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A Little Bit of Mark in Our Lives

This article is intended to introduce the Gospel of Mark to us as a congregation, primarily because we will be spending most of the year hearing it read during worship on Sunday mornings.

There is a sense of URGENCY in Mark’s Gospel. For starters, it the shortest of the four Gospels (16 chapters), weighing in at a full five chapters than the next shortest, John (21 chapters). No waxing poetic for Mark! While John makes a sort of Throwback Thursday comparison that places Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, back at the beginning of all creation, in the Word God Spoke that brought all things into being, while Matthew and Luke harken back to the beginning of Jesus’ life by telling the story of his birth (along with a couple of genealogies thrown in for good measure), Mark’s beginning is much more to the point:

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
+Mark 1:1

Then he quotes some Scripture and moves on to the coming of John the baptizer (Mark’s name for him, not mine), who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus’ big entrance. Get in, say what you need to say, get out. That’s Mark’s style. But notice what he’s doing as well in that one, short sentence. The beginning of the good news. Not the beginning and ending. It’s a subtle reminder to his hearers that this good news (aka Gospel) that started in and through Jesus is still going on today, wherever and whenever today might happen to be. It took root and started in a particular place and time, but it is still going on today—in places and times all around the world. Even – or especially – in your own place and time.

No mincing of words, either. It takes all of 110 words and only 5 verses to dispense with John arrival and preaching, which is roughly between half and one-fourth the words/verses the other three Gospel writers use (Matthew: 270/12, John: 348/18, Luke: 478/20). Get in, say what you need to say, get out. After Jesus is baptized and emerges (victorious, we must presume, since Mark characteristically wastes no words telling us) from being tempted in the wilderness, Jesus preaches his first sermon. All thirteen words of it (fifteen in the original Greek). Imagine me giving a thirteen word sermon some Sunday! (Good old Mark, some of you are probably thinking right about now.) Here it is:

“The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news!”
+Mark 1:15

Again, note the urgency. The kingdom of God has come near, almost like a comet comes near a planet before soaring off to some remote corner of the galaxy—or even universe. Better catch it before it’s gone! Jesus is God’s comet, swooping in on us here on planet Earth, bringing with him good news of God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, good news of a new and different kingdom than that of Caesar, the ruling Roman monarch of the time, good news of deliverance for the poor and outcast of society, those on the outside looking in, those oppressed by the evil that seems so strong.

And then there is one. Little. Word. A word Mark uses like it’s going out of style and he has a closet full he needs to get rid of before it does. The word is euthus in the Greek, usually translated immediately or at once in English. It appears 41 times in Mark’s Gospel—11 times in the first chapter alone! And to give you a wider point of reference, this Greek word appears only ten more times in the rest of the New Testament. That means that in Mark’s Gospel, which comprises just 8% of the New Testament, we find a word whose usage comprises 80% of the word’s use throughout the New Testament. You think maybe this is an important word for Mark? “Follow me.” And immediately they left their nets (and for two of them, their own father) and followed. For Mark, the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus falls upon us like a swooping hawk with claws extended, demanding that we give it our undivided attention. From beginning to end Mark tosses us in a speeding car chase, careening from curve to curve, until we are deposited, breathless, outside the empty tomb with the women, staring open mouthed at a young man who is telling us, proclaiming to us, the good news of God’s kingdom that he is risen, that we are to go and tell, to proclaim to, his once and future disciples this very same, life-transforming good news. Immediately.

May the urgency of this good news surround us as we hear Mark tell his urgent tale in the year ahead, especially this month as the journey of Lent begins February 14, when love and ashes meet and kiss each other.

See you in church!
Pastor Paul

How would you like your home blessed?

A Home Blessing is a wonderful way to welcome and invite God into your home, whether a new or long time resident, whether a house, an apartment or mobile home.  The blessing usually involves  prayer, lighting a candle, Bible readings and moving from room to room to bless various areas of your home.

Pastor Paul enjoys providing this service to folk, whether a member of St. John or a neighbor in our wider community.  Just call the church office at 426-5751, x100 to set up a time and/or learn more.

“Wake up”

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death . . . Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.  +Revelation 3:2-3


“Wake up.”  These words can come gently, as when I find myself waking up one of our children from sleep to start her day.  Or sometimes they come urgently, as when Heather notices me getting sleepy at the wheel:  “Wake up!”  During this season of Advent, the Lord Jesus speaks to us in both tones as well.


“Wake up.  Wake up to a world of wonder, a world filled with grace and peace, mercy and hope.  It’s all around you, if you would or could only have the eyes of your heart opened to their presence, like a child is gently awakened to the wonder and beauty of a new day unfolding before her very eyes.


“Wake up!”  You are heading directly into danger!  You must snap out of it now or there will be dire consequences to your health and the health of those around you!  Whether it’s the danger of crazy Christmas consumerism, complacency to the Christ-child who comes, cutting competition (three words:  Christmas light displays), or some other December minefield, you’d better be alert or else you’re headed for a crash.


