On a scale of 1-10, 5 being, “I make thoughtful decisions in a reasonable amount of time,” what kind of (over)thinker are you? Do you lean toward a 10 with “analysis paralysis,” as familiar domain? Or does your decision making lean more toward “impulsive” in the 1-2 zone? (If you’re still thinking, you’re at least a 4…)
Tangled up in over-thinking is our human desire to “get it right.” That’s reasonable, laudable even. As we look to Saint Mark this week, I like to think he’s on the lower end of this scale. His gospel was the first out in the world. His account of Jesus’ life included an urgent tone, words like “immediately” used frequently. I imagine his sandals with little Nike swooshes on them. Just do it. He traveled to Cyprus and Egypt before others, spreading the news of Jesus, ultimately becoming Bishop of Alexandria.
Mark’s evangelism took fierce courage to go beyond his boundaries, into the unknown, to the unseen, sharing news he knew was urgent, life-sustaining, and fortifying.
I attended a funeral a couple of weeks ago for an 18-year-old who died unexpectedly. This young man spent many of his living hours helping others. He mentored younger Scouts, volunteered at VBS and food drives, built habitats for feral cats, and was a Certified Rescue Diver, to list a few of his services to others.
People previously unseen and unknown to this church filed in. People scooched to make room in pews. Church members grabbed extra chairs from storage to create seats in the aisle. The rector of the church was alerted by the family that many of the attendees were not regular church goers, if they’d ever attended at all.
The church was full. And not just full, but packed. People sat in overflow, some of us sitting at picnic tables outside, participating in the service via PA system piped into the courtyard. This congregation gathered to celebrate a life, pausing their lives midday on an otherwise beautiful Saturday, included people of all ages, but the 17- to 20-year-old set dominated the room. The visual was stunning: multiple, less conventional piercings and tattoos, brightly-colored dyed-hair, and so many other visual cues common to a “please see me” or “who am I” cry of young adulthood.
Preaching to a room full of devastated teenagers and young adults and grieving families, many of whom had never heard the gospel is ripe for overthinking. What message did they need to hear that harrowing, glorious, sunny, tragic, sorrowful Saturday afternoon? What could possibly reassure the multitudes that yes, things are scary and out of our control, but Jesus is here to hold you and take your frustration, and you are loved beyond compare?
The priest didn’t try to rally an altar call for sinners’ salvation. He didn’t try to fit The Message in twelve minutes, or worse, hold a tear-stained congregation hostage with his words persuading them to come to “accept Christ.” The priest used the pulpit that day to sit and grieve with the hundreds. To tell them they are seen and loved by God.
“We are mad, sad, and heartbroken. We want to sit and cry. Maybe we wonder why. We want to beat on something in our anger… We can beat on the chest of Jesus while he holds us. Each of us, all of us, in our beauty, our heartbreak, our imperfections, our mistakes, and our relationships are seen and loved, and we matter. All of us. *You* are welcome here. We are loved by God.”
That’s what the grief-stricken and heartbroken heard that day. Most of that congregation found their way to the communion rail. Maybe they’ll never step foot in a church again, save for the unfortunate events life throws at them, but that Saturday, brought together in tragedy, they were reminded of their value and membership in the kingdom of God.
One of those teenagers, one who spends his fair share of hours in a church, heard that message, and a week or so later, passed it on. A friend of his expressed some suicidal thoughts via text. When she texted and asked why anyone would care whether or not she lived or died, the 14-year-old boy, often impulsive, not prone to overthinking, typed a three word response: “Because you matter.”
Saint Mark set out to tell people they are loved, he brought the message of Christ to places unseen and unknown. Love, with reckless abandon. Prioritize the care of others. Love on others with the courage of a lion. You may never know your impact of sharing God’s love. Don’t overthink it. Just go and do.
Go in peace, to love (others) and serve the Lord.