Saturday, April 25, 2009

Really, be honest. Ever read a Gospel?

The church calendar celebrates St. Mark, author of the shortest and probably earliest Gospel, on April 25th.

Mark's telling of the words and deeds of Jesus has had a big impact in a couple of the churches I've served. At one, it opened up the men of the church. After a short study of Mark, several admitted to really thinking about Jesus for the first time. Several stay-at-home dads began attending church with their wives and kids. New energy flowed into the congregation.

Here at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, this month saw the close of an 8-month study of Mark, conducted by small groups of church members meeting in homes. Already, there are deeper relationships, new ministries emerging, and profound hunger for more study.

Mark wrote for Christians under duress. A recent Chicago Tribune feature picked up on this, exploring the use of Mark as the Easter message in communities facing economic upheavals and other problems.

If you've never read a full account of Jesus' words and deeds, try out Mark. It is only 16 chapters, and moves briskly. You can read it in one sitting if you are motivated or if you are just trying to kill an evening.


The Archer of the Forest said...

I set out a copy of the gospel of Mark as one of the readings for the Vigil Watch after the Maundy Thursday service. I had more than one person tell me they enjoyed reading through it in the hour they had during the watch.

TLF+ said...

That is such a great tradition. Really took off at my last church... haven't introduced it here as yet. Were your folks already in the habit of keeping watch?

My last church kept a journal available and people could write in it during their hour if so moved. Some years produced some really amazing themes and insights.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Apparently it was done for many years, but they, for whatever reason, had not done it in a few years. We actually had about 2 or 3 people sign up who had not done it before.

This year, aside from the gospel of Mark, I set out several readings by Anglican authors: John Donne, the Keeping the Holy Hour devotion from the old St. Augustine prayerbook, the chapter where Aslan dies in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a chapter of a book by Desmond Tutu "On Stillness" which is really great.

Everyone really enjoyed the selections from what I could tell.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Now that I am thinking of it, I once saw it done at an Agape meal before the Maundy Thursday service, where if you sign up some readers for about 5 minute increments, Mark is read during the meal in Benedictine monastic style.

You can really read through in a dramatic reading in 30 minutes or so. It was really impressive. I've only seen that done once, have never gotten the chance to do it. I should have done it this year, but I just now remembered it.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for these great ideas!

I like the idea of an array of readings available for a vigil.

Maundy Thursday Agape is also a great setting for Jesus' "Farewell Discourses" from John (which are, after all, John's priority in relating the Last Supper).