I continue to have my world rocked by Alexander Shaia’s book, Heart and Mind. There’s so much in this book that is just helping me take in the Gospels in a way like I haven’t before. As I closed his chapter on the Gospel of Mark (which focused on the journey through the wilderness and the struggle that goes along with it. The chapter closed with the following (as he writes about the “longer ending of Mark”:
Mark’s original—and heretofore perplexing—ending fits us, on the second path of quadratos, as precisely as it fit the Jews in Rome. It challenges us. Will we manage to endure our continuing death, and also bear witness to it? Will we betray it and give up, amid all the temptations with which we are faced? Will we desert, turn our faces away, and run? If we do, will we return? Will we accept one (or many) of the possible distractions and deny the path? If we do, how long will it take us to recover our direction? Will we ever recover? Or, heeding Mark’s counsel, will we somehow manage to have trust in our chosen journey and make our way through the uncertainty and confusion?
I saw this image as I was on a prayer walk the other day while praying/talking through my sermons for this Sunday. I was struck by the beautiful leaf and the contrast with the concrete and the shade on the side. It was just a striking combination of colors and textures. But as I reflected on the connection of all these things, I thought of how that leaf will soon lose that beautiful color and wither away – a feeling that Mark’s readers may have been feeling themselves. Yet, there is the hope that Shaia pulls out that is evident in Mark – that even in the midst of suffering, there is hope and there is resurrection and life will come anew.
Indeed, the Christ promises us that the far shore will grow closer and closer. Awareness of the grace that guides us will begin to dawn, surely and certainly. The storms will quiet, and land will appear. Our boat will slide smoothly onto the sand of a golden beach, and right over a rise, just behind the sea grass, the most beautiful and fragrant garden we can possibly imagine awaits. John’s glorious garden is preparing our welcome. In the shade of a bending tree, amongst the blossoms, we will find a bench, and we will see our name engraved upon it. Hold to faith; let our courage be blessed. We will soon rest.