Date: 25 Nov 1999
Time: 18:07:46

Comment

11/25/99 11:40 a.m. on Turkey Day

Just some initial thoughts off the top of my head:

1. This is the "Christmas story according to St. Mark." What if...this were the only story we had of Jesus' origins? ...what kind of Christmas would it be, and would we tell to others? ...would it be about God's breaking into our finite world? ...how would this announcement be shared so it becomes "Good News" to our world? ...How would it be similar or different from the message we hear almost every week from the TV series, "Touched by an Angel?" ...Would there be MORE THAN the gospel [i.e., would there also be some law involved - something often missing in the "Touched..." series? ...Can there be gospel ["God loves us"]without repentance? Hmmmm...something to ponder!

2. "euangellidzein" [Greek "proclaim good news]orignially was the message which announced the birth of the king's [Caesar's] son heir to the throne. Doesn't this tell us something unique about Jesus' coming?

3. John/Jesus come, not in a vacuum, but foretold in the prophets. This necessitates a study in the stories of the First Testament - a "gold mine" to discover WHO Jesus is, and WHAT him mission will be.

4. "My messenger", in Hebrew, is "Malachi". "Preparing the way" is the task of the king's heralds, who announced and prepared people for his coming. Somewhat vain for Caesars, but certainly not for the coming of the King of Kings! In Malachi the task of this preparation is given to Elijah; so Mark is telling us that John is the second Elijah - or Elijah redivivus - with all the "baggage" this entails!

5. In Hebrew, it differs from Mark [and Matt./Luke] in that the voice is crying, "IN THE WILDERNESS prepare the way of the Lord." It's a reference to the exiles returning from Babylon, with YHWH leading the way [with cloud by day, and fire by night] as YHWH did during the Exodus. So Mark is saying: "Hey, gals and guys, a new exodus is breaing in to our world!" The First Testament Reading for Advent I ["O that you would tear open the heavens and come down" Is.64:1-9]is being fulfilled with your eyes right now!

6. John appears "in the wilderness" to announce the coming of what Mark's audience will soon discover, that John prepares Israel for Jesus' coming. Note: according to Mark, there is no mention of kinship between John and Jesus [ala Luke]

7. Note the exaggeration of Mark - "...people from the WHOLE Judean countryside and ALL THE PEOPLE in Jerusalem came to the wilderness...." Quite an Exodus! Perhaps that's the point? Just as Israel encamped east of the Jordan prior to their first entry into the Promised Land, so here comes a new Exodus?

8. John's strange dress and diet is also descriptive of the Elijah redivivus, who must come before the Messiah comes to "...purify the sons of Levi...."

9. Finally [at last!], the "...one more powerful than I" reminds Mark's audience that the disciples of John are missing the boat, and ought to become disciples of Jesus - as was John! [See Acts 19:1-7]and that it is Jesus who "baptizes with the Holy Spirit."

Well, that is off the top of my head as I prepare for Advent II. I hope this will help someone.

See y'all later!

Paulf in Central Texas :-)))


Date: 27 Nov 1999
Time: 18:43:52

Comment

If you have access to the 1996 Homiletics Magazine, Leonard Sweet has a great story and sermon idea concerning the song of a homeless man turned into a 70 minute CD by Gavin Bryars. It is a great story to use with John the Baptist. Bryars had been helping a friend with the audio on a film about street people. He eventually noticed an undertone to all the footage w/a particular homeless man in it. It was a repeating sound and it turned out to be this old man singing. That particular bit of film did not make the final cut, but Bryars was haunted by the sounds of this man. Finally, he enhanced the sound on the footage and heard the words the old man was singing. Over and over and over again, the man would sing, "Jesus' blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet. Jesus' blood never failed me yet. There's one thing I know for he loves me so. . ." and the song would begin again. The whole story of Bryars' turning this refrain into a beautiful, orchestrated symphony is fascinating and moving. If you are interested in this story, get your hands on the Homiletics. Sweet suggests playing a fairly lenthy segment of the music during the sermon time. Both my husband and I, pastors of different denominations did this in different churches and got positive response. Since I'm in a new church now, I think I'll try it again! I won't be online this week (posting early), but will be the following week, if someone has questions about this. The idea would be appropriate for next week's lection as well. May you all have faithful and fruitful Advent waiting. LP in Co


Date: 28 Nov 1999
Time: 03:10:47

Comment

The difficulties in this passage for me are twofold -- first, the focus of the passage, whether it be on John or on Jesus, and second, the quotation from Isaiah, which seems to read differently in Isaiah than in Mark.

If one reads this passage devoid of the knowledge yet to come, the passage seems to center on John. In this sense, it is predictive, but not proscriptively so of Jesus.

Second, and more intriguing, is the discrepancy between the presumptively quoted text in Isaiah, and that of Mark. I quote in the NRSV words:

Isaiah: A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

Mark: "...the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"

It begs the question, of course, but, are we to read that the voice is of one who is actually in the wilderness proclaiming "prepare", or of one who proclaims, "in the wilderness, prepare ...?"

I suspect the former (Isaiah), as my take is that it is the "wilderness" of our lives which need to hear the redemptive message.

Perhaps some of the scholars here have a bit better grip on this!

Peace to all,

Jim


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 01:46:09

Comment

For LP in CO--kind of off-track:

LP--I've tried to find that CD and have been unable to. Can you tell me where I might find it? Thanks. Sybil


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 11:43:17

Comment

My initial thoughts on this passage relate to the "truth", which is revealed in Jesus Christ. John came preaching a baptism of repentance. For me repentance is all about our attitude and motives, for doing what we do. Repent, means to change or rethink or reconsider what we previously held as truth. There is always an element of sorrow in this, because we realise, we have not always thought correctly or as God desires. To live the spiritual life, by necessity, means that we constantly scrutinise our thoughts and motives to ensure that we are following the way of truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In some ways this is judgement upon ourself.

We cannot do any of this though, until we are prepared to to admit that we might be wrong! Oh! how difficult it is for us to admit that we may not be right! (Man's will against God's will) You see, if it had been up to humanity, salvation would probably never have occurred, because we don't ever think that we do anything wrong. Just ask a divorced couple who is to blame for their separation. It is the Holy Spirit, that enters our life at baptism, that begins the slow process of fully revealing how wrong we are in our dealings with God and with one another. And so it was God, who reconciled himself to us. Only God, who ultimately felt the pain of our sin, could forgive us and redeem us.

John comes to prepare the hearts of God's people, so that they might be open to the arrival of God's Son. To get their attention, his "gimmick", was to portray the return of the prophet Elijah.

The mystery and joy of all this, is that the closer we get to the source of all truth, our Lord Jesus Christ, the straighter our life becomes. No longer are we pulled from pillar to post by every one claiming to have the truth. Remember Jesus's warning in Mark's 13th chapter. "And if anyone says to you at that time, 'Look! Here is the Messiah! or Look! There he is! -- do not believe it."

John, and Jesus, prepares us for facing up to the truth about ourselves, so that we might live more constructively in relationship with one another. When we do this, the work of the Christ child, "Peace and Good will among men.", is achieved.

Peace to all

KGB


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 13:00:17

Comment

Mark 1:1 is one of my favorite scripture passages.

It is so because it is typical of those wonderful nuggets we so often read right through without giving a second glance. "Of course" we say, "this is the first line of a long Gospel, and one has to start it in some fashion".

But ... this is just the BEGINNING of the good news. I's only beginning! More will follow, year after year; day after day, because the Good News goes on without end!.

I am preaching at a local prison this weekend. The inmates need to hear about how lovable they are to their Creator. I will be approaching these readings from the standpoint that we've just begun to explore how our God loves us. We've not even scratched the surface of the Good News He has to tell us.

That's the beginning of the Good News I'll be taking in with me this weekend.

