“Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
—Mark 16:8 (CEB)
I’ll be completely honest with you and just admit I have a lot of sympathy for the Christian scribes whose job it was to copy by hand the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end. Who could believe Mark intended his gospel to end right here with this verse (16:8). So awkward. So unsatisfying. Distressingly incomplete.
You’ll notice in your bible, when you turn to the end of Mark, that, yes, his gospel does, indeed, end right there with that sentence. You’ll also notice two other endings, usually in brackets, a longer one and a shorter one, because some scribe decided to clean up Mark’s ending, adding to it what was in one of the other gospels. It is as if some scribe just couldn’t bear to let the story hang there the way it does.
I cannot pass up this opportunity to point out a strange juxtaposition of events which will occur over the next few months. The church calendar (the cycle of seasons and days we follow so we may both encounter and embody the story of Jesus) and the secular calendar (with its own seasons and reasons for naming special days) meet in two ways this year: Ash Wednesday, the day Christians have for centuries set aside to mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a season of solemn preparation for Easter, occurs on February 14, which is, of course, Valentine’s Day, a day our culture sets aside to celebrate romantic love; and, if this were not enough, Easter, the highest and holiest of days for the church, will happen on April 1, April Fools’ Day, a day our culture sets aside for practical jokes. I will leave it to you to make what meaning you may from this confluence of events.
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I rued.
Here is a wintry poem for you as you begin a new year.
It is one sentence. Only two words go to two syllables. It doesn’t have any metaphors, although one could argue it, all of it, is only a metaphor. The picture is black (crow) and white (snow) and utterly simple. The rhymes button perfectly into their button holes. This little poem doesn’t seem like much out here in the snow of the empty page. You can easily hold on to it in your mind or, cut out of this page, tuck it into your wallet or tape it up on your bathroom mirror, if you want. (more…)
As our consumerist culture barrels headlong into its pre-Christmas spending frenzy, I’d like to invite you to walk with me through the season we observe in the church as a way of preparing ourselves for Christmas.
Simple and captivating. Would those be the words you use to describe church? They could be, even if they aren’t for you right now. A church, after all, is no more or less than its members, members who organize a community around their faith and their spiritual practice. It is yours, and you are making it. A church’s purpose is to be a constant act of creation.
I have a friend whose spiritual practice is to write postcards to his friends. I’m lucky to be counted among them. Every month, I get at least one, sometimes two. What he writes is simple and captivating, a bit newsy and also reflective; his postcards are his gift of himself to me. I have every card he has ever sent me over the course of almost ten years. When he writes a postcard to me, and when I receive it and read it, we are having church together. I have been working on my spiritual practice of sending him a postcard in return. We are making a creative connection together. We are listening to one another and encouraging one another. His spiritual practice of making connection through postcard writing creates a state of happiness in me. His simple gesture of friendship captivates me. (more…)