The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany; Year B (1/28/2018)

Lessons:
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1st Corinthians 8:1-13
St. Mark 1:21-28

Prayer of the Day:
Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see you and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

St. Mark 1:21-28 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Year B (1/21/2018)

Lessons:
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:5-12
1st Corinthians 7:29-31
St. Mark 1:14-20

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us into your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

St. Mark 1:14-20 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Good News of God

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” With these words, in St. Mark’s Gospel, the story of Jesus’ public ministry begins.

The time is fulfilled.
Here St. Mark uses the Greek word καιρὸς (kairos) for time. As opposed to χρόνος (chronos), a word that refers to time that can be measured, καιρὸς refers to a special time — significant time. Sometimes Biblical writers use the phrase “the fullness of time” to refer to καιρὸς time. It is, indeed, a full time. The Messiah has arrived. God is about to accomplish what faithful people have been waiting generations to experience. Jesus announces, and St. Mark reports, that God is about to act. The entire course of history is about to change.

The kingdom of God has come near.
Immanuel. God with us. In Jesus, no longer is God a remote, unreachable being. God has become human, intimately experiencing life as humans know it, and willing to be available to believers; in a living and growing relationship. First century people met Jesus face-to-face. People in our time “approach [God] boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.” (Luther: Small Catechism)

Repent.
As John the Baptizer makes so clear, this new relationship with God begins by repenting. Believers acknowledge that sinfulness distresses God — even arouses God’s anger. But through open and honest confession about the brokenness of humanity, trusting God’s promise to forgive, renew and restore, a new beginning is made. Repentance is a distasteful, painful experience, but the hope of new life makes it possible to take it seriously, and look for the ways in which it helps to make new beginnings possible.

Believe in the good news.
The good news is that sin does not have the final say. Human sinfulness is not the end of the story. Instead, through the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s love and grace is proclaimed. As the Apostle insists: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (The Apostle Paul: Romans 6:3-4)

As St. Mark’s Gospel begins, so does our life with God. We too live in a time that is filled with the presence of God. We too experience God not as a remote, theoretical possibility, but as an immanent presence in our lives. We too begin our life with God in sorrow and regret for what we have done (and for what we have left undone…). We too, by the promise of our baptism, are welcomed into love and grace of God.

Epiphany creates a time for us to explore how the Scriptures shed light on who God is, and how God is active in our lives. St. Mark’s opening verses invite us into this journey.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What expectations did the first century faithful have about the Messiah?
  2. Why do these fishermen so quickly (and so eagerly?) leave it all to follow Jesus?
  3. What might the phrase “good news of God” mean to them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How might I increase my expectations of what God wants to do in my life?
  2. What sins of mine put distance between me and God?
  3. When has the gift of forgiveness changed my feelings about God, or myself?

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany; Year B (1/14/2018)

Lessons:
1st Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1st Corinthians 6:12-20
St. John 1:43-51

Prayer of the Day:
Thanks be to you Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, for the countless blessings and benefits you give. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

St. John 1:43-51. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Pastor Dave is out of town this week.
Please enjoy this reprise of his January 13, 2015
devotional message.

Come and See

“Come and See,” says Philip to his good friend Nathanael. Philip has just told Nathanael about a man he met. The man’s name is Jesus, and this man asked Philip to follow him. Philip is sure he is the Messiah: the one the prophets and Moses predicted would come. Philip wants to follow him, but there is something he has to do first. He has to go and find his good friend Nathanael, and tell him about it. If he is right – if this traveling Rabbi from Nazareth actually is the Messiah – Philip wants to share that with Nathanael.

So he runs, and finds him, and says to him: “We have found the Messiah. His name is Jesus. He comes from Nazareth.” Now Nathanael knows a little bit about Nazareth. It is a backwater town. Nothing of importance has ever happened there. If God really has decided to send a Messiah, surely Nazareth wouldn’t have been chosen for his home. Nathaniel’s first response is a bit skeptical. He says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But Philip, who loves his friend dearly, and who is excited about this man he has just met, offers a response to Nathanael that is brief, to the point, and brilliantly faithful. He says, simply: “Come and see.”

“Come and see.” Philip doesn’t pull out his Bible, and attempt to offer a clever textual proof that Jesus is the Messiah. He doesn’t develop a number of theological arguments designed to convince Nathanael. He doesn’t name a dozen others with good reputations who also believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He simply says: “Come and see.” He trusts that if he is able to help Nathanael to have the same experience that he has had, Nathanael will believe. He trusts that if Nathanael should meet Jesus, he could reach the same conclusion that Philip has. He simply says: “Come and see.” And he trusts that God’s Spirit will do the rest.

Brief. To the point. Brilliantly faithful. And simple! How much we could learn from Philip! Most of us live surrounded by people who have never come to know Jesus Christ. Some of them were members of a community of faith when they were young, but drifted away over time. Others have never darkened the door of a church’s building. And others yet carry some negative experience of the church with them; sure that nothing good could ever come out of it. It is hard to imagine how we might convince them that there is something in the faith for them. What argument might win them over? What Bible passage might break through their reluctance? What could we do to convince them to become Christians?

