Sunday, January 7, 2018

welcome to the Good News (Mark 1:4-11)

Ok here is the strange thing about the lectionary, we do not read the whole Bible. “The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of weekly lections used to varying degrees by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches in Canada and the United States. The RCL is built around the seasons of the Church Year, and includes four lections for each Sunday, as well as additional readings for major feast days. During most of the year, the lections are: a reading from the Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. During the season of Easter, the Hebrew Bible lection is usually replaced with one from the Acts of the Apostles. The lections from the Hebrew Bible are sometimes chosen from the Apocrypha…. The gospel readings for each year come from one of the synoptic gospels according to the following pattern:
Year A - Matthew
Year B - Mark
Year C – Luke
So todays readings are for January 7th year B the baptism of the Lord where as yesterdays readings were for Epiphany or the story of the wise men.  The challenge then lies with me do I go with the most recent feast day or with the lectionary for the day?  I personally choose to stay with the lectionary and sometimes that gives us gospel messages which are challenging and sometimes we have to skip over beloved stories such as the epiphany reading.
So today we are delving into the Baptism of Jesus
“The Gospel according to Mark is fast paced, and action oriented. It is the shortest of the Gospels, and believed to be the first written. Both Matthew and Luke include - sometimes word for word - most of Mark. But whereas Luke was written to present Jesus to a non-Jewish gentile; and Matthew was written for Jewish new converts or those considering becoming followers of Jesus, Mark reads like an early family history - the writing down of already familiar and often spoken stories that are told at family gatherings: "Remember when ... and then ...and then ..."
Yet todays reading leaves out the very beginning of this Gospel which I feel is Important. I mean Listen and as they say for those with ears hear the first words of Marks Gospel… “Beginning of the good news of Jesus Messiah Son of God.” (John 1:1)
“For one thing, Verse 1 tells us what Mark's ‘message’ is…Note that Mark says this is the ‘beginning.’ Is he simply meaning, ‘this is the opening sentence of my book?’ Or is he is implying, ‘This is the beginning of an as-yet-unfinished proclamation of good news?’ His writing certainly does not finish with ‘This is the end of the good news.’”
The fact that Mark gives us a Proclamation of where we are at and who we are about and there is no this is the end really kind of reflects who we are as the United Church of Christ. I just find it very exciting this says that the Gospel, the Good news, is still happening, thus God is still speaking. If we engage the Gospel today if we pause to embrace it and listen for it is just as relevant today as it was when it was first written perhaps even more so.
“With this characteristically curt announcement we start our reading of the first Gospel to be written. ‘Beginning’ tells the reader where we are of course, but may also serve as an echo of the opening words of the bible. ‘Good-news’ has come through the Anglo-Saxon as ‘gos-spel’, into the English as ‘godspel’. It reflects on one hand an old Testament background , where the word refers to the proclamation of God’s great deeds, and on the other hand a background in the Roman Empire, where it can be used for something like the announcement of a birth tot eh royal house, or a roman victory i9n far-off places. ‘Messiah’ comes into Greek as ‘Christ’, but in this Gospel, as opposed to the Letters of Paul, it is a title rather than a name. ‘Son of God’ Is not in all manuscripts but it is likely what Mark wrote and is almost certainly what he meant.”
The bible
“Bruce Malina - and other scholars - helpfully point out that the underlying Greek word for "good news" was commonly used for a royal proclamation of "good news" such as a victory in war; the marriage of the emperor; the birth of an heir; etc. That the followers of Jesus used this word for their story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a political act of daring. Daring to provide an alternative to the Roman Empire as an authority and source of "Good News."
Malina also point out that the title, "Son of God." was not uniquely used only for Jesus. Notably, the Roman Emperor was called, "Son of God." And occasionally, the phrase is used in Scriptures to refer to folks who are manifesting qualities of God in their behavior or being.
Indeed, "son of" is probably better understood as meaning, "having the qualities of," and certainly NOT as "genetic descendant of." And so, similarly, "son of man" means having the qualities of a human; and so, "sons of thunder," (see Mark 3:17) means "loud, boisterous, energetic."”
Mark does another strange thing he proclaims a verse written by the prophet Isaiah
Look I am sending my messenger before your face,
Who will prepare your way;
