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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

West Central Development News — City Buys 8 Properties

See the following link to learn more about a recent city purchase that could be good news for the West Central neighborhood’s future development . . .

http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/home/City-Buys-8-West-Central-Properties-To-Be-Redeveloped-VIDEO-248909151.html

City Buys 8 West Central Properties To Be Redeveloped (VIDEO) | Indiana’s NewsCenter: News, Sports, Weather, Fort Wayne WPTA-TV, WISE-TV, and CW | Home

City Buys 8 West Central Properties To Be Redeveloped (VIDEO) | Indiana’s NewsCenter: News, Sports, Weather, Fort Wayne WPTA-TV, WISE-TV, and CW | Home.

ADVENT SMALL GROUP PLANNING NOV 10

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!

Everybody’s normal . . . until you get to know them, that is!

“Everybody’s Normal ‘Til You Get to Know Them” is the title of our current Wednesday evening sermon series, which has been tackling a different aspect of community each week.  Based on the John Ortberg book by the same name, this series is intended to help real people living in a real world count the practical cost of genuine, loving relationships—and then pay it.  Why?  Because the rewards and struggles along the journey toward deeper and deeper community is what God intends for all of us—and where God will ultimately bring all of us in the end, when we will all be ‘normal’ at last.  Here are the remaining topics:

  • 8/14 – The Gift Nobody Wants:  Confrontation (Ephesians 4:15-16) (Guest Preacher, Steve Callender!)
  • 8/21 – Breaking Down Barriers:  Inclusion (Matthew 15:21-28)
  • 8/28 – The Secret of a Loving Heart:  Gratitude (Luke 7:36-50)
  • 9/5 – Normal at Last:  Heaven (Revelation 21:1-6a)

What’s Your Story?

Pastoral Reflections on How The Story Intersects and Impacts Our Story

“He is risen!  He is risen indeed!”

What wonderfully glorious news we get to proclaim every Easter morning!  What hope those seven words can bring to forlorn hearts on the brink of despair!  To quote the Reverend Dan Smith, “Death couldn’t handle him and the grave couldn’t hold him!  That’s my Jesus!”  Indeed, may you find him to be your Jesus, too, in this Easter season of fifty days and well beyond.

Part of what one might call ‘Easter Living’ is found in experiencing freedom from that which has kept us bound, in some cases for many years, much like the grave clothes that bound Lazarus even after Jesus had raised him from the dead.

Over the course of Lent’s forty days, through the various Christian disciplines of fasting, prayer, meditation, almsgiving, Bible study, worship and others, many people have worked very hard at naming and then removing—by God’s grace—those destructive beliefs and bad habits about ourselves that have kept us from freedom in Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God for the hard work and passion that has led to positive change for so many.  And now . . . it’s time to party!

You see, precisely because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we his followers have been freed up to risk great things in Jesus’ name.  Since ‘death couldn’t handle him,’ we who trust Jesus with our very lives can be confident that death won’t be able to handle us, either.  In fact, because Jesus has been raised, neither death nor life, things present nor things to come, and indeed, nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love shown in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).  So may God—the same God who raised Jesus from the dead—bless and strengthen you this Easter season to do and say that which you normally wouldn’t do and say, and may God get all the glory and may God’s kingdom grow by leaps and bounds as a result.  Why?  Because “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  How’s THAT for a party?!?!

In His Grip,

Pastor Paul

Give Thanks (Mar ’13)

Giving thanks is a powerful act.  It can keep us humble, reminding us of the many good things that happen outside our own particular sphere of influence and activity.  It can keep us worshipful, reminding us of our great God and Savior who is beyond us yet also within us through the Holy Spirit, constantly at work sustaining and redeeming his good creation.  And contrary to popular culture, it can indeed happen more often than once a year at Thanksgiving!

Below are a few of the prayers of thanksgiving offered up to God last Advent in Jay Heare’s small group.  May they encourage you, warm your heart and nudge you toward your own thankful prayers this month!

          As a new member of St. John, I thank my God every time I remember the wonderful people here.  I have been welcomed and made to feel part of this church family.  The warmth and loving smiles and kind words will be carried in my heart always.  (Marsha Roth)

           Dear God, music is such a blessing, a pleasure to our ears and hearts.  Thank you, God, for the beautiful music of St. John Lutheran Church.  Thank you fro all the people who take time out of their days to prepare the beautiful sounds we enjoy – choir, handbells, flute choir, hymn sings, organ music and much more.  Bless each and every one of them.  (Jayne Miers)

           Dear God, thank you for St. John’s many outreach programs, especially for the children.  Outreach programs like Wellspring, Brown Bag B.S., youth group, Sunday School, quilters, prayer shawl, Stephen ministry, Wednesday dinners and so many more.  Bless all of these projects, all who serve in them and all who are served by them.  And bless all the children.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

And then finally, let us all consider the opportunities we have in worship this month to come and thank God for the many blessings God has given us.  In particular, the services of Holy Week—Palm Sunday (Mar 24, 9 or 11), Maundy Thursday (Mar 28, 7 pm), Good Friday (Mar 29, 7 pm), and Easter (Mar 31, 9 or 11)—offer us time to worship and thank God for the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.  May the remainder of your Lenten journey and your Holy Week be filled with heartfelt, genuine thanksgiving to God!

In His Grip,

Pastor Paul

TRANSLATION AVAILABLE!

Did you ever wonder what gems the 50th Anniversary Book (1903) for the congregation held, but were unable to find out because it is in Old German, and you couldn’t read it?
Thanks to the generosity of Charlotte Laisure, Mike McLaughlin and Donna Weber a friend of Charlotte’s translated the book! For a donation of $10 to the Boiler Fund (debt reduction), the translation is available on a CD. Actually the first 55 donors will be given a CD and a jewel case to put it in, courtesy of Donna Weber (via St Jude Medical). After that, the price will go up to pay for additional CD’s and jewel cases.
The translation has a few minor errors, such as where instead of were, and leaving a couple of names out in the back of the book, but all in all it is a fascinating document!
The pages are exactly as the original book, as well as the pictures and have translations of the pictures also. Please contact Charlotte (747-7356), Mike (672-3351) or Donna (490-9334), if you wish to have your own translation. Thanks!