The ‘G’ of Gospel – The Second Sunday of Advent

27 11 2011

The Second Sunday of Advent Year B Sunday 4th December 2011

Mark 1. 1-8 (The full text is below)

All the gospels begin differently – just as they end differently.  Mark’s opening makes it clear that the good news is urgent and challenging.

In my first term studying theology I attended an optional seminar. It met every Friday morning and we considered the same passage (Mark 1.1-15) from lots of different perspectives. About 20 people came along and some of them are now professors of theology in their own right.  Needless to say, I wish I could remember more of what they all said. I recall being very quiet myself. I was silent throughout, probably. I was not sure how to begin to contribute.

Getting started is always difficult, especially with a piece of writing or if breaking into a conversation as a new participant.  This makes the beginning of Mark’s gospel all the more remarkable.  It starts with a strong, bold and direct sentence: ‘This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ’.

Wow!

We only have eight verses before us today.  But these eight get some weighty matters on the table.  We have words from the prophets of old, the figure of John the baptizer, people flooding out to the river from the city and the country, and baptism itself. That’s more than enough.

Mark, writing in about AD70 (a time of war and crisis, of social and political turmoil), knows that the story he has to tell is not just for interest or entertainment. As well as being good news, the Jesus story is social, political and spiritual dynamite. He is lighting the blue touch paper here.  There are fireworks to come and we will want to stand back safely.

Linford Christie used to say that sprinters should begin on the ‘b’ of ‘bang’. Mark certainly begins on the ‘g’ of gospel.   Here is a beginning to set the pulse racing and the heart on fire.

The preacher’s task is to do the same.

Some questions to get you started:

  1. How do you use the word ‘gospel’? How do you feel it and what do others think when you say it?
  2. Are you the kind of person who likes preparation or do you tend to wing it when you can?
  3. What does repentance mean to you?  Why does it matter so much to John, to Jesus and to Mark?
  4. Is the gospel of repentance good news or bad news?
  5. If you were to write a gospel, how would it begin?  With angels, a genealogy, a philosophical poem? Or with a wild man taking about the need for repentance? Or in some other way?

Stephen Cherry


Mark 1.1-8 

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

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