Sunday, April 25, 2004

2 Timothy 4:6-11,18 - “Get Mark”

St. Mark the Evangelist
Saturday, April 24, and Sunday, April 25, 2004

My dad retired a couple of years ago after working around 30 years in an employment agency, helping companies find the right people to hire. I know from him that a good resume is essential to helping get an interview, getting a foot in the door, and possibly getting that job.

Saint Mark’s resume doesn’t look the strongest. Oh, I know, we set aside a day in the church year to celebrate Mark and his contribution to the Christian faith, but seriously, his resume, his work history is pretty weak. He wasn’t one of the 12 Disciples; he was too young to be part of that group. He was just a young man who watched Jesus be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, fleeing when the soldiers tried to grab him. He was just a young man whose mother hosted one of the early house churches in Jerusalem. And was Mark simply benefiting from nepotism? Was he just a missionary because he was Barnabas’ cousin, Barnabas being Paul’s coworker? It looks like nepotism to me.

Then you come to the worst looking part of Mark’s resume: accompanied Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey but left them at the city of Perga to return home. Mark essentially quit when the going got tough, and later when Paul and Barnabas are going to set out on another journey, they argue about whether Mark should join them. Barnabas wanted to take Mark along, seeing qualities in him of a missionary and Christian leader, but Paul refused. Paul may have felt like Mark had already let him down; Paul wasn’t going to give Mark a letter of reference; Paul wasn’t going to take another chance on being deserted by Mark.

Mark didn’t have to put the next part on his resume, but still the truth would come out. The argument between Paul and Barnabas led to those two missionaries parting ways. The question of Mark’s abilities as an evangelist led to the dividing of the strongest missionary team. Not exactly the legacy you want to bring to your next job.

However, this meant that Barnabas was free to take Mark with him as he headed for Cyprus, and Paul went to Syria. Barnabas took that chance on his cousin, and Mark continued to develop as an evangelist. Barnabas took a chance on Mark, and now Mark had some strong work experience on his resume.

And it’s with this kind of resume that we find Mark later on getting hired, so to speak, getting called to duty by Paul. Paul, who had been so disappointed in Mark. Paul, who didn’t want to take Mark on another missionary journey. Paul, who ended his partnership with Barnabas for a time over the question of Mark. Now Paul says to Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”

Mark had developed into a missionary that Paul wanted on his team. Mark had the qualities that Barnabas had seen all along. Barnabas took a chance on Mark when Paul wouldn’t, which meant that Mark got to gain valuable skills while ministering with Barnabas. Paul was ready to take a chance on Mark again, even though his resume wasn’t the strongest.

And Paul wasn’t calling Mark to be on the team at an easy time of ministry. Paul wrote 2 Timothy from prison, and we see that Paul is feeling that he is reaching the end of his ministry, the end of his life. Paul says, “For I am already poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul is calling on Mark to join him at a most difficult time—in prison, feeling as if death is near, seeing the roadblocks in the way of the Gospel.

This is the kind of situation where you call in your A-team, your top people, your special forces, the well-paid consultants. So it is says a lot that Paul calls on Mark.

But Paul didn’t come up with this idea of taking chances on Mark; it didn’t start in some generous place in Paul’s heart. And it didn’t start with Barnabas. As much as Barnabas showed a generous spirit in taking Mark with him, the idea didn’t come from the heart of Barnabas. No, indeed, the way Paul and Barnabas gave Mark chances only shows more clearly the way God takes chances on all of us.

If Paul shows a generous spirit towards Mark, he learned this generosity from God’s heart, God who took chances on Paul. If Barnabas shows patience and grace towards Mark, he learned this patience and grace from God’s heart, God whose message is grace, giving us the love we don’t deserve.

You see, that’s the amazing part, based on their resumes, none of these guys deserved to be on God’s team of missionaries. Barnabas, he was nothing special, had his faults and sins. Mark, we’ve seen how he ran away when Jesus was arrested, how he ran away when the missionary journey got tough. And Paul, well, we know he didn’t deserve to be a missionary, I mean, he had been killing the Christians. These guys shouldn’t have been anywhere near God’s mission work, but God says, “Get Mark, he is helpful to me. Get Barnabas. Get Paul, I want these guys with Me.”

And God says the same about you: “Get ______, get _______, get ________, get __________, get the people of Redeemer Lutheran Church, they’re all helpful to me in my ministry. Get the woman who just got done with membership classes. Get the boy who just learned about Jesus in Sunday School. Get the man who used to laugh at Christians. Get the girl who once told her friends that her faith didn’t matter to her. Get the guy who drank too much last night. Get all of the people, no matter what their resumes look like, get all of the people, because they’ll be helpful to me in my ministry,” God says.

Seriously, this is what the Lord is saying about each of you. He knows where you have failed in the past. He can look at your missionary resume and see those times when you’ve deserted him or how you lack experience. And yet, then He still says that He’ll take a chance on you.