A voice of one shouting out in the desert:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight his paths.”
Reverend Nicholas king says this
“Mark’s is a mysterious Gospel, and it is mysterious from the very beginning. The quotation that he attributes to Isaiah is not in fact wholly from that source. The opening lines of it are from Either exodus 23:2 (in the Greek version) or form Malachi 3:1. Only after that does Mark revert to Isaiah (40:30 in the Greek version). Why is this so? The reader must decide – but you can exclude any Idea that Mark didn’t know his Old Testament.
Also Mysterious is the fact that Mark starts his Gospel, not with Jesus (as you might expect), but with John the Baptist. This must mean that in some sense John gives a clue to the mystery – including, apparently, that Jesus may properly be called ‘Lord’ in a passage that clearly referred originally to God.”
The bible
Mark takes us into that world where we just get a glimpse of John the Baptist. A person who comes out of the Desert, dressed very austere with a diet no one will attempt to follow. John is proclaiming a baptism for forgiveness of sins and people were coming form all over wanting to be baptized and they wanted to get baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins.
I could see where this could be the end.  This could become about John’s ministry except John proclaims there is someone who I am not worthy to untie his sandal.  Not even worthy of doing the work of the slave to untie his sandal.
“and it happened in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And immediately coming up out of the water he saw the heavens dividing and the Spirit Like a Dove coming down upon him. And a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are my son, the beloved; in oyu I have taken pleasure” Mark 1 (-11)
Here is an interesting note;
“Throughout Mark the only references to Jesus as Son of God come only from the spirit world (i.e. the voices from heaven at his baptism and at the transfiguration (Mark 9); or from evil spirits that Jesus is casting out.) Except, finally, at the conclusion of Mark, a complete outsider to the story and one who participated in executing Jesus, a Roman centurion soldier who was at the cross when Jesus dies - that person is the first to say of Jesus, "Surely this man was the Son of God." (NIV) The Bible
But Jesus is the son of God why does he get baptized? One commentator states;
“And so, we might understand the baptism of Jesus as a selfless aligning/embodying of self with the desires of God. Rather than a "functional" baptism - that is, being baptized so that some function could happen - the forgiveness of sins - this is a "revelatory" baptism - that is, enacting, confirming and making visibly real what is already the case: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
I would venture to continue on this thought that Jesus was also aligning himself with those who were sinners. With us, everyday people and later through his ministry we know the marginalized.  This baptism brings Jesus down to us, as human and yet elevated as God both aspects of Jesus are present here the human and the divine.  It also makes Jesus relatable to this very day as we are all tied together as one body through the Baptism we share the same sacred spirit, the same sacred cleansing, the same sacred waters. And all of us Christian or not share in the same humanity.
It is knowing that we share in that same humanity and are called to treat each other equally that we support Global Ministries. Where as a denomination we acknowledge that we practice
“Presence – manifesting God’s love by living in intentional, committed relationships
Mutuality – walking in hope with others in God’s mission
Community – building interdependence and unity among all God’s children
Justice – living out God’s radical love by confronting powers that deny the fullness of life and the integrity of creation
Peace – embodying reconciling relationships with God, humanity, and creation”
This isn’t about evangelization. This is about being a presence, the presence of Christ to all in the world.
“Global Ministries mission (is) to receive and share the Good News of Jesus Christ by joining with global and local partners to work for justice, reconciliation, and peace. Global Ministries and its predecessor mission bodies have walked globally with God’s Church on behalf of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ for over 200 years. This unique testimony of unity between two denominations connects with more than 290 global partner churches and programs.”
If you have not taken the time I encourage to look up Global ministries of the united Church of Christ and explore its pages through there is where we can connect to the world beyond our community.  There may be something there that inspires so that we may take on a project, plan a mission experience or contribute to those seeking out Justice.
Marks Gospel is the good news of a still speaking God and  I believe we are about to embark on quite a journey together in exploring how we can be that loud and strong still speaking voice here in Petaluma.

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