Brushes with history
December 27, 2010
by Rev. Richard Flynn, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Delano

Once in a while, because I am a pastor, I get to brush up alongside people who have made human history. It has always been a rare insight into how “the other half lives” – and kind of exciting for somebody like me, who is just a regular “Joe.”

Because I am a pastor, I have been privileged to officiate a few weddings for the children or parents of famous people – names you would probably recognize instantly from their appearances on television or in the newspaper. I have also been the eulogist at a service of memory for a few of these people.

Rich, famous, or not, we all eventually reach the end of this mortal life. And I observe that the families of the “rich and famous” grieve their loved ones just like the rest of us do ours.

Pastors sometimes get invited to say an opening blessing at extraordinary events with extraordinary people. You shake hands, smile and nod, and then take your seat on the dais – just a quick brush with history makers. I met everybody’s hall of fame basketball coach John Wooden that way. It was just for a minute, but what a thrill.

And I have served on church boards, councils, and staff with a couple of heavy hitters through the years. Some have been at the very center of political power in our nation. Some were great athletes in their day. Some were CEO’s of multinational corporations.

In addition, more than once, at a conference I have found myself accidentally riding the same hotel elevator with one of the featured speakers of the event – just enough time to shake hands and tell them how much I enjoyed their presentation, even if I did not. I had a 30-second conversation with one of the greatest baseball players of all time that way. Just a brush with history.

It has been a special joy to brush by just a few of history’s real “movers and shakers” over the years. I guess that is why I have a special appreciation for the Gospel of Mark. Right from the opening sentence, we all get to brush up against history. Let me tell you why I think so.

Mark writes, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mk 1:1 NRSV)

The word I want to focus on for a moment is “beginning.” Mark intends to tell just the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the beginning of the good news.

Well, if his gospel is just the beginning, then where is “the rest of the story?” (A borrowed phrase from a famous radio commentator I sat next to in a Chicago church pew by chance one Sunday morning too many years ago.)

The rest of the story is where you and I get to brush up against history, for the rest of the gospel is still being lived out, right now, in our own day and age, right here in our own communities. You and I get to be a part of the ongoing telling of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

If Mark had said, “Ok, here’s the whole gospel of Jesus Christ. There ain’t no more. This is all there is,” then you and I would have a hard time feeling like we had any place in the good news of God’s love. But Mark only told the beginning. He knew there was more to come. He made a way for you and me to be a part of it.

I am so glad he told only the beginning. You and I get to continue telling the gospel of Jesus Christ every day with the way we live our lives. Every day we have the opportunity to brush up against history because we just never know what God will do with that next person we extravagantly welcome, accept unconditionally, love into wholeness and treat as if they were a child of God.

Every day we brush up against God’s kingdom in the form of the people we meet – people unknown to the world perhaps, but, famous in the eyes of God.

Kind of exciting, don’t you think?