Not so sure? Don’t feel like God can take a chance on you? Perhaps you’re forgetting the real resume of the people you see doing God’s work. I look at some of my friends who do God’s work, and I know their resumes, and I realize God can use all of us. My friend who is a pastor is a seminary drop out, didn’t finish and begin as a pastor until 15 years later. My friend who plays in a church band almost didn’t get confirmed and still plays in a bar band. An 8th grade girl in a youth group I worked with was really great at talking about her faith, even though she had only been a Christian for a few months and hadn’t been in church before that. I know a couple of other guys who are active in their churches, sharing about their faith, but they’re both rough-around-the-edges construction guys.

And me? I’m just a guy who didn’t use to make my Christian faith a priority, a guy who’s an introverted, long-haired geek, a guy who listens to loud rock ‘n’ roll, a guy who didn’t think he wanted to do youth ministry.

And yet God took a chance on me, and now I’m an introverted, long-haired geek, who listens to loud music, who loves to do youth ministry.

God is taking a chance on each of you, taking you with all of your faults and sins, taking you with your quirks and different personalities, taking you with your poor resumes, and is sending you out to do His work.

And God’s calling you in when He needs His A-team. Paul called on Mark when Paul felt like he was nearing death, when life was getting too difficult. God calls on us today, now, even while death approaches for everyone around us. The people around us face death all day long; the people around us face eternal death if they do not know Christ. This is a life-and-death situation, and that’s when God calls on you. He’s calling you with an urgent mission to the world. He’s calling you to take part in His work that gives life to all who hear about Jesus Christ.

God is asking you to be on His A-team. No matter what you do in service to God; no matter what you do to make sure that our ministry continues, whether that’s telling people about Jesus or inviting them to church or serving cookies after church or cleaning up the property, no matter what you do, you are a part of God’s number 1 priority: telling the world about salvation that comes through the forgiveness won for us by Jesus Christ.

God says, “Get Mark, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. Get the people of Redeemer, because I will use them to share my Good News with the world.”

Like I said, I’m just an introverted, long-haired geek. Be honest with yourself; how would you describe yourself? An outgoing, unorganized funny girl? Quiet, family-loving, stamp collector? Loud, softball-playing, life of the party person? Grandmotherly, quilter, baker? How would you describe yourself? Jock, nerd, popular, preppy, goth, rebel, auto-shop, farmer?

How would you describe yourself? Because that’s who you are; don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t hide your past. Don’t pretend you’ve got it all figure out.

Be honest about who you are, but then realize that God is calling on you, calling you to do His work. When you realize who you are, and that God will use you with your personality and history, then you’ll also realize that you’ve got the verbs of the Gospel. The verbs of the Gospel.

We call St. Mark: the Evangelist, because he wrote one of the four Gospels, one of the four accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Wrote the Gospel. That’s one verb of the Gospel. Maybe God is calling on you to write the Gospel, to write and tell others about Jesus.

But there are lots of verbs of the Gospel. Speak the Gospel. Maybe God is calling you to talk to others about Jesus. Show the Gospel. Is God asking you
to share His love by showing it through your actions?

God may ask you to journey for the Gospel, to travel near or far to help the work of the Church. Support the Gospel, through your time or skills or financial resources, making sure that the Gospel gets shared with others. How about playing the Gospel? Through having fun with people, maybe getting that chance to say, “Hey, come check out church. We have fun there while we learn about Jesus.” God also needs people to run the Gospel—to run the audio-visual equipment, to run the copier, to run the lights and tape recording in a service.

There’s so many verbs of the Gospel, and God has made each of us with different gifts, ready to do different verbs for His Good News. Sing the Gospel. Ring the Gospel. Organize for the Gospel. Draw the Gospel. Cook for the Gospel. Plant the Gospel. Make phone calls for the Gospel. Pray the Gospel. Study the Gospel. Ask questions about the Gospel. Be a leader for the Gospel. Teach the Gospel. Volunteer for the Gospel. Be a family for the Gospel.

Imagine how many different ways that God can use you to share something about Jesus with others. Think of all of the verbs in your life; could God use them for the Good News of salvation? Skateboard for the Gospel. Bike for the Gospel. Throw a Frisbee for the Gospel. Ride horses for the Gospel. Watch NASCAR for the Gospel. Go to a friend’s house for the Gospel. Use the Internet for the Gospel. Quilt for the Gospel. Play bridge for the Gospel. Go up north for the Gospel.

You’ve got the verbs in your life, and God is ready to take those verbs into His service. He’s already decided that He wants you on His team, wants us as a part of His way of telling people about life after death, about forgiveness through Jesus. Now that He has you on His team, now He’s ready to use all of those verbs in your life as ways to serve Him. He’s not worried about your resume, your history or how you used those verbs in the past. He’s not worried about your letters of reference, about your personality or what odd combination of verbs you have in your life. He simply looks at you and says, “Get her, because she is helpful to me in my ministry. Get him, because I need him. Get those wonderful, forgiven sinners, those incredibly unique individuals, get them, because I will use them to tell the world about my Son, Jesus.”

May God bless your verbs for the work of the Gospel!