Reflections on Performing the Gospel of Mark
by Brian Middleswarth
For most of the past ten years I have been performing the Gospel of Mark on the evening of Palm Sunday. My audiences tend to be small, but appreciative of the opportunity to hear the gospel performed. I have to say, my reasons for continuing to perform the Gospel of Mark at this time of year are rather selfish. The preparation for the performance has come to be part of my Lenten discipline and the act of hearing the story of Jesus' journey to the cross leading into Holy Week has been a wonderful way to deepen my experience of those services.
Every year that I perform the Gospel, I find something different in the character of Jesus. Some years Jesus is very quick to get angry and frustrated with the disciples. Other years, Jesus deals with these frustrations with humor and bemusement. These years the humor in the Gospel really shines through. Almost every year I hear something or make some connection I hadn't before and I also cement some of my understandings of the Gospel and its portrayal of Jesus. I see even more clearly the humanity of the Jesus in Mark. He is so full of humor, frustration, concern, thoughtfulness, and love. I also identify with the disciples, who just can't quite seem to get what Jesus is saying about who he is and what that means. They want him to fit their understanding of Messiah and refuse (or can't) see what he is really pointing them to. How often do we do that in our own lives?
For my audiences, hearing the Gospel lets them make connections they cannot by hearing the readings scattered throughout the year by the lectionary. They can hear the drum beat of "immediately", they can feel the shock of the abrupt ending of the Gospel with "And they told no one, because they were afraid." Often they will come up to me afterwards with a particular question or comment based on something they heard. Many will just say that it has made them think more about the text, and that is about all that anyone can ask.