Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mark the Evangelist and Jesus the Rebel

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 Today we are celebrating Mark the evangelist, the one believed to be the first of the gospel writers.  I love all the gospels for different reasons.  My love of Mark's gospel has nothing to do with its short length (which seems to be the only thing most priests use as a selling point for reading it from start to finish).  Instead, it's the portrayal of Jesus in Mark's telling of the story.  Mark's Jesus is a man of action.   Mark's Jesus is constantly on the move and does not suffer fools.  Mark's Jesus is a rebel, but unlike James Dean, he is a rebel with a cause: to get everyone back in line with God's program of unconditional love. 

My vision of Mark's Jesus is the one with his jaw set toward Jerusalem, his shirt sleeves of his tunic rolled up, and some hefty Doc Marten-like sandals.  This Jesus is ready to rumble, and you can either follow... or get out of his way.  

Who is this Mark of the Gospels?  Well, it's hard to know.  There is some speculation that he is the man named John Mark in the Gospels, and that he is the man in Mark's gospel who the Romans tried to seize during the arrest of Jesus, but only managed to grab the man's loin cloth from his body, forcing him to runaway naked.  Scholars think this is an odd detail to include, unless it's the author reporting what had happened to him during that height of tension in the passion story.

This morning, as I listened to our assigned reading from Ecclesiasticus, I was reminded of what else makes Mark's gospel such a living testament for me.

My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
   prepare yourself for testing.
 Set your heart right and be steadfast,
   and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.

To be a Christian is inherently countercultural and unpopular.  After all, Jesus' mission was to get people to love more:  both God and each other.  In our own world today, such a message would be scoffed at as ridiculous.   And, given that LGBT people are persecuted on the grounds of how and who we love, when we are expressing love in a queer Christian context... whoa, Nellie!  How appropriate, then, to be reminded in this bit of wisdom literature that when we become part of Christ and serve the purpose of Love, we will be tested and face calamity.

Accept whatever befalls you,
   and in times of humiliation be patient.
 For gold is tested in the fire,
   and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.
 Trust in him, and he will help you;
   make your ways straight, and hope in him.   

Again, this is more balm to the aching soul of the one who is courageous enough, or foolish enough, to live in Love.  I know this to be true in my own life.  I have dealt with the prejudice of those who either don't think I belong in the church because I'm queer or (worse) partnered and queer, or don't think I make for a very good queer because I'm Christian.   And yet, I go on and refuse to apologize for either of my identities.  As a result, it has forced some to moderate their distrust of me.  So much so that some were shocked when I told them about the hateful commentary that has taken over the post of my video "Queer vs. Christian."   

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
   do not stray, or else you may fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust in him,
   and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
   for lasting joy and mercy.

Remembering that "fear" does not mean, "quaking in my boots" but rather "in awe" of God, all these statements feel true to me.   And I know that on some days I do better at remembering all this than on others.  Lately, I have felt oddly separated and apart from God.  Or, more accurately, I have encountered static interference that has made it hard for me to hear God amidst the ever-present and increasing white noise.   This passage seemed to be coming at me through a bullhorn so as not to be missed.  It has not been.  These are the words upon which I will meditate this evening as I go to sleep.

Consider the generations of old and see:
   has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?
Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken?
   Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected?    
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
   he forgives sins and saves in time of distress. 

Yes.  Yes.  And Yes to this.  Is it any wonder that I was definitive in my response to the familiar, "The Word of the Lord" with a "Thanks be to God!!"?

A perfect, no-nonsense, and direct statement from Hebrew Scripture to reflect the day set aside in remembrance of the no-nonsense and direct evangelist!   

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarlin said...

I like Jesus the rebel. And it behoves us as followers to stand firm for his message of love.