God be with you all!

=-=-=-=-=gary=-=-=-=-=


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 13:55:59

Comment

Greetings All- This week I will be focusing on God's call of repentance and God's promise of forgiveness-- Christianity 101 stuff. Here's some stories to get us started.

Peace be with you---- Lisa @ Duke Div <>< lad2@acpub.duke.edu *************

"True repentance is to cease from sinning." - Ambrose of Milan ************

Patrick Reynolds has signed on to help the American Lung Association's anti-smoking campaign. So what? He is the grandson of the founder R. J. Reynolds. Reason -- to "make up for the damage my family has done." *********************

An old Hebrew legend tells of a disobedient angel atoning for his sin. God told him to go to earth and to bring back the most precious thing he could find as a gift for God. The angel visited earth and returned with a drop of blood from a soldier who had died for his country. God said, "That is precious, but it is not the most precious thing." The angel went again to earth and returned with a drop of perspiration from a nurse who was caring for a sick child. God said, "That is precious, but it is not the most precious thing." The angel went again, and saw a rancher stalking a man who had stolen his cattle. The rancher followed the thief to his home, and peered through the scope of his rifle to see him move from room to room. He was about to pull the trigger, when the thief picked up a small child. The rancher watched as the thief kissed the child and put him to bed. Suddenly the rancher was seized with remorse. He realized that he had nearly killed the child's father. With a tear of repentance, he returned home. The angel caught the tear of repentance and brought it to heaven. God said, "You did well. Nothing is more precious than a tear of repentance." *******************

In Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," Willie Loman found a way to justify everything he did. He showed no concern when his children got into trouble by their lying and stealing. He figured, "It's no big deal. After all, that's what politicians do all the time." Willie was finally fired from his job, and in the end he committed suicide. Rationalization led to disaster. The famous physician and author A. J. Cronin took the opposite path. In his autobiography he tells how he came to see that his own wisdom and resources were totally inadequate to meet his deepest spiritual needs. He finally surrendered his heart to Christ, or as he put it, to "the inexorable appeal of the Cross." Of his experience Cronin said, "I had made the immense discovery of why I was alive." Repentance led to life. ******************


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 15:12:32

Comment

The wilderness ....

is it not the place where we all live - on arid ground where there is no water, no voice from God, lost in the jungle of my own creation, looking only to the shadows of my own success to draw me out, always waiting for someTHING which never arrives, hoping beyond hope.

In the midst of this wilderness there is a voice ...

What will this voice mean to me? Will I hear it? What is it calling me to ....

At its best the wilderness is the place where silence is heard, where God is ....

tom in ga


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 15:49:44

Comment

The CD "Jesus blood never failed me yet." Audio CD, is available from Amazon.com for $14.99 I wonder whether the discrepancy between the Marcan quotation of the Isaiah passage is because the NSRV is a new translation from the original Hebrew, while Mark is using the Septuagint. DrDeac in TN


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 20:47:19

Comment

Paulf in Central Texas, Lisa@duke, and tom in ga provide significant reflections calling one to look both within the context out of which the sacred story emerges as well as wihtin the autobiographical frames/texts of our own deserts! My thirst/quest/questions this week concern: (1) the "reliving" and/or "recapitulation" of the history of Isreal coming to life in the life of Jesus; and (2) what does this have to do with our own baptism? What is the meaning and/or meaningless of the sacrament of baptism in the life of the church today? In the face of the "dryrot" of not only the bureaucratic church, including the core rituals of "tradition", (much like Tivya in Fiddler on the Roof), do we not need in the "desert" of this Advent the renewal of the sacred covenant and the regeneration of sacramental life? Do we not need to be baptized in the fresh recreation of the spiritual waters of sacred history such that we stand on the inside of this sacred story as participants? Will not the mystical Presence of Christ come to us in reliving his life in this Christian Year? Will He come to us in not only the reading of the Word but the being/becoming/doing of the word? Hasidism would call us to not simply "read" the Torah but to "be" the Torah such that others may know/hear/see the sacred story by and through our deeds! PaideiaSCO in ga mts


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 21:45:35

Comment

Comment to Jim, re: 'in the wilderness': Shows an interesting use of Scripture. Of course Isaiah is talking about the preparation of the way home for the exiles from Babylon, so, "In the desert prepare the way of the Lord." Mark is speaking of the voice who resides in the wilderness, "prepare the way." John was truly living in the spiritual wilderness that resulted from the Bablonian captivity of Israel. The result was that Israel asked, how did this happen to us?" From not obeying the covenant! So they hemmed themselves in, thus giving birth to Judiasm, a corruption of the OT relationsip, resulting in 613 commands (365 negative, 248 positive). So the coming of the gospel is not in a vacuum, but rather to face Judiasm and its corruption. So the wilderness exists both in Bethany beyond the Jordan and in Jerusalem.

People do not take seriously the function and need for repentance. This is witnessed by a recent comment from Christianity Today (5-24-99) "Advertising leads us to think of our desires as important and precious things. We expect to be wooed. We assume tht God's relationship with us is based on his desire to console and reassure us, rather than our desparate need to be rescued from sin and conformed to his holiness." About the comment on Touched by an Angel, no there is no forgiveness where there is cheap grace, for there is no repentance or change of life.

Kenton/Kansas


Date: 29 Nov 1999
Time: 22:23:52

Comment

Kenton/Kansas,

Thanks for breathing the proverbial breath of fresh air to the DPS. Hope you decide to contribute again. And thanks for Lisa's reminder that repentance and forgiveness are parts of Christianity 101.

It seems sometimes that going 'back to the basics' is so necessary, especially when we've strayed so far from and tried to complicate the gospel.

Rick in Va


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 00:05:20

Comment

For me, the critical part of the passage is "make straight his paths." I am preaching a series that compares the coming of Christ to the coming of a very special guest.(I know, not exactly original, but I think it's a good analogy in many ways.)

When we are expecting important company at our house, we rush around like mad, trying to make the place presentable, cleaning, and straightening, and setting things in order. While I don't necessarily think getting frantic is a great idea, I wonder if we aren't a little too comfortable with the idea of Christ coming to us at Christmas. If he is really Lord of our Lives, how would we straighten up our lives and our hearts to honor him at his coming?

Just some thoughts,

ST


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 01:07:20

Comment

Sybil,

You can also buy the CD at Barnes and Nobel - or order it from them online.

Sandy in OK


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 04:03:16

Comment

ST, Thanks, you pulled the memory right from the recesses of my brain. As a kid, when we had company coming (and now when my folks come) the entire household is thrown into boil and scrub mode: bleaching bathrooms from ceiling to floor, cleaning baseboards with a toothbrush, etc. This was not just special guests, but every guest (which rings of Matthew's closing remarks 2 weeks back - the least of these = me).

Preparing the way for the arrival of guests in my childhood and now adult prep for family is not unlike blasting mountains, raising valleys and straightening the crooked.

There's the common experience, the move to the text and the elevation of the experience to preparation for the coming of Christ is the next step in my sermon.

I guess, I need to determine if I stay with the "return of the Son of Man" theme from last week, thus a corporate sense of our Christian responsibility. Or do I shift to the personal preparations - not so much are our hearts ready to receive (preaching to the choir) but are we spiritually ready to move to deeper commitments?

Maybe more later as I read on.

Prepare ye the way!

