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Vision Statement for St. Paul’s, Marfa, Texas
St. Paul’s is an open, loving community
growing in the experience and understanding of the love of God,
acting to share the visible presence and compassion of Christ.
 
Mission Statement for St. Paul’s, Marfa, Texas:
Our mission is to be a welcoming, prayerful, caring community
actively sharing the love of God.

Values Statement for St. Paul's Marfa, Texas
To accomplish our mission, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church bases its decisions and actions on the following core values:

Love of God and neighbor by honoring the worth and dignity of every human being including ourselves.
Daily relationship with God all through our lives through prayer and service.
The importance of giving and receiving forgiveness through the generosity of the Holy Spirit.
We value continual learning.
We value the Episcopal tradition of communal worship.
Practicing hospitality by welcoming all and serving and sharing with our communities.
The stewardship of God’s creation and all its inhabitants.


 


HOWDY 
I found this article written by James Emery White to be timely. While I am not completely comfortable with his last statement, I do think that we need to strive to live our lives by values of Jesus. His words and actions reflected the values and ideals of the Kingdom of God. These values are not in opposition to values in other religions. For example, every religion/philosophy has a form of the golden rule. I do think James Emery White does a good job of answering the question below.

 

 

Is Christian Nationalism True?
Once upon a time there was a nation founded by Christians, established on Christian principles and ideals, in order to be a Christian nation. A city upon a hill; a new Jerusalem. God smiled on this nation and placed His hand of providence on her. He led her and helped her grow. Soon, she became the greatest nation on the planet and took stands against moral evil and political tyrants. She came to the rescue of other nations and fought against the spread of godless ideologies.
 
But then, that nation turned away from God, chose leaders who didn’t honor God, passed laws that didn’t honor God. That nation gave herself over to sin and deception. It soon went from a new Jerusalem to a new Sodom and Gomorrah.
 
As a result, God took His hand of blessing off of her, waiting for her to repent and once again turn to Him. To once again elect the right officials, pass the right laws, do away with accepting sin and immorality, and again become the Christian nation she was established and intended to be.
 
Since then, good, God-fearing, country-loving Christians have had a singular target on the wall: to get their country back to being a Christian nation through any and every means possible. The lowest-hanging fruit? Doing it from the top down through the political process. In other words, get a Christian in office—or at least someone who will stand for and vote for Christian values.
 
Does that story sound familiar? It should. It’s the essence of “Christian nationalism,” and it is marking Christians as never before as tragically evidenced in the recent assault on our nation’s capital (not to mention countless less sensational ways).
 
The idea of “chosenness” and “special blessing” from God has been a constant theme throughout the history of the United States, beginning with the Puritans and their desire that, in the words of John Winthrop in 1630, “wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill.” As historian Conrad Cherry writes:
“Throughout their history Americans have been possessed by an acute sense of divine election. They have fancied themselves a New Israel, a people chosen for the awesome responsibility of serving as a light to the nations.... It has long been... the essence of America’s motivating mythology.” 
So, are the ideas behind Christian nationalism true? We need to look at the answer in three ways: 1) Is it true historically; 2) Is it true biblically; and 3) Is it true culturally?
 
Let’s begin with history. The history of early America does not deserve to be considered as being uniquely, distinctly or even predominately Christian. Not if you mean a state of society reflecting the ideas presented in Scripture. 
 
This doesn’t mean Christian values were absent from American history. There has been a great deal of commendable Christian belief, practice and influence in the history of the United States and the colonies that formed our country. Christian goals and aspirations were part of the settlement of North America. Christian factors contributed to the struggle for national independence. Christian principles played a role in the founding documents of the United States. 
 
But the larger truth was that we were a religious country, but not necessarily a uniquely Christian one. And even when our forefathers and foremothers were attempting to flesh out Christian principles, they weren’t always very consistent. For example, when you think of the Puritans of the 1600s, do you focus on their desire to establish Christian colonies and live by Scripture, or do you focus on the stealing of Native American lands and their habit of displacing and even murdering those Native Americans when it was convenient?
 
Now to our second question: Is Christian nationalism true biblically? Yes, Israel enjoyed a special status as a nation under God but, since the coming of Jesus, Christians have disagreed as to whether the modern state of Israel remains special as a nation to God, much less whether the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people. Regardless, is it appropriate to look at the United States as unique among the other nations of the world as the special province of God and agent of God? 
 
There are some interesting Scriptures to look at here, beginning with a scene from the Old Testament where Joshua, the great leader of the people of Israel and successor to Moses, was leading the people into the Promised Land. 
 
