2nd Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2017
Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
Mark 1: 1-8 You can click on this link to read the whole text courtesy of Oremus Bible Browser.
I don’t think I was made to wait. If you promise me something, I expect you to deliver. If you give me a gift, I want to open it now. If I give you a gift, I expect you to open it while I watch. I am not patient. But I’ve had to learn to watch over the long haul. What I’ve learned over time is that promises can come true in ways you didn’t expect, and that sometimes time flips your longing, and gives you the fulfillment of all your dreams, but that it can take a lifetime before you see that it’s happened.
This morning’s readings are all about promises and how the answers to God’s promises can be a surprise. Perhaps we can read them today in light of the longings we bring to this season of waiting and to the turmoil we hear all around us day by day.
Isaiah hears God’s command to make a way; to preach about God’s coming both with power and with gentleness to heal the ache of God’s people far from home. Even though the prophet says that the people have withered and lost their faith that God can help them in their exile, the Voice declares that valleys will rise up and hills be displaced as the Lord arrives. Even in exile, it declares, you are still the people of Zion of Jerusalem, and that God’s power will bring you back. You are God’s flock, and you have not been forgotten. As I listen to the tone of fear and outrage in every news story, I wonder if it’s still possible to even think of peace as a human endeavor. What does God want me to do to be quiet in my own heart, and to lift up compassion and care for people and our world in times like this? Do you ever wonder if the love of God still has a place in our world?
The Psalmist wants us to listen closely to what God promises. He, or she, expects that those who trust in God will still be able to experience God’s peace. The picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness meeting each other, and righteousness and peace kissing each other makes me smile every time I read it. it’s like God’s opposites coming together in harmony. God can be straight-laced and embracing, demanding and forgiving all at the same time. What a wonder for us that God is both. Then we get the picture of faithfulness rising up from earth to meet God’s righteousness coming down from heaven. It is a sign that God’s promise to bless God’s people is
still true, and that God’s own self will provide the path for that promise to be fulfilled. I guess what I love about these images is that they are still so vibrant, even all these millennia later. It doesn’t have to be the Judean desert in which God will come with power, ripping up valleys and hillsides, it can be our own rimrock that will be shoved aside to make a way for God’s work to be done, and we as God’s people can still see ourselves as the keeper of the vision of God’s care for those who need the most.
And then Mark the Evangelist bursts on the scene, “the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He quotes Isaiah, telling us that what the prophet promised is going to happen in the story he will tell us. The Good News is that God has sent the messenger everyone’s been waiting for. He walks right out of the Old Testament – the clothes, the food, marks of the age of the prophets – to tell everyone that the wait is over. Mark’s Gospel is all about power. Jesus teaches and preaches with authority that no one has seen from the Church leaders. Jesus comes as the answer to all the promises that have been made about God rescuing God’s people. After everything that didn’t work to change the world and change the hearts of humans, God comes in person, blowing up the regular paths, crushing our doubts and fears, and ripping open closed hearts to the overwhelming love of God who wants to meet you face to face. Jesus is the beginning of a new world, a world in which God has already acted to create a future that calls us forward.
We are already living that future, in every act of kindness, in every struggle to understand, in the smallest diplomatic gesture that makes for more peace around us, we are changing what the future looks like. Marty McFly (Back to the Future) worried that by changing the smallest element of his past, he would be changing the future. But the reality is that every small thing we do now that makes our world more like what God longs for, is already making that world more of a reality.
Get ready! Mark tells us that this is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That would mean that the stories and the miracles, the trial and crucifixion, the death and the resurrection are not the whole story of Jesus. That would mean that the Good News continues, and we are living it. What we do now brings in God’s Kingdom. Are you ready? What we do now changes the future? Are you ready?
In these days of news and fake news, of claims and counter claims, it’s hard to know what to trust. But the story of Jesus is still unfolding: in us, in our world, in what we do and say. The only story we can trust is that God’s promises being fulfilled through us as we navigate the powers that want to rule the world. We bear the real story: the story of grace; of love and forgiveness, though we deserve none of it; of invitation into God’s presence though we are unworthy; of restoration of our hopes and a path into a future with God forever, though we wander after comfort and security instead. We bear the story that God is here, and that it makes a difference. Are you ready.