Sentimental Pilgrimage

There are a few things that I am sentimental about, that tug at the strings of my heart every time that I see, or even think about them — a house on the corner of N. 38th and L in Fort Smith, the old building on Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith where the church of Christ once met, a little house on Baggett street in Springdale, Hulett Hall on the campus of York College, a couple of churches in Alabama and one in Texas, a few things that belonged to my parents, and same items that remind me of when our children were small.  Most of those place are not because of the buildings, or the value of the items; but because of the memories of the people that go with them.  Some of those places I have not seen in years ( have not been back to York College, since the fall of 1971).  There are some of those places that I need to go soon, because there are people that I care about that are aging (as I am) and may not be in this life much longer.

Those places that I would like to make a pilgrimage to — York College (some of my classmates are now president, faculty, and staff); Rogersville, Alabama (where I did my first full time local work); and Winters, Texas (where I grew the most as a minister).  I plan on being in Winters, one Wednesday in September (2016), while at the Abilene lectures; but I don’t know if and when I will ever make the other two (have made it to Rogersville, twice, since this was originally written).

But, you know, if I never get to make those other trips, it will be alright.  I was reminded this morning in my reading, that I am on a pilgrimage that is far more important.

Psalm 84:5 (CSB), Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

I understand that this passage is talking about the Jews, who are in captivity and desire to “pilgrimage” back to the city of Jerusalem.  That they want to go back to the city where God dwelt among His people, and see if they can find the joy and happiness that they once had.  WE are on a “pilgrimage” through this life, to a place that is prepared for the people of God; a heavenly home in the presence of our God.

Hebrews 11:13-14, 16 (CSB), These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance,greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. … But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Let’s all be sure that our path on this pilgrimage is sure.  That we find our strength for the journey in the Lord.  That we set or hearts to seek those things that are above.  That we long to live forever in the presence of our God.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, July 22, 2016; and it has been updated and edited for this site.  It is being posted here as a continuing part of our “Psalms on Saturday” series.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you in your walk with the Lord.  It is being posted on Friday night, because tomorrow starts out busy early in the morning, and will be most of the day; so to be sure that it got posted, we did it tonight.  Bill)

 

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“Have You Numbered Your Days”

Getting older affects all of us differently.  There are those that when they turn 30, feel as if their youth is gone — and it is all downhill from there.  Some really struggle with 40; and I think that the term “middle-age crazy” came from those who act like they are twenty when they turn 40.  Then, there are those that want to run and hide when they turn 50.

Some of you have heard me say, that 30, 40, 50; none of those really bothered me.  BUT, 60 reached up and slapped me in the face!  Something that I had known, intellectually, for a long time; became very real to me when I turned 60.  I have a whole lot less time in front of me, than I have behind me.  The really scary part of that statement is, that what’s behind me went really quick!

The psalmist says, Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years.  Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10, CSB)

I will be 68 in November, and the realization of age and life, are constantly right in front of me.  So much I want to do, so many things that I would like to accomplish — for the Lord, and His church; and the days are short, and getting shorter!  I recognize that I have wasted a lot of time in the past.  I can’t go back and change that, but I can do better in the future.

The psalmist goes on to say, Teach us to number our days carefully, so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (Psalm 90:12, CSB).  I don’t think that he is saying to keep a numerical record of all the days I have left.  What I believe he is saying, is to recognize that physical life will not continue endlessly, so be sure to take advantage of the days that you do have.

Help me, Father, to take advantage of the days that are remaining, that will recognize each one of them as a blessing from You.  Help me to be a blessing to every individual that You put in front of me every day.  Help me to be a blessing for the church where You have placed me, that we may share the story of Jesus to the world.  Help me to be a better husband, father, grandfather, brother, preacher, and friend.  Help me, Father, to “number my days.”!  Amen.

(This was first posted on Facebook on July 25, 2016.  It has been edited and updated, and included as one of our “Psalms for Saturday” post.  It is my prayer that it is a blessing to every one that reads it.  Bill)

 

 

“What God Can Do, If We Let Him”

There are times when you read Scripture, and your heart soars as you read about the greatness and majesty of the God that we serve.  There are other times, when you are filled with love and gratitude; as you read about the grace, love, and forgiveness that the Father has for us through Jesus.  Then there are those times, when tears fill your eyes, and your heart breaks; as you realize your sin — and the failure to be what God wants you to be.

