A minister for 48 years, author David Sparks has written nine books of lectionary-based responsive prayers, and his hymns have been published in Canada and the United States. His new book, Called to Act: Prayers with Roots in the Gospel of Mark, is now available through the United Church Bookstore. We sat down with David (online), to talk about his new book.
Q: How does reading Mark’s gospel inspire you?
DS: When I was wondering about a radical change in my own life, I read through the Gospel of Mark from start to finish. That simple action freed me up for an adventure in ministry that is still not done. Mark is the first and most straightforward gospel. Mark is saying, “The world is a tough place, often violent, and grossly unfair, but followers of Jesus are courageous enough to challenge leaders in their small corner of the world and beyond.”
Q: What will worship leaders find in this book?
DS: This book is a resource for worship leaders creating liturgy focused on passages from Mark’s gospel. Do you feel like using these prayers? If so, great! Are you called to write and pray something different? Why not try? Are you leading a group? The study guide in each chapter gives you an introduction to the passage and some questions to get the conversation going.
Q: What should readers take away from this book?
DS: The Gospel of Mark still speaks clearly and with challenge, to a world vastly different to the one portrayed in its pages. Loyalty is not out of date; neither is a desire to heal nor the need to confront the self-serving powers of the day. What should readers take away? You can make a difference!
Q: What makes this book different from other prayer books?
DS: Many prayer books are concerned with the individual and their relationship to God, and how that relationship can be deepened. While not downplaying the significance of that relationship, the focus of this book is different. It asks readers not to be freewheeling riders while God pedals exhaustingly to accomplish what we have prayed for — no, we are the ones who must pedal hard toward the faithful destination, with God as our coach, encourager, and best supporter.
Q: How do you see the intertwining of faith, courage, and action?
DS: The first readers of Mark’s gospel were called to make a simple choice: “You can accept the status quo, or you can work for the establishment of a world where the values that Jesus taught are in effect.” In those days, this was a life and death decision. Today, the challenge is not powerful opposition — it is ignorance and apathy. Faithful and courageous action is what we are called to as individuals and faith communities, but the task is monumental.
Join us for an online book launch for Called to Act on December 6, 2023 (sign up via United in Learning).