In each of these calls to wake up, there is a moment, as pregnant as Mary on December 24th with possibilities.  The Bible calls it a kairos moment, sometimes translated as an “opportune” or “right” time.  “At the right time, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6).  “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”  (2 Corinthians 6:2).  These wake up calls are an invitation to step off the maddening treadmill of life long enough to reflect on the patterns and moments of our lives and ask a very important question or two, such as why?  Why am I behaving this way?  Why does this always seem to happen?  Or what?  What might God want to teach me about myself and God’s world in this moment?  Or how?  How might my life as a Beloved Disciple Making Disciples be different moving forward?  Our reflections than can move toward action, new and renewed actions motivated and directed by God’s Holy Spirit at work within us, bringing about deepened faith in Jesus and a more certain hope in God’s coming salvation or deliverance, both for us and the world God so loved that he gave us his only begotten Son.


As we move through this season, let’s keep our eyes and ears and hearts open for such moments, such signs.  Some places that may be especially full (dare I say pregnant?) with hope include the Wednesday evening Advent vesper services, the Advent Small Groups where 35+ people are gathering in community to read and reflect and prepare for Christ’s coming, the “Joy of Christmas” gathering December 8th, our caroling outing to St. John homebound members December 22nd, and of course Christmas Eve worship at 4:00 p.m. (a repeat engagement of the “Meet Me at the Manger,” no-rehearsal children’s Christmas pageant we started last year) and 7:00 p.m.  Through these and many other ways, may we “keep awake” to the possibilities of God’s salvation and healing reaching out still today to us.  And may the end result, once again, be Christmas JOY.  A Blessed Advent, all – and Merry Christmas, too!


In His Grip, Pastor Paul


Join Pastor Paul for a BRIEF Advent small group planning meeting in room 101 THIS Sunday morning, November 10th at approximately 10:30 a.m.  We will discuss group dates/times, format and what sort of resource to use in the groups.  If you have ideas, input or comments, this is the time to bring them.  Meeting will finish no later than 10:55 for anyone (including Pastor Paul) who is planning on attending 11:00 a.m. worship!


My vows to you I must perform, O God.  
I will render thank offerings to you.

(Psalm 56:12)

I am thankful for our seven new members who joined St. John last month.  You can get to know these fellow Beloved Disciples Making Disciples—including seeing their picture so you know who they are—in our November newsletter, posted under ‘news’ elsewhere on our website.  Be sure to give them a warm St. John welcome when you see them around church.

I am thankful for Lois Sharp’s faithful years of service as St. John’s custodian; please join me in praying for God’s blessings upon her as she hangs up the mop and moves on to other adventures.  I am thankful for an awesome and loving staff, a committed Council, and a character building school that meets in our building, led by people of character themselves.

I am thankful for warm quilts, school kits and health kits collected from all parts of Northeastern Indiana (and beyond!) to be sent to those in desperate need of them.  I am thankful for warm meals being served weekly free of charge to any who wander in from the increasingly colder outside.  I am thankful for money gladly given to the Good Samaritan Fund, used to help both members and neighbors in need.  I am thankful for the growing number of people caring for our homebound brothers and sisters in Christ, including our fledging Caring Visits ministry.

I am thankful for faithful bulletin and slideshow makers, deacons, ushers, altar guild, offering counters, soundboard team members, noisy offering collectors, organists and pianists, choir and handbell members, pew card replacers, acolytes and assisting ministers, without whom we would not be conducting regular and meaningful weekly worship.

I am thankful for the gifts of faith, family, fall, friendship, fun, food, flowers, flavors, and the Fort—just to name a few ;-).

And in all these ‘thankfuls,’ let me clear—lest there be any doubt—that they are directed to God, the giver of all good gifts, and no one else.  My vows to you I must perform, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.  Let us all be full of thanks—thankful—at all times (not just November!) and in all places (not just in church!).  Amen!

Thankfully Yours,

Pastor Paul

Custodian Wanted–Oct 30 deadline!

St John Lutheran Church is looking for a person who would be interested in cleaning the church on a weekly basis. This is a part-time job with no more than 20 hours a week. If you or anyone you know might be interested, please contact Jane Gresham by Wednesday, October 30th for consideration!


Remember Applebee’s Dining to Donate is the 1st Tuesday of every month. Be sure to pick up or print a flyer so your meal counts. You will find a link to the flyer each month in the calendar entry, or look under the News/Events menu.

Interested in learning more about Revelation?

The link below is mostly for those attending the Brown Bag Bible Study on Thursdays at noon in room 205 at St. John, but anyone who is interested is more than welcome to click on it and check it out for yourself.  It is a link to the classroom lectures of Professor of NT Craig Koester of Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  Having only listened to about 5 mins of one of them at the point of posting, I cannot vouch for its content beyond this:  Luther Seminary is a reputable ELCA seminary, so I doubt whatever he teaches could be considered out of line (i.e., heretical) to ELCA teaching.


Luther Seminary – Book of Revelation Course Audio.

Reflections on the New Bishop Elect from Voting Members | New Creation Church

I noticed the following blog post on the website of our September  8th Church of the Week, New Creation Lutheran Church in San Jose, CA.  I believe it’s written by the pastor there.  Regardless of author, I think it shares some good insights and reflections on the process in which our denomination, the ELCA, elected a new presiding bishop in Pittsburgh, PA, last month.  Hope you like it!  Pastor Paul

Reflections on the New Bishop Elect from Voting Members | New Creation Church.

Synod Assembly Summary

Earlier this month, Jane Gresham, Bob Bosserman and Pastor Paul attended the 2013 Indiana-Kentucky Synod Assembly just a half dozen or so blocks east of St. John at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Fort Wayne.  Below is a summary of the many activities and actions that took place.