The Sunday readings in all Episcopal Churches follow a three-year cycle, so that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be read more or less in sequence across three years. Readings from the Gospel of John are sprinkled throughout all three years. This year (Advent 2014 to Advent 2015), the Sunday readings are chosen mainly from the Gospel of Mark, so, as a Diocese, we are concentrating our biblical study this year on encountering Jesus in that Gospel.This is the biblical book our bishop, Gary Lillibridge, asked us to read this year.
A ten-week online study of Mark that may be used by individuals, in our churches, or in small groups will be available on this blogsite beginning August 21, for use during the fall.
What follows are a few simple suggestions for ways you might read the Gospel of Mark in its entirety this summer on your own, before engaging the online study in the fall. The Gospel is so short that it can be read in a single sitting (a little over an hour). We have a friend who read all of Mark every morning before work during Lent, so we know that it can be done!
We suggest that you choose a single focus for your study as you read. If you want to read Mark more than once, choose a different focus for your attention each time you read it. Over time, you can build up a very deep grasp of the themes of the Gospel in this way.
Choose one or more of these ways of reading, and enjoy this dramatic, provocative Gospel. Then join with fellow parishioners to read it more slowly and more in-depth in the fall. If you can’t wait until fall to get together with some others, you could adapt one of these areas of focus over the course of a week, and gather a small group to talk about it. Or you could each take one of the areas of focus and gather to share your different insights. You may have your own ideas about how to carry out this reading in communion with others.
Link to Mark
Some ideas for your focus:
Pay attention to the different physical settings, such as the desert, synagogue, mountain, sea, Jordan River bank, homes, temple, way (or path). Consider the significance of your chosen location in the Old Testament. For example, a mountaintop is often a place to encounter God with clarity; the sea can be a place where the chaos that preceded the creation is encountered and ordered; the “way” was an early name for the Jesus movement; the synagogue and temple are places where the presence of God is mediated through the leaders of the religious community; the Jordan was crossed when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, etc. What is important is simply to record your own thoughts as you take note of the different locations.
You could choose to follow a single significant character (Peter, for example) throughout the Gospel, or a group (such as all the disciples or all the unnamed people whom Jesus encounters in a significant way), or Jesus himself. How does the Gospel portray different dimensions of the person’s character along the way? Whom do you want to take as a model for yourself?
What is the plot of Mark? Where are the points of tension? What ironies are there in the plot? Who are the heroes? Who are the villains? How can you tell? Is Mark a tragedy or a victory?
What do you think this Gospel wants you, the reader, to think, to do, or to become after you have read and internalized it? How does the Gospel of Mark affect your understanding of discipleship?
An important theme of Mark concerns the use of power and authority. Who has what kind of power in this Gospel? Do not ignore the invisible characters and spirits. What kind of power are most of the characters (including the disciples) familiar with? What kind of power does Jesus have? How does he use it? How does he teach his followers to relate to power and authority?
Enjoy the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, this summer. Then join us in the fall for a more in-depth exploration of this wonderful introduction to Jesus the Christ.
Leave a comment below, or, if you have questions or suggestions, contact Marjorie George at firstname.lastname@example.org