Broderick Greer

Culture | Theology | Justice

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Homily on the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

On this day on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate and ask for the intercession of Saint Mark the Evangelist, that patron to so many Episcopal parishes, probably some in your own past. As you know, much of what we know about the early saints comes from legends and stories based in what we understand today as fact and fiction, a distinction our ancestors weren’t so keen on. 

 Legend has it that there is a line in the Gospel attributed to Saint Mark that is a bit self-revelatory. It is found in the fourteenth chapter and is at once humorous and human. It is set during Jesus’ arrest and impending crucifixion. A young was following Jesus, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. The police caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. And that’s all we hear of that young man. 

 Some scholars suspect that the young man is the author of Mark’s Gospel, maybe even Saint Mark himself, especially since the vignette is inserted without much fanfare, the way an artist might include her own face in a masterpiece. “Yes I’m in the portrait, but I’m not the subject.” 

What a saint to celebrate. A saint who shows up in his youth in a linen cloth, possibly jarred out of sleep due to the commotion of the first Holy Week, who enters the scene as he is, no pretense or plan. 

Which is close to the way so many of us might have found ourselves on our own journeys, jarred by the death of a loved one, jarred awake in baptism by a strange person pouring water over our heads, or jarred by a sudden loss in finances, security, or love. And there we are, so close to Jesus, yet so far, bearing witness to his own tussle with authorities bent on his execution, wanting to help, but whisking away, bereft of the single linen cloth we thought would save us from being seen for who we are. 

And there, in that moment, we make eye contact with our Lord who sees us and loves and knows us and is unafraid to call us his siblings. The Human One, the Humane One, who too knows what its like to lose power and control and dignity and security.

The Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist
Mark 14:51
Saint John's Cathedral
Year B

 

"Just be thirsty."

    The Revelation to John, like much of the Bible, is considered “literature of the oppressed.” It is a collection of sayings and visions that flip the script of history. Instead of Caesar, Herod, and other leaders having taking center stage, St. John defers to Jesus, the one whom he describes as both lion and lamb. The one whom Jerusalem’s elites wrote off as a bygone trend. The one whose followers Rome was bent upon crushing. And yet, in the middle of exile, John crafts this haunting piece of literature: a letter that assures its various audiences that despite persecution, isolation, and other pending forms of violence, the crucified and risen, broken and mended, executed and resurrected Christ is the first and last word in history. 

    For John, the risen and ascended Jesus is the, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And while the Roman Empire and the broader world may not perceive it, Jesus is God’s way of saying that terror, persecution, and oppression do not have the final word. In John’s apocalyptic imagination, the martyrs and the faithful dead - not soldiers and emperors - are the heroes, heroines, and stars of the drama. 

    And then it happens: the Bible ends. If we were to read this passage from a copy of the Bible, we’d see that these are its final words and that the grand story of our origin and meaning has reached its conclusion. And yet, like any good story, it’s not really over because it ends with an invitation, not a statement; a comma, not a period. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” The weight of history’s Alpha and Omega, history’s A and Z, history’s beginning, middle, and end now rests with us, that body of people nourished and sustained by bread and wine, washed and nurtured in the waters of baptism. 

    This drama, this great flipping and inverting of history continues in our own day, as we join the saints, living and dead, around this Table, saying, “Come. Just be thirsty.” Amen.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21
Grace-St. Luke’s Church
Year C