- The Revd Camellia Flanagan
Mark the evangelist and martyr
St Mark Isaiah 62: 6-12 Psalm 8:1-9 1 Peter 5: 5b-14. Mark 16:1-8
X In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen
We learn life skills from circumstances. Here are some more gems about the life of Mark. Legend has it that he was present in the garden when Jesus was arrested before the crucifixion and was probably the nameless young man described in the Gospel of Mark who fled naked in panic leaving his clothing behind. With the eyes of hindsight, his life changed, and courage grew. We understand that his gospel was one of the earliest written, to present the person, work, and teachings of Jesus and in it, Mark shows us Jesus, healing, serving, sacrificing and saving. His gospel teaches us in the events it portrays, the journey of faith for us in our time, the hope of the future with God, the pathway of the life of the church and reveals for us the anticipation of God’s eternal reign. This, all the while with the mind of God, like Siri, giving us directions so that we come to understand their significance for the transformation of our own lives.
When we consider the current pandemic and untold suffering, we find that Mark’s Gospel is attuned to suffering and evil, but he sees them as fundamental and existential problems to human life, that demand resolution, nevertheless. Theologically this means “sin”, the destructive and self-destructive elements of human nature that leads us to selfishness, indifference, greed and violence. In the stories in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus responds to the needs of others immediately, through miracles of healing and forgiveness. He is not afraid of contact with sick and dying people
The second reading for today from the first letter of Peter sends greetings from Mark whom he refers to as his son, affectionately as one he spends time with for giving instruction. The letter is written to the Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered, and to Christians suffering everywhere. He wrote to comfort them with the hope of eternal life and to challenge them to continue living holy lives. Those who suffer for being Christians become partners with Christ in his suffering. As we suffer, can we remember that Christ is both our hope in the midst of suffering and our example of how to endure suffering faithfully. John Mark had learnt much from Peter and knew that Peter recognised Jesus as the Messiah.
There are many opportunities for worry, not only about health, politics, the world’s tragic situation, but we can also worry about ourselves, - our position and status, especially if we are now out of work. As important as our recognition in the world for our achievements is, Peter reminds us that God’s recognition counts more than human praise. God is able and willing to bless us according to his timing. Can we humbly obey God, regardless of present circumstances? In his good time either in this life or in the next, he will lift us up out of our troubles . It takes humility to recognise that God does care, and to admit our need to him and to let others share in God’s family help, to us. Sometimes we may think that struggles caused by our own foolishness are not God’s concern. But when we turn to God in faith and repentance, he will bear the weight even of those struggles. To give God our anxieties and struggles is a call for action - not to submit to circumstances and give up, but to submit to the Lord who controls all circumstances.
Peter reminds us that Lions will attack weak or straggling animals and choose victims who are alone or not alert. Peter warns us to watch out for pitfalls and things which may draw us away from God’s way of living when we are suffering, feeling alone, weak. helpless and cut off from other human support. If we are so focused on our troubles we may forget to watch for other dangers, so at times like this we need to seek people faithful to God for support so that we can keep our eyes on Christ. Sometimes in certain circumstances it seems as if trouble or pain will never end, but Peter gave the suffering Christians of the first century a wider perspective. In comparison with eternity their suffering would last only a little while.
Some of Peter’s readers would be strengthened and delivered in their own lifetimes. Others would be released from their suffering through death. All of God’s faithful followers are assured of an eternal life with Christ where there will be no suffering.
God is ever mindful of the suffering of his people and throughout life many small things happen to make life easier which we see with the eyes of hindsight. We feel the anguish of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome as they walk to the grave of Jesus. We experience their alarm as they find Jesus gone and a strange person there. In terror and amazement, we are told in Mark’s account of the resurrection morning, - they fled
Ah! But with the eyes of hindsight what joy they had! Amen.