After crossing the Jordan river, the first city they encountered was the city of Jericho, a city hostile to the coming of the Israelites. It soon became clear this was going to be an armed conflict, but God had something else in mind. To demonstrate that the Promised Land was going to be His gift and His doing, He told Joshua through an angel to march around the city seven times, blow his horns and then the fortified walls of the city would miraculously fall down. 
 
But something happened just before the angel delivered that message. When Joshua first engaged the angel, before being told of the marching plan, they had an interesting discourse:
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’
 
“‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” (Joshua 5:13-14, NIV)
No sides were being taken in the political back and forth of human affairs. It’s not that they didn’t matter – the angel actually came to tell Joshua what to do to take Jericho – it’s just that helping Joshua was not about taking a side in human governments. The greater redemptive drama was at hand.
 
You find similar political distancing in the life of Jesus. After the feeding of the 5,000 when the people were ready to force Jesus to be their king, He immediately left (John 6:14-15). Then again, toward the end of His life as He stood before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus made it clear that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom. “If it were,” He said, “my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, NLT). In fact, making His mission about the kingdoms of this world – about ruling and nations and politics – was one of the temptations Satan put before Jesus at the start of His ministry. It was actually the last of the three recorded temptations (cf. Matthew 6:8-10) that Jesus resisted. 
 
Now to our final question: Is Christian nationalism true culturally?  Meaning, is it the savviest, best way for Christians to work for the Kingdom in our day? Let’s be clear that politics do matter. We are to be salt and light, and that includes being salt and light politically. How we vote matters—there are values we should work to uphold. Who is president, who is a senator or representative, who is on the Supreme Court – their values, worldview, decision making – matters.
 
But – and this is an important qualifier – is the ultimate goal a Christian nation or a nation of Christians? I believe the answer is unequivocal. The ultimate goal is a nation of Christians which, I might add, will make the nation more decisively Christian than anything that could ever be legislated. If we had the same passion for sharing the message of Jesus as we do for sharing our political views, this truly would be a changed world.
 
And this is what is most important to remember. Most people who embrace the idea of Christian nationalism truly care about their nation and want to see it turn to Jesus. But the truth is that you can’t legislate morality. You can’t pass a law that changes a human heart. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote in his epic work, The Gulag Archipelago:
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.” 
Yes.
 
So as much as we might pick up the political mantle and work for things that would reflect a Christian nation,
 
… the heart of the battle is working for a nation of Christians.
 

Stay safe, warm and well.....Shalom,

Mike+


Hymn of the Month by Beth Kerzee

Hymn #700; O love that casts out fear
O love that casts out fear,
O love that casts out sin,
Tarry no more without,
But come and dwell within?

True sunlight of the soul, 
Surround us as we go;
So shall our way be safe, 
Our feet no straying know.

Great love of God, come in!
Wellspring of heavenly peace;
Thou Living Water, come!
Spring up, and never cease.

Love of the living God,
Of Father and of Son;
Love of the Holy Ghost,
Fill thou each needy one.

Composer: Henry Thomas Smart, 1813-1879

Henry Smart (b. Marylebone, London, England, 1813; d. Hampstead, London, 1879), a capable composer of church music who wrote some very fine hymn tunes (REGENT SQUARE, 354, is the best-known).

Smart gave up a career in the legal profession for one in music. Although largely self-taught, he became proficient in organ playing and composition, and he was a music teacher and critic. Organist in a number of London churches, including St. Luke's, Old Street (1844-1864), and St. Pancras (1864-1869), Smart was famous for his extemporizations and for his accompaniment of congregational singing. He became completely blind at the age of fifty-two, but his remarkable memory enabled him to continue playing the organ. Fascinated by organs as a youth, Smart designed organs for important places such as St. Andrew Hall in Glasgow and the Town Hall in Leeds. He composed an opera, oratorios, part-songs, some instrumental music, and many hymn tunes, as well as a large number of works for organ and choir. He edited the Choralebook (1858), the English Presbyterian Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867), and the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnal (1875). Some of his hymn tunes were first published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).

By: Bert Polman from Hymnary.org

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnR_zUqHgkk&ab_channel=AndrewRemillard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-KQyLpSprY&ab_channel=RodericStephens

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29eJxKAeL14&ab_channel=LionsRoar

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”
I John 4:18

Love that Casts Out Fear. From Br. Jonathan Maury
We have some fears built into our DNA that have helped preserve us as a species, whether it be a fear of pitch darkness or some other phobia. I believe that the true, deepest fear that we have is that of losing the loving regard of those close to us, or of even God. 

