Saturday, 3 December 2011

Beginning - 2nd Sunday of Advent

Mark 1:1-8 

Another Place - Anthony Gormley

The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Nearly two years ago now our Scripture group began studying Mark's Gospel - we are still spending time with him and his and Simon Peter's telling of the Good News. Having kept notes as we have gone along I thought it may be worth sharing our thoughts - for what they are worth.

This Gospel is meant for missionary work; short enough to be written on just one scroll; short enough to be memorised; action packed enough to grab the interest within a few starting sentences. The original text reads like a graphic novel 'and then...and then...and then...' 

Every time I hear the opening verses I imagine a disciple entering a house or village 
square and capturing his audience with those first few words; delivered theatrically
as a prologue; a promise of action. In fact, I often think of Frankie Howerd at the beginning of 
the tv series 'Up Pompeii' (for those old enough to remember)  

It is a Gospel that names fear and answers it with Love. Mark speaks to people who are 
on the margins – in Jesus’ time this was both a cultural,religious, deeply 
personal and uncrossable margin; these days we have different ideas of who are the
outcasts - but there are always outcasts. 

The people seem to live in judgement of each other. Jesus will repeated challenge
how we believe we can do this. Mark is always asking us  where do we stand – 
with (or as) the outcast or in judgement of the outcast? And if we say we stand for 
justice and inclusion - then what are we doing about it? 

And we asked ourselves where we would put ourselves as we hear this – did we believe 
ourselves living on the margins and in desperate need of God’s grace or, 
as a churchgoer/believer did we imagine we already know this message?

John the Baptist preaches repentance and offers forgiveness to even those who have 
become excluded by Temple law. John, the archetype of the great Old Testament 
prophets; he is both graced and doomed - for the end is coming and he is precursor 
of all that will be and he won't even be sure that he has the right man.  
John brings a promise of redemption for everyone. But it is not him that will bring peace. 

The people leave Jerusalem; a radical statement already for people to leave the ‘organised’ 
church to listen to John, because they know, they feel that there is something missing. 

Our faith life usually begins when we are very young; to begin our faith as 
institution and culture is normal - a part of growing up - we have to learn the basics. 
From this we develop our own rules and expectations; we build a picture of the God we 
believe in  and the life we would follow and we bind that up within the rules of the church. 
As we grow the time comes when we must reconsider where we stand and what we 
believe in; are we happy with our faith; are we content -  should we be? 

John is a man of the desert; wild and unconstrained; full of the Spirit. 
And yet he warns us that when we encounter Jesus he will ask more- and give more - 
than we could ever imagine. 

Then we will be asked the question put to the Rich Young Man - 
to leave everything behind; to move away from what is comfortable; 
to put ourselves on the margins; to turn again.  

Jesus will follow John.  The question is - will we follow him?



Anonymous said...

A wonderful place to begin this Advent...introspectively looking at our own lives and beliefs, and keeping the question of whether or not we choose to follow Jesus at the center of our lives.

claire said...

I very much like what Jade said. I also very much like the post. Mark is probably my favorite Gospel for all the reasons you gave. As in, let me write this before I forget... To me it is the most authentic rendition of Jesus's life. And in this Gospel, I do feel like following Jesus :-)
Thank you, Word.