Mark 1: Reading for Liturgical, Literal and Vocational Epiphanies

January 25, 2018 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

More often than we like to admit, there is a brilliance about the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the day or for the year developed by the Consultation on Common Texts.

This year the focus on the Gospel of Mark is an epiphany, liturgically and literally. Liturgically, January is the season after Epiphany, the festivities commemorating the visitation of the baby Jesus by the magi or wise ones from the East. Literally, there is a manifestation of something divine in the readings from Mark.

The first was on the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, January 7, and naturally the lectionary reading focused on the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The second, which comes on the heels of the first passage, is the calling of two fisherman, Simon and his brother Andrew, who are casting nets by the Sea of Galilee.  “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” (Mark 1:17) The text tells us that “immediately (euthus in Greek, which translates to “right then”) they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18) They go on a little farther and James and John, who were mending their nets, get the same call and make the same response.

This reminds me what a friend of mine and president of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Brian Blount, says about Mark: “Mark… is a revolutionary story about a revolutionary choice.” This is from the book he authored with Gary W. Charles, Preaching Mark in Two Voices. The following is on page 11.

As in the first century, so still today, then, this [Mark’s] Gospel is about choices.  It demands the we recognize the dangers of the time in which we live and act accordingly.  …  It demands instead that we carefully, through the experience of our context and experience, remember and then choose Jesus’ way of breaking down the boundaries that separate people from one another and therefore people from God.  It is through destroying those boundaries that the reign of God finds its way in and we find our way out of our chaos to God.

My friend and associate pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill., Nanette Sawyer talks about discipleship as “an ongoing lived, life-long identity. It is not about arriving somewhere else, it is about living where we are.” This is from her unpublished paper on Epiphany 3B, January 7, 2018.

Mark’s Gospel quickly makes clear in the next passage (Mark 1:21-28 assigned for this coming Sunday, January 28) that a life-long identity as one who follows Jesus requires disciples to face and silence “demons” with “authority.”  The word for “authority” (exousian) here in Mark 1:22 and 1:27 is not so much power as it is a willingness to do justice.

I wonder who God is calling now as a disciple and what ways their choices will revolutionize lives and bring about justice where they live?  Maybe they will even be called to seminary and into full-time ministry?  God knows we need them!  I wonder who you know that epiphany may be liturgical, literal and maybe even vocational in 2018?

Note:  Year C (2018-19) of the lectionary focuses on the Gospel according to Luke and year A (2019-20) on Matthew.