Maybe Philip has the key. Our job is not to convince. Our job is to simply extend the invitation. Come and see what faith has done for me. Come and see how participating in a Christian congregation has changed my life. Come and see what happens when God dwells at the center of who we are. Come and see. And let me trust that the Spirit will work on you, as it has worked on me. Let me trust that if I plant the seed, God will give the growth.

Let us learn from Philip this week. And let us allow his example to help us learn how best to invite others to “Come and see.”

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What kind of a relationship do you suspect Philip and Nathanael have?
  2. Why is it so important for Philip to tell Nathanael about Jesus? (After all, Jesus commands Philip to follow him – and he doesn’t! He first goes to find Nathanael.)
  3. What do you suppose Philip wants Nathanael to see?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is it that my faith, or my participation at church, adds to my life?
  2. Do I know anyone who doesn’t know Jesus? Anyone who isn’t a person of faith?
  3. How might I invite that person to “come and see” what a difference God has made in my life?

The Baptism of Our Lord; Year B (1/7/2018)

Lessons:
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
St. Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

1.4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

St. Mark 1:4-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

It’s All About Jesus

In our liturgical calendar, “The Baptism of Our Lord” is celebrated every year on the first Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th). It is a day when we remember how Jesus, at the very start of his public ministry, joins the crowds of people who are making their way out into the wilderness to hear John preach.

John is a fiery preacher; and powerfully effective. He helps many people see how their living isn’t what it ought to be, and he challenges them to make things different. Lives are changed because of John’s preaching. People understand what he is saying, and they make the commitment to follow where he is leading them. They walk with him into the waters of the River Jordan. They allow him to dunk them under the surface, symbolically putting to death the life they are leaving behind. And then he raises them up out of the water, symbolically bringing them to a new and more faithful experience of life. In this way, he accomplishes two goals. He convinces them of their sinfulness, and their need for things to be different, and he commits them to repentance and renewal — a life of growing in God’s direction. It is a powerful ministry. It changes many lives. John is immensely popular in his day, and a deeply influential leader in the faith. He is about the most exciting thing going in first century Palestine. (more…)

The Baptism of Our Lord; Year B (1/7/2018)

Lessons:
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
St. Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

1.4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

St. Mark 1:4-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The First Sunday of Christmas; Year B (12/31/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
St. Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and yet more wonderfully restored it. In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;  30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

St. Luke 2:22-40, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Recognizing Jesus

This weekend we will gather for worship on the last day of the year. As we reflect on what was and wasn’t during 2017, and dream about what can be in 2018, we turn our attention to a two thousand year old story about an elderly man and woman who were worshipping in the Jerusalem Temple. Simeon (righteous and devout and hoping for the arrival of the Messiah) and Anna (a prophetess who lived day and night in the temple, fasting and praying) observe Mary and Joseph bringing their infant child to be purified, and they both break into words of praise, moved by the Holy Spirit to identify Jesus as the Messiah for whom they had all been longing. (more…)

Advent 4B (12/24/2017)

Lessons:
2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

St. Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Here Am I, the Servant of the Lord

Mary. Mother of Our Lord. Blessed Mother. Blessed Virgin Mary. Madonna. Our Lady. Queen of Heaven. Theotokos. Mater Dei. Mater Dolorosa. The importance of Mary in the story of Jesus and the history of the church is suggested by the many names and titles given to her over the years.

Mary and her story of faith have played significant roles in the church’s piety and practice. This has been the case at least since the middle of the fifth century when the Council of Ephesus declared Mary’s role as “Theotokos” (the bearer of God) to be essential to her nature, and central to the church’s practice. What developed in years to come was a subtle and complex relationship between Mary, Jesus and the Church. (more…)

Advent 4B (12/24/2017)

Lessons:
2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

St. Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

Advent 3B (12/17/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
or St. Luke 1:46b-55
1st Thessalonians 5:16-24
St. John 1:6-8, 19-28

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

St. John 1:6-8, 19-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

John: Witness to the Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

[The Gospel according to St. John 1:1-5]

These opening words of St. John’s Gospel make up one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in our Bible. While the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) introduce us to Jesus in simple, concrete, human terms, St. John speaks in lofty terms about God: who exists before all else; who speaks creation into being; who is the source of life; whose gift of life becomes the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Now, in verse six, the narrative shifts from creation to John, the one sent to prepare the people for the arrival of God’s Messiah, and the contrast continues. (more…)

Advent 2B (12/10/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2nd Peter 3:8-15a
St. Mark 1:1-8

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8.1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

St. Mark 1:1-8, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sin

Anyone who has paid even modest attention to the season of Advent knows that it is a season of preparation. As John the Baptizer “prepared the way” for the coming of Jesus, Advent prepares the way for the Risen Christ to enter into our lives today. This week’s Gospel lesson helps us to see how this preparation takes place.

St. Mark (the Evangelist) depicts St. John (the Baptist) as a first-century Isaiah. He is dressed like Isaiah. He eats like Isaiah. He speaks truth to power like Isaiah. And perhaps most importantly, like Isaiah, the hope of his ministry is to transform the lives of God’s people.

The transformation sought by St. John has two significant aspects. First, a person comes to understand the extent of his or her sin and brokenness. Second, through the grace, love and forgiveness of God, this sin is forgiven, and a new heart — a new mind — begins to emerge. (more…)