Our human existence is plagued with fears. We have some fears built into our DNA that have helped preserve us as a species, whether it be a fear of pitch darkness or some other phobia. We also deal day to day with our fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar, which comes up again and again in small ways. But it is in these fears that we forget the perfect love which casts out fear.

But I believe that the true, deepest fear that we have, the greatest fear that we have, is that of losing the loving regard of those close to us, or of even God.  When I feel myself to have, by my words or actions, caused my loss of the loving regard of others or of God, I’m already punishing myself with self-inflicted wounds. But what does the letter say? The letter says, “there is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.” God is by nature that Perfect Love, the perfect love which comes in Jesus. Jesus’ actions and teachings are rooted in this truth. In the twelfth chapter of John’s gospel we read Jesus speaking: “Now is my soul troubled and what should I say: Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this reason that I’ve come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Jesus knows that by keeping up relationship with God in prayer and in openness of heart, his fears will be calmed and dispelled and healed. And Jesus by example teaches us to rely also on relationship with God, who is the perfect love casting out fearLet us pray today for Jesus to grant us memories of those times when our fears have been dispelled by the perfect love which casts out fear, by the remembrance of God which has come to us either in our life of prayer or in our relationships with others. And we might also bring our present fears before the Father, as Jesus brought his fear so that that perfect love which is God, God’s presence, may be imparted to us, that we may glorify God’s name this day in ways great and small, ways particular to us and reflect that perfect love which is without fear, that perfect love which is God.


 

ANNOUNCEMENTS
 

February 17th
Ash Wednesday - Beginning of Lent
Noon - Ash Wednesday Liturgy
https://facebook.com/stpaulsmarfatx
For those who would like to have Ashes
1:00 - 2:00 - Drive-by Imposition of Ashes

If you wish to have ashes brought to you, please email the church at stpaulsmarfatx@gmail.com
 


This will be an unusual Ash Wednesday. Some churches won’t use ashes to mark the beginning of Lent this year. We at St. Paul's will give those who wish to drive by the opportunity to have ashes imposed. It will be done with a q-tip and of course wearing our masks. 
 
Fortunately, our Book of Common Prayer does not require ashes. In fact, “The First Day of Lent” is a valid title for what we usually call “Ash Wednesday” according to our prayer book. The primary focus of getting our Lenten journey started is our awareness of our need to repent. And the whole season flows from that.


For more information on the imposition of ashes click here and read about Ash Wednesday and imposition of ashes by by Bishop J. Neil Alexander.

We are deprived of our usual Lenten customs this year. But perhaps there is an invitation for us to focus on our need of repentance, of our need to draw closer to Jesus Christ. Maybe we will have a deeper experience of growing into the full stature of Christ as we depart our comfortable, familiar places.


Lenten Study
Beginning February 24th
Wednesday Nights @ 7 on Zoom
Link and information to come
The topic will coincide with the Stewardship program
during Lent

Mark your calendars
 



New Book for the Book Study
Beginning on February 18th @ 4:00

An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything. 

Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana's pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome's occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history. 

Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus's life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable account of one woman's bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.




The needs of paying the the church bills, funding our ministries, and proclaiming the Good News continues during this Pandemic. Please consider making a monthly gift.
 

AND


THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!---to all of you who have contributed and continue to contribute to our virtual collection plate. Some of you have made it a monthly donation through our "Donate Button. Either way you have done it....it is greatly appreciated. 

For those of you who have not checked out how easy it is to donate on line....
Go to our website-http://stpaulsmarfa.org- Go to the bottom and find the "Donate" --click on it and fill in the blanks.... OR go to https://www.dioceserg.org/donate and continue to support our mission and ministry. 

ALSO---Thank you, thank you, thank you for all who have mailed in pledges and donations
.



Things to do to benefit the church and the community during the Coronavirus Restrictions

1. THE MARFA FOOD PANTRY IS EMPTY! -  Keep bringing food donations...our doors are open 24 hours and you will find a basket at the back of the church.

2. Pray for Rudy and Allison.


3. Pray for our country.

 

 

The Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany
February 7, 2021

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9


Common Epiphanies 
by Roddy Hamilton

 

 Note that the reading includes physical symbols for each of the Sundays in Epiphany.
(inspired by Mark 9:2-9, Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 1-2)

 
Introduction: This has been the season of Epiphany… a time to reveal who Jesus is and week by week we have been doing that… But have we noticed the moment of transfiguration along the way… This contemporary reading takes us back over the season and reminds us of those places we have met and learned something… been signposted to who Jesus is… When we realise what has been happening… perhaps we see it not a revelation, but revolution… this way God reveals the love offered for us all...
 