KDO in WA


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 14:10:34

Comment

OK, I can't remember now if it was for this lection or the Isaiah lection, but somewhere someone made the comparison between "making paths straight" and the re-construction of a highway near his home. I also have similar memories from my childhood, and that comment made me compare that experience with the experience of the congregation I'm now serving as interim minister. Yes, change can be violent, even when it's good change. It's not comfortable to change our ways, even when we're going from wrong to right (hopefully) ways. There's always an element of being wrenched from our path and being set on a new one. For the congregation I'm serving, they know many of the changes we're making are necessary and ultimately happy, but getting there is sometimes a grevious battle. So is repentance. I may know in my heart that something is a right path, but that doesn't make it any less painful to do. Early thoughts in the week, anyway...Sdh in NY


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 14:55:23

Comment

My initial thoughts for this week had me heading toward the wilderness as well as the place where redemption can find us. I was concerned that I was preaching to myself again, so I am encouraged by the many postings I see that are variations on the same theme.

I find time in the wilderness to be absolutely essential from time to time. I have yet to go there willingly, and am always relieved when I find myself "back to normal," but I have come to trust that when I find myself back in the desert/wilderness it is because there is a lesson to be learned there. Only in the wilderness am I able to recognize again that I alone am powerless over the forces that I do battle with, and that only reliance on God will lead me where I need to go. The AA folks understand this more clearly than I do, and also understand that the way forward usually goes in circles. In the wilderness I am able to recognize my need for repentence, for the kind of 180 degree turn that the OT means by repentence.

We talk a lot in Advent about the Second Coming as a universal, cosmic event. Without denying the reality of that hope for a new heaven and a new earth, I think there is also room in Advent for a more personal Second Coming, for a rebirth of the presence of God within us. We are always in need of redeeming the stuff of our lives, of changing course toward the path that God has chosen for us, of allowing God's power to work with us instead of struggling against it. But the only way to claim that redemption is to first go to the wilderness and face our need.

I also need to remember that the whole time the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness - which was after their salvation from the hands of the Egyptians - they were accompanied by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, visible reminders that God was with them, even as they paid the price for their disobedience.

There is much in this week's text that is good news, but it's not the kind of warm fuzzy that people reach for when they are looking for good news. J the B seems more like someone's caricature of a prophet rather than someone who has something vitally important to hear. Tough work for us to make all this real and relevant.

Grace and peace, RevLauren in LA Delta


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 15:06:52

Comment

DrDeac in TN,

Mark wouldn't have been using the Septuagint, since it wasn't put together until several centuries after his death. Could the problem be that the original texts didn't have quotation marks? Was the voice crying, "In the wilderness prepare..." or was the voice crying in the wilderness, "prepare..."

Does the Spirit leave it intentionally ambiguous so it will fit either historical situation? Do we expect an advent into our own wilderness, or do we listen to voices calling from the fringes of our world? Can the text say both things?

JB in VA


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 16:29:51

Comment

Greetings all.

I am also going with the desert location. My title is "John the Baptist vs. Emily Post". The question is, "What do we like about John, and what do we not like about Emily"???

Stretching the Envelope


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 18:19:04

Comment

Friends,

I was struck by the broad strokes used in painting us as a people who want only to be wooed and comforted by God. I disagree.

Sure, there are people about whom that would be true. The majority of those, however, are so far gone into the need for comfort that God is the last source to which they look. That's why John the Baptizer's message hits home. When we are at the point at which we will even pay attention to the repentance message, it has the appeal of startling, outrageous, honest-to-God truth. "AHA! THAT'S what I need!" is our response.

No, I don't believe we're primarily a people looking for God to make us feel good. We're primarily a people either running away from or running toward God, come what may about how God will make us feel. Only the bystanders who seek to scoff in their superiority are offended by this message. As Jesus would soon illustrate it, there is no hope for the public pray-er whose thankfulness centers around his need to be better than. Jesus rightly tells us that the joy in heaven has nothing to do with him.

Has anyone else wondered if there weren't probably quite a lot of folks who witnessed the baptizing and went quietly on their way, pondering what had happened to others, and allowing God to tend that seed until it brought forth repentance fruit?

Wonderful observation re: if Mark were the only Gospel we had! Wouldn't that be interesting? Trying to imagine having a Gospel that ended with 16:8. One thing's for sure: we'd have no Christmas. We'd get right at the true heart of the Gospel. Maybe that's where the warning about the "feel good" stuff comes from: we tend to want to make Christmas the high point of the year, with its sentimentality and superficial piety. Please don't misunderstand; the Incarnation is one of the great mystery-truths of our faith. But Incarnation that overshadows Atonement is misrepresentation of the gospel, at least in my opinion.

And a final observation, concerning whether the focus is on John or Jesus: John pointed to Jesus, and Jesus consistently pointed to God throughout his ministry.

My thanks to all of you for a very interesting and edifying discussion.

Peace,

Mary in TX


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 18:19:10

Comment

Friends,

I was struck by the broad strokes used in painting us as a people who want only to be wooed and comforted by God. I disagree.

Sure, there are people about whom that would be true. The majority of those, however, are so far gone into the need for comfort that God is the last source to which they look. That's why John the Baptizer's message hits home. When we are at the point at which we will even pay attention to the repentance message, it has the appeal of startling, outrageous, honest-to-God truth. "AHA! THAT'S what I need!" is our response.

No, I don't believe we're primarily a people looking for God to make us feel good. We're primarily a people either running away from or running toward God, come what may about how God will make us feel. Only the bystanders who seek to scoff in their superiority are offended by this message. As Jesus would soon illustrate it, there is no hope for the public pray-er whose thankfulness centers around his need to be better than. Jesus rightly tells us that the joy in heaven has nothing to do with him.

Has anyone else wondered if there weren't probably quite a lot of folks who witnessed the baptizing and went quietly on their way, pondering what had happened to others, and allowing God to tend that seed until it brought forth repentance fruit?

Wonderful observation re: if Mark were the only Gospel we had! Wouldn't that be interesting? Trying to imagine having a Gospel that ended with 16:8. One thing's for sure: we'd have no Christmas. We'd get right at the true heart of the Gospel. Maybe that's where the warning about the "feel good" stuff comes from: we tend to want to make Christmas the high point of the year, with its sentimentality and superficial piety. Please don't misunderstand; the Incarnation is one of the great mystery-truths of our faith. But Incarnation that overshadows Atonement is misrepresentation of the gospel, at least in my opinion.

And a final observation, concerning whether the focus is on John or Jesus: John pointed to Jesus, and Jesus consistently pointed to God throughout his ministry.

My thanks to all of you for a very interesting and edifying discussion.

Peace,

Mary in TX


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 20:01:18

Comment

My two cents on the "quotation" debate. Septuagint was well in circulation by the time Mark was writing. The earliest manuscripts were found in the 2nd century BC. By 128 AD, Jewish scholars were trying to purge the Septuagint of its use by Christians. Mark probably did use it.

I don't have access to the Septuagint, but in the Hebrew (even without quotation marks), it is clear that the Isaiah quotation begins with "In the wildnerness." As for the NT Greek, it would have been unclear, but something has caused translators to move that quotation mark for centuries.

I'm preaching this week on preparing "The Way," as in the name for early Christians: "Followers of the Way."

Grace and Peace...South Side Vicar


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 20:04:25

Comment

I am going with the Isaiah passage but found this good story for you Mark folk.

One day a man on horseback came racing into a small town on the frontier. He yelled out, "Big Jake is coming!" All the townspeople were so terrified that they ran into their homes and bolted the doors. They sent the children to hide under their beds. In the saloon, the bartender was trying to board up his windows when all of a sudden his heart stopped. He saw the biggest man he had ever seen coming right in his direction. He had strips of bullets draped across his chest, and strapped to his legs were two of the biggest guns that the bartender had ever seen. The man was dressed in black, and he looked incredibly mean.

He stepped up to the bar and said: "Get me a drink, and make it quick." So the bartender obeyed. The man downed the drink in one big gulp. So the bartender said: "Would you like another drink?" But the man yelled back: "No! I don't have time. Haven't you heard? Big Jake is coming."

