Room for Good News
February 3, 2016
Tom Walker, minister, mentor, and trusted advisor presented DBTP Bible Study his thoughts on the gospel of Mark.
The setting for DBTP Bible Study: Church “parlor”–a room that is hot in the summer, cold in the winter. Building itself is gothic style, built in 1950s, and the furniture in the room looks about the same—dated. Plastic chairs for overflow—not so comfortable, gigantic overstuffed red sofa, a few Queen Anne chairs, lumpy miss matched throw pillows , hanging full length mirror –for brides, a desk jammed in corner and a dining room table. The speaker sits in front of a beautiful non- functioning fireplace that the hodge-podge semi-circle of chairs/sofa/tables have been arranged around. There is a battered TV screen hooked up to a DVD player on a cart, but hard to use, due to space. There is a small kitchen off to the side—so there is often clamoring heard during class time if someone uses the microwave or sink.
In the age of technology (big screens, pulsating music, facebook, instagram, production crews,) this room is a disaster for groups—if you were just looking at it on the surface. How could you have ANY group meet here and have success?
Tom sits down—in a plastic chair—with his notes on a small side table—in front of the fireplace and prays. The Bible Study participants bow their heads—sitting on the big comfy couch, Queen Anne chairs, plastic chairs, dining room chairs, plastic chairs, using the miss matched throw pillows to find some comfort, and settle their hearts.
Tom begins, “Bible study is spiritual food.” He says he does not have a favorite gospel, because each has its own uniqueness. One who studies the Bible is blessed and comments that churches—as a whole– do not do it enough.
**Oh thank you Tom for that commercial break for DBTP!!
He begins by giving the characteristics of Mark:
(Cites the theologian Barclay as a source he uses)
**Mark thought to be the first gospel story written; Matthew and Luke based on Mark’s writing
**Jesus portrays compassion for people –gives example of Little Children and Jesus-10:16 Jesus took the children in his arms and put his hands on them…(cf. Matt: 19:13; Luke 18:15)
**Another example of compassion: Rich Young Ruler: Only in Mark, do you see “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” 10:21 As the rich man was leaving…Mark tells the story that this man is loved by Jesus.
Tom has pondered, “What if there was a sequel to this story?”
What would have happened if he had seen the power of this loving look? Jesus’ love had a hold on people. Perhaps there was a sequel and it was not recorded–I am thinking.
**”Immediately “ Mark says it. Mark does it. There is a sense of urgency in this gospel.
Something draws people to Jesus. The call is powerful. What is it about Jesus that astounds people?
Tom Shares a Personal Story:
Many years ago (10 years into ministry) he decided to read the gospel of Mark beginning to end—although he had preached from it and knew it—wanted to read it with a fresh set of eyes and not as a minister.
He came to the calling of the disciples (1:16-20) and he put himself in the story. Tom recommends doing this as you read the stories!
Picture this: Tom wants to be “in” the story, but NOT really. He wants to remain out of the sight of Jesus. So he is looking on—on a hill (convenient, I think) behind a bush, as Jesus is calling the disciples. Simon and Andrew, James and John—Tom wonders what poor Zebedee does with the fishing business after his sons are gone!—and he witnesses this whole thing.
BUT THEN Jesus spots him. Jesus asks Tom, “Come with me, you come too.”
Tom did not come immediately. (I am thinking—how can this minister so honestly admit this? I too would have this same reservation)
It was a big step. Tom relates his faith journey more on the track of a gospel of John story: When the two disciples started to follow Jesus down the road, and they asked him “Where are you staying?” Jesus simply replied, “Come and you will see.” John 1:35-42
Tom did not drop everything. He began. “I started to trust. Little by little. I did, ‘come and see.’” He shares that this was a turning point for him.
I later learn that two class members get in their car on their way home and discuss this personal story. They appreciate Tom’s openness.
On this winter day, DBTP class members, are not clamoring for a power point, some take notes, the men and women sit intrigued—in the human story AND the GOSPEL story– in the vintage surroundings.