Not on a mountain-top
but by the Jordan
we saw the glory of God
 
It was a revelation
as the Messiah
showed himself
not as being set apart from all of us
but being baptised as one of us
God beside us
God one of us
this everyday epiphany
is revolution
(bowl of water)
 
Not on a mountain-top
but by a sea shore
we saw the wonder of God
 
It was a revelation
as the one from God
found us fisher-folk
and called us
not the theologians
but the workers
to catch the world 
and bring it into the kingdom
this everyday epiphany
is revolution
(net)
 
Not on a mountain-top
but in the synagogue
we saw the greatness of God
 
It was a revelation
as his words filled us
and called us
with an authority
we’d never heard before
enough to heal the demon possessed
and transform the faith
into a living
inspiring word
this everyday epiphany
is revolution
(bible)
 
Not on a mountain-top
but in quiet places
we witnessed the grace of God
 
It was a revelation
when we sought Jesus
and found him alone
needing the quiet space
to be himself with God
a Messiah
in prayer
seeking direction
this everyday epiphany
is revolution
(candle)
 
Not on a mountain-top
but by the lepers side
we found the brilliance of God
 
It was a revelation
that he declared the leper clean
out-with the temple authority
but with his own authority
born in a grace
rather than power
that transforms life
in a single ‘Yes!’
this everyday epiphany
is revolution
(bandages)
 
Not on a mountain-top
by on the roadways of the world
glory is found
 
This is a revelation
that Jesus has been revealed
not in mighty cathedrals
but on the roadways of life
amid all who leave footprints
in the dust and stoor
of everyday epiphanies
This common revelation
is heaven’s revolution
(bread and wine)
 

A Church Unveiled
2 Corinthians 4:3-6

If we do not proclaim ourselves,
But Christ as Lord, and we, then, slaves
To those we might the good news tell -
That changes what we're called to crave.
 
No longer need we fear the worst -
An empty church, and shuttered doors -
Instead, our hunger and our thirst
Would be for those the world deplores.
 
Contagious joy - for all - would show
That Christ has touched our hearts and souls,
And Church would be where none outgrow
The God whose love our love extols.
 
Scott L. Barton 
 

until (Mark 9:2-9)

until 
we see the faces 
of those tossed into 
the world's garbage piles
dazzling bright with 
hope and wholeness;

until
we respect the prophets
we have been yearning for 
in the hip-hopped, doo-ragged
teenagers strutting 
through the malls;

until 
we hear God's sweet 
songs of peace and reconciliation  
in the mother tongues
of all we turn
a deaf ear to;

until 
we catch a glimpse 
of you (out of the corner 
of our shut-tight eyes) 
coming down off 
the shelf where we store you, 
to enter our frayed lives;

maybe 
we should have nothing to say . . .
      
until. 

(c) Thom M. Shuman

 

II Kings 2.1-12: What Elijah Wore
Art and Faith Matters

The chariot of fire in which Elijah disappeared usually gets all the press (II Kings 2:1-12, Transfiguration B). And why not? It doesn't happen very often that someone is swooped up off the earth and taken to be with God in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire.

But the actual transfer of power is described in the text (though it's in the next verse after the lectionary portion). It's an action that has a legacy in a reasonably familiar phrase. When someone "assumes the mantle" or "takes up the mantle" of someone else, the language is a direct descendant of this story of the prophets. Elisha assumes the mantle of Elijah literally and metaphorically. He asks for and is given a double portion of Elijah's spirit. After the chariot and horses and Elijah disappear, Elijah takes up Elijah's mantle and begins his own journey. 

The text doesn't tell us where the mantle was between verses 8 and 13. In verse 8 Elijah rolls up the mantle and strikes the water so the two can cross the Jordan River. The next time we see the mantle it is on the ground, and Elisha is picking it up and wrapping himself in it. 

Many artists assume that Elijah tosses the mantle down from the chariot. A search for images of Elijah and the chariot will be heavy on flames. Sometimes the flames envelop both the chariot and horses. Other artists have flames only on the feet of the horses and the wheels of the chariots. Among the details the artist might have included a fabric cloak in mid-air.

