What’s In a Name
A Message from Pastor Dave
Dear Saint Mark’s,
I was asked the other day why Saint Mark’s is named Saint Mark’s. Uhh, because St. Matthew’s, St. Luke’s and St. John’s names were already taken? I don’t know. St. or Saint Mark’s organized on Dec. 13, 1908 with missionary pastor Dr. Jacob Morgan (St. Morgan’s?). And St. Mark’s is one of seven “St. Mark’s” in the North Carolina Synod.
Most Bible scholars agree that St. Mark’s gospel account was the first one written. It is the only one to clearly label itself as a “gospel” or “good news” (Mark 1:1). Maybe that’s why this Mooresville church was named St. Mark’s – we wanted to be first or gospel-centered? Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Maybe our St. Mark’s ancestors in Mooresville just wanted to have shorter sermons and shorter worship services and that’s why we’re named St. Mark’s?
Mark’s repeated message is that no one understands Jesus. No one gets him. Not the disciples, not even his mother. Yet, Mark’s account was written to create and strengthen faith in Jesus, to develop true disciples of Jesus. Maybe that’s why St. Mark’s Lutheran Church was named St. Mark’s?
The gospel according to Mark focuses our attention on the cross and the suffering of Christ, a suffering servant Messiah. After the crucifixion, there isn’t a resurrection scene exactly. Mark ends suddenly, for whatever reason at chapter 16, verse 8, with other additional stuff probably added later. Women run from the empty tomb in fear after a man, perhaps Mark himself, says that Jesus has been raised!; and to go to Galilee to see him “just as he told you.” Even confronted by the message of the resurrection, the disciples don’t get it. Maybe that’s why we are called St. Mark’s – sometimes we just don’t get it and aren’t entirely supposed to.
Perhaps Matthew, Luke and John thought: “What a terrible ending, too pessimistic, too condemnatory of the early disciples and of everyday Christians.”
For many of the early Christian communities, this was just too much. Christians may be sinners but they are not total losers. Maybe they, like Hollywood screenwriters, decided to do a rewrite. Matthew emphasizes the teachings of Jesus and their importance for the life of the Christian community. This was important when Christ did not return as was expected by the early disciples. Luke stresses the compassion of Jesus and the universality of his message. This was important as more gentiles became Christians. And John stresses that Jesus is not a suffering Messiah but the very presence of God. John invites us to have life in Jesus’ name, to have a lifelong encounter with Jesus the Word made flesh, and to abide with him. Maybe we would rather be St. Matthew’s or St. Luke’s or St. John’s Lutheran Church?
But here’s this: Mark keeps us honest. Mark challenges us in our complacency. Mark reminds us that we don’t get it. We don’t understand Jesus or his message. If we think we do, we haven’t been listening. Or, if we think we got it, go serve, and be last, and even suffer and die for Christ’s sake. Of the four Gospel writers, Mark is the one you would not want to invite to dinner. But he is the one who will challenge you to listen more carefully to Jesus, and to serve Jesus more passionately. And maybe that is why this congregation is named St. Mark’s.
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Pastor Dave Keck