That last emotion is the one that I felt this morning, more than the others, as I read Psalms 78-81. The psalmist (Asaph), writing after the destruction of Jerusalem (Psalm 79:1), reviews the history of the Jewish people — and how often they failed God.  He goes all the way back to when they were in the land of Egypt, and the mighty works that God demonstrated to lead them out of slavery.  How sad it was that they forgot what He had done, and complained and murmured about everything.  There is one verse that just reverberates sadness — How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and GRIEVED Him in the desert. (Psalm 78:40, CSB).  Just like them, most of the time we are so self-absorbed that we don’t stop and consider how our sin makes the Father feel.

He continues by humbly asking God to remember with compassion His people, and to come quickly because they have become weak (79:8, CSB).  One really interesting thing jumped out at me, the psalmist asks God to help them — not because of them , but …for the glory of Your name.  Deliver us and atone for our sins, because of Your name. 79:8, CSB).  The psalmist then pleadingly asks the Father, Lord God of Hosts, how long will You be angry with Your people’s prayers?” (80:4, CSB).  Those thoughts made me stop and consider how my life has made God feel.  How my prayers have made God react.  Wondering, if the problems that we see in the world today, are my fault (and people like me), because I have not remembered what God has done?  If by not remembering myself, have I not passed it on to my children, and the generation that follows them?  If my actions have grieved my God, and have made Him angry?  If there is hope for me, my children, and the  generations that are to follow?

Toward the end of Psalm 81, God speaks through the psalmist saying, If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes.  (81:16, CSB).  There is hope!  God will help us defeat our enemy Satan)!  That change can come, if we listen and follow His ways!

The last line, of the last verse, in Psalm 81 — offers to us a beautiful promise.  It says, … I would satisfy you with honey from the rock. (81:16, CSB).  Regardless of how difficult, how hard the situation and circumstances get, God can bless us!  That is if we remember, turn, and follow Him — He can bless our lives with the sweetness of forgiveness, acceptance, and peace.

Lord, help us to turn to You, and ask for Your forgiveness, help, strength, and power — EVERY DAY!!!  That is our only hope for survival passing through this world.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on July 21, 2016.  It is being reposted here as a part of our “Psalms for Saturdays”.  It is my prayer that it blesses you, and helps you to draw closer to the Father.  Bill)

“This Grace Also” (Bill Sherrill)


Children of God, who really are serious about their relationship with the Father, are constantly seeking to know more perfectly how to improve their Christian walk. The purpose of “Sunday Sermons” is to encourage one to constantly be advancing toward the more perfect life. There are so many things we all need to address in life that it becomes difficult to decide just what our priorities for improvement should be. In my reading of the Scriptures lately a passage “jumped out” that may need addressing.

Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, uses a term in regard to one specific area of Christian responsibility that is little used today. He says, “But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor 8:7) Of course he is encouraging the Corinthians to participate in the collection for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. He would be passing through Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem and wants to add their gift to the collection. But notice how he defines the gift. “..this grace of giving.” The Greek literally says, “..this grace also.” Grace is a big subject today. Everywhere churches and their teachers are reaffirming the message of grace. It is wonderful to discover how loving our awesome God can be! But, interestingly enough, “this grace also,” doesn’t get much mileage.

Hearing what God does for us is wonderful, but how about what God wants us to do for others? The typical definition of grace among the people I teach is “unmerited favor.” There is nothing wrong with that definition but grace is expanded beyond that one definition in its use. The Greek word CHARIS has numerous uses. It may refer to “that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard; it is applied, e.g., to beauty, or gracefulness of person.” (W. E. Vines, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.) Whatever definition one chooses to use, this passage in clear in its focus, grace is not only a wonderful gift God gives, it is also a gift we are to give to others. I may never measure up to the unthinkable gift God gave me when he sacrificed His Son to restore my sin-filled life to His presence, but I can add grace to my own attempt at victorious living by learning to give unselfishly to those in need. Are you enamored with grace? Well how about adding “this grace also?”

