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.

  • Easter IV, 25 April 2021: Just What is a Good Shepherd?

    When Jesus calls himself "the good shepherd," what does he really mean?

  • Easter V, 2 May 2021: What is to Prevent me, you, us . . .?

    From the book of Acts we hear a story about a two-way conversion and from that story we can understand what Jesus means by "bearing fruit."

  • Easter VI, 9 May 2021: Love . . . that's what its all about

    Spoiler alert: This sermon is all about love.

  • Easter VII, 16 May 2021: Before and After--Dividing Lines

    Dividing lines frame the human condition bringing changes to how we see one another and how we relate to one another, rearranging our priorities and values.

  • Day of Pentecost, 23 May 2021: Speaking the Love of Jesus

    Pentecost is the story the church needs most today. 

  • The Holy Trinity, 30 May 2021:  Do you believe in something greater than yourself?

    It's rather ironic that we who are mysteries to ourselves and others, still have a sense that there is a mystery even greater than we are.

  • Pentecost 2B, 6 June 2021:  Divided and Dividing

    Division and inner conflict is not just a reality of our lives today, it is the main feature. Jesus stands before us as the image of wholeness and yet even when it is for our own good, the offer of new life and wholeness can be a hard place to be. It means one way or another change of some sort is coming--that frightens a lot of us and sometimes even gives rise to anger. 

  • Pentecost 3B, 13 June 2021: What You See is Not All You Get

    The world mostly believes what you see is what you get which limits and narrows our perspectives. We have a tendency to put our human point of view in the center. What we see is generally determined not so much by what we see but by how we see.

  • Pentecost 4B, 20 June 2021:  On a Day of Salvation

    Our lessons for this day have us wrestling with the question, "where is God when we need rescuing?"

  • Pentecost 5B, 27 June 2021:  Two Daughters Healed

    In the gospel lesson for this Sunday, we have two daughters, twelve years, two healings and one unbelievable question from Jesus.

  • Pentecost 6B, 4 July 2021: Faith and Deeds of Power

    After becoming a sensation and local hero in Capernaum and on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus returns to his hometown. What will they think of their local boy who made good?

  • Pentecost 7B, 11 July 2021: A Plumb Line, A Platter, and a Promise

    Three images--a plumb line, a platter, and a promise--connect the lessons for today and remind us that we are called to live and speak truth to power.

  • Pentecost 9B, 25 July 2021:  Carmella's Kitchen by Guest Preacher Mark Singleton

    Paying attention to meals with Jesus.

  • Pentecost 10B, 1 August 2021: Doing life or Having Life Within You

  • Pentecost 11B, 8 August 2021: Bread and Angels for the Journey

    God knows we need food (real food) for our journey of faith and life.

  • Pentecost 12b, 15 August 2021: Bread of Wisdom--Living Wisely in a Foolish World

    How do we live as wise people in a foolish, even evil, world?

  • Pentecost 14B, 29 August 2021: Wash Your Sins, Not Only your Face

    Jesus is confronted by some Pharisees about doing religion wrong. Jesus tells them them they are focusing on the wrong things.

  • Pentecost 15B, 5 September 2021:  Be Opened

    A woman comes to Jesus asking for healing for her daughter and ends up preaching the gospel.

  • Pentecost 16B, 12 September 2021: Have you ever felt ashamed of your faith?

    Jesus asks the big question all his disciples must face and answer: "Who do you say that I am?"  We all have an answer . . . but does that answer encompass all of who Jesus is for us and for others?

  • Pentecost 17B, 19 September 2021:   God, Children, and Greatness

    Jesus prophecies for the second time about his betrayal, death, and resurrection. Once again the disciples misunderstand and reject his message about what it means for him to be the Messiah. So Jesus takes a little child onto his lap and offers a lesson on servanthood.

  • Pentecost 18B, 26 September 2021: Kingdom Bouncers or Kingdom Hosts?

    In words that are some of Jesus most graphic and harsh, he tries once again to get his disciples to focus on what's truly important and to consider the ways in which they are stumbling blocks to others and to themselves.

  • Pentecost 19B, 3 October 2021: Crowned for Great Responsibility

    What does it mean to be "anointed", crowned for great responsibility.

  • Pentecost 20B, 10 October 2021:  What Must We do?

    As Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem, he makes discipleship harder and seem almost impossible. And yet, Jesus says, with God, nothing is impossible.

  • Pentecost 21B, 17 October 2021: What Glory Looks like in servant-land

    Jesus offers his third lesson on glory and discipleship.

  • Pentecost 22B, 24 October 2021: Lord, In Your Mercy, Let Me See Again

    "My teacher, let me see again," Bartimeaus responds to Jesus asking him what he can do for him. Seems an obvious answer for a blind man to make and yet . . . do we really want see.

  • Reformation Day, 31 October 2021:  It all Comes Down to Love

    What does love have to do with Reformation?

  • All Saints Sunday, 7 November 2021:  Unbound Abundance

    If the saints of this life and those who have gone before us have anything to teach us, it's about the abundance of God's grace and the abundant life God offers us.

  • Christ the King, 21 November 2021:  Jesus Wants Us to Be Committed

    Four principles of stewardship are outlined for making a commitment and testifying that Christ is King.

  • Thanksgiving Eve, 24 November 2021:  Don't Worry you Say??

    It's rather odd, not to say, ironic, that the words we hear from Jesus as we prepare to celebrate a holiday focused on eating and drinking are to not worry about what we eat or drink or even wear.