Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review: Meeting God in Mark

Meeting God in Mark. Rowan Williams. 2015. Westminster John Knox. 108 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Looking for a book to read during Lent this year? You might consider reading Rowan Williams' Meeting God in Mark. In his book, he urges readers to read Mark slowly and thoughtfully, to resist the urge to rush through it. Yes, Mark has a compressed feel to it, a fast-pace, if you will. But it is a substantive book with much to say theologically.

Meeting God in Mark is a quick read. The book includes a schedule for daily/weekly reading in Mark for Lent. The schedule has six days a week for reading the gospel of Mark, and one day a week for reading the reflection in the book. There are also discussion questions for each chapter in Meeting God in Mark.

The book is what it is. The book spends much time--perhaps wastes much time--in introducing the basics of the gospel of Mark. In an effort to be fair to all scholarship, it over-presents and doesn't quite conclude anything. If you accept the Bible for what it is--the very Word of God--and if you accept what the Bible has to say about itself, and what tradition has to say about the Bible, then much of the book is a waste of time. In other words, it is all: who wrote the gospel of Mark? was it written by one person or more than one person? was it a collection of folklore or stories? is it the work of a community, expressing more about the community's needs and interests and wants, or is it factual? are the contents factual and historical? what century was it written in? where was it written? why was it written? should smart readers question all the miracles in Mark? Who was this "Mark"? And should readers believe there was a person named Mark who actually wrote the book? Did this "Mark" actually work closely with Peter? A good study Bible can do a good job of establishing everything readers need to know. Emphasis on GOOD study Bible. The author presents multiple sides of the scholarly debate without really clearly concluding anything at all.

But the book goes beyond that, and that's a good thing. The book examines the theological messages and themes of Mark paying attention to the miracles, the parables, and passion week. It focuses on the unexpectedness of the "good news" message of Mark, focusing on how in Mark God is revealed as a God who doesn't rescue from the sky but endures pain and suffering and ridicule.

Meeting God in Mark is ALL about God in relationship. Mark, he argues, is about revealing God in relationship: showing story by story, verse by verse, Jesus in relationship with many, many people. How the gospel focuses on people's reactions to Jesus, if they take the relationship further, deeper coming to TRUST and FAITH, or if they reject him. How the gospel can be read as offering readers the same invitation of relationship or fellowship.

I liked some of what I read. I definitely found it thought-provoking in places. I didn't like everything I read, however.

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