July 2021 CIA: Divinely Human, Humanely Divine
The July edition of our church newsletter, Concern in Action, can be read here and our letter from Pastor Shepherd is also posted below.
This summer, the lectionary schedule has lead us through the first few chapters of the Gospel of Mark. The shortest of the four Gospels, Mark is at once both the most accessible and at times strangest telling of the story of Jesus’s ministry.
We’ve heard stories of demons being cast out, of miraculous healings, of confrontations and run-ins with the powers-that-be, all told in a spare style that leaves much to the imagination. Mark’s Gospel makes for good reading because it allows our
imaginations to run a bit wild filling in the gaps—what was it like to be on one of the “other boats” in the storm with Jesus? What was the woman who touched Jesus’s cloak thinking when she did this? Why did Jesus’s hometown reject him? And what do all those parable really mean?
Mark is my favorite Gospel for a different reason though: it shows us Jesus at his most human, even as it vividly depicts a superhuman reality of supernatural forces at work in the world that Jesus (and Jesus alone) can contend with. These stories resonate with the old hymn that says “What a friend we have in Jesus—all
our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” In the Gospel, Jesus proves himself to be more than just an ordinary healer and run-of-the-mill prophet, but the very Son of God, which is something disciples (those who “follow” Christ) have been trying to wrap their minds and their hearts around for more than 2 millennia. We benefit from the wisdom of the past, the wealth of insight gathered over that span of time...but none of the theology or the wisdom of the ages matters much if we don’t recognize Jesus in the here and now—as a friend, a present comfort in times of trouble, and a joyful companion in times of celebration.
It feels strange not to comment on the state of the pandemic, or the ongoing way in which our community of faith is journeying together through this time. Some days it all still seems very front of mind; yet thanks to vaccinations and the low levels of transmission in our area, there are other days when things feel positively “normal” again. It is my hope and prayer that everyone in the congregation is continuing to do their part to love their neighbors and stay healthy—to keep in mind those who are still vulnerable to COVID, whether because of age or medical conditions. But it’s also worth noting how far we are from the stricken, painful peak of last July, when the whole world seemed to be flipped upside down.
For now, let us hold on with gratitude to the companionship of one another, and keep each other in our hearts in the days and weeks to come, as we all take our turns resting, renewing our spirits, and preparing to set out once again on that Gospel journey, following in the footsteps of Christ.
In Grace and Peace,