Sermon Preached on the Feast of St. Mark
St. Mark's Episcopal Church - Evanston, IL
May 1, 2011 (transferred from April 25)
For the Scripture Readings, click here.
Have you seen the St. Mark’s lion? It appears on this drawing which typically hangs in the volunteer office.
Regardless of which symbol is ultimately assigned to which gospel writer, the connection with the vision of Ezekiel and perhaps even more powerfully with the vision in the Book of the Revelation where the four living creatures are said to “give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne” – this connection makes clear that the gospel writers were understood to be bearers of the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, by the 3rd century it had become common to refer to the Gospel writers as evangelists.
The word evangelist literally means “messenger who brings good news”. The word contains the same Greek root as the English word “angel”, a word which means “messenger,” or “announcer.” The word “evangelist” itself appears in the New Testament only three times. It appears first in Acts 21:8 where we hear of “Philip the evangelist” one of the seven men (along with Stephen, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus) appointed in Acts 6 to oversee the daily distribution of food to the widows. The word “evangelist” appears again in Ephesians 4:11 – part of today’s epistle reading which lists a number of gifts given by God - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – all of which are commissioned “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. And finally, it appears in 2 Timothy 4:5 where Timothy is exhorted to “endure suffering” and “do the work of an evangelist” described, at least in part, by prior verses in which Timothy is urged to “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching”.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says to the apostles, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” This is the gospel of Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Each of the gospel’s has a version - - - Luke’s version is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations. John’s gospel offers the shortest version – “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. And Matthew’s gospel has the one that is probably most familiar to us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you". But regardless of the words used, the principle is the same, Jesus calls each of us to go out and proclaim the good news. Just as Jesus says to the apostles, “Go . . . and proclaim the good news,” so he sends us to go and proclaim the good news - to be evangelists – messengers who bring good news.
The 40 days of Lent gave us a disciplined way to practice that calling, to practice being evangelists through our words and actions. But now that we know the truth of the Resurrection, now that we are living as an Easter people, now that we have witnessed the empty tomb, now that we have seen the risen Christ, how much MORE we have to share, how much MORE we must go on sharing, how MUCH MORE we are blessed to share that good news.
Have you seen the St. Mark’s lion? It appears on this drawing [volunteer office picture], it appears on this artwork [Bethlehem Chapel artwork], and even in my office [stuffed animal]. And as I look around this room this morning, I see that you are that lion – and you are that lion – and you are that lion. Each and every one of us is a St. Mark’s lion – an evangelist working together, “building up the body of Christ.”
 Ezekiel 1:4-28, esp. 1:10.
 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, 3.11.8 in Ante-Nicene Fathers quoted in Symbols of the Four Evangelists compiled by Felix Just available online, accessed on April 30, 2011.
 Original says “calf,” not “ox”.
 Preface to the Commentary on Matthew, summary and excerpts from N/PNF 2, 6.1036-37 quoted in Symbols of the Four Evangelists.
 Acts 6:1-6.
 2 Timothy 4:2.
 Matthew 28:16-20.