Bill Sherrill
04.15.2018

“That Was The Week That Was”

1964, and part of 1965, there was a weekly television show called That Was the Week That Was“, and it starred David Frost among others.  I can remember watching, and it being somewhat entertaining to a 14 year old.  I decided to “lift” the name as the title for some reflections that I want to share.  Beginning on Friday, March 30th, it will be my intention to do this every Friday on a weekly basis.  Saying that, reminds of driving nearly 2 hours to hear Foy E. Wallace Jr.  He preached for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and then we had to drive home.  But we went back the next night, and he began by saying that it was his “intent” to not preach as long as he had the night before, BUT, he added, we needed to remember that an “intent” was not a “promise”.  So, remember, that it is my “intention” to do this every Friday, and that is not a promise.

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The last weekly reflection column that I wrote was on February 23rd, and a lot has happened since then.  But there was one thing that I wanted to share.  Wednesday, February 28th, I drove to Florence, Alabama to attend “Alumni Days – 2018” at Heritage Christian University.  I had not been on the campus, while the school was in session, since I was there for graduation. I had driven through the campus on a couple of occasions earlier, but it was always on a weekend and nobody was there.

I did not attend the Wednesday night dinner and gathering — because, something else had my attention.  I drove an additional 30 miles to Rogersville, and went to the home of Roy and Joetta Trousdale.  I never had a younger brother, but Roy (and he will always be “Roy Mac” to me) is as close as a brother could be.  His parents, Roy and Petey, lived across the street from the little stucco house where Jerry Edwards and I had landed, while we were students at International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University), and there are extra stars in their crowns for how good they were to us, and to me after Jerry had moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  Roy, and his son, John, have been to our house — so that John could attend a baseball camp at the U of A.  Of course, John ended playing for that other U of A in Tuscaloosa.  All the times that Roy and I have texted, talked on the phone, and communicated by email over the last few years — I had never personally met his wife, Joetta.  Life, jobs, families, 500 miles had kept us physically apart.  I was really looking forward to spending some time with them, and the 2 days were extremely enjoyable.  I look forward to their being at our house the end of April, to watch John (and that team from Alabama) play baseball against the U of A.  I’m just glad it is not football.

Thursday was just a great day!  I heard some really good speakers, was there for the grand opening of the Coil Conference Center, toured the historical section of the school library, and had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends.  Friday morning, I attended my VERY FIRST “Alumni” meeting.  About 10:00 a.m., I was on the road — looking forward to crossing the Jordan River at Memphis and entering the promised land.  It is amazing how far behind you can get just by being gone part of a week, and I’m still trying to catch up.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel now, and I just hope it is not an oncoming train.

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In the last ten days or so, I have finished up 3 books, and I just want to mention them briefly.  The first one is The Kind of Preaching God Blesses, by Steven J. Lawson.  It is a really short book (125 pages), and the bulk of the material is 5 sermons that all come from the same text, I Corinthians 2:1-9.  Dr. Lawson is one of the leading proponents of expository preaching, and these 5 sermons lay a foundation for what he believes.  I am going to attend a short (2 days) workshop on preaching this coming August with Dr. Lawson, and I am trying to familiarize myself with his techniques and style.

Second, is Signs and Wonders (A Harmony Novel, Book 3) by Philip Gulley.  Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, that writes about a small town, Harmony, Indiana and what happens in that town through the eyes of a Quaker pastor, Sam Gardner.  All the things that you might imagine could happen, do.  All the amazing, hilarious things that can happen in small town churches are masterfully told in this remarkable book.  As I read this 232 page novel, I could almost hear the voice of Garrison Keillor reading it to me — it really has that kind of appeal.  If you never listened to Keillor, and his radio show Prairie Home Companion, with the very popular segment “News of Lake Wobegon” that might not mean anything to you, but it had that same small-town, homey touch.  There are 7 volumes in the “Harmony” series, and I just happened to catch this one on sale for my Kindle, and I will read the rest of them (if I can catch them on sale).

Finally, was Small Church Essentials by Karl Vaters.  Last Friday (3-16) I posted Part 1 of my review of this book, and Part 2 will be posted this Thursday (3-22).  For any that are in leadership of a small church, or care about a small church — it is a MUST read.

