Lectionary Year B--The Gospel of Mark

Whoever wrote the gospel according to Mark invented the genre "gospel book." It was an innovation, probably made about 70 CE, sometime after the death of Paul and probably about 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, that had stunning results. Three other gospels soon followed, each making significant use of Mark. But neither Mark nor the others disappeared. We still have all four.

Mark remains quite alive, characterized by its own unique voice and full of surprises. For one thing, unlike the other gospels, the book includes its own title: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . ." This has sometimes been taken simply as an introduction to the next few lines about John the Baptist. It should, rather, be regarded as the name for what the whole book is and what it enables. Mark provides the beginning or the ground or basic principle of the gospel as it is to be proclaimed and celebrated in the assemblies--the churches--of the Christians. Indeed, in Mark, the good news, or the gospel, involves not only words about Jesus, but his risen presence in those words and in those assemblies.

The ending of Mark sends those who are reading the book back to Galilee to see him alive, as both the young man in the tomb and Jesus himself have told us. And "Galilee" happens when we start to read the book. It also happens in the very center of the book, the central one of the three passion predictions where an assembly in a house in Galilee is told "whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." To be in assembly, to hear the words about Jesus, his ministry, and his death, and to welcome the least ones--such is to see the Risen One. And that one, Jesus Christ, is the very presence of God.

Mark is not a simple book. Or its seeming simplicity invites us always to come deeper. From its beginning, the book involves the revealing of a secret, the manifestation of the presence of God in the world like seed growing secretly, like deeds of power breaking out even when people do not believe, like yes when no has been spoken. Every passage needs to be thought about. So not only are the heavens town open, but so is the temple curtain, and God comes graciously to be present where we thought God could not be: on the earth, on the cross. An annual mustard bush becomes the tree that gives shelter to all--that is, Christ's cross is the promised tree of life. A blind man named after a figure in the writings of Plato comes to see because Jesus goes past him on the way to the Cross.  Jesus drinks the sour wine and he is inaugurating the presence of the kingdom. And a place in the life-giving tree and healing from our blindness and a drink from the cup of the kingdom then comes to us. In the crucified and risen Christ, God comes to us.

I love the gospel of Mark because of its paradoxical simplicity, because of its secret made manifest in the assembly, because the whole book is a resurrection appearance of Jesus. I love Mark because it so faithfully and fascinatingly enacts the beginning of the gospel among us.

From "Why Mark is My Favorite Gospel" by Gordon Lathrop


Sermons in Year B 2020-2021

Click on the picture to read the sermon.

  • Advent I, 29 November 2020: Rend the Heavens

    The gifts of the "Advent Pause."

  • Advent II, 6 December 2020: The Beginning of the Good News  

    The Rev. Kimberly Vaughn preaches on Mark 1:1--The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

  • Advent III, 13 December 2020: Witnesses to Truth and Hope

    Are we witnesses or interrogators?

  • Advent IV, 20 December 2020: Let it Be

    Mary has a "Gabriel moment and message"

  • Christmas Eve, 24 December 2020:  Joy to the World, Yes, even in this pandemic year

    A Christmas as so many have said for the books! On one hand, it seems Christmas couldn't come soon enough. On the other. . . how do we come to the manger and rejoice in such a challenging and difficult year?

  • Christmas II, 3 January 2021:  Incomprehensible Glory--The Word Made Flesh

    For many years physicists have debated the nature of light, saying it is impossible that light could be both a particle and a wave. For thousands of years, the nature of Christ has also been debated by theologians and non-theologians. Is it possible that Jesus of Nazareth the Christ could be fully human and fully divine?

  • Baptism of Our lord: promised to be a water-washed public servant

    Jesus shows up at the shore of the Jordan River, joining the throngs of sinners to be baptized by John. Why?

  • Epiphany II, 17 January 2021:  We Need A New Vision

    The readings for the second Sunday of the Time after Epiphany all about seeing. It matters what our eyes see and that we know the truth. We are in need of aligning our vision with the way Christ sees.

  • Epiphany III, 24 January 2021: Casting and Mending Nets

    You and I may not be making a living fishing, but we know something about casting and mending nets.

  • Epiphany IV, 31 January 2021:  2020 Vision--Looking Back, Looking Forward

    Reflection on the past year (2020) and "remembering forward" to 2021.

  • Epiphany V,  7 February 2021:  How We Spend Our Days

    In the gospel lesson for this day, we follow Jesus for twenty-four hours and see how he spends his days and his life.

  • Transfiguration, 14 February 2021:  thresholds--before and after

    Embedded in the Old Testament and gospel stories for this day are thresholds--a boundary line marking a "before" and an "after." Few human beings cross thresholds without hesitation. Why? Because they bring a change.

  • Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021:  Now is the Day of Salvation

    What if Lent is really about the life yet to be lived?

  • First Sunday in Lent, 21 February 2021: Lessons of Faith in the Wilderness

    On Transfiguration Sunday we pledged to follow "the Savior" wherever he goes. Today we follow him into the wilderness. What an we learn about faith in such a place?

  • Third Sunday in Lent, 7 March 2021: Upending Business as Usual

    Jesus appears at the Temple in Jerusalem and begins to upend the tables, scattering coins and driving out the animals. He seems to be offended by "business as usual."

  • Fourth Sunday in Lent, 14 March 2021:  The Cross--A Bridge of Healing

    An old American folk tale and biblical nocturnal conversation.

  • Fifth Sunday in lent, 21 March 2021: Seeing Jesus

    "Sir, we wish to see Jesus," a group of Greeks--Gentiles--ask one of Jesus' disciples. When Jesus hears their request he responds by talking about his death on the cross.  

  • Easter Day, 4 April 2021:  Easter without End . . . Amen!

    The Resurrection account in Mark's gospel ends with the empty tomb and Mary Magdalene and her companions running off in fear and amazement and silence. Mark's gospel ends with a yawning openness--an Easter story without end. Perhaps that is just as it should be. Easter without end, Amen!

  • Easter II, 11 April 2021: A Doubting Believing Faith

    The story of Thomas is a story of a doubting believer and believing doubter.

  • Easter III, 18 April 2021:  Witnesses of These Things

    The resurrection of Jesus is not a ghost story.