of us are past tired of screens, masks and gloves, zoom calls and uncertain futures. For some of us, tensions in our homes and families that had been managed are now threatening to boil over. And just as the winter of frost and snow is giving way to the springtime of rain and breeze, and then the summer of sunshine and opportunity, we’re still cooped up inside. Where are these beds of green pastures that David so famously sings about?
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Why is this night different from all other nights?
On all other nights, we eat leavened and unleavened bread. Why on this night do we only eat unleavened bread?
Every year growing up, I would ask these questions at our annual Passover Seder. It was the most important night in our family’s year, and it began one of the most important parts of the Passover ritual. The questions would spark an extended retelling of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt—our people’sexodus from slavery—by God’s “mighty hand and outstretched arm.” This retelling would include the account of the first Passover from our first reading this evening.