They Called It The Streak!

 

st-markI am old enough to remember streaking back in the early1970s. I suppose it still happens today. But, with many people’s wardrobe choices it can be hard to tell if they are streaking or dressed! And, as the morals in my country have been constantly eroding, I am not sure there would be a public out cry if someone was found to be streaking. I am not even sure too many people would bother to sat, “Don’t look Ethel!” But, have treated streaking (in the 70s) as if it was something new; when, in fact, as Christians, we can at eh very least trace streaking back to the biblical days.

On 29 April we are set to celebrate Saint Mark.  I always read with amusement as a child Mark 14:51, “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Yet, as I studied the scripture more maturely the verse became less funny and more sorrowful. While St. Mark never says that he is that young man, tradition and scholarship have come to the conclusion that ‘young man’ is in fact the Gospel writer.

The episode adds nothing to the Jesus Story. Yet, for some reason the writer preserved the story. One reason many scholars believe the story was kept was that the young man who ran away naked was none other than Mark himself.

Mark sets out his Gospel with a thesis statement: The beginning of the good news [the gospel] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). And throughout his Gospel that thesis is asserted, but not by the people who Christ is trying to ‘win over.’ The Demons know who he is. A very shaky reply from Peter that could almost be phrased as a question as much as statement, says He’s the Messiah. And, of course, the final proclamation in Mark 15:39, “surely this man is the son of G(g)od,” leaves one to wonder just which god the centurion was referencing!

As we approach the feast day of St. Mark, 25 March, which Christ do we worship and proclaim? Do our own demons know more about the Christ than we do and keep us from worshipping? Or, are we like Peter and say his is the Messiah in more of a question form than a statement? Maybe, you proclaim that surely this man is the Son of God; but he is a God you’ve made him into as opposed to the God of the Bible, a thoroughly modern and updated god. Or even sadder, maybe you are willing to simply run away naked instead of being identified with the one true God.

St. Mark gave us sign post that the Christ was God’s Son, the true Messiah of Israel. As we remember St. Mark let us remember he told us about the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And he proclaimed throughout his book that “Surely this man must be the Son of God.” From the beginning to the end, and all points in the middle, Mark made the case that the Christ is our savior!

Until next time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Simply A Cross

crossOne of the most popular pieces of jewelry is a cross. Not just among the religious, mind you, but among society in general. They come form the plain and simply to the most diamond studded bling. Even among denominations that only a few years ago might have shunned the wearing of such a sacred symbol, crosses adorn the necks, the ears, and anywhere else they can find to put one—on jewelry that is! We glamorize the cross on everything but seem to somewhat gloss over it in our churches. Sure, we sing a few songs such as the ‘Old Rugged Cross,’ or, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ But for the most part we skip past the cross and get right to the resurrection.

            As we hold our blingy crosses in such high esteem, even being proud when we see others adorned with them, for the First Century Jew, or anyone else for that matter, the cross was not the pretty thing we have made it out to be. The cross was a scary symbol. It represented the most horrid way a man could die. As one walked down the first century road, they could see the sights of the dying hung on the cross. Maybe the stench of rotting flesh filled the air. Buzzards would have been circling, waiting for the precise, right moment to swoop down for the awaiting feast. Flies would been buzzing around and maggots filling the open wounds. A deterrent to crime. An example set for one not to rebel against the empire. Yes, the cross.

            Yet too often we want to, in our we want it right now mental, go straight on to the resurrection. But, it was the cross on that—what has come to be called Good Friday—afternoon that changed the world. For St. Paul, he maintained that when in Corinth he vowed to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. It was not the resurrection—Sunday morning—it was Friday afternoon. Sadly, we look closer at the resurrection and skim the wondrous cross that changed the creation that God had once called ‘good,’ but had strayed from God’s will and way.

            While we look at the crosses we have around our necks, pierced in our ears, tattooed on our bodies, we forget what the cross symbolized to the Jewish people. We tend to forget that it was the cross, the wondrous cross, that on a Friday afternoon, changed the world. It was because of the cross that the proclamation ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God,’ not the resurrection, though by the resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God by the Holy Spirit.

            The Cross changed the world. The Cross made way for us to walk on a new earth, in the future, while still living in the present. The Cross, the Wonderous, Old Rugged Cross, changed the world; the resurrection was the proof that it had happened.

 

Collect for Good Friday:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

 

Until next time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Decisions, Decisions, Decision

baptism1Did you ever have to make up your mind? Decisions surround us. All through the day we make tons of them; some we make unconsciously. According to UNC TV we make on the average 35,000 conscious decisions during a day. Psychology Today suggest that we make a decision every two seconds. I actually think a bit more than I every thought I did! And making  decision to do one thing is also a decision to not do something else. As Rolheiser put it, “Every choice is a thousand renunciations. To choose one thing is to turn one’s back on many others.”  Yet, with all of the decisions we make, they each carry consequences.

In his book, Decision Points, George W. Bush started out by addressing his alcohol problem. But he ends the chapter writing, “There’s no way to know where my life would have headed if I hadn’t made the decision to quit drinking. But I am certain that I would not be recording these thoughts as a former governor of Texas and president of the United States.”

As we are in the Season of Lent, a season where we reflect on our baptisms, or prepare to be baptized; we reflect on the greatest decision we can/will/have ever make (made)! It is the decision that changes our lives. As Pope John Paul II put it, “Baptism frees man from original sin and forgives his sins, saves him from slavery to evil and is a sign of his rebirth in the Holy Spirit, it imparts to him a new life.”

Before we made that decision to be baptized we were lost in sin. One of the most powerful autobiographies I have ever read, St. Patrick’s Confessio, started off liked this, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.” There is where we are without baptism: a sinner, the least of all believers. We are the least of all because we stand apart from God.

But, there was good news in the form of the Gospel of God, the Gospel about his Son. The ‘gospel,’ euangelion <Greek>, was a proclamation. Usually it meant a royal proclamation such as a royal birthday, or a new king had ascended to the throne. In the case of the gospel of God, the gospel about his Son, the proclamation was that something had happened on the cross that first Good Friday by six o’clock in the afternoon. And, as a result the world was now a different place. And as sinners, that new world is the place that our baptism offers to us. Three days later when Christ was resurrected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it gave us the proof of what happened on the cross that Friday afternoon. The world changed. That was the proclamation. For us the proclamation is that we can take part in that new world. And, it is through baptism that we take our place in that new world.

In our baptism we take part in the death of the Christ. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  As Paul continued, ‘our old self was crucified with Him so that our sinful body might be done away with” (v.6). Baptism changes “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner,” to, “My name is Patrick. I am a child of God.”

Baptism saved us (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism clothed us in Christ (Galatians 3:27). Baptism filled us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:28). Baptism allowed us to walk in a newness of Life (Romans 6:4). While there are many sacraments, baptism is THE sacrament. For without it it is impossible to partake in any other sacrament.

Lent is a time to reflect back on our baptism. And while we may make 35,000 decisions a day, while we may make a decision every two seconds, and while with each decision we make there is a renunciation of a thousand other possible decisions, every decision we make pales in comparison of that one decision we made to be baptized. While Lent is a good time to reflect on that decision, it should also be remembered with every other decision of the year because “By Baptism we are made flesh of the Crucified” (St. Leo). As St. Maximilian Kolbe put it, “The soul is regenerated in the sacred waters of baptism and thus becomes God’s child.” Decisions come and go. But one decision, the decision to be baptized, should transform our lives like no other.

 

Until Next Time May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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