Feeding of the 5000 Mark 6:34-43
**This story begins with portrayal of Jesus’ compassion. “…he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them..” 6:34
The crowd was hungry physically and spiritually.
–I am wondering to myself: As Tom sits in front of the class today—whom does he observe, as a minister that looks hungry? Are we are the 5000?
The disciples do not come out looking too good in this story. Tom points out: the disciples wanted to send this huge crowd away for fear that they would get restless.
But then in 6:37 Jesus commands: “ YOU give them something to eat!” The disciples are thinking, “WHAT?!” They can only come up with “We can’t afford it.”
Jesus then asks the disciples to go out and check how many loaves they have. Tom really emphasizes this point.
àNow how many times have you heard this story?? If you have gone to church since you were a child—a zillion. Are you reflecting on this in a new way?
A morning class member comments, “Jesus is snappy!”
Tom points out the only in Mark do we find out that Jesus divides the 5000 in groups of 100s and 50s and told sit on the green grass. He gleans from OUR crowd with prodding—“when you face something BIG—break it down into something smaller.” “It seems more manageable in small groups.” “The people could talk with one another about what Jesus said in the small group.”
Tom asks, “What is he asking the disciples in verse 38?” “Go out and find what is available,” the class answers.
Tom pointed out that often we get strangled in the miracle of the story. We are tempted to try to figure out the miracle…HOW did Jesus do that? Go deeper he urges.
*** Trust the miracle. What is that story saying to you?
Basic truths: God provides. God provides MORE than necessary. Small resources require big faith. How do you react when asked to do something “impossible?” Is your answer like the disciples—ohhh, too much money, too much risk, too much time?
Tom asks us to consider: What do you already have? What has been given to you? What do you have that looks too big? Where are you in this story? Disciples? Crowd? Some class members commented…”CROWD! I need to be fed.” ”When I come to the end of the rope, I am spiritually hungry” “DISCPLES!-just don’t get it, sometimes, worrying about the monetary, when Jesus is ready to make a miracle happen!”
The class is hearing the story and chewing on the loaves (much leftover chatter) but must gather them in to read the next story!
Healing of the Unclean Spirit Mark 9:14-29
Jesus shows his frustration again in this story with the disciples.
Tom sets the stage: This healing happens right after the Transfiguration (when Jesus is metamorphosed and becomes radiant on a mountain, Elijah and Moses show up and Peter, James and John witness this—Peter wants to build a tent or shelter. This is a pivotal moment where human nature meets God where Jesus is the connecting point acting as the bridge between heaven and earth)
Take this experience and then fast forward to Jesus exclaiming, “You faithless generation….How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” verse 19b (emphasis mine) He is reacting to the disciples being unable to cast out a man’s demon.
How can these disciples be the ones who have had a “mountaintop” experience at the transfiguration and now this fight????
Tom once again pictures himself at the scene! He is intrigued by the honesty of this father. Tom compares the father’s request with that of Bartimaeus the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus, when asked what he wants, says, “I want to see.” (healing miracle)
The father of the boy with the unclean spirit says, “..if you able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.”
There is no request for he healing miracle of spirit to be cast out.
Jesus shows strong emotion in his response…”IF you are able!—all things can be done for the one who believes.”
Tom directs our attention to how the father responded—IMMEDIATELY. (vs.24) A two pronged answer. “I believe; Help my unbelief.”
IMMEDIATELY, the class members picture themselves at the scene. Each person wants to say “I believe.” Each wants their unbelief bolstered by Jesus! This IS honest. Jesus accepts this father’s statement of faith. No scolding. (like the disciples)
Tom says there are times he too is unsure.
He asks us: Where do you struggle? What about you—what is keeping you from a statement of faith? Class members: Can’t let go. I want to control. I WANT to take a leap of faith…..
If you are reading this text as a synopsis—it is hard to describe the scraggly room’s atmosphere at this point. It has the mood of the gospel of Mark. Vibrant. Pulsating. Only one hour—oh no! So many questions and points to discuss. Babbling. Questions are peppered towards Tom. Some discussing between themselves.
