Sermon - Brad Brookins
I want to draw your attention to 3 words in the text we have for this morning, and then I’m going to turn the talking over to you.
The first word is “beginning”.
Mark has one of the best opening lines, I think, in all of literature. I imagine him walking into church one day, just after finishing his gospel. He climbs into the pulpit, holds his book high and announces, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…”
And then he reads the whole book. It’s short, you know. It only takes an hour or so. But he tells the whole story—from baptism to Easter Sunday.
And here’s the point of that opening line—the whole story of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, according to Mark, is only the beginning.
It’s a good story. But right here Mark cautions us not to think that this is all there is. What Jesus does in his wandering and teaching and healing around Palestine is important—it’s vital and it’s beautiful.
But, Mark says, there’s more.
Which is a way of saying, don’t you see, that the “good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God” is not just old good news for way back then. It is also—and for us most importantly, new good news every day.
This good news, echoing down through all those centuries, crescendos into our day. It’s a story that wants—that needs, to be heard today. It’s not just for them, you see. It’s for us, too.
When Mark’s gospel hit the news stands back in the 1st century it quickly became a transformative book. The world changed; their understanding changed; they changed.
But because it was only the beginning of the story, it was meant, obviously, to go on transforming every new generation.
And this is where the second word for today comes in. To be transformed by the story you first have to hear it. Or, to use Mark’s term, you have to repent.
Repentance is a much maligned, much misunderstood word among Christians. But, “I do not think it means what you think it means”.
Repentance is not putting on sack cloth and ashes and lashing yourself with a whip till you’re bloody all over, proving to God how sorry you are for your sins.
The Greek word translated as “repentance” is “metanoia”; a lovely word. The simplest meaning of metanoia is—“turn around!”
I don’t hear as well as I used to. If I am in a room and people are talking behind me I will often miss most of what they say. The conversation is lost to me because I am facing in the wrong direction.
If I want to take part in the conversation—if I want to hear whatever news is being offered, I need to repent.
I need to turn around.
John the Baptist came out of the wilderness preaching repentance. “Turn around!” he said, “so you can hear what you’re not hearing. Turn around, so you can see what you’re not seeing. You can’t get where you’re not going. Turn around”.
Repentance, you see, is not scary. It’s not threatening. It’s not hard.
Repentance is a delightful, eye opening, ear opening, enriching, transforming experience.
Repentance is turning around to see God.
And when you turn, and you hear “the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God” everything changes.
You change. You are transformed.
And even that is only the beginning. Every time you turn around; every time you orient your eyes and ears to the story you hear something new and something changes for you or in you.
Whenever we turn around and take it in.
The third word for today is “baptism”.
From the Greek word “baptizo”, it means to immerse something or someone. It means to go all the way down under and back up again. Baptizo involves your whole body, your whole self.
That is “baptizo”.
Now I’m not arguing for a particular form of baptism here. I’m more interested in what Mark does with the imagery of baptism.
John the Baptist calls the crowds to the Jordan River. He takes them down into the water—all the way down under the water—baptizo!
And then he says, “I baptize you with water. But one is coming after me who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”.
What do you think he means?
Can you imagine?
He’s describing being immersed in God, in the Holy Spirit; body and soul—your whole self encompassed in the Divine; lost and found within the Divine.
Can you imagine life after this Divine baptizo?
You should be able to. Because this is what has happened to you—to each of you. It is, in fact, what our baptism with water signifies.
It can be hard to see.
Sometimes we need to repent in order to see it. We need to turn around, like we did this morning, to see again what happened back there. And looking at what happened back there can open your eyes to what is happening here.
That was only the beginning, remember. The good news continues—around you; in you; today.
“He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit”, John said. I think he meant it.
I think it happens.
Every time we bring a baby to the font or a teenager to Stewart Lake.
Every time we “repent”—turn around to see,
We see that we are immersed in God.
This is the life of faith. Day by day, and year by year, turning around, again and again, to see we are already immersed in God.
Now here we are at the beginning of another new year. The turning of the calendar by itself means little. But it feels significant.
With the new year we remember, rightly I think, what has come before. Today we remembered our own baptism. We remembered again the life and death and resurrection of Jesus as we shared the bread and wine at his table.
But today, at this new beginning, I want to do something more—a little “remembering in advance”. We wonder, rightly I think, what lies ahead. What will we be this year? What will become of us, and those we love, this year? What will we turn away from and what will we turn toward this year?
Let’s talk about that. I’d like to hear your story.
Here are a few of the questions we tossed around downstairs this morning. I want to get your take on these: (S)
How did your baptism change you?
Now I know most of you don’t remember your baptism, but that doesn’t matter. You re-membered it this morning. Does remembering your baptism change you? How.
What new thing do you think, or are you hoping, is in store for you, or for us together, in 2018? What are you turning toward?
Does remembering your baptism—remembering you are immersed in God, help you chart your course for the coming year? How?
January 7, 2018
Mark 1. 1-11
The Beginning of the gospel…
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.’
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
1. Vs 1 ”…the good news of Jesus Christ”. The Day 1 post this week suggested Mark (and the other gospel writers) were playing off the Roman practice of publishing the “gospel of Caesar”, that the gospel of Jesus was an alternative “good news” to that presented by the empire. 2. What was the Good News (gospel) of Caesar?
What is the good news offered to us by our American empire? How is it different from the good news of Caesar and the good news of Jesus?
3. Vs 2 & 3: The Day 3 post emphasizes the intimate link between Jesus and Judaism in the gospels.
Was Jesus a Jew, a Christian or something else?
How would you tell the story of Jesus without these close ties to Judaism?
Could you be a Jewish Christian or a Christian Jew?
4. What does the Judaism of Jesus suggest, if anything, about how the different religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam for instance) should view each other?
5. Vs 4 & vs 9: List the sins for which Jesus sought forgiveness through repentance and baptism in the Jordan River.
What is sin?
What is forgiveness?
What is the relationship between the two?
6. Vs. 8: “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” What does “baptize with the Holy Spirit” mean? (Keep in mind the definition of the Greek word “baptizo” from the Day 5 post in answering this question.)
7. “The beginning of the good news”; “Repentance”—turn around, head in a new direction; “baptism”—be immersed in this new thing God is doing. The person John brings up out of the water is not the same person he puts under the water.
How did your baptism change you?
How does remembering your baptism today help you chart your course for the coming year?
What new thing do you think, or are you hoping, is in store for you in 2018?
Will remembering your baptism help you reach your goals? How?