Tuesday, April 10, 2012 — Tuesday in Easter Week
Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 959)
Psalms 103 (morning) // 114, 111 (evening)
1 Corinthians 15:12-28
Mark 16:9-20[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today we get to read “The Longer Ending of Mark,” a passage that does not appear in most of the ancient sources. It is likely that sometime in the second century, some Christian scholars who were troubled by the abrupt ending of Mark’s gospel composed another ending, drawing on scenes from the other gospels. It is significant that this tradition retains the primacy of Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the resurrection. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition she is celebrated as the First Apostle and given the title “Equal to the Apostles.”
This “Longer Ending” also is the source of the practice of snake handling and of drinking water laced with strychnine, arsenic or other poisons, mostly in Pentecostal holiness churches. Verse 17 reads: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Luke 10:19 also says, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” For some, these have been important texts for confirming their faith in Jesus.
It makes me wonder. How different might my life and my faith have been had I been raised in a family with such practices? I was raised in an Episcopalian household, and I know that influenced me profoundly in the direction of my own spiritual temperament. I’ve met so many people who have come to the Episcopal Church after having been traumatized by their earlier religious experiences. I also know a few people who found that our quieter, more understated style of religious expression was not fulfilling for them and discovered new life and energy in the more dramatic piety of Pentecostal faith or found comfort in the more certain, absolute beliefs of literal or fundamentalist traditions.
We are deeply formed by our early experiences. Our religious origins create powerful foundations, and they also create needs for further healing and growth.
I don’t have a good transition here, but it strikes me as we read from Paul’s powerful chapter 15 of First Corinthians that there is a thrilling proclamation of the total triumph of Jesus. Paul says poetically, “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” Paul is picking up an ancient tradition that says that death is the penalty of Adam’s sin, a penalty that affects every human being. All die. But the triumph of Jesus completely reverses that penalty, “so all will be made alive in Christ.” All live.
My own experience of the glory and wonder and power of God in Christ has the same kind of fullness that Paul expresses. It seems impossible to me that anyone or anything can escape the immeasurable love of God. It seems hard to imagine that God will fail, or that anyone could resist the wonder of God’s love forever. I join Paul in that confidence that in Christ, ALL will be made alive. Alleluia!