Willson-Addis Lecture returns to Truett Seminary

Truett Seminary’s annual Willson-Addis Lecture features Dr. Elizabeth Shively, who focuses on discipleship in relation to the Gospel of Mark. Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

By Rachel Chiang | Reporter

Truett Seminary’s annual Willson-Addis Lecture returned to Baylor on Tuesday and featured Dr. Elizabeth Shively, who shared her lecture entitled “The King Worth Following: Discipleship According to Mark’s Gospel.”

Shively is a senior lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, and she has a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University. She has a primary concentration in New Testament Studies with a secondary concentration in homiletics, and she specializes in the Gospel of Mark.

In her lecture, Shively shared the importance of stories in discipleship. She explored the Gospel of Mark and compared it to the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

“Mark told a story more powerful than any other to help people understand Jesus and how to follow him,” Shively said. “In Mark, Jesus calls his disciples to embrace a story more powerful than any other story. It is a movement for the future beyond what is visible to the naked eye, and without embracing this more powerful story, discipleship doesn’t work.”

Shively talked about how people have utilized stories since the Bronze Age, and the story of the Israelites in Exodus has been embraced by many generations. It has also fueled more powerful stories about the work of God and has been used in speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We tell stories to help us organize our thoughts and give meaning to our experiences,” Shively said. “Generation after generation has said, ‘That story is our story.’”

Shively then explained how Isaiah reinterpreted that story to provide comfort to the Israelites many generations later by telling them that if God rescued them out of Egypt, He would save them from Babylon as well.

“This more powerful story will help you understand their place in history and would have helped build up their hope in God’s promises of redemption,” Shively said. “If God’s people recognize that this story is our story, then they know the resolution of the plot even while they’re still separated. Isaiah and his new Exodus fuels Mark’s powerful story.”

Shively elaborated on this by quoting Isaiah 52-53, explaining how the servant accomplished the redemption by suffering and laying down his life, but ultimately, he will inherit vindication.

Shively talked about “The Lion King” and how the writers modeled the story and plot on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” and by doing so, the two illustrations helped audiences recognize the similarities and connection, which provided consistency and meaning to the story. She said this is essentially what Mark does by retelling Isaiah’s story of the servant and comparing it to Jesus. She also said in Mark, the disciples had misconceptions about who Jesus was supposed to be.

“He is the Messiah they’ve been waiting for as they travel toward Jerusalem,” Shively said. “They are expecting a revolution. They expect a pompering king, but Jesus gives them a suffering servant. Three times Jesus said he will be king by suffering, dying and rising. How is it that the Messiah, the exalted Son of Man, can suffer and die? Jesus explains it by telling a more powerful story: ‘The servant story is my story.’”

By clarifying Jesus’ story in Mark and reestablishing it, Shively said in order to become better disciples, one must share Jesus’ story and follow Him. She said doing so will not be easy, but ultimately, it will lead to vindication.

“Mark shows that following Jesus isn’t easy; in fact, Jesus says that it’s almost impossible,” Shively said.

Fort Worth graduate student Abigail Villagrana shared her thoughts on the lecture.

“It was a good insight into how Mark used Isaiah and the way that discipleship is portrayed,” Villagrana said. “Something that really stood out to me is how our stories intermingled with Jesus’ story. It almost shows us that ‘I am not an individual in this.’ It’s like a community.”