...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clergyspirit Favorites

Clergyspirit.org welcomed 25,000 visitor hits this month! Here are the all-time popular posts, going back to 2008. Of course the earlier posts have had more time to circulate and be discovered. The top two are from 2009 and 2008, respectively.

God Won't Give You Anything You Can't Handle- Really? 2,250

Multitasking and the New Cultural ADD 1,047

The Monastic Methodists

Kester Brewin's Signs of Emergence

Hanging by a Thread

When Pain is All Around (Stations of Light, 5 & 6)

To Begin Anew, Herbert's "Lent"

Bryant Gumble on Lebron

Posts on clergy topics round out the top ten:

Thinking About Sabbaticals, 2

Let's be honest about "clergy health"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The first gospel is written (3)

Mark has a story to tell and it's grounded in his own recovery from failure and restoration to the church!

A younger man and probably in his mid-20's at the time of his separation from Paul, Mark's story is well-told by Joseph Webb. There is little doubt that the fall-out from Mark's decision to leave Paul before the second missionary journey included Mark's branding as deserter. Did some mission continue in Mark's life in Cyprus, maybe with his cousin Barnabas? We will never know, but the mention of Barnabas, who left Paul with Mark, would have been like rubbing salt in an open wound for all who would remember their parting.

Later on, while Paul is in prison, the New Testament Epistles mention Mark twice. He is listed as among those who are with Paul during his imprisonment. (Philemon 24, Colossians 4) Mark, now almost 50 years old, has returned to Paul, and is included in the list of co-workers. If the churches Paul writes ever see Mark again, they are told to follow Paul's instructions to "receive him." This is an amazing come-back! It's more incredible to think that Mark could have been around Paul until the very end, that is, the apostle's own martyrdom.

But Mark's come-back is not finished. Like the young man who flees the scene on the night Jesus was betrayed, there's good reason to believe that Mark may well have seen his own experience of deserting the church as parallel to that of the disciples scattering. Mark 14: 50-51 Like the young man who is now dressed in white robe at the empty tomb on the first Easter, Mark tells the story not only of Jesus' resurrection, but also, his own restoration to and rebirth in the Christian community.

For several years leading up to the complete destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. , the area was a war zone. Josephus mentions mass executions, when Jews were crucified en mass by the Roman military. So much for the Pax Romano. The church realized the dire need for a written story of Jesus Christ that could survive this rampage of Rome.

When Mark is perhaps older than 50, he writes his story of Jesus Christ, most likely in haste and from an "undisclosed location" outside of Palestine. Having access to both the testimony of apostles like Peter (Acts 12:12) and the writings of Paul, Mark gathers these resources plus any fragments he himself has collected, and quickly goes to work, penning the very first story of Jesus Christ. In his words, it's the "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." It tells the story of how Jesus, now risen, gives second chances to the people closest to him, people who denied and deserted him. It is also this story- Mark's Gospel- upon which all the other gospels now depend.







Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday and the Young Man (2)

And they all forsook him and fled. 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. Mark 14:50-51

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you. Mark 16: 5-7

Appreciating the twists and turns in John Mark's own story is yet another way to explore the young man in these two chapters of Mark.

Joseph Webb in his great Preaching Without Notes, coalesces Mark's own biography from Acts and the New Testament Epistles. This final piece of Webb's leads me to believe that the young man in Mark is none other than John Mark himself, the one who, as a young man in his twenties, ended up "deserting" the Apostle Paul on the first missionary tour. Acts 13:13.

In fact, when Paul wanted to re-visit those churches in a second tour, Barnabas and Paul split up over Mark. While Barnabas wanted to take his cousin Mark with them, Paul labeled Mark a deserter. Whether that is Paul's or Luke's wording, it doesn't matter. It was public information. You could have found it if the church had the internet and searched the keyword "deserter." The "sharp" disagreement that Paul and Barnabas had over Mark could have only ended in an ultimatum, in words like, "We will take Mark over my dead body!" Acts 15: 36-41

After about ten years pass from the date of the second missionary journey, John Mark resurfaces in three amazing Epistle references. Philemon 1:24 mentions that Mark is among those who are with Paul while he is prison. In Philemon, Mark is mentioned as a "fellow worker," along with Epaphras, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. And Paul sends their greetings with his own. In Colossians 4:10, a similar greeting from "Mark, the cousin of Barnabas" is included. Incredibly, Paul includes this about Mark: "concerning whom you have received instructions- if he comes to you, welcome him." Another way of saying, "Regardless of what you've heard about him in the past, welcome him now as you would a brother." Wow!