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“The Christian life doesn’t merely involve spiritual warfare.  The Christian life IS spiritual warfare.  All of the followers of Jesus are soldiers and not civilians (II Timothy 2:3).  We must be in constant preparation for spiritual battle and not a spiritual vacation.  The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign.  It is a call to spiritual war.” 

That statement is the first paragraph in an article titled “Cruciform Warriors Needed” by Derek Prince.  Prince is an assistant professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He blogs at “Prince on Preaching,” and that is where this very interesting article came from.  He is right, we are to be “cross-shaped” warriors, as we go off to fight the enemy.  May God give us the strength, courage, and wisdom to do just that.

“Needed — A Basin and a Towel”

I must have been in my late 50’s when I first learned the word “oxymoron,”  but it had served me well in principle many years before that. Several years ago I ran into a phrase which seems to fit the definition well, yet is in fact and absolute truth.  It is “Servant-Leader.” I know of no other expression which so appropriately describes the ones Jesus calls to follow him.  While he was still in his earthly ministry his disciples often bickered over which one of them was the greatest.  Although he had several different answers for them, the one recorded most in the New Testament is “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,”    (Mat 20:26; Mat 23:11; Mark 10:43; Luke 22:26 ).  Few other teachings get so much exposure!  Perhaps it is because there are few teachings so contrary to human nature.

Jesus brought a radical new thought into his world, and ours.  He did not do away with leadership but made them servants of their fellows.  He did not do away with power but simply pointed to a greater source than mankind.

In the society of man, from the early days down to the present, status has a great deal to do with who serves and who is served.  Men often measure their stature by telling how many “work under” them,  or how many they are over.  Now that can be an important measure, by human terms, or it can be used in deceptive ways.  For instance, I have a good friend who was a city employee, who once told me that he had more people under him than anyone else in the city.  But he said it with that smile which tells you that you have not heard the whole story yet.  And then he explained he was over the city cemeteries!  Not that this was not an important job, but it was not quite the same in its explanation as in the first impression which was given.  He was using humor in his statement, but many slip in a statement of their “oversight” as a factor of status.

Typically, we measure success by wealth, position, and power.  Jesus taught it was to be measured by service.  But the service to which he calls us is not one of unwilling slavery.  It is a call to unselfishly lay down our privileged  position and willingly take up the task of servitude.  After all, isn’t that exactly what he had done?  Do you remember the scene John describes at the last supper?  “..And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you..If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  (John 13:12-17).

And when he had washed their feet!  I am sure that many of us would have been like Simon Peter.  He was refusing to let Jesus wash his feet because he saw it as demeaning to the Lord.  That was the very point Jesus was making.  Service is not demeaning, it is uplifting!  “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”  (Mat 23:11).  Jesus changed things! He not only “..has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble” (Luke 1:52), he has shown the power of humility.  “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him..that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW.. and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:8). What the world needs is more leaders with a basin and a towel.    –Bill Sherrill 03.18.2018

“Lord, Help Me to be Consistent”

Some mornings when I read — there is really not anything I need, or want, to add to what the text says.  An illustration to lead us into the message of the text is just not necessary.  This morning, as I read and prayed through Psalm 31, there was a message that came through to me, loud and clear.

SO, this morning I want to share several verses that will take you through the chapter (all quotations are from the CSB):

…Save me by Your righteousness. … Be a rock of refuge for me, a mountain fortress to save me.  (Psalm 31:1-2)

Into Your hand I entrust my spirit; … (Psalm 31:5)

…You have know the troubles of my life.  (Psalm 31:7)

Be gracious to me, Lord, because I am in distress; my eyes are worn out from my angry sorrow — … my life is consumed with grief, and my years with groaning; my strength has failed because of my sinfulness, and bones waste away.  (Psalm 31:9-10)

But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors.  Show Your favor to Your servant; save me by Your faithful love.”  (Psalm 31:14-15)

How great is Your goodness that You have stored up for those who fear You, … (Psalm 31:19)

May the Lord be praised, for He has wonderfully shown His faithful love to me. …  (Psalm 31:21)

Be strong and courageous all you who put your hope in the Lord.  (Psalm 31:24)

If you stayed with me through the reading of these verses, let me share with you their impact on me.  William Shakespeare is generally believed to be the father of the statement, “consistency thou art a jewel”.  Many of us, me more than most, have struggled with what feel, and call, the highs and lows of our Christian profession.  In other words, a lack of consistency.

