Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mark: Class 2

Sunday night was a stormy one in Fresno. Still, we had a group of nine for our study of Mark. Determined to make up some time this week, I got us all the way to Chapter 1, Verse 2! Well...technically I skipped some stuff about verse 1 that I want to go back to...but we had some fantastic discussion.

Mark gets busy right away in his Gospel. In the very first verse, he has declared Jesus to be both Messiah and God's son. And in the second verse, he makes a powerful suggestion. By quoting from Isaiah and Malachi, citing verses that proclaim one who will prepare the way of The LORD, Mark sets the reader up for the story of John the Baptist. But wait! John the Baptist is preparing the way for this man, Jesus...not for Yahweh! Could Mark be declaring, already in verse 2, that Jesus has equality with God?? That's a bold statement!

We spent a good deal of time discussing methods of translation and Biblical versions...important stuff. And stuff we need to get at what Mark is saying. Because already in the first two verses we have some significant differences from version to version. We touched on the powerful need for the Holy Spirit in writing, translating, and reading God's Word. I'm finding that the hour flies by as we go deep into the Gospel message.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mark: Class 1

We had 10 people for class last night and got all the way to Mark 1:1!

We spent some time talking about our personal experiences with the Gospel. Most of us had never studied it in a church setting before. Mark is overshadowed by the other three Gospels.

Indeed, Mark has been largely disregarded by the church for its entire existence. Early on, it was thought to be nothing more than an abridgement of Matthew. The language is coarse Greek. The transitions are inelegant. In short, Mark has never thought to be much of a writer.

Until, that is, the past century. Scholars started to wonder if perhaps Mark had reasons for writing the way he did. If so, then maybe we've been missing something for a very long time.

Why are the disciples treated so shamefully by Mark? They never seem to get it. And Mark includes none of Matthew's grace notes, redeeming the disciples when they fall short. But it makes sense when we realize that Mark was, in essence, writing Peter's Gospel. In most of the stories, the eyewitness was Peter...Mark was just the recorder. And this was the same Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabas; he could relate with Peter's desertion of Christ.

So the Gospel of Mark becomes a Gospel of redemption, a Gospel of forgiveness. And when we think of our own failures and shortcomings, Mark reminds us that Jesus stands ready to receive us back and forgive us completely.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Had An Idea

Sure, okay, I still should write about the Ireland trip in this space. And maybe I'm just trying to revive the blog in the spirit of new year's resolutions. But I had this idea today that might just work.

Next month I am going to start teaching a class on the Gospel of Mark. It's going to be very informal, taught right out of my living room. There will be friends and neighbors, colleagues and fellow seminary students, long-time Christians and some people who are just curious. Truth is, I have no idea who all will be there. I only know that if one person shows up, we are going to search the Word together. I'm excited. I need to teach.

Some people will come every week. Some will come every now and then. Some will probably only come once. Some will be there solely for the discussion of the evening and others want homework so they can search deeper during the week. And some might want a forum to continue the conversation in between classes. To that end, I'm going to open this blog as a place where we can journey through the Gospel of Mark together. I will post some personal insights, but I will be more interested in the insights of others. It will be a conversational study...my favorite kind. All are welcome.

Your first assignment: set aside an hour and a half or so during the holidays to sit and read through the entire Gospel at once. We'll chat about how that went.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


One of the reasons I'm in such a blog slog is all of the writing I'm doing. Those of you who have been through seminary remember the preponderance of papers. Not that I'm complaining. I'm one of the odd students that really enjoys writing the papers. I enjoy getting my thoughts out of my head and, since I don't have an outlet for teaching right now, writing is the next best thing.

But it takes a lot of time. And when I take a break from the writing, I find that one of the last things I want to do is write.

So the blog is not dead. I have a lot of Ireland stories to tell and pictures to post. Plus much to report, including a near-miss with Fuller Seminary. But it'll come in fits and starts. All of the papers must be turned in by December 8th. In the meantime....

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ireland: Day 3-6

After I'm home and rested...which may take some time...I'll blog all the details I can remember about our trip to Dublin. It has been an incredible time, far exceeding our best expectations. The weather has been sunny and beautiful on the days we spent outside and windy and rainy on the days we planned indoor activities. God was smilin' down on us.

I seriously can't shake this accent.

For now, I'll just remind meself...er...myself to write about the Shelbourne Hotel, O'Donaghue's Pub, St. Stephen's Green, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Celtic Whiskey Shop, Hodges/Figgis and Bestsellers book stores, Ballyknocken, Cork, Cobh, Blarney Castle, Foley's Pub, cemeteries and monuments, The Irish Writer's Museum, and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Not to mention whatever I'll remember later and whatever hasn't happened yet. This trip has been a well-timed gift. I'm grateful for the chance to be here and grateful for friends with which to share the stories.

The whole week has been mighty craic!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ireland: Day 1. (Or 2??)

13 hours on three different planes. And have I mentioned that I can't really sleep sitting down? We left at 7:00 am Sunday in Fresno and got to Dublin around 8:00 am on Monday. Lisa kept thinking that restaurants were closed and churches should be in session. It weirds you out.

After checking in and sleeping for five hours, we went out for a walk. There are pubs in Dublin! No, there are lots and LOTS of pubs in Dublin. We walked about four city blocks and saw at least 20 pubs. I'm not counting restaurants here. Just pubs. Pubs, pubs, pubs.

The streets were packed. We couldn't figure out why until Lisa pointed out that it was 5:00 pm on Monday. Everyone was leaving work, catching buses, and presumably heading for a pub. There are very few cars, tons of buses, and throngs of people afoot. The street is lined with statues (and pubs) and there is something to see in every direction.

We walked along, in no particular direction, marveling at the architecture, laughing that we passed two Burger Kings in two blocks, and trying to stay out of everybody's way. We saw a beautiful building, took a picture, and realized it was a post office. We passed the Bank of Ireland as we strolled. Finally, we found ourselves along the backside of a long building that was fenced off. We continued around the corner to see where we were. At the gate, we saw a lot of students walking out and discovered that we were at Trinity College. We went into the courtyard and all the sounds of traffice were silenced. We stayed a bit, but we are touring the school later so we headed back to the hotel for some fried haddock.

No Guinness yet but I'll let you know when it happens. It will most likely be in a pub. We are in a beautiful city that uses foreign currency with the nicest people and having an incredible time. More to follow, as we suck it up and decide to pay many euros for wireless charges.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ireland, Baby!!!

My wife works hard and earns these cool incentive trips. We stayed at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. We toured historic Savannah, GA. We had the most incredible week in Hawaii. And now we are headed to Ireland on Sunday.

As I type that, it seems like a pattern...every trip is better than the last. Next year, we may be going to the moon.

We are going to stay at the beautiful Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. There will be food, excursions, gifts...and yes, we are going to kiss the Blarney Stone. At least I am. Lisa hasn't decided yet. Something about germs.

I doubt if I will do much blogging while I'm there. But I'm excited. If I see Bono, I'll tell him hi.

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