Immediately, Tom steers the class back to the road. What about the last line in this story? “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
Tom hints toward pop culture author Anne Lamott’s prayer that might work well: “Thank you. Help me.”
This is serious business that can only be worked out between God and you, Tom reminds us.
As we enter the season of Lent: This story may seem daunting, Tom encouraged us to:
* Pray! Come to Jesus daily and say a prayer (perhaps the same prayer) for something that is overwhelming or daunting. Something will shift or change. It may be you….
**In this story Jesus is calling forth a faith from this father that he did not know he had.
I scrutinize my own faith…how much larger could it be? Is Jesus upset that he puts mountaintop experiences in my life and I still argue with Him?
Jesus on the Cross Mark 15:33,34
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Some of the most famous words ever
We do not like the cross! exclaims Tom. We have at the center of our faith, Jesus dying on a cross that is a symbol of shame. Our crosses are all shiny and beautiful. The cross is bloody and cruel. If taken alone, it is LONELY.
Tom laments that we no longer have Good Friday services in many churches. This service displays the last seven words that Jesus says (this is one of them.) It is a very important part of our faith story.
As we come to Lent we are in the shadow of the cross. The gospel of Mark is heavy on the cross.
We live in a culture of “Christianity Light.” Or should I write this “Lite” with the Super Bowl just a few days away? That is how Christians like their sermons preached! J –this is my insert.
Tom describes his struggle. Why did Jesus have to die? After years of diving into this and coming out with the understanding that Jesus was not alone. God was with Him. Tom states, “If you understand the Trinity, you know this. In His humanness he was alone (is this how he states it??) “ Authors J. Moltmann and F. Rutledge have impacted his perception on the cross.
Tom has been influenced lately by author, Episcopal Priest, lecturer– Fleming Rutledge (The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ) and her writings on this very text and “godforsakenness.”
This author thinks everyone feels godforsaken at one time or another, or if not personally, any thoughtful person must admit that there have been millions of people who have been godforsaken; died in cells alone, tortured immeasurably, kidnapped and killed, sick and suffering, mourning horrible deaths, lonely in the masses.
The only comfort is that Jesus was there before. He took away the power of death and sin.
Tom states: unless you understand that Jesus was taking on the sin of the WORLD all upon himself—you cannot understand the cross—Adam and Eve—hid when they sinned—apart from God.
You cannot stand apart from the cross and intellectualize it.
When you feel awful—you feel close to the cross. No explanation.
Tom goes on to say: there are no answers to the Why questions. Is it wrong to want answers? What do we get, if not an answer?
We get a divine “yes” in the resurrection.
The clock ticks down. The room is still. No power point needed. “The tomb is empty.” Tom says.
Words from an Empty Tomb Mark 16:5-7
There are three endings for Mark. Tom supposes that the first one did not satisfy the church, so they added (embellished, I say).
The original one is good enough for Tom. A messenger in a white robe. He tells them Jesus is not here and He is in Galilee, “going ahead of you.” It is just like Jesus said.
It ends up where it all started—Galilee.
It is a call to the future. He is AHEAD of them. The why? More like What?? Death. No –it has been overcome. Totally alone… No. Tom thinks about John’s promise, “I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2,3
To ponder during Lent:
We begin where we are. START where you are.
Discover: Where am I?
Lord, help me in my unbelief.
What have I got?
What has been given to me?
Hear Him call, “Follow me” Jesus invites you to come!
Trust Him. He will show you the way.
Jesus is in your future—He is going ahead of you.
Do not allow negative thoughts to get hold of you!!
Mark 9:29 This kind can only come out through prayer.
The hour has passed. The gospel has been read. A closing prayer is lifted to heaven. Chairs rattle. Chatter begins. The antiquated room is reassembled. Some wait to talk to Tom. The class members are holding in their mind the power of the other sphere. We are not alone. Perfect “room” for good news.