For folk who thought John was the promised one. Credit Edward Bowen in Lectionary Homiletics


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 20:39:49

Comment

JB in Va, According to the Catholic encyclopedia, which by the way is a superb on-line resource, the Septuagint can at the very latest be dated to about 130 BC, and was the source "Old Testament" available to the writers of the New Testament. There is some suspicion that it is quite a bit older. There was a thriving Jewish community in Alexandria for several hundred years before, dating from the time of the desruction of the kingdom of Israel--Remember, that's where the prophet Jeremiah wound up. Not that any of this is really important, but careful readers of a modern Bible often neglect to consider that it was written over a long period of time in very diverse circumstances, and by people speaking different languages. DrDeac in TN


Date: 30 Nov 1999
Time: 23:55:07

Comment

DrDeac in TN Mea culpa. I promise that my old (1966) Random House Dictionary has a misprint, dating it AD rather than BC(E), falsely confirming a misconception I have carried for years. To make matters worse, I have the Catholic Encyclopedia on the shelf, but was too lazy to double-check. Thanks for bearing with me! JB in VA


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 00:24:54

Comment

My wilderness is always a place of desolation ... it is here where I can no longer run away from myself ... it manifests itself in many ways ... an illness, a death, a disagreement, a financial crunch in the parish, the loss of parishioners to some other place, those who no longer share their world with me, for I was to busy or insensitve to listen in the past ... my own sense of alienation, lostness, and being alone .... wanting to please .... wanting to be the best pastor in the universe. How narcissistic can I get ... but in the wilderness, I run into my own nemesis, limited now to my own ashes, my own sense of incompleteness, it is here in desolation that God speaks to me.

When things are going well, when I get everything I want under the Christmas Tree, when everyone loves me, and follows me, it is then in consolation that God never speaks but leaves me be, waiting for me to ....

tom in ga


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 03:10:22

Comment

LP in Colorado got me thinking about the street prophets I have encountered and what link they might have with John the Baptist. I was wondering what a present-day JB would look like - how would we recognize such a one if we were to see her/him? I think the whole point of mentioning the camel's hair shirt, the leather belt and the diet of locusts and wild honey is to place JB outside the bounds of respectability.

So I asked myself, what if I were lost in the wilderness, and someone met me and said "There is water and food over there." Would I trust that someone who looked like JB knew what he was talking about? Or would I be desperate enough to take the chance that he might be right, even though the odds seemed against it. I guess it would depend how long I had been in the wilderness, how long it had been since I had eaten, how willing I was to admit that I could not find the way out on my own.

John says to those in the wilderness, "This is the way to find water." In some mysterious way, so does the man singing "Jesus' blood never failed me yet." Are there others we could name who would gladly give us roadmaps if we could overlook appearances.

Just wondering . . . RevLauren in LA Delta


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 04:00:03

Comment

I am struck by how offensive John's demand must have appeared to the Hebrew folk. Compare this account to Luke's (You brood of vipers!?) And to top it all of, he dressed funny and ate strage stuff! I wonder what I would have thought of this guy disrupting my religion? Would i have taken him seriously?

Baptism is a new ritual for the Pre-Christian era. It now carries variant meanings for different faith groups and traditions. We are initiated into the fellowship of Christ's Holy Church, but what happens to children whose parents bring them to church to "get them done?" We tend to accomidate then they dissappear. What happened to the power of Baptism?

AW-G Rocky Coast Me.


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 05:10:31

Comment

30 Nov 99

I, too, love the First Reading - Isaiah 40. I had forgotten [until I pulled out my translation of it several years ago] that literally the text says, "Speak <to the heart of> Jerusalem and cry to her that her military service has been completed, that her sins have been paid off, that she has received, from the hand of YHWH, double for all her sins." Beautiful language! YHWH tells the divine council to speak to her heart. How tender and loving!

Just a thought after reading one of those responding.

paulf in central [the heart of] Texas! :-)))


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 06:08:01

Comment

Rev Lauren in LA Delta,

Although the literary emphais on John the Baptist's dress and diet are effective means of making him "outside the bounds of respectability," I think it may have more to do with intentionally identifying him as a prophet of the Old Testament tradition. Would this not be a means of establishing his authority under God for his prophetic action?

On the other hand, the one who cries out from the wilderness today will recieve great scorn from the world. There may be a good link here. Thank you for your thought.

--------------------------------------------

Ok folks, help me out here, please! I have been listening to the radio news accounts of the World Trade Orginazation talks and the incredible protests and demonstrations surrounding them. I am attempting to discern if we can faithfully view this current situation through the lens of this scripture passage.

The WTO represents the primary power structure and global force. Then, from out of the woodwork (wildreness) come the activists who passionately believe in changing the world order. They rightly see many of the greed-centered and ethnically biased practices of the WTO and are boldly calling for repentence. I can't see this as a great Advent sermon, but I wonder if it has some validity? Any thoughts?

--------------------------------------------

Finaly folks, another idea that I am playing with. I have considered using both the Isaiah 40 reading and this one from Mark.

Isaiah begins "40:1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 40:2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."

John the Baptist does not represent a very comfortable image, yet he hearlds the coming of the great Comfortor.

The key is in Isaiah's more ellobrate call to level hills, raise plains, and make rough places even. Couple that with John's call for repentecne and I think there is a prophetic message of hope.

I am thinking of a sermon title "The Road to Christmas." The imparative is to recognize that the destination is only reached through some major landscape reorganization. If we jump too quickly into the Christmas mode, we shortchange ourselves of the opportunity to clear the path. Then we wind up with a Christmas that is pleasing for the moment, but lasts about as long as the presents on the big morning.

John the baptist is offering all who hear his prophetic call a relationship with God's own Son. Yet, he recognizes that it can not come without some serious preparation and cleansing.

Still thinking, praying, and pondering the text.

Peace

DWR


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 12:26:10

Comment

I can't put my finger on it, but I somehow feel that we haven't really tapped the essence of this passage. With all due respect to other contributors, my previous posting included, in some way we all seem to be avoiding or averting its core. For Mark to begin his gospel with this passage suggests to me, that he saw it as fundamental or foundational to all that follows. His opening sentence reveals that.

And there is something about baptism here, that puzzles me. John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, and yet we as Christian's profess that forgiveness comes through Jesus's death. So what does it say? Could John's baptism provide forgiveness or not? I want to suggest that Mark is saying no! People were confessing their sins to John, but John was not in any position to do anything about them. People felt good with what John did, but did it do any good. Didn't Jesus die for us, while we were still sinners? All, except those who were baptised by John!!! I think not, but I will be persuaded.

John baptises with water, but Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit. Now the problem becomes more difficult. How does Jesus baptise with the Holy Spirit? Many have tried to explain, and formularise this.

I guess my question is. Are we still opting for a baptism of water,(a kind of easy wash) without gaining the full benefit, but the harder business, of the cleansing of our spirit? I am especially mindful, that Mark follows this text with the baptism of Jesus.

I just don't think we've fully targetted Mark's, (or should I say Peter's) mind, to this point.

I have appreciated the great input as always, however, and the opportunity for a newcomer to have a say. I will keep observing. It's amazing how my sermon develops over the week.

KGB


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 14:39:25

Comment

I heard the Markan passage differently this year. Perhaps because I have just come from a Thanksgiving celebration with the family but regardless, I heard joy in this proclamation. The images which filled my mind were of preparations in advance of family gatherings or celebrations. The anticipation of family or specially loved people coming required extensive preparation. I grew up on a farm and in a very large family. One of my sisters had gone for a visit to St. Louis and met a young man whom she soon fell in love with. My sister returned home and the letters between the two of them kept the flames of love and passion alive. One particular letter stated he was coming to visit see her and meet the family. That announcement nearly derailed the planting season! We cleaned the house from top to bottom, we even spruced up the outhouse and raked the yard. Everything had to be put in the best condition possible. Is this too far from the proclamation of Mark, particularly with his use of the Isaiah passage? The long awaited visitor was expected to show up very shortly and the joy of the announcement caused the people to make themselves clean for His arrival. Could we not encourage our people to see the comings of Christ in like fashion?

