Mark 16

Mark 16:9-20

There are two things happening with this final piece of Mark’s good news. First, we’ve got some revisionist history happening. Scholars agree that Mark was probably the very first of the gospels written. It’s the shortest and it’s missing some key pieces that the others have (the virgin birth isn’t there, Joseph never makes an appearance, and the story ends with Jesus in the tomb). There’s not really a resurrection story for Mark, at least not like the other gospels. Because this part, starting at verse 9, was added later to the original writing. Jesus was crucified and when Mary, Mary and Salome came to anoint the body of Jesus (as was customary), there was no body to be found but a man, dressed in white in a tomb telling them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and going ahead of them to Galilee.

That’s it. End of Mark’s initial story.

Luckily for us modern-day readers, someone came in and added in this section here (vs. 9-20) the parts about the disciples finding out about his resurrection and their complete lack of ability to accept said information from anyone other than Jesus himself. I assume that whoever added this final piece did so to give a more complete picture of Jesus’ story because that’s what must happen sometimes, right?

We don’t always get the whole story. But thankfully, someone took the time to make sure we knew that Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t listen to anyone other than Jesus and that even Jesus had to knock some sense into them because they weren’t willing to hear the truth from the mouth of a reputable source. Mary Magdalene, like a legit friend and follower to Jesus, did her due diligence and told the eleven male disciples who were left behind what she had experienced. You would think this would be good news to their ears. Wouldn’t you want to hear that good news?!

We don’t always get the whole story.

But, alas, they were not to be swayed with the words of a woman. They knew Jesus was gone, and they were sticking to their narrative. But that’s okay because Jesus was persistent. So, he hung out with two of them (surely this would convince the rest of them, coming from the mouths of two of their own), and when the two told the other nine, the rest of them still wouldn’t be swayed. For those who hadn’t experienced the resurrected Jesus first-hand, they buckled down and stuck to the narrative that they would accept from none other than themselves.

Here’s the second thing that’s happening: Jesus had to come back and tell them for himself in the flesh. And he wasn’t pleased to have to do so. Why didn’t they just believe what others told them? Was it just easier not to believe? Once Jesus showed up, they had to face the music that Jesus had come back, and they had failed to listen to other repudiable voices that Jesus empowered.

Here’s the second thing that’s happening: Jesus had to come back and tell them for himself in the flesh. And he wasn’t pleased to have to do so.

In the LGBTQIA+ world (and for minorities in general), this is what we call “becoming the curriculum.” Yes, Jesus was always the curriculum, but can’t a guy get a break, even in his death and resurrection?

Now you might be wondering, “how does this relate to the queer community?” Well, my fine readers, as queer people it’s easy to understand what both the editors of Mark’s gospel and Jesus were doing because we constantly have had to do both.

Mark’s later editor came along, probably realizing that this gospel wasn’t telling the whole truth. Yes, Jesus was crucified by state-sanctioned actions, and he appeared to the women first upon his rise from death. But what early readers of Mark didn’t get was that when Mary did as Jesus told her to do, those who were supposed to be the most faithful to him (ie. the 11 dudes who followed him around like early-day Lady Gaga groupies), well they weren’t having it from the mouth of a woman. Apparently, this editor wanted us to know that not only were they not compliant in listening to another of Jesus’ most faithful followers, but that Jesus got pretty upset at them. He doesn’t seem pleased that he had to remind them of their duties as his disciples.

Queer people (and minorities in general) must do this all the time. There’s always the public story, the one that has been created by the mass media (typically written by the white, heterosexual, cis-gendered males in the writing room). But at some point, queer individuals and groups have found that they have had to go back and tack on their own disclaimers and endings so that those stories reveal a fuller truth. AIDS didn’t only affect the gay community back in Reagan’s time, but that sure was the spin put on for the world. No one at the time with the ability to do so bothered to really tell all the facts. Instead of understanding it as a humanitarian issue, the narrative was that it was only an issue for gay men because of their obviously sinful deeds (cue eye-roll here).

But at some point, queer individuals and groups have found that they have had to go back and tack on their own disclaimers and endings so that those stories reveal a fuller truth.

Then here comes Jesus to the table of the 11 men who are supposed to be doing his work in the world now that he’s technically gone. Instead of listening to the others who had some authority to speak in Jesus’ name, they decided to just do their own thing. And so, Jesus had to come back, in person, and remind them of their duties. You would have thought they learned while he was alive on earth. Apparently, that was not the case.

As queer people, we are constantly called to come back to the same stage and share our stories, regardless of how hurtful they may be to retell. We are constantly asked by the same people about how to talk to queer youth, even though that material is already out there for public consumption, and we’ve already shared it multiple times over. Our presence is requested over and over to the same tables to help usher our straight-identifying siblings into an understanding that we too are beloved children of God and that we are not less than. We must constantly become the curriculum, over and over, because even though those listening to our voices mean well, they aren’t always listening, and so we must come back and remind them. Hopefully this is done in a loving way, but hey, Jesus got a little hot under the collar at having to do this type of thing. You can understand where some of us might get tired of this too.

As queer people, we are constantly called to come back to the same stage and share our stories, regardless of how hurtful they may be to retell.

I’m not saying that queer people shouldn’t be asked our opinions or that we should stop filling in stories to include more information. The reality is that queer people will continue to be the curriculum for so many because it’s important that we get this whole welcoming and beloved community thing right. Sometimes that means being the curriculum for our siblings in creation. And Jesus might not have been pleased about it, but he still did it. Likewise, we don’t always have time to go back and tack on facts of a story for public consumption because we’ve got just as much on our plates as the next person, but we still do it because if we continue to do those things, eventually we’ll start to see the unfolding of the world as Jesus knew it could and should be: fully-inclusive and welcoming to all of God’s creation.

Rev. Shelley Donaldson (she/her) is from the windy city of Chicago. A recovering camp director, she is a graduate of the University of West Georgia in Philosophy of Religion and Art. Shelley found her way to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, earning her Masters of Divinity in 2012. There she focused her studies on Christian education, biblical interpretation, interfaith dialogue, and expressing faith through artistic means.

Shelley is a practicing artist and a founding member of Creation Lab in Chicago. With more than 15 years of experience in youth and camping ministry, Shelley serves as the co-moderator of the board for the Presbyterian Youth Workers Association, has served on planning teams for Montreat Youth Conferences, led workshops for the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators and NEXT Church Conferences, travels as a speaker for youth leaders and Christian educators when her schedule allows, has experience working with LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and writes on her blog: The Travelling Theologian. As a published author, Shelley has written stories for Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible (Westminster John Knox Press), and 4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers (The Youth Cartel). You can also hear her on various podcasts: Big Ideas in Youth Ministry, This Week in Youth Ministry, The Family Ministry Podcast, and The Global Fringe. Shelley has also spent significant time in Cuba, building relationships with churches and individuals through her ministry and relational-based mission work, and practicing her Spanish-speaking sermon skills at the urging of her Cuban friends. Outside of work, Shelley spends her time with her wife Tara, hauling their kayaks all over the Northeast, cooking and searching for the perfect biscuit recipe, spending time painting, and practicing her Spanish-speaking skills.

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Sermon: 225th GA Presbyterian Church USA