Advent 2B (12/7/2014)

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.

Beginning the Good News

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is the first verse of the first chapter of the first Gospel account in our Bible. Sure, St. Matthew comes first in the order of the New Testament; but St. Mark was written as many as twenty years before St. Matthew was (perhaps shortly after a.d. 70 as opposed to shortly after a.d. 90). Sure, some scholars argue that these first thirteen words (seven words in the original Greek language) were intended, by St. Mark, to be the title of the work, not its first verse; but the way they drive us into the story makes them seem more like the story’s beginning than its cover page. Only thirteen words in St Mark before John the Baptist is on the scene, while St. Matthew and St. Luke wind their way through two full chapters before they get to this point in the story.

St. Mark doesn’t have time for genealogies, Mary & Joseph, Zechariah & Elizabeth, angels & dreams, the birth story, shepherds & barnyard animals, wise men, a cruel king, an escape to Egypt, and trips to Jerusalem for worship… He needs to get this story started, and so he does, abruptly and purposefully: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

First of all, this account is about good news. There will be battles with the demonic, calls to repentance and challenges to faithfulness along the way, but this is primarily a story about good news. The good news that God, who loves us enough to create us and provide for us, also loves us enough to die for us; the good news that the power of death has been defeated through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The good news that our sin is forgiven, we are put right with God, and we are invited into the hope and joy of a new future.

Second, this account is about Jesus, the Christ. Christ is not Jesus’ last name; it is his title. Christ is an untranslated Greek word (the Hebrew word is Messiah) that means “God’s anointed one.” In the waters of his baptism, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is anointed for the ministry of bringing life and light and salvation to the world.

Finally, this account is about the Son of God. A young man recently asked why we are referred to as “children of God” if Jesus is “God’s only Son.” (A very good question, I thought!) While “children of God” refers to the gift we receive in baptism, “Son of God” refers to the mystery of God’s very nature. We believe that in Jesus of Nazareth, the fullness of God is present. The One who created the world, who confused the languages, who flooded the land, who called Abraham and Sarah, who rescued the faithful from Egypt, who inspired the kings and who spoke through the prophets has become present to us in human form: as Jesus, of Nazareth, the son of Mary (and, “The Son of God”).

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is St. Mark’s beginning, and ours as well. The story which starts out with St. Mark’s memories continues with our faithfulness. May our lives continue this story. May our living announce the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean that St. Mark’s Gospel is about good news?
  2. What does it mean that St. Mark’s Gospel is about the Messiahship of Jesus?
  3. What does it mean that St. Mark’s Gospel is about Jesus as the Son of God?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What good news is there in this story for me?
  2. How do I understand why Jesus is called “Christ” and “Son of God?”
  3. How will I plan to be a source of good news, and continue this story with my life?