Graysen’s Favorite Gospel

Mark 1-1

 

Hey everyone!  I’m excited to be back 😀  Bethany helped us move this past week from the Old Testament into the New Testament with the gospel of Mark (thanks Bethany!).  This week, we’ll be exploring the second half of the gospel of Mark and see some of the themes that Mark has been setting up come to their close.

Before we get into looking at the text itself, here’s just a bit about Mark that will be helpful for us as we read.

First, Mark is the oldest of the gospels and it sets the stage for the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke).  As the church grew in the years after Jesus’ resurrection, there wasn’t any need to write down stories about his life – the people who were there and saw it were still alive and present.  It was only around the end of the first century CE that people who were followers of Jesus began to write down what they knew about his life and teachings.  Why?  Because all the witnesses were dying!  They needed to keep a more permanent record of Jesus’s words that didn’t rely on having witnesses of the events nearby.  That first written story came to be known as the Gospel of Mark.  The writers of the Gospel of Luke and Matthew would later use Mark as the skeleton for their gospels.

It’s because of this that the gospel of Mark is my favorite of the gospels.  It’s the pre-cursor and contains the most concise collected narrative of Jesus’ life and teachings.  And – the end is just great (but we’ll get there soon enough)!

So, I hope that you’ll join me as we explore what one of the earliest authors of the life of Jesus had to say about “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)

-Graysen Pack

Converse with the Almighty

bible

Saturday’s Weekly Recap with Graysen Pack

This week we’ve walked through another six chapters of Proverbs and found words that, although written thousands of years ago, still speak to the persistent struggles of human existence.  Answers to guide us seek the wealth that God promises, to join God’s work as he defends the orphaned and poor, to earnestly engage in honest community, to be aware of the emotional strife of ourselves and others, and to use our words to build a church of sincerity.

 

It can be easy to forget that even when we read the oldest parts of the Bible, the words are still alive and active.  And we don’t really read Scripture, but instead engage in a conversation with it.  It isn’t a professor lecturing at us from the front of a large classroom.  Instead, it is a dialogue that speaks to who, where, and when we are.  The words of God are both alive in the history of Israel and the church as well as our lives today.

 

As you continue to read through the Word of God this year, remember that you are entering a conversation that will speak to your life and the life of the world today.

Watch Your Words

Proverbs 26 – Friday 

Prov 26-18-19 (1)

18 Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows,

19 so is one who deceives a neighbor

   and says, “I am only joking!”

Proverbs 26:18-19

There’s a popular show on HBO called Game of Thrones.  And whether you’ve ever seen it or not, it has become a meme factory.  And there’s one line that is currently making the rounds on social media: “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything and then there are no more answers.  Only better and better lies.”  

Like the boy who cried wolf, this proverb is a warning that words are powerful.  Although we want to believe that only sticks and stones can break our bones, words can often cripple us in a way that no wound ever could.  I think it is probably fairly rare that we intentionally fire hurtful words at those around us (although when tempers flare I have unfortunately found a sharper tongue than I ever expected in my mouth).  What is really dangerous are the words we throw at someone else veiled in jest.

I learned this from Andy Cisneros, but in every piece of sarcasm there’s a little nugget of truth.  Something real about the thing we’re pretending to say but really meaning.  While we may find them easy to move past at times, sarcastic words erode away at us like water through a canyon.  They’re poison pills wrapped in sweetness and given in bitterness.  

We may not consider ourselves to be con men – deceiving our neighbor intentionally – but we deceive ourselves and shoot arrows at our neighbor when we pretend that the words we say don’t have weight to them.  This proverb encourages us to become people who use our words wisely, to mean what we say, and to engage with each other genuinely so we can build a better community together.

-Graysen Pack

Caring for the Poor

Proverbs 23  (Tuesday)

Prov 23-10-11

 

 

There are two strong images that emerge in this proverb.  The first is that of moving a landmark so that it encroaches on “the field of orphans” (Proverbs 23:10).  This is most likely a reference to the Israelite practice of leaving the corners of a field for the poor to glean from (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19-21).  This institutionalized care for those in need meant that farmers would always leave part of their field unpicked.

 

Just like surveyors today, the properties of each person would have been laid out by various markings: large rocks, stakes, or a cairn (pile of rocks).  While there wasn’t a board or city commission the farmers could check against, a greedy farmer could slowly move a marker year after year to make their own plot larger while taking from their neighbor – or in this case, shrinking the portion of their field that is left for the poor.  Human greed to take from those who already have so little is nothing new today.  So, this proverb is a warning that if we try to steal from the orphaned and poor, we have their redeemer to answer to — God.

 

The second image comes in verse 11 and is connected to the story of Ruth.  It is the role of the “redeemer.”  In the Hebrew, this is the word Gaal or Gaw’al (spellings vary).  We might more accurately translate it as a “kinsman redeemer” like Boaz is in Ruth.  This is the person whose responsibility it is to care for family members who don’t have a means to protect themselves.  And God will not only protect them, but plead their case against us if are the ones threatening the little that they have.

 

Our God is one who jealously guards His children, even more so those who have no protector themselves.  As the people of God, this Proverb reminds us that God is one who stands as the kinsman redeemer of the poor and that it is our responsibility as part of his family to take up their cause as well.

–Graysen Pack

The Prosperity Gospel vs. Giving Generously

Proverbs 22 – Monday

Prov 22-9

Proverbs 22:4 & 9

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

   is riches and honor and life…

Those who are generous are blessed,

   for they share their bread with the poor.

 

On any given Sunday morning, I can flip on my television and find a number of ministers promising me riches, wealth, and prosperity if I only have faith.  They usually then want me to practice that faith by making an offering to their ministry – “give us $5 so that God can return it to you one hundred fold.”  These promises do indeed sound promising, but this prosperity gospel is not the message that our Lord came preaching.

 

Just like we can twist the words of Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 to fit this perspective, we can also turn to Proverbs to try to find a God who rewards those who are faithful with riches, wealth, and health.  But our interpretation of the Proverbs would be just as tortured if we tried to find its truth in the shallow waters of the prosperity gospel.  

 

Rather, let’s use the Scriptures themselves to better understand the “riches and honor and life” that is promised for those who love the Lord like we find in Proverbs 22:4.  Just a few verses later, we find the clarification that we need.  It is the “generous” who are (hashtag) blessed.


The wealth of the Gospel of Christ lies not in storing up material wealth or riches or fame, but in sharing the material goodness that we have been given with those who don’t have them.  We are blessed with lives of richness, honor, and life abundant when we give away the riches we have so that those with neither riches nor basic needs can be filled as well.

 

To close with a parable of Jesus, there was a man whose harvest was larger than his barn could store.  He decided to build a larger barn to store his crop.  However, that night he died and all his wealth was lost.  I think that the point of this parable isn’t that we shouldn’t plan ahead or have large barns, but rather that when we have more than we need, we should share it instead of store it up for ourselves.

 

We can find life, wealth, and riches only when we are generous and give the very things we think we need to hoard.

-Graysen Pack