Monday, April 05, 2010

Mark's Ending

Monday, April 5, 2010 -- Monday in Easter Week

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 959)
Psalms 93, 98 (morning)       66 (evening)
Exodus 12:14-27
1 Corinthians 15:1-11  
Mark 16:1-8

Today's Morning Reflection is a bit late.  I did not turn on my alarm clock, and I slept about 12 hours.  It has been a wonderful Holy Week, and feels very good now to rest.

It seems appropriate somehow to read Mark's comparatively understated account of the resurrection.  Three of the women go to the tomb to finish the embalming work that had been cut short due to the sabbath.  They are worried about finding someone to help them move the stone which covers the entrance. 

When they arrive, the stone has been moved aside.  Inside there is a young man dressed in a white robe who tells them Jesus has been raised.  He tells them to "tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you."  The women leave with "terror and amazement."  The scene closes with these words:  "And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."  According to our best scholarship, this is the end of the Gospel of Mark. 

Later generations were dissatisfied with this ending, and added some material that seems obviously different from Mark's Gospel.  A few have suggested that John 21 might be the original ending, but that doesn't seem convincing to me.  I think this enigmatic conclusion fits the message that Mark gives us.

Throughout his Gospel, Mark has portrayed the disciples as being perplexed and confused by Jesus' ministry.  They never seem to understand.  They get distracted by the possibilities of glory and honor, and Jesus has to re-emphasize that his mission is to serve and focuses on the way of the cross as being the way of life.  This ending fits the spirit of the rest of Mark's Gospel.

I've long imagined that Mark was writing to a community that was threatened or undergoing some form of insecurity or maybe even persecution.  It is a community that knows the claims of resurrection, and they know the disciples to be the heroes of their past.  But now they are left to face fearful consequences of holding to their faith.  Mark writes to encourage them.  He depicts their heroes, the disciples, as fallible human beings, just like them.  The disciples did not have any special insight or boldness that Mark's congregation lacks.  They too faced confusion and threat.  Yet, we know that the disciples prevailed gloriously.  We can also face the threats of our generation as faithfully as they did.

Mark's Gospel places fear and doubt within the character of faith and faithfulness.  A good disciple is one who follows the way of the cross, willing and able to bear whatever threat or suffering may be theirs in their own generation, drawing inspiration from Jesus, and sustaining their perseverance just as the apostles did, through one's own confusion, doubt and fears.

Lowell
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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life

We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

3 Comments:

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Janet said...

Lowell,

Focus on Jesus. Alleluia! It feels great to shout that again.

Peace,
Janet

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

Focus on Jesus! And HOPE on Obama?

Im shouting about both. Only one is ignoring me.

Greg

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Hey Greg,

How about coffee this afternoon? Or maybe lunch Friday? Have you got an hour?

Lowell

 

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