Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Finishing The Story

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. … As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Mark 16: 1, 5-8 (NRSV)
Last month I attended Presbytery meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and its pastor Andy McDonald preached on the Gospel of Mark. It’s a short book: you can read it in an hour. The action moves quickly in Mark’s gospel, with a sense of urgency. There are numerous accounts of healing and the casting out of demons by the disciples as well as Jesus. The most notable aspect of the book of Mark, however, is its abrupt ending. The oldest versions of the text of this gospel close with the verses quoted above. Additional verses (9-20) were appended later, but they clearly don’t match the rest of the gospel in style.  Why the sudden ending? Did something happen to Mark before he completed his Gospel? Was a page of the original manuscript left in the copier? Pastor McDonald suggested that it is now up to us to finish this gospel, not with words, but by the way we live our lives. And the way to live our lives is to model our activities after those of Jesus and the disciples. What did they do in Mark’s gospel? They healed and the cast out demons.
Therefore, We should seek to heal: to heal families that have been torn apart by addiction or incarceration or separation, to heal a society polarized along ethnic, economic, and political lines, to heal a world separated into quarreling nations.
Demons? I used to think of demons as a quaint and primitive idea. Are there really demons possessing individuals? Yes! We know what demons we face today: the demons of racism and sexism, demons that convince men in entertainment, sports, business, and politics that they can exploit women and girls, demons that tell people that their religious beliefs compel them to oppress those who do not share those beliefs.
As the disciples learned, some demons are so powerful that prayer is required to exorcise them. (Maybe working together, too.)
Prayer: God give us the strength to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples.
Bill Wehrbein

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