A Conversation with the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1
Late Sunday night (early Monday morning) I woke up from a sound sleep to the thought, “Something is wrong. Really wrong.” You know that heart racing, sit up in bed, startled from a sound sleep moment that you’re literally shaken from a sound sleep? At first, I thought, “Sheesh. What was I dreaming about?”
But it wasn’t a dream.
Trying to find proof that it wasn’t a dream, I went to the windows and peered out. Just so you know, without my glasses on I can’t see 12 inches past my nose. I didn’t bother to put on my glasses. The area surrounding me was dark with the exception of street lights. No sirens. No commotion. There was no evidence anything was wrong.
But something was wrong. There was an uneasiness in my soul. It was that weird feeling you get when something is wrong but you don’t know what is wrong. I peered at my phone to notice the time: 1:10 a.m.
I picked up my phone as if it was an antidote to my restlessness.
Nothing. Nothing on my phone but MLB season-ending news.
I went back to bed, listening as I always do (a very bad habit) to a podcast that captured my attention more than it lulled me back to sleep.
My soul was restless and my mind was racing.
Somewhere in the middle of a podcast, I dozed off to sleep. Finally.
When I woke up Monday morning, my routine unfolded as normal. I ate breakfast, started reading the Gospel of Mark, and showered to prepare for the day. I read a little of the book Finish, seeking inspiration to get a project I am working on closer to completion.
I’ve tried repeatedly in recent weeks to not to look at my phone as soon as I wake up. Today was a good day. I was walking out the door before I looked at my phone.
“2 people dead. 24 injured in Las Vegas.”
Damn it. Not again.
“One suspect is down.”
“At least 20 dead, 100 injured.”
“At least 50 people killed, over 200 injured.”
“…more than 400 injured.”
The litany of death and injury seemed endless.
Interrupted By Messengers
My mind jumped immediately back to where my day had started, in Mark:
“The good news of Jesus Christ, God’s son…
I’m sending my messenger before you….
He will prepare your way…
A voice shouting in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” -Mark 1:1-4
Learning 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, it became the worst mass shooting in our country. Only sixteen months earlier that title was branded on another mass shooting in our country – a list that has grown far too long.
“I want to know where is the ‘Good News’ today.”
My heart aches.
I could feel my soul reeling.
My Mom’s words echoed in my mind, “If each person has 40 people who love them, how many lives have been shattered today?”
Too many, Mom. Too many.
The math is staggering.
One is too many.
“When will it stop? It has to stop,” I thought to myself.
Mark wasn’t going to leave me alone today. The words echoed louder. “I’m sending my messenger ahead of you.”
Really? “What’s the message being shared today?” I asked Mark.
Who’s sending and who is delivering the message?
No. The media. Social Media.
No, those are NOT the messengers.
The first responders are the messengers today. “Look for the people doing good.” Thanks, Mr. Rogers. We need that reminder. But…really? Do their messages of love, their acts of heroism, their efforts have to be put on display in this magnitude?
The Wrong Question
The question was not, “Who are the messengers?” The question is, “What is the message?”
“Change your heart and life.”
Thanks, Mark. Yes, we’re now on a first name basis… I don’t think that’s the essential message needed in this moment. People are suffering. We’ll get to the root of their suffering in a bit. But, there’s more to the message.
“You are loved. You are forgiven.”
A message parents, siblings, friends, classmates, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, co-workers, can no longer share.
“He will prepare your way.”
Then prepare already. Cause, Jesus, we need you and your message.
“A voice shouting in the wilderness…”
I’m the one now shouting, Mark. I’m getting impatient here. Look around THIS wilderness. Today it’s Las Vegas. Two years ago it was Sandy Hook. We still haven’t changed. It’s out of control. Unpredictable, catastrophic violence. Can’t YOU hear the shouting?
“Get ready. The Lord is coming…”
OH don’t give me that “end times” stuff. Now is not the moment to start preaching at me.
Prepare already. Shout already. Get the message out. This day has come again and again, over and over. Too many times.
I left Mark standing alone somewhere between my front door and my car. I left him standing on the sidewalk in the wilderness of this world.
Waking Up – Again
Mark, it’s just Day 2. My heart is still weary from yesterday.
Come in from the sidewalk, Mark. Let’s talk.
“You are my beloved.”
So we’re striking a different tone today, Mark?
“Yes. This wilderness you’re living in needs to hear this message today: You are my beloved.”
And then I woke up – again.
Can you imagine what Jesus must have experienced the moment he heard those words?
I don’t know about you, brothers and sisters, but I’m grateful for the chance to wake up again today. Because these four words need to be heard, shared, lived, and expressed:
You are my beloved.
Yesterday may have been for shouting, preparing, and wandering in the wilderness. Today is the day to hear, live, and embrace what it means to be the beloved.
Dear followers of Jesus,
Yes, I’m including myself.
At our baptism, we committed to a life-changing, Spirit-filled way of life. If you didn’t make that commitment, someone made it on your behalf, promising to help you live it. It doesn’t matter if you spoke it or if it was spoken for you. By water and the Spirit, God claimed you as one of the family, saying to you, “You are my beloved.”
But what about the turning in a new direction, life change, and forgiveness?
…Yes, we all fall short. That’s needed, too.
Jesus isn’t looking for a perfect life. He’s looking for messengers to carry the good news of God’s love. Yes, that will include a changed heart and a new beginning. It will mean forgiveness.
Mark, just one more thing…all my feeble heart can muster is, “Lord in your mercy…”
“Hear our prayer,” Mark whispered.
Yes, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Then give us the strength to live our prayers.
I am reminded, 1000 times over I am reminded, the message came to me in the middle of the night, it lives with me as one of the baptized, and it moves through me because of the Spirit.
The good news of God’s love is the message.
Just one more thing…
Who needs the reminder today, “You are my beloved”? Maybe it is you. It could be the person you left standing on the sidewalk in the wilderness of this world needs the reminder, too. Maybe the real question is, “Who doesn’t need to be reminded today, “You are my beloved”?
Yours In Christ,