Compositionally, the cloak ties the heavenly portion of the subject with the earthly portion. The twisting, turning cloak can become a line uniting the chariot passenger prophet with the prophet who waits, looking up expectantly. Often the mantle, the cloak, is red, a vivid color that is related to the flame colors of the chariot and contrasts with a blue sky. But a 13th-century Italian fresco offers a different color palette. And an additional point of meaning.


The Prophet Elijah Taken to Heaven on a Chariot of Fire.13th century. Crypt of St Mary Cathedral, Anagni, Lazio. Italy.

In this fresco the horses and chariot show no actual flames, but they are the red and yellow of fire. Elijah sits in the chariot holding the reins, driving the team. He wears green clothing and holds out what we presume is meant to be his mantle. In the next moment, Elijah will drop the mantle, and presumably it will float down to a waiting Elisha. 

Red is the liturgical color for Pentecost, another scriptural moment associated with the anointing of power and flame. Red is the academic color for divinity. Both associations are appropriate for this moment when God gives power and authority to a new person. 

Green is the color of ordinary time. It is associated with life and growth. These green associations are also appropriate for this story. Because following the special effects of chariot and horse, life went on. Elisha performs the mundane, ordinary task of putting on the mantle and walking back across the river. Because life goes on. In the same way, after the Transfiguration, the disciples go back down the mountain, back to the ordinariness of life without glowing Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Life goes on after the special effects. 

After Elijah disappears (after the chariot) and after Elijah disappears again (from the Transfiguration), the life-giving word of God goes on. Life.
 

A Face Transfigured
Art and Faith Matters

 

On a mountain. Bright white light. Face made to look a new and surprising way. Surrounding figures from the heavenly realm. Yes to all of the above in the picture below. It is Transfiguration.


Tintoretto. Moses Receives the Law. 1560-1562. Venice: Madonna dell'Orto. 
http://www.madonnadellorto.org/eng/index.php?p=p&i=5

Except that the picture shows Moses. So it isn't technically THE Transfiguration.
Really, this is Tintoretto's version of Moses receiving the two tablets of the law. Moses is illuminated until he is white. His arms are outstretched in a gesture that resembles Christ on the cross.  What the artist has done is draw the connection between the two texts.

How often does God act in history doing the same thing? A child is born against seemingly impossible odds. God elevates a younger brother or sister above an older sibling. God relates to people in a new way through a trip to a mountaintop. The third example is the story here. Two trips to a mountaintop, and on the return trip back down the mountain, people know God in a new way. So Jesus and Moses are transfigured, but through the law and the Word, all God's people have the power to be transformed. Thanks be to God.
 

See The Unseeable

We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that's everywhere
And nowhere?

-Edwin Muir 1887-1957
The Transfiguration (excerpt)

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days
Almighty, victorious thy great Name we praise.

Great Father of Glory, pure Father of Light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
'Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

W. Chalmers Smith 1824-1908
excerpt - Immortal, invisible


 


The Transfiguration, Duccio, 1308-11


The Light That Never Changes

I entered into the secret closet of my soul, led by Thee; and this I could do because Thou wast my helper. I entered, and behold with the mysterious eye of my soul the Light that never changes, above the eye of my soul, above my intelligence. It was not the common light which all flesh can see, nor was it greater yet of the same kind, as if the light of day were to grow brighter and brighter and flood all space. It was not like this, but different: altogether different from all such things. Nor was it above my intelligence in the same way as oil is above water, or heaven above earth; but it was higher because it made me, and I was lower because made by it. He who knoweth the truth knoweth that Light: and who knoweth it, knoweth eternity. Love knoweth it.

-Augustine 354-430
Confessions, book 7 chapter 10



Coming Down Off The Mountain
"Right Sized"


When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?

-Blaise Pascal (1623-62) Pensees, 205

 


 

Bitter and dark and desolate
Are Love's ways in the beginning of love;
Before anyone is perfect in Love's service,
We often become desperate:
Yet where we imagine losing, it is all gain.
How can one experience this?
By sparing neither much nor little,
By giving oneself totally in love.


-Hadewijch 13th century


 

The Last Word

Life Himself came down to be slain; Bread came down to suffer hunger; the Way came down to endure weariness on His journey; the Fountain came down to experience thirst. Do you, then, refuse to work and to suffer?

 -Augustine 354-430

 
  
Week of February 14—February 16

And so we come to the end. And the beginning.

