Saturday, October 01, 2005
The beginning of the good news
I love Jesus. And because of this, I find myself obsessed with the Bible. Every page of it. Every story. Every character. I remember once hearing pastor share about Ezra 7:10 - that Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of YHWH and to teaching it to Israel - and how it gave him his life's mission. I have to say that something in that hooked me like some big, shiny fishing lure. When Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire passionately says that he feels God's pleasure when he runs, I know that's what I feel when I've got my face in the Scriptures surrounded by a desk full of open lexicons and commentaries and encyclopedias and atlases and wandering deep in conversation with someone about what the Good Book means and what it means to "perform" Scripture.

I know I'm weird, but this is me.

And so earlier this summer I approached Jim, the discipleship team leader at The Rock / La Roca, about possibly leading a bible study this fall. He invited me to one of the team's meetings about a month ago where I pitched the idea. I wasn't even through with casting the vision in my head and they were ecstatic and gave me the greenlight. I just wanted to look at the Gospel of Mark - no curriculum but the Bible itself - and interpret the text together as a community, in the back of my mind developing something of a community commentary about Mark.

So after three weeks in the Sunday service bulletin, the group started this past week. Well, officially it started the previous week, but only Maggie showed up. And she only came because I needed a ride from Wilmore to Lexington. But this week there were five: Mona and Steve and Manuel and Diane and Larry. And the thing that immediately strikes me is that these people are not like me- not anything at all like me. For starters, I'm the youngest in the room by at least ten years. For another, I need to break out of seminary mode, and fast.

Diane informs me she has been apart of the various incarnations of church that have inhabited this building for the past 53 years, and then proceeds to tell us that entire history. Larry is probably in his late 40s with a trim moustache. He asks for a King James Bible, which we find on a shelf. Throughout the discussion I see the gears in his head turning, and suddenly he'll blurt out some profound theological truth, but it isn't anywhere in the vicinity of where our conversation is going.

Manuel tells me he is from the rescue mission and says, "I'm just a babe in Christ." He's an African-American with a large physical presence, and man, the dude can preach. But like Larry and Diana, staying on topic is a challenge.

Mona pushes me as to why I'd pick Mark. Mark is the gospel she knows least about and why is that. The hunger is transparent in her face. Steve has a pen and notebook and I catch him making notes every now and again. I hope he's not making his grocery list.

We talk about the concept and significance of having four different gospels of Jesus in the New Testament and that maybe Mark has something unique to say about who Jesus is. We talk about the identity of Jesus is one of the main things Mark is after and to watch out for it. In fact in these first scenes we already see Mark calling Jesus the Son of God as well as a Voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus to be His Son. We read through 1:1-15 and talk about how important the Old Testament is to Mark.

Jesus doesn't just show up in a vacuum. He continues the story of the Old Testament. To Mark the story of Jesus begins back in Isaiah. To Mark, John the Baptist is just like Elijah. We talk about how maybe the details of the temptation aren't as important to Mark as they are to Matthew. We talk about how much happens in 15 short verses. We talk about how the baptism followed by the tempation immediately establish both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.

We talk about how we might together prepare the way for Jesus.

We spent an hour reading the Bible and talking about Jesus, and I couldn't have been happier.

And so pray for the community at The Rock / La Roca that we might together be transformed into the image of Jesus and love God more.

posted by Peter at 10:04 AM
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