Grace, twfpadre


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 15:38:06

Comment

To PaideiaSCOin ga mts and KGB

The answer for me to your questions concerning baptism is John's statement referring to Jesus: "...he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit." The actualization of Jesus as the Christ of God in our lives plants the "seal" of God's Presence (Holy Spirit) in our lives. Without the recipient of baptism "in water" actualizing by conscious affirmation and confirmation this holy meaning of baptism, there is no baptism "in the Holy Spirit". Read Acts 19:1ff in light of this observation. Hey - ob, boy! have I opened a can of worms!? As for me, not only at Christmas time, but in all my wildernesses I need the sacred meaning of my baptism confirmed by my confessing heart and the stamp of God's assurance by the consciousness of God's holy Presence with me. That is my "pathway" out of my wildernesses.

Dan in Ohio


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 15:52:05

Comment

KGB,

You pose intriguing questions. Well worth consideration.

As I understand Mark's Gospel, it is written with deffinate apocalyptic urgency. Therefore, swift and decisive action was required on the part of the reader in order to fully recieve the gospel Mark is trying to present.

Throughout the gospel, the disciples don't get the clue. Even Peter, who accurately professes Jesus as the Christ, falls short. Even at the empty tomb in 16:8 they were afraid and did not know what to do. (I am assuming that Mark ended there and the rest of the book were scribal additions.)

My point is this. Mark is not interested in giving a biography of a man called Jesus. He wants to present a gospel (good news, proclimation, sermon) on the salvation available in the Son of God.

Is it possible that John the Baptist's call for water baptism serves as a literary device clense one's self to recieve the Christ. The example of the disciples is a negative one of "don't let this happen to you" that shows them as unable to fully clense themselves of the blinders that prevent them from seeing Christ in full.

I don't know. Myself, I am just plodding through this and this is my 'off the top' response to your very good question.

I do feel very strongly that we need to claim John the Baptist's proclimation that the water baptism is to prepare for a baptism of the Spirit. It stands as a strong reminder that water baptism alone is not a magical cure for sin, but that it opens the way for a life-long relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. One possible theme we can use her is that Christmas is not a one-day event that ends when we toss out the wrapping paper and put away the new toys. It is the beginning of a life that continues to live today.

Enough rambling for one morning. Please keep the challenging and thought provolking questions coming.

Peace,

DWR


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 17:11:11

Comment

I am thinking that the essence of this passage is not that we are to prepare a road for God or God's Messiah, but that God has in Christ prepared the road (The Way) to God's self...and that's the Good News. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem and tell her that her striving, struggling warfare is accomplished! The element that differentiates Christianity from any other religion, as I understand it, is that other religions endeavor to prescribe ways to get to God...while Christianity says God made God's own way to us in the incarnation. Does this resonate? RevKKinOK


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 17:20:36

Comment

I have a few thoughts that need a lot of work. How are we preparing the way of the Lord eschatologically? Do we confuse people about preparation? This could be by the way we live out the Christian through our actions and words.

Another thought, We get caught up in the wilderness of modernization. Technology and all the gadgets of modern society become our gods. We all need to hear the the voice in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord! He's coming back!

BAM in Pa.


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 23:25:00

Comment

I was pondering why did the people come to the wilderness to see/hear John?

As I pondered, I ran into this thought from Fred Craddock in Preaching the New Common Lectionary: The curious came, of course, for he was an unusual man, and the nostalgic came because he reminded them of Elijah. But basic to the power of his ministry were the two themes of his preaching: the Messiah is at the door and repentance is essential as the preparation to receive him. In other words, he gave his listeners hope and he pave them a way to enter into that hope. What could be better than this: an offer to repent (change, a new life) to confess, to enter into a rite of cleansing, and to be forgiven.

I thought that was good stuff. Thanks to all of you for your good stuff.

Jim in South Carolina


Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 23:29:50

Comment

Thank you for all of your wonderful insights. I just wanted to add a thought: Baptism by water (John's baptism) is our preparing the way for the Lord (repentence), whereas Baptism by the Holy Spirit (Jesus's baptism) is the arrival of the Lord (new life). I have to go now, but I'll be back!

Jude in Washington

P.S. The voices of protest in Seattle are out of control. I can't imagine John the Baptist being so destructive!


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 00:51:59

Comment

Thank-you for your comments. Very edifying.

Here's some of my musings continued.....

I have gone back over the way in which each Gospel writer presents their opening chapter. I think it is interesting to realise that each begins differently.

Mark, which I am told is the earliest gospel begins with John the Baptist. Matthew begins with genealogy. Luke begins with the incarnation. John begins with the Word made flesh.

What I am thinking is that Mark begins by saying that Jesus becomes the Christ at his baptism. Luke says, that it begins with his birth. Matthew says, that it begins with his ancestors. And John says that Christ has been so from the beginning.

This raises interesting questions about Mark's passage, and our failing to have any knowledge of Jesus from birth to age 30. What did Jesus confess to John at his baptism? Remember it isn't until Luke's account that we have the sense that Jesus was growing, "in divine and human favour."

Baptism is the mystery, of man and God united. For me, Mark is saying something very profound, in the suggestion that John becomes the vehicle for Jesus to obtain his divine status. At our own baptism, isn't this what happens. Christ comes to us and dwells within us, (as another contributor has said), so that we can be formed into the image of Christ.

Bear with me in my wonderings.

Thanks again for your challenging thoughts.

KGB


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 01:38:02

Comment

John the Baptizer is appears in the wilderness as a shuman .. a shadowy figure .. on the margin of society ... speaking a language no one wants to hear ... no matter how "good" the news is. He is indeed disruptive, and shatters the comfort of the pharisees and scribes. The "comfort" he brings (Isaiah 40) is not the comfort of this world. He draws people, perhaps because of his message, but I think more because of his strangeness (camels hair, belt, eating locust, wild honey. (can't you picture the bees flying around his mouth as he munches on the cone!)

His proclamation is at the forefront in December; the baptism will have its place after Epiphany. For now what do we do with interpreter of Isaiah, this prophet that no covenant wants to fully claim, is he old or is he new ... what do we think.

All he does is point beyond himself, a strange gesture for us 20th, almost 21 century, men and women, pointing beyond ourselves. Even the pychologist Erich Fromm says that we are not to point to anything transcending ourselves ... how do we deal with his message.

Repent, turn around, hey I like where I am going, the Market is on the rise, I am at peace with the world. turn around, to face what, the world is in my pocket. turn around, and behold life in its fullness.

tom in ga


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 02:56:23

Comment

To Jim in South Carolina

Thanks for your thoughts on hope and a way to enter it. The wilderness is the reason we need hope and I will probably tie the thought of wilderness to the message of hope and the way of hope.

Sinbad

Goose Creek, South Carolina


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 04:42:00

Comment

Rev KK,

Yes, your thoughts certainly do resonate. It seems to me that this is where the shadow of the cross hovers over the manger. God's love revealed not only in Jesus' birth, but ultimately in his death and resurrection are God's way of reaching out to humanity. Perhaps what Mark is getting at is the least we can do in return is level a few mountains and raise up a few valleys! Preparing a straight path from the manger to the cross, to the ultimate gift of God's grace, is no small task. But I wonder if John the Baptist is calling us to respond to God's reaching out to us.......

Blessings, SueCan


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 06:12:50

Comment

KGB:

Good observation! What about the two different baptisms? I think (and this is just my very preliminary-form articulation of the thought) that repentance (of which John's baptism was the sign) is our "preparation of the way of the Lord" so that we can be baptized "with the Holy Spirit [and with fire]." Grace brings us to repentance, at which time it's a joint effort between us and the Holy Spirit, for the rest of our lives. John's call was to announce the coming of the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Again, the pointing toward Christ: the Way to, and Truth of, and Life from God.

