1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He 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. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1: 1-8 (NRSV)
(For use with the MORNING Daily Prayer)
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Good news was needed then; in a world where powerlessness, social injustice and power struggle seemed to prevail. Good news is needed now when once again the world is engulfed in violence, social injustice and prejudice; torn by wars, poverty and ultimately, the outcome of power struggles. Good News of Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ an announcement powerful and hopeful, God is still with us, echoed by the beautiful words from Second Isaiah. God will comfort, God will grant a new vision. A vision of a path made straight, a messenger declaring the coming of God’s powerful One in the wilderness, of all places. This powerful One is announced by the “cool wild man,” according to some of my Sunday School kids, after all, being dressed in camel’s and a leather belt is pretty amazing. John, the Baptizer points to the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
And people respond to the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. A response made possible by God’s grace, a grace that calls, and beckons and causes us to respond and repent and remember once again, our baptism. God’s grace preparing us once again for the coming of the One, for the coming of God’s kingdom, for God’s ever faithful work in us and through us in Jesus Christ. A new beginning that to this day is a continuation of God’s purposes now accomplished in Jesus the Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Good news: no matter how dark the world may be, no matter who has the power to obstruct. God’s presence with us in the wilderness embodied by Christ becomes a presence we share with those who live in wilderness offering the hope that seems to be buried under so many obstacles that cover the way. Good News in Jesus Christ, is not characterized by historical or theological nostalgia or even a church growth mantra. Rather, it is a call for new life, for transformation. This new life must be characterized by the practices of God’s kingdom and is based on forgiveness; forgiveness received and forgiveness given. As L. Gregory Jones reminds us, “the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ gives a new perspective on histories of sin and evil, on their betrayals and being betrayed, on the vicious cycles of being caught as victimizers and victims.” It touches the wilderness in us and in our culture, those deep wounds of trauma, cultural and historical divides caused by systemic ills such as prejudice, racism and economic distress.
Communal practices of forgiveness are not easily maintained nor accomplished, because forgiveness is not an easy path to walk. But in the end, it is a path that will lead to life; life through and in Jesus the Christ, in whom God’s love is given unconditionally, in whom restoration, redirection and call can indeed be a new beginning; God with us now – God’s grace at work in us, through us until the kingdom is realized.
A Prayer for the Eighteenth Day of Advent
Gracious God, we give you thanks for the new paths you make in the wilderness. Help us to walk in your way, a new way of forgiveness and love offered in the coming of your son, Jesus the Christ. Grant us the ability to forgive and to proclaim the good news that in you, new beginnings are possible. May our way of living, may our faith empowered by your Spirit, bring you honor and shine bright as a sign of your kingdom. Amen.
Rev. Dorothee Tripodi
Associate Director, Supervised Ministry and Vocational Planning
Liaison to the Alum Office
Cynthia Jarvis and E Elisabeth Johnson: Feasting on the Gospels – Mark: A Feasting on the Word Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville 2014
Gregory L. Jones. Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids 1995
Blount Brian K. and Charles Gary W. Preaching Mark in Two Voices. Louisville: John Knox Westminster Press. 2002