The Good Book Club | Week of January 1-9
Dear friends,

Welcome to the Good Book Club and this season’s reading of the Gospel of Mark. Before we begin with a preview of the coming week, we wanted to share a message from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. We join with Bishop Curry in holding you in our prayers, especially over the next few months, guided by the assurance that the light of Christ will direct us in all our ways. May God’s peace be always with you.

The Gospel of Mark gets right to the point: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” This gospel is the earliest of the four and the foundational document for Matthew and Luke (the other synoptic gospels, meaning they have a similar narrative style and timeline). It’s a Dragnet-Joe Friday style approach, with “Just the facts.” Mark is skimpy on scene-setting details but offers a laser-focus on Jesus as miracle-worker and Messiah.

As a reader, fasten your seatbelt and hold on tight: in these first few chapters, Jesus is baptized, wanders in the wilderness, gathers his disciples, casts out demons, heals lepers, and takes on the Pharisees. But don’t let yourself feel whiplash: remember that this first part of the gospel is all about revealing the nature of Jesus and his ability to defy the earthly powers of imperial Rome and overcome the evil natures of the world. Mark is laying out the case as would a lawyer in court, providing evidence through the life and teaching of Jesus that he is the true Messiah, and through him, our path to salvation.

With this approach, perhaps it’s not surprising that Mark skips over the birth story and jumps right into Jesus’s public ministry, with his baptism by John. The gospel deigns to provide a few telling details about John (he’s dressed in camel’s hair and eats locusts) before showing that John, who some believed to be the messiah, recognizes that “the one who is more powerful” is still to come. When John baptizes Jesus, the heavens are torn apart (as they will be later at his death), and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove. But there’s no time to dawdle with crumpets and tarts for a baptismal reception: the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where he faces—and resists—temptations from Satan.

Upon Jesus’s return to Galilee, he begins to gather his disciples. We see here an urgency that is a common theme throughout Mark. When Jesus says to, “Follow me,” Simon and Andrew “immediately” leave their nets and follow him. It appears there was no weighing of pros and cons, no succession plan for their fishing enterprise. These men followed faithfully and immediately—an inspiration and challenge to Christians today. In the passages that follow, we witness Jesus’s miracles—“a new teaching—with authority!” Jesus casts out unclean spirits and heals Simon’s mother-in-law; he cures many who are sick with disease and demons and makes well both a leper and a paralytic man. The religious authorities start to take note of this unusual man who heals the sick and forgives the sinners. They begin to talk among themselves: “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy!” Throughout the readings for this week and indeed the entire gospel, the religious leaders question Jesus—about who he eats with, who he heals, and how he treats the sabbath and other laws of the land. Jesus threatens the status quo and upends the power structures of the day. And these leaders do not plan to go gently into that good night.

We end our week with a series of parables that are likely familiar to many Christians today. The sower plants seeds, some on rocky soil and some on good soil. This parable teaches a lesson about fertilizing our soil with prayer, praise, worship, and service so that our faith may grow and flourish. In another parable, Jesus gives us the words to a favorite childhood song, “This Little Light of Mine,” imploring us to let our faith shine as a light to the world, not as a lamp hidden under a basket or bed.

The last parable of the week is one of my personal favorites. Jesus compares the kingdom of God not to a beautiful rose or the fruit of a tree but to the mustard seed. Just as this smallest of all the seeds on earth can grow into the greatest of all shrubs, so too can Jesus pierce the darkness, transforming a spark of faith into a shining light.

A favor: Can you please fill out this survey? We use this information to help guide and shape the Good Book Club so that it’s a useful resource. Thanks!


1. What is helpful about how Mark jumps straight into Jesus’s ministry? What do you miss about not having the birth story?

2. Pick your favorite healing story from the ones presented in these chapters from Mark. Spend time with it, reading and praying with it throughout the week. What new learnings have you gleaned from this story? (For extra credit, take on a second healing story, perhaps one that you’re unfamiliar with, and spend time with it this week, too).

3. Look at the story about the paralytic whose friends removed the roof, dug through it, and then lowered him through the ceiling so he might be healed by Jesus. Do you have friends who might do that for you? Are you a friend to others in the same way?

4. Jesus is speaking to an agrarian community and embeds his teachings in familiar stories of farming and planting. What types of situations do you think Jesus would use to tell the parables today? Take one of the parables in this week’s reading and recast it using a situation familiar to you and your community. Share it with us on social media!\
Partner Spotlight

We have a resource for everyone! Whether you like to read and study on your own, join a Bible study, or follow along with social media, the Good Book Club offers a way for you to engage in God’s Word.

Check out the resource page for more, including a downloadable, one-page list of readings and an introduction to the Gospel of Mark. Both are available in English and Spanish.

Here are a few of the offerings starting soon:
  • Introducing Mark with Vicki Garvey: For six weeks this Epiphany, meet with other students from around the world for a live, online class on the Gospel of Mark with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher, author, and canon for lifelong education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. In this free class, Vicki will teach about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of Mark. Classes will meet live on Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST from Jan. 7-Feb. 11. Register here.
  • Join the United Thank Offering (UTO) in a Zoom Bible study to talk about the history and context of the Gospel of Mark and examining the text to learn what it says regarding gratitude. Each week a different member of the Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care Team will join us to dive into the text and share about their work. Studies are weekly, from Jan. 7 to Feb. 11, at noon EST. Register now.
  • Join the Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining on The Hive as she explores some of the rich meanings of the women found in the words of Mark 5:21-43. This class will deal with the somewhat “taboo” nature of women’s bodies in the church and what it means as followers of Jesus. The class will be held on Facebook Live on January 3 at 2 p.m. EST and will be available for replay.
  • A Journey with Mark explores the gospel with fifty days of scripture, meditations, and prayers written by dynamic spiritual leaders from across the United States and around the world. Available from Forward Movement and as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes.
Participant Spotlight

How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Share your story with us (and send pictures too, if you have them, whether it’s a screenshot of a Zoom meeting or a picture of you with your Bible in a comfy chair!). We’ll highlight participants from across the church. Send the information to Richelle at

Let’s learn from and be inspired by each other!
Listen Up

Want to hear the passage from Mark? The Good Book Club Podcast features speakers from across the church reading each day’s lesson from Mark and a reflection from A Journey with Mark. You can also ask Alexa (or another virtual assistant) to play the podcast.
Give Back

Forward Movement and partners offer these resources as a ministry to the church. We are grateful for your donations to support this ministry.