I think that sometimes we want repentance to be mainly about remorse, when it is much more about reform. Wasn't John really serving as a sort of compass? He got folks to turn around so that they didn't miss the Messiah. Those who focused on John himself, such as the scoffers, turned not even a second of a minute of a degree.

Just some late night musings. Thanks again, all, for a great discussion.

Peace,

Mary


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 08:37:52

Comment

Regarding the importance of baptism. Remember that John wasn’t simply baptizing, but was baptizing in the river Jordan. The river Jordan was – for the Jewish people – that dividing line between the wilderness and the Promised Land. The Jordan was the river they had to cross (a few weeks back in our lectionary reading) before they could enter a land flowing with milk and honey. So crossing the Jordan was, for them, an image of entering into an entirely new life. This is what “repentance” is as well. Repentance isn’t being sorry for your sins. It’s changing directions, and leaving sin behind.

I suspect that John baptized in the Jordan because this Promised Land imagery and his message of Repentance went hand in hand. And I suspect that Baptism was meant to be seen as symbolically crossing over.

Also, the passage suggests that one doesn’t encounter Christ and then, as a result, repent of one’s sins. It happens the other way around. One first repents, and then encounters the Messiah. If we want to prepare the way for Christ, we must start out by leaving behind our wildernesses of sin, and entering into the milk and honey of righteousness.

The housecleaning imagery has some merit when understood allegorically. But the passage doesn’t really suggest that we prepare for Christ by cleaning our houses. Instead, we leave our houses behind and go to the wilderness, or anywhere God is working. Or, to put it another way – WE want to clean our houses because we are obsessed with looking good. John the Baptist suggests that instead we should be obsessed with being good. And who cares if the house is a mess. If Christ dropped by for a visit, he would not be concerned about when you last vacuumed. He would care about the fact that you have two coats hanging up in your closet, and your neighbor is cold.

DR


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 12:58:37

Comment

For those considering the *wilderness angle* of this passage: I recall from my New Testament Survey class that Mark is writing to Gentile Christians who may indeed be facing persecution. Hence the reference to the *wild beasts* in the wilderness when Jesus is led by the Spirit after His baptism.

Perhaps it is also important when looking at our own wilderness experience to ask the question concerning being persecuted, or perhaps, "what are my wild animals?"

John near Pitts.


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 13:41:47

Comment

I wanted to further the discussion regarding my story of the boyfriends visit. The emphasis for me is not on the clean house but the joyful response. I agree that "looking good" is not the issue but I would suggest that willingness to be transformed in light of God's activity is the point. Otherwise the baptism for repentance has no meaning and the upcoming baptism of Jesus is little more than symbol. I think Mark is saying that people came to hear this strange man because his message of God's present activity gave them hope when they least expected it...in the midst of Roman occupation and national turmoil. This too appears to be true for the earliest readers of Marks gospel. I would also think that standing in the present and facing God's activity is foundational to understanding the baptism of Jesus. I would see that baptism as his acceptance of the role of the "suffering servant." The difference between the two baptisms is clear...the people are moved to prepare for the coming Kingdom by repentance and Jesus accepts his role in the establishment of the Kingdom.


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 13:42:50

Comment

Sorry, I failed to add my handle to that last input. twfpadre


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 13:49:08

Comment

Some responses to things I have read here that might help: 1) Regarding the quotation in 2-3. The first part, in verse 2 is a mixture of Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1. Both MacClarnon and The Interpreter's Bible (the old one) bring this point forward. 2) Baptism was not a new thing. It was used to cleanse people of disease or ritual impuity and, according to some historians, was used as an induction into Judaism for those who were Gentiles converted to faith. These righteous Gentiles, according to these historians, were baptized. I have looked for independent evidence of this and only found the story of Naaman to support that idea; however, that "baptism" or washing also had to do with cleansing from disease.

Other than that, I have little to offer this week. I am titling my sermon "The Beginning of the Beginning of the End of the Beginning." Last week's reading from MArk 13 gave the signs of the Beginning of the End. This weeks reading gives the signs of the Edn of the Beginning, but the ministry of Jesus is the Beginning of the End of the Begining; therefore, the appearance of John must be the Beginning of the Beginning of the End of the Beginning. Confusing, eh? But fun! God bless and keep you. Shalom. Kurt in IN


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 14:51:36

Comment

twfpadre,

Your image is a good one. We do want to get our lives in order to receive our visiter. I'm not knocking that approach. I would want to point out, however, that we tend to think that getting our life in order, and looking good, are identical. And we tinker around with minor things in our lives while what we really need is a major change. But because we've done the insignificant tinkering, we think we've done what we need to do.

Maybe instead of cleaning our houses, we need an entirely new house. The old one's been condemned anyhow. Do you think the Scripture suggests that it's time to cross the river Jordan and move to a new abode and a new land?

DR


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 15:44:50

Comment

I too have difficulty with the house cleaning idea. Although it is a good image (God knows mine needs some serious attention) it has problems with advent.

So much of what we preachers face during these four weeks is keeping the secular out of Christ's birth. For many, cleaning house for the Christmas company is just part of the season, we are doing it all ready. So, big deal.

I think John the Baptist is saying, "Forget your house! Who cares if it is clean. I want you to be clean and ready to recieve the one who is greater than I. Therefore, repent, be baptized, and find that a clean house is nothing compared to a holy life." (Great intrepreteive liberty taken of course!)

-------------------------

I too am focusing on the beginning theme for the sermon. In particular, I am addressing the issue of how Mark began this gospel. (No "Chiristmas" stories, just John the Baptist.) I will also be weaving the Isaiah reading into the sermon. The "comfort" of Isaiah was the promise that Judah would be restored. Therefore, John is preaching comfort that Jesus will restore humanity. Ours is a call to prepare that way. Prepare by reclaiming and remembering our baptisms, prepare by repentence, and prepare by praising the One who is to come.

This is a rough outline, still a lot of work to go, but this is where it is heading at the moment.

Thanks to all for your input and contributions. They have proven to be most useful!

Peace,

DWR


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 16:17:52

Comment

Greetings All-

A fellow preacher recently posted this illustration to the Midrash lectionary discussion. I thought it was increadible and wanted to share it with you.

peace--

Lisa @ Duke Div

**************

One good way to think of repentance is to use the Hebrew word shub (sorry, no Hebrew characters). As my professor of Hebrew said (using interstates here in Texas), "If I left Dallas heading on I-20 for Shreveport (LA) & after 3 hours of driving found myself instead heading in the opposite direction towards El Paso, true repentance would involve my stopping the car, turning around, & heading in the right direction. If all I did was get out, tear my clothes, pull my hair, get back in the car & continue on my way, then there would be no repentance." I've used his example often. The Greek word metanoia gets at this same idea, but not in the same way as the Hebrew. Shub (pronounced shoov) means to literally turn around. This is the word that's used most often to indicate repentance in the Hebrew Scriptures.


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 16:19:48

Comment

In I Thessalonians, written well before the Gospel according to Mark, Paul speaks of how this Jesus came "in power and in the Holy Spirit." Paul goes on to tell us how in "this Jesus, God has given the Holy Spirit to each of us." The writer in Mark obviously picked up on these words of Paul and has John use the basic idea when he has John say, "I baptize you with water.......but he who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

I believe that this is in reality a clear reference to the fact that Jesus becomes for us a clear window into God. That forever after, God's presence in our lives will be so real and imminent, precisely because of who Jesus was and what he did.