There are times when I struggle to say “NO” to me!  I’m sure that most of you know that feeling.  I am convinced that the apostle Paul understood it, when he said For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but what I do I hate. (Romans 7:15, CSB).  That struggle, to consistently be and do what we ought, can be disheartening and paralyzing.

As I read through this Psalm this morning, and felt David’s struggle; my resolve was increased to be more consistent.  That I may be more consistent in say “NO” to what I want (Matthew 16:24).  Has a passage spoke to you in this way?  Join me in praying for a more consistent life serving our God.  Peace

 

(This was first posted on Facebook on July 11, 2016.  It is being reposted here, as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday”.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you, and your walk with the Lord. Bill)

“Who Sits on Your Throne?”

Many of you have heard me talk about Basil Overton, and some of you have heard me mention him many times.  He was one of the teachers at International Bible College, and, in my opinion, he would have qualified for a Reader’s Digest entry into their “Most Unforgettable People” columns.  He had the unique ability to take the most complex subject, and break it down where almost anyone could understand it.  For years (and years) he wrote a column in the paper he edited (The World Evangelist), called Mule Musings.  He would take the habits of, or stories about, mules; and then make a spiritual application from them.  He was a brilliant and educated man, and I believe that he demonstrated that by being able to communicate with ALL people.  One of his memorable sayings was that “You had to be able to shuck the corn where the hogs could find it.”  The point of that would be, it didn’t really matter how much you knew, if you could not communicate it on a level where people understood — what you knew didn’t really matter!

Two of my favorite sayings (and again, you have probably heard these before) concerns people who have a little too high opinion of themselves.  He would say — “He has a problem with the perpendicular pronoun”, or “He is a self-made man, and worships his creator.”  Isn’t that a beautiful and simplistic description of a very real problem, that we, as humans, have.

Psalm 115 gives a very visual illustration of a problem that the nation of Israel faced:

But their idols are silver and gold,                                                                                                 made by human hands.                                                                                                                    They have mouths, but cannot speak,                                                                                            eyes, but cannot see.                                                                                                                          They have ears, but cannot hear,                                                                                                    noses, but cannot smell.                                                                                                                  They have hands, but cannot feel,                                                                                                   feet, but cannot walk.                                                                                                                         nor can they utter a sound with their throats.                                                                       Those who make them will be like them,                                                                                       and so will all who trust in them.                                                                                                (Psalm 115:4-8, NIV)

What a remarkable description of the futility, and the foolishness, of idolatry.  How ridiculous is it to worship a “god” that you made with your hands?  To think that something we designed and fashioned, could have been what created, sustains, and saves us!

Now, I am sure that for many of them — the idol was not the god, but was just representative of their god.  But, after time passed, the idol became the god.

You know that we still have that problem, don’t you?  The things that have been “created” by man, have become their “gods.”  It might be money, pleasure, sports, career, and the list could go on and on and on!  And again, these things are not the good, they become representative of the “god” that we have.  The “god” that we have … is … ourselves and what we want!  Their is the problem, we worship what we want!

Years ago, Kenneth Reed wrote a book entitled What Controls Your Life.  In the first chapter of that book, he explained that in each of our lives their was a throne; and whatever was most important to us would sit on that throne.  Each one of us needs to closely examine our life, and decide “Who Sits on our Throne”  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on June 28, 2016.  It is being re-posted here as a part of our series on the “Psalms”.  It is our prayer that it will be a blessing to you, and that you will grow closer to the Lord.   Bill)                                                                                                      

“Questions from the Shore”

(This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospels, and the author is one of my favorite preachers.  I grew up listening to Bill Sherrill preach, and really enjoy his thoughts from his weekly email.  I am glad that I have the opportunity to share them with you.  Hoot.)

It was early in the morning, just after daybreak, and the  morning breeze was just beginning to ripple the water of the lake. Not too far off shore, a group of men were in their boat. They had fished all night without success. On the shore stood a lone figure. He called to them inquiring about their catch, though he knew they had none. In words which must have stirred memories of another time, he said, “Cast your net out to the right side of the boat and you will get a catch.” As they struggled to bring in the huge catch, one spoke to another saying, “It is the Lord!”

