“I just don’t know what will happen.”
I’ve said these words more in the past four months than probably the previous (nearly) four decades.
When will church meet in-person again? I just don’t know what will happen.
Will my son be able to attend school this fall, and, if so, for how long? I just don’t know what will happen.
Is it safe to go to the store, on vacation, to a friend’s house? I just don’t know what will happen.
I feel like I’m at the end of the book of Mark. The original ending that stopped suddenly with verse eight of chapter 16, not the epilogue added later.
Likely the first of the Gospels written, it ends with the women on Easter Sunday visiting the tomb and finding it empty. A mysterious man in a white robe tells them Jesus “has risen.” But they don’t see Jesus themselves. And then we get the last line: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
The screen goes black, the credits roll, and that’s all, folks.
It’s an odd ending. Somewhat hopeful but not quite there. No appearance of a resurrected Jesus. Just a whisper of hope not yet quite believed. The women — and the readers — are left not knowing what will happen.
Since we know what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story” as found in the other Gospels, perhaps we don’t linger with the uncertainty of Mark’s abrupt ending. But as scholars David Capes, Rodney Reeves, and Randolph Richards note in their book Rediscovering Jesus, “At one point, early in Christian history, there were communities located in the Mediterranean basin that had only one Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.” And yet, those communities “read it and recited it when they gathered for worship” as it “shaped their lives and gave them all they knew about Jesus.”
I’ve long wondered what it would be like to likewise only have the book of Mark. How much differently would we do church (or whatever we would call our gatherings since Mark doesn’t use that word)? How might we consider our faith in different ways?
It seems we might have less focus on certainty. We’re left hanging, still wondering if the rumors were true. Is Jesus risen? Will we find out tomorrow? Let us live by faith, let us walk in that hope.
To be honest, it’s a bit unnerving. But perhaps it’s the faith we need in a moment like this. Perhaps Mark is the Gospel for faith during a pandemic.
I used to plan multiple trips several months in advance. Now, I’m not sure what I’ll be able to do later this week. For months my phone has alerted me to more in-person events that had been canceled than I’ve actually attended even virtually. I know church will resume in person someday, though it won’t be Sunday and might not be this year. I just don’t know what will happen.
I hear rumors of a vaccine. I hear rumors of more people wearing masks. I hear rumors of more testing. But I’ve not seen it. I just don’t know what will happen.
Right now, the story seems to end abruptly. So, like the women in Mark 16 I must walk with fear and faith, with hesitancy and hope. I’m sitting in Mark 16:8 and the rest of the page remains blank…