It is because of who Jesus was, that our consciences are quickened by what is happening with a World Trade Organization in Seattle......or by the recent report that so many American children live in poverty without adequate health coverage while they continue to live in the most financially wealthy nation on earth......or by a world that gives lip service to welcoming diversity while families and institutions overtly reject and turnaside from those who may be homosexual/gay.

Doesn't God's presence, as foreshadowed by John the Baptist, and brought home to us in Jesus Christ open up all our lives to new possibilities and the ability to see life in a different way from those around us. Doesn't God's presence give us a unique identity? What do you folks think?

Rev. Bob


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 16:54:29

Comment

Thanks to all for their take on the house cleaning. You have helped clarify some of the thoughts and I do still like the image of responding in joy to an event which is about to happen. While I agree that repentance is a needed change of direction that does not contain for me the sense of Advent. Anticipation, expectation and preparation are words which reflect the atmosphere. To miss the ethos may be to miss the mark. This is more evident in the other theme of Advent which calls us to remember the consumation. I wonder if there really is a joyful anticipation of that return or is it a painful wilderness experience? What I am called to is far greater than anything I could cause to happen for myself and far more complete than any one or group of us could accomplish together. God is breaking into history; forever and radically altering its' conclusion. So why should we not kill the fatted calf and rejoice? Peace, twfpadre


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 18:23:19

Comment

I have, also, been drawn to the WTO event & the Mark text. Those that have been violent do not cloud the stronger prophetic message for me.

An editorial from the local paper compared the world trade conflict among nations to the US Civil War, the use of slave labor, unjust working conditions, for profit.

When I hear the voices of the protest,I hear a call for repentance, a call to stop the car, check the map and head in the more sacred direction... the communal call from this text.

The prophetic voices from Seattle are speaking for those without global voice, the " least " in Matthew 25 text. Some might be surprised that they are being faithful to the incarnate Christ by their appeal like in the Matthew 25 text.

Kairos


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 20:36:38

Comment

twfpadre;

I agree with you that this can be a joyful theme. If repentance is, as Lisa pointed out, getting on the correct interstate, then that is a joyful kind of experience. Shouldn't we be happy when we're heading in the right direction?

Maybe the reason many people haven't encountered Jesus Christ is that they're traveling on the wrong highway, heading the wrong direction. This Scripture suggests to me that to prepare to encounter the Messiah, one must get on the same road and start heading in the same direction. At that point, one can joyfully and confidently expect to meet the One who built the road, and travels it daily.

DR


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 21:07:45

Comment

On this second Sunday of Advent I have been struggling with the passage from Mark. What is the significance of the fact that unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark begins his gospel with a voice out of the Old Testament followed by the figure of John the Baptist?

It seems to me that what Mark forces us to deal with on this second Sunday of Advent is that before we can get to the Christ of Christmas we must first prepare ourselves by dealing with our estrangement from God due to our sin.

In these eight verses of Mark's gospel, Mark seems to be telegraphing for the reader the entire gospel story, namely that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and that apart from the OT we simply cannot know His mission and purpose, and secondly that John's message is for the reader the way in which we can experience salvation through Jesus the Son of God.

Rdh


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 21:59:24

Comment

Thanks to Tom in GA, who, as the week has moved along, has helped me to get "out of my head" and "into my heart".

The phrase, "my wilderness" is what turns the tables for me. Helped me to start thinking about what the wilderness *can* be today.

I'm not content yet, but here's what I have so far. Sin by definition is separation from God. Separation from God is a very lonely place, perhaps even "my wilderness". My wilderness is, therefore, the extension of my sin, a creation of my own being. It is into this morass which John proclaims that Jesus can enter, into which Jesus can bring love, healing, and, yes, communion.

The week marches on...!

Peace to all,

Jim


Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 22:15:32

Comment

I hesitate to give my contribution do to it being so late. However, this story was too good to just ignore and it seems fitting to discuss when we talk about repentence. I once heard a story of a young man who had sinned against his neighbor. His father took his son to the shed. The boy was very frightened by what his father might do, but was surprised when his father handed him a hammer and a nail. He showed his son to a piece of wood on the floor and told his son that every time he sinned against another person, he should drive a nail into the board. He watched his son as he pounded a single nail into the board. Then his father told him that each time he made it right with the person he had sinned against-repented- he could remove one nail. The father told the boy that he should do this for one week and then report back to him. After one week the boy came to his father and said that he had done as his father requested. The father then asked him how he felt. The child replied, "I feel pretty good". The father then went and got the board that the boy had been using and asked his son what he noticed about the board. His son replied, "It has holes in it where the nails once were." His father told him that he was correct. Furthermore the father told his son that sinning has that effect. You can repent and ask Christ to forgive you of your sins, but your sins have consequences that cannot be erased. My point is that you cannot change the road that is behind you, but you can prevent future "holes" in the road. Prepare the way... Sorry, but I do not know where the story came from originally. Peace to all as you prepare to share the Good News! Jeff in KS


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 04:49:51

Comment

Dear Nailbender - where are you my friend - your gentle truths have illuminated my preaching for a long time - hope it's not too late to add my voice to a chorus who would thank you for your wonderful reflections!

A thought for this week - perhaps tying to the baptismal reference - what if John the Baptist isn't meant to be a figure of the past, but if each of us, and all our parishioners, are meant to prepare not only ourselves and our "house", but are meant to bring John's word to the world - are we willing to step outside the traditions, to do the attention-getting things, to yank ministry out of the sanctuaries and hoof it back into the streets?? A quote I will be using, source unknown - "We have no right to approach Jesus in the sanctuary if we stepped over him in the street to get there.

Shy.


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 13:19:10

Comment

Concerning preparing the way for the return of Christ: I think there is a segment within the Church that believes *If you build it, He will come.* There have been many different groups that have secluded themselves in hopes of bringing about the advent of Jesus. I'm thinking of the Essenes (who thought they could usher in the Messianic Age by following the ceremonial Law. As well, I'm thinking about cults (David Koresh, People's Temple, the group in California that committed suicide a few years back when the comet was around) It seems as though some think that if they just put everything in the right order that Christ's reign would be ushered in. I think this is rather presumptious. Who are we to think that we could actually force God's hand?

I'm reminded of a story by Walter Wangerin, Jr. in which the angel, Gabriel keeps urging God to return to the earth and start again. He keeps asking if he can blow the horn. God tells Gabriel to go down once again and let the people know that God loves them. The focus on the story is God's desire to forgive and love. There's mercy in the waiting.

In terms of preparing the world, people, etc. so that Jesus will show up I think that it's not so much what we do to prepare as it is being prepared. I guess I see preparation more as something that happens to us then it is something that we do.

Still trying to figure it out,

John near Pitts.


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 14:08:11

Comment

DR The theme of joy or anticipation, expectation and preparation is made possible by God's actions. The belief that God will soon break into human history, a future act, has life changing consequences for the present. In fact, as I understand Scriptures, what God has done, and is yet to do, makes action possible for us. That is how I understand these Advent stories or even more broadly, the Gospel. I have before me the Service for the Hanging Of the Greens and in that service the litany is a celebration established upon the theme of preparation. While I do not equate the various liturgies as gospel, they do illustrate the many ways Christians have retold the sacred stories.Regardless, I have very much enjoyed the give and take of the discussion and I have been helped and shaped by all of the conversations. Peace, twfpadre


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 16:36:52

Comment

To JB in VA: Me Too!! On further investigation (reading the footnote at the bottom of the page in the NSRV) I find that the reason Mark misquoted Isaiah, is that he wasn't quoting Isaiah, he was quoting Malachi, specifically 3:1, which says "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me:" and goes on to tell that "the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple." At a mid-week service at Memphis Theological Seminary, the preacher raised the question of Mark's conflating Malachi's prediction about the temple with Exodus 23:20 "Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way" and both of these mixed with the Isaiah, to make a more profound point. Which is, the Lord is coming, out of the desert, announced by a forerunner who is deliberately described as resembling Elijah. This supports (for a Jewish audience) the idea of Jesus as the foretold Messiah; but also as the One who comes, not from the temple (the religious establishment) but from the desert (the place of wisdom--the still, small voice.) Anyway, We know that Jesus was sent into the desert immediately after his baptism, where he was WITH the wild beasts (supporting ecotheology) and from whence he came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. Peace. Drdeac in Tenn


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 19:05:29

Comment

Thanks so much for all the great thoughts everyone shares here weekly. I only preach about once every two months (multiple staff setting) so don't "dig in" very often (and I believe this is my first "post". Here are some random thoughts from my sermon titled "Road Construction Ahead" (changed from "Best Foot Forward", although my wife says I can't change another sermon title from the pulpit!)