If Mark's "young man" is indeed himself, and I think he is, then his own story of a rather well-known failure at least parallels, if not rivals, that of the original twelve, all of whom scattered before their arrested Lord amidst a mixture of terror, denial, and betrayal. Though the man we call John-Mark was not in the company of original disciples, he still saw himself as among those who "deserted" their Lord, even as he was once labeled by the church. Like the young man who both runs away, and isn't seen again until Easter Sunday, Mark "comes back" from his pain and humiliation to be one of Paul's most trusted co-workers, probably staying with Paul until his last days. He became faithful until the end, and beyond it.

The young man who fled in fear reappears on Easter Sunday, this time arrayed in a dazzling white robe. Early Christians were clothed in a white gown after their baptisms. It is the birthright of all Christians, that through the terrible decisions and public humiliations of our past, regardless of the specifics, God continues to offer us love and grace. The Easter life God always gives to us in Jesus is one of come backs, rebirths, second chances, and resurrections!

In fact, Mark becomes the writer of the first Gospel of Jesus Christ. This amazing story is the subject of the next post.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday & the Young Man (1)

And they all forsook him and fled. 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. Mark 14:50-51

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed, in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they aid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you. Mark 16: 5-7

Although some commentators may discount the connection between the "young man" of Mark 14:51 and Mark 16: 5 as speculation, for me, the parallel is almost too easy to miss, and Mark included these two important references for a purpose that the other gospels do not recognize. The young man is not in Matthew or Luke or John, even though the Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the gospels and predates the others by ten or more years.

The young man, identified as a follower of Jesus, runs off into the night naked. The would be captors, are left holding the linen cloth. There's an irony here, ridiculing the goons making their capture: just as the heavily armored troops arrest the One who is the Lamb of God, so they, with all their military hardware, are not able to catch this late night streaker.

Will Willimon well- notes the tradition, suggesting this little episode is Mark's prefiguring Jesus' victory over sin and death. Just as the young streaker slips out of the grasp of his captors, so will Jesus give both sin and death "the slip" in his death and resurrection. But even Willimon leaves it there, admitting that the inclusion of this young man in the passion narrative is as much a mystery as anything. He does not make any connections with the young man of the empty tomb.

In a much- loved older volume, written mostly for pastors, Hamilton sees a clear connection with the young man of both the garden and Easter. For him, the character is emblematic of the transformation of our ministry from the the pre-Easter discipleship phase to the Easter-Pentecost of life in the Spirit. The goal of discipleship attempts to copy Jesus, at which every one of us fails miserably. Discipleship finally ends in a mixture of betrayal (Judas), faithlessness (Peter), and scattering (all the disciples). Before that radical awakening, we're gliding along, much like Peter was at his great confession. Mark 8:29

The young man of Good Friday teaches us about ourselves. The young man's running away is also our way of running away from Jesus, and the stripping away of the linen covering is our complete disillusionment with the real Messiah who will be enthroned on a cross. All our hopes for our kind of messiah are stripped from us in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The comment is one of grim reality: we run as fast as we can when we encounter the cost of actually following Jesus and loving the people he loves. It is there we are confronted with the death of our own power and kingdom and glory, and all that we thought would serve us well. But appreciating the twists and turns in John Mark's own story is yet another way to explore the young man in these two chapters of Mark. And so we'll take a look at Mark's story in the next post.











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Welcome! I serve Chapelwood, a United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Clergy are frequently present for others, but no one can offer what they don't havee. That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. Hopefully, the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement.

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Prayer of Discernment

By our own reason and strength, Lord, we cannot find our way. There are too many paths and we do not know where they will lead us. Show us the way, Jesus. You know our path and our way home. Amen.

The Moravian Daily Texts 2011


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