The familiarity of the great texts of the New Testament can obscure the achievements of their writers. In its first three verses, the First Epistle of John joins "the eternal life that was with the Father" with the physical presence of Jesus, who has been seen with eyes and touched with hands.
Yesterday was a long day. I'm now working not one but two part-time church-music jobs; I'm with the Lutherans by morning and the Methodists by night. Both congregations observe Palm/Passion Sunday, complete with numerous changes to the order of service, additional musical ensembles to plan and rehearse, etc.
You may recall that this
ending of the Gospel of Mark, the one that appears in the most ancient
manuscripts of the book, seemed too abrupt to later copyists. Before long, 11
more verses had found their way there, a busy digest of post-resurrection
experiences from a variety of sources: John's account of the scene at the tomb
with Mary Magdalene, John's story of Thomas the doubter, a version of the walk
to Emmaus, an account of Jesus' ascension, other material from Luke/Acts. These
are entered almost as bullet points.
But the tacked-on verses need
not concern us here--the Revised Common Lectionary walks away from them
politely. We are left with the bald confusion and fear at the end of the
ancient tale, from a time before it was canonized and liturgized.
Martin Boehm was a key player in founding the United Brethren in Christ denomination, one of the precursors of the United Methodist Church. More than 240 years ago, Boehm was excommunicated after having a Wesleyan-type spiritual awakening that led to his preaching to people outside of his Mennonite church. Pennsylvania Mennonites recently denounced “the small-mindedness of religious thinking” that led to Boehm’s ouster, restored his Mennonite credentials, and asked local United Methodists forgiveness for their spiritual forebears’ narrowness (UMNS, June 27).