I don't think we're preparing a road/highway/path for God to get to us OR for us to get to God. God is with us! (Remember that whole Paraclete, Holy Spirit, Comforter thing?) The road MOST of us are called to prepare this Advent, I believe, is a road which God will walk with us to the least, the last, the lost. It's a road we prepare AS we walk along it. It's a road TO the wilderness, beyond our walls (literal and figurative). It's much more comfortable to sit on our bottoms waiting for God to come to us than it is to go out and put our faith into action. Road construction is HARD WORK!

I've still got a long road ahead on this sermon, to say nothing of my own spiritual journey, but there it is, for what it's worth! Comments, critiques, insights, rebuttals, etc. are welcome (just be gentle!).

jbs


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 22:03:02

Comment

You all are doing such a good job with the preparation theme, that I have little to add, except the comment that we can talk about personal and corporate preparation. I also appreciate the comment that our frenzy of preparation isn't always for a "very special guest" but for any guest. Food for thought here as we welcome people into our churches at this time of year.

I will be talking about whatever news story I can latch onto about the conflict over manger scenes in public places. We Christians can get pretty worked up when our public schools and city halls do away with manger scenes. What kind of Christmas is it with no angels, no shepherds, no manger . . .

Well, lets just see what Mark has to say about those things . . . . . . No baby, no virgin mother, no manger.

Seems to me to be a wonderful place for us to focus for a moment, just to realize that it isn't a lovely Christchild we are preparing for, but rather the living presence of God, through Jesus, the Christ, that enters our lives, so that we can share in the good news.

Are we really prepared for something that dramatic? Some of us may think so, but I think we have plenty of dusty corners and sticky cracks that need attention--don't you?

Pam in San Bernardino


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 23:31:15

Comment

It's late in the week, to respond to this, I'm a messy person, very organised but increadibly messy, Stuff just naturally becomes a mess when I'm around, but your comments about cleaning for guests made me think about each perons responsibility The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, begins not with Jesus but with others. In this case John, but probably also Isiah and Ezeckial. As the first prophetic voice in 400 or so years - since Malichi was written, Johns voice is very much one in the wilderness. his lone voice echo's throughout the countryside. His indervidual effort counts, he is doing the work of the Lord, taking on the role of Mary as the first Christian. Marks gospel beginns and ends in the same way, with others carrying the message to the people, Jesus is the central figure but it is our voices that have to do the crying, to do the carrying.

thats all for now, thanks for your thoughts


Date: 03 Dec 1999
Time: 23:52:04

Comment

ST and KDO in WA

Thanks for the idea of sprucing up the place before the special guests come. Did you know that in some places in Britain, they re-new the pavements before the Queen comes to visit?

Marion in Scotland


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 05:25:45

Comment

I was prepared much further in advance than usual to preach a sermon with the main focus on the "prepare the way...make straight the path." Then I received the letter from my Bishops (United Methodist) which is supposed to be read in all churches this Sunday. I am still struggling with it but believe that the letter has to do with making straight a path that God has clearly made straight for us through Christ but that we tend to obscure for others who are (knowingly or unknowlingly) seeking Christ. If there are other United Methodist DPSers out there who can help me further that thought at this necessarily late date (the letter just arrived) I would appreciate it.

This is my first post, but I have been a long term reader who is deeply indepted to you for your collective wisdom.

Cynthia


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 16:17:21

Comment

Hi, Cynthia.

I know what you mean; I am supposed to read it, too. So far, I've decided to let the letter speak for itself, the sermon speak for itself, and allow my parishioners to draw whatever parallels/contrasts the Holy Spirit gives them.

I don't know how appropriate it is to discuss it here in this forum, and I'm sorry to say I don't feel comfortable posting my e-mail address publicly, so if you'd be interested in discussing this elsewhere, I can suggest stopping by http://www.earthcalls.com/cgi-bin/freechat/lectionary and I'll look for any messages there. (I created the "room," so I figure it's OK to step outside the bounds of lectionary discussion.)

If I don't "see" you there, have a wonderful Sunday full of God's Spirit.

Peace,

Mary


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 16:35:28

Comment

Friends-I appreciate your struggles with the lectionary this week. For me "beginning" requires repentance. Most of those to whom I minister understand "Im sorry" but not the actions necessary to make new beginnings. Wilderness in HEB is desolation-a limestone barreness that enervates the soul. God calls us from that experience to a new beginning-who can refuse? Many who live in a mind numbing and addicting abundance of things and stuff. What would JBAP be saying now? Rev. Paul


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 17:47:30

Comment

dear jbs, I am a new contributor, but I must say I am sorry that you do not get a chance to preach more often. The propensity of much of this discussion would do Pelagius proud!! The road to repentence is the road to re-building according to God's road plan, by the agency of His grace. He is always before any decision of ours to repent. John's message is a call backward to remember and respond to God's call and a call forward in hope to the coming of the Lord and to the Holy Spirit. Revelation of God and the consequent revelation of who we are, always draws us not only to repentence, but to penitent reformation and obedient reception of his call to us in all the "wildernesses" of our lives. Those of our own making and those thrust upon us from outside ourselves, but inside the Reign of Christ. revtim in ON


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 20:14:52

Comment

revtim in ON...Thanks, I think. (I'm not certain if I've been complimented or not!) Anybuddy ever tell ya ya shor use some mighty big werds? And lots of 'em! Anyway, if it was a compliment, thanks! Hoping Pelagius aint contagious...

jbs


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 20:34:01

Comment

Cynthia,

Sorry for the confusion. If you return, there's now something to read; I invite you to leave any thoughts you wish; I'll return in a few hours and check it out, and do so again before worship in the morning.

http://www.earthcalls.com/cgi-bin/freechat/lectionary

However you deal with the Baptizer's wilderness call and the episcopal letter, may God be with you powerfully.

Peace,

Mary


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 20:59:43

Comment

kbc,

http://www.umc.org/churchlibrary/bishops

Peace,

Mary in TX


Date: 04 Dec 1999
Time: 21:11:11

Comment

jbs, yes, sorry, it was definitely a compliment, I liked where you were going. Pelagius seems very contagious and I find it sad and graceless. Way to go against the tide, revtim in ON


Date: 05 Dec 1999
Time: 02:04:48

Comment

twfpadre

This is a bit late in the week, but here goes.

Not to disagree with anything you said, I’m merely trying to make the point that repentance can be a joyful experience, not necessarily a sorrowful one. Since John and Jesus both preached repentance (and John preached it in this weeks lectionary reading) it is rather important. I just think we do repentance a disservice when we turn it into “feeling sorry for your sins.” Repentance is changing directions, turning from what is bad for us to what is good for us. Why not make this a positive and joyful kind of thing? As you point out, we are joyful as we anticipate what God will be doing in our lives. We are also joyful as we appreciate what God is doing right now in our lives through repentance. Thanks for the helpful comments.

Where did you find your liturgy for the Hanging of the Greens? Sounds like a good resource.

DR