Advent Two – 2017

Sermon Title:  ADVENT TWO: 2017
Date: 10th December 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: Advent Two
Lectionary Reading: Isiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8
Last week I attended a workshop on ‘triggers’… those stimuli whether an action, event, situation or circumstance that sets off an immediate and sometimes unconscious reaction. We all have triggers from our early childhood experiences!

The workshop began at 9:30am but people arrived around 9am. Most knew each other.  Did the workshop begin at 9:30 or at 9am? On one level it began at 9:30am the allotted time but on another level, because of people’s history of group interaction how ready were they to be open and engaged with the process and the other participants?

As I have heard it said of group processes “It begins before it begins!”

So, are we ready to hear about the ‘beginning’ of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God today… right now.  Are you open and engaged or have you come straight from bed, or from an argument with your partner or children, or trying to get a car park close to the church. How ready are we when we come to church?

‘Church’ began at 10am, how ready were we before it began?

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the opening sentence of Mark’s gospel. What a great way to start writing about our faith!

Most stories have a beginning and an ending that satisfies the reader.

And it’s interesting that there is no end…no tidy end to Mark’s gospel.  There are possibly three endings and the oldest is probably the one which ends in the first part of chapter 16 with the women’s reaction when they went to the tomb where Jesus was laid. Let me read it to you.

“When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8

That’s the first ending of Mark’s gospel.

Why were they afraid?  What was it like to have gone to expect a dead body and yet to be confronted with a different reality speaking of a new creation! Don’t be alarmed the young man said. ! Jesus has been raised!

We can only surmise the answers of why they were afraid.  Maybe the fear of being told they are just foolish women like they were told in Luke’s gospel. Or it seemed so incredulous, that they ran away because it was overwhelming! Did they eventually tell the others what had happened at the tomb?

What would you have done?

Mark begins his gospel by saying that what he’s about to share with you, is good news. At the end is the amazing revelation of Jesus being raised from the dead, even as it seems incredulous and in between are stories to see how we would respond to this good news!

Maybe you can identify with the early disciples to whom Mark was writing who were afraid, maybe were wanting to give up because of the suffering they were experiencing. Your suffering may be quite different from theirs, but still, the sense of powerlessness in a crazy world which we hear on the news, the death or suffering of loved ones, depression or  a sense of not knowing what to believe any more…these are some of the ‘sufferings’ many feel these days.

After the stunning first sentence of Mark’s gospel, it follows with the story about John the Baptizer who appeared in the wilderness.  He pointed to Jesus.  It is Jesus who is more powerful than I, he says. “I will baptise you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The good news of Jesus Christ ‘begins before it begins’!

I haven’t met John the Baptist (obviously.) who pointed me to Jesus and therefore to a response from me to say ‘yes, he is the one whom I want to follow.’ But there have been others in my lifetime.

I wonder who have been John the Baptists’ for you.  Was it a parent, a grandparent, aunt, Sunday school teacher, priest, friend… who was it that first told you…pointed you to look in the direction of Jesus?

It is good to remember when it began before it began! As we know, throughout our lives, there have been times where we have lost sight of the beginning. We have lost sight of the Christ child about to be born.

We have had busy lives, raising families, working to pay the bills, being ‘busy’ for Jesus, but he has become dim.

This Advent, can you hear Mark’s opening words anew.

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”

To begin again is to begin again and again because we change.

This is good news! We are becoming more whole and integrated!

So maybe this day, is a day of new beginnings.

‘Do not be afraid’ is a sentence said so many times in the gospels.

Pray for courage to begin again, to question your own thoughts about ‘religion’ with new eyes and ears as we read and hear the good news of Jesus the Christ.

Go back to the heart of Christianity. It’s not about being good.  It’s not about all the extra although beautiful liturgy we experience.  It’s about Jesus who walked this earth and who still lives!  He showed us how to love, how to heal and to make whole our fragile lives.

I have mentioned a couple of times when ‘it begins before it begins’… on your way here this morning and when we first heard about Jesus from another person.

The In between times of our lives, needs to mesh with the in between stories of Mark’s gospel and for us to come to a response… maybe it will be sometimes like the women for fear of what others may say; maybe of fear because it was so awesome an experience and then maybe we can go on knowing deep in our hearts, that Jesus is our good news! And we share that by how we live our lives.

 

Blessings on you all this Advent season.