Monday, June 18, 2012

Where's the Lectionary Headed?

This Sunday’s gospel is a short text about Jesus’ stilling the storm. Characteristically, Mark takes an abbreviated, simplistic approach to this phenomenal tale about Jesus exhibiting divine power over the created order. Who had power to control the weather? Only God. Unlike the disciples, we’re able to make the connection.

But that has me wondering… what happened to the season after Pentecost? I feel like I’m right back in the season after Epiphany. This gospel text is epiphanic in its nature—especially when it’s set aside by itself. Because this tiny passage is detached from its context, we don’t get to see how it fits in to the wider picture of Jesus’ ministry. This Sunday, we’re blind to the dramatic exorcism that happens as soon as he gets to the other side of the sea. Instead, we have only a tiny piece of the bigger picture, and, like a key hole through which we’re peering, this storm-calming gives us a glimpse into the nature of Jesus.

Maybe that’s the beauty of summer. The whole story doesn’t become clear until we’ve spent a few weeks in church together. Last week, we had two kingdom parables. And, in Mark’s account, this stormy voyage comes immediately afterward. And, although the RCL does skip over the exorcism in Mark 5:1-20, next week’s gospel (Mark 5:21-43) is the text immediately after that one—the sandwiched healings of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman.

When I was preparing a sermon last week, I was kind of excited that we would get to spend time in parables this summer. But I’ve already looked ahead to all of the gospel lessons for Sundays between now and August and there aren’t any. Instead, last week’s one-shot at kingdom parables is supposed to set the foundation for everything that follows. The question for the preacher over the next two months is this: How are these stories from Mark 4 through Mark 6 evidence of the kingdom that Jesus was preaching? In other words, how do these stories illuminate not the person of Jesus (season after Epiphany) but the kingdom he came to establish (season after Pentecost)?

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