Peter, who was always the one who rushed in where angels feared to tread, dove into the water and swam to shore. The rest followed, towing the overflowing net. On the shore, Jesus had prepared a fire and invited them to share a breakfast meal. Following the meal he turned to Peter and ask, “Do you love me?” Peter was already hurting because he had been so bold in word and so weak in courage at Jesus’ trial. His simple reply, “You know I love you,” twice answers the Lord’s questioning. The third time the question is asked, the reply is the same but we are told Peter’s feelings were hurt. What we miss in the English translation is the use of two different Greek words for love in the exchange. To use words perhaps a little more understandable, we would have Jesus ask “Do you love me with the highest love?” Peter then, no doubt remembering his failure to show such love under pressure, responds, “You know I care for you very much.” This play on words is used twice and then the third time Jesus lowers his level of commitment as he asks, “Are you sure you care for me very much?” It is to this lower challenge that Peter responds with renewed hurt. He has been trying to express his love without his usual bragging and Jesus, rather than accepting his humility, calls for him to be sure he even loves at that level.

We are not all that different from Peter, are we? We profess in word and song our undying love for the Savior, but often fail to exhibit it in times of testing. Were Jesus to call us to the shore might he say to us, not, “Do you love me,” but, “Are you sure you really care very much?” Forgive us Lord that our mouths too often out distance our actions!

Bill Sherrill
01.21.2018

“The Gospel of Mark — Part 3”

OBSERVATIONS

If you were commissioned by God to send a letter of hope to a group of Christians facing a martyr’s death, what would YOU write?   Mark, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, answers this question by writing a “gospel” that demonstrates how to communicate with compassion, urgency, and hope to a people in need.

You see, the gospel of Mark is a story of concern.  It may very well be that we have read the “gospels”  in the wrong way; or, at the very least, failed to grasp what they are all about.  I believe, as do many scholars, that Mark would be surprised that we read his writing as a biography, or as history.  Each “gospel” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) was shaped by specific cultural, social, and religious “happenings” — that affected them, and the ones that first read their writings.

The “gospel” of Mark is written as a story (and a very good story), with an economy of words and a very direct style.  It is not a story that can be labeled as fiction, because it happened.  It is the story about Jesus, the Son of God.  The story was written to encourage the Christians in Rome, during the persecution of Nero.  The key to the story is:  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45).

There is a relationship between Mark, and discipleship, that is often overlooked.  Mark presupposes that the best way to challenge the readers (his audience) to faithful discipleship is to tell them the story of Jesus.  He very clearly depicts that the way of Jesus, as the way that his disciples are called to follow.  Only a clear and correct understanding of Jesus, can produce a clear and correct understanding of what it means to be a disciple.

The intimate relationship between Jesus and his disciples, that is portrayed in Mark, forms the underlying structure for many passages.  It also provides a basic link between the ancient writing and our lives today.  This “gospel” is written for disciples of every age, and a concern for disciples permeates the entire gospel — from the call of the first four (1:16-20), to the final message (16:6-7, 15-18).  There is an open-endedness about this gospel that invites us to identify with those first disciples, and to follow in their footsteps, as they follow in his.

Mark is very relevant to our day, and our situation.  There are themes and counter themes that run through the book — power, conflict, suffering, misunderstandings.  Did you hear that:  POWER, CONFLICT, SUFFERING, MISUNDERSTANDING — that’s the stuff we read about every morning, and then hear on the evening news.

Mark’s emphasis on the costly service, suffering, rejection, and death of the Son of God (vindicated by his resurrection); serves as a healthy corrective to the idea of “cheap grace”, that seems to be so prevalent in our culture.  Being a Christian is not easy and simple!  Being a Christian involves serving and suffering — the way of the cross:  Then he called the crowd to him, along with his disciples, and said:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

(It is m prayer, that the story of Persis and her life, tragedy, fears, hopelessness, and renewal through Mark’s gospel; help you to get a better understanding of what Mark’s gospel is all about.  May you read the book again with fresh eyes, and see the masterful story that Mark weaves for his audience.  Bill)