In these last verses of Mark, we experience the agony of Jesus’s death and the ecstasy of his resurrection. We are the women at the tomb who weep as Jesus is put to death, and we are Joseph of Arimathea who wraps the body in linen cloth. We are Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome, who come to anoint Jesus and find him risen from the dead, yet tell no one, for their fear. We are the disciples who walk with Jesus and do not truly see him, and we are the people called to go into all the world and proclaim the good news.

We appear in each part of this story, and yet it is Jesus’s alone, the Son of God, the Messiah, who solely pays for the sins of the world with his very life so that we might have new life in the kingdom of God.

As we begin our reading, Jesus cries out: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This question is considered one of the Seven Last Words from the Cross. This nomenclature is a little confusing as it actually refers not to seven individual words but rather seven expressions or sayings from Jesus during the crucifixion collected from the four gospels. This cry from Jesus, asking God about being forsaken, is the only one to appear in more than one gospel, in both Mark and Matthew. It echoes Psalm 22:1, with the psalmist asking the same question of God. Scholars offer several interpretations of why Jesus says these words. For me, they speak to Jesus’s humanity, to being both fully human and fully divine.

As Jesus breaths his last, the curtain is torn in two. The reference here is to the curtain or veil at the high, holy temple. In Exodus 26, God gives Moses very specific (almost Ikea-ish) instructions on how to build the tabernacle, a place of worship for the Hebrews. God tells them to cover it with a curtain (veil) made of “blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen…with cherubim skillfully worked into it.” Then God explains the purpose of the veil: “the curtain shall separate for you the holy place from the most holy.” When Jesus dies, this veil is torn in two—a literal sign that with his death, nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is at the heart of Atonement: that we are “at-one-with” God because Jesus atoned (paid) for our sins through his sacrifice. The Gospel of John offers another of the Seven Last Words, “It is finished.” The Greek word for that phrase is tetelestai, which means “paid in full.”

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council and a follower of Jesus, asks Pilate for the body so that he might bury Jesus in his own tomb. It is there that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bring spices so they can anoint Jesus’s body. On their way to the tomb, they express a very practical concern: “Who will roll away the stone for us?” But the stone is rolled away, and a man, dressed in white, greets them, telling them Jesus has been raised. Since this is the first—and last time—in the history of the world that someone has died and been raised from the dead, the women are, understandably, freaked out. They flee from the tomb and, gripped by fear, say nothing to anyone.

Now here’s an interesting historical situation. Early copies of the Gospel of Mark show it ending here, at verse 8. Debate has simmered among scholars: Did the ending get lost somewhere? Did Mark’s author intend for the book to end at this moment? Were verses 9-20 added later to make it more palatable and optimistic for the burgeoning church?

While this historical and scholarly discrepancy about the ending is compelling, it ultimately misses the point, in my opinion. This is a story about beginnings. Jesus tells the women to “go, tell.” And this has been our commission and mission from that day forward: to begin a new life in Christ and “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

Reflection

1. An ancient Roman historian wrote of a solar eclipse and earthquake that occurred about the time of the crucifixion. Imagine that you were there that day. In your mind (or with paintbrushes or pencils), conjure the scene. What do you hear, see, feel? What does it mean to you that the curtain was torn in two?

2. Women play an important role in the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection. When other disciples fled, they stayed with Jesus. They came to anoint his body for proper burial. And it is a woman, Mary Magdalene, to whom the risen Jesus first appears. In a time when women were not equally valued to men, what does their presence during the Passion say to us today? What does it mean to you that a woman, Mary Magdalene, was the first to share the good news of the risen Christ?

3. How would you respond if the Gospel of Mark ended with verse 8? Do you think the wider church would be different today? Research the scholarship about the shorter or longer endings. How does each ending impact your understanding of the resurrection of Jesus?

4. What one thing can you do today to proclaim the good news? Now, go do it!


Thankfulness and Celebration and News  

Thank you to Joni who will be leading our Stewardship program during Lent.

Thank you to everyone who continues to bring food supplies and masks to the church. It is greatly appreciated by the Marfa Food Pantry.

Thank you to all who have gone on line to our virtual collection plate and to those who have kept up your pledges and donations through snail mail.


 



 

LOOKING FORWARD
TO
"SEEING YOU" 
SUNDAY MORNING
10:30

The Rev. Michael Wallens
Vicar - Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
P.O. Box 175, Marfa, Texas 79843

stpaulsmarfatx@gmail.com
Office - 915.239.7409  |  Cell - 214-862-7292

Parish website - www.stpaulsmarfa.org
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Pauls-Episcopal-Church/366568286865722

 
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