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A New Year and Mark’s Gospel

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a peaceful and restful week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The church office was relatively quiet before I left town on Thursday. Several staff members were out of town, the phones didn’t ring very much, and we actually had time to get some organizing and planning done. It was fun!

But I left the quiet of the office on Thursday to make my annual trek to Asheville. Every year at New Year’s, David and I travel there to spend three nights with a group of friends from my seminary days. If we counted right, this was our seventeenth year. I’m grateful for this tradition for so many reasons, one of which is that it helps me actually mark the beginning of the new year. If it weren’t for this annual gathering, we’d probably treat January 1 like any other day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I appreciate the fact that we go out of town, have a chance to reflect with friends on the year that has past and get a fresh perspective on the year that’s ahead.

I don’t know how each of you marked the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Maybe by celebrating with friends. Maybe by watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Maybe by putting on your pajamas and sliding into bed before 10:00 pm. Maybe by coming to church on Sunday morning and celebrating a Love Feast.

Of course, as Christians, there’s no reason we have to celebrate New Year’s Day. It is not a high holy day. It’s not even a holy day. It doesn’t mark an important moment in Jesus’ life or in the life of the church. The only thing that made it holy this year was the fact that it fell on a Sunday. January 1 is just a marker of time.

Having said that, there’s something about New Year’s that gives us an opportunity. It does invite us to reflect on the year that has past and look toward the year that’s ahead. Traditionally, it’s a time when we make new commitments and resolutions to “do better” than we did in 2011. We commit to eating more healthily, praying more regularly, exercising daily, etc., etc. And that’s a good thing.

So, while we’re all in the mood to improve ourselves, I’d like to issue an invitation. I would like to invite all of us to read the Scriptures more in 2012. And, if you’re not sure how or where to start with that, I’d like to suggest we start together with the Gospel of Mark. On most Sundays of this year, our gospel readings will come from Mark. From now through Easter, we’ll be working our way through this startling, urgent, earthy and gritty gospel. In the Wednesday night Bible study, I’ll be focusing on Mark. It will just be Mark, Mark, Mark all over the place!

So sometime in the next couple of weeks, sit down and read the Gospel of Mark from start to finish. It won’t take long. You might even try reading it outloud! Then, watch for what the readings will be each Sunday. (We print them in the newsletter each week.) If you take the time to do this, hold on to your hat because Mark will take us on a wild ride! See you at church on Sunday!