This is the written text that I preached from on December 27. The lesson was Mark 1.1-20.
Today, you are not getting a sermon. Instead, you are getting a smorgasbord of thoughts and meditations on this text.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels, and is assumed to be the first one written. It was written to be read in one setting, to tell the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
That line alone would have gotten a reaction from the first hearers. The word Gospel, which means Good News, was only used to announce a victory, usually a military victory. The word Christ, which means the anointed one, or messiah, would have caught the attention of any Jewish hearers, because this was the one promised by God who would deliver them. The title, Son of God, was treasonous in the Roman Empire, where the first listeners would have been. No one could claim to be the Son of God. That was a title reserved for Caesar, and only Caesar. Not a bad way to start you writing. Claiming a victory, claiming to be the fulfillment of God’s promises and claiming the title of the most powerful person on the planet.
Mark doesn’t record the birth of Jesus. Mark gets right into the story.
Mark first introduces John the Baptizer, and introduces him using the words of the prophet Isaiah, that John came to prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John created quite a large following, having people from all of Judea and Jerusalem come to him at the Jordan River to be baptized and repent, turn away from their sins. He says that he is only the appetizer; there is one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.
Immediately, he introduces Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee who John baptizes. As Jesus comes up from the water, he heard a heavenly voice say, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
One of the building blocks of the Lutheran understanding of baptism is that when we are baptized, we are claimed as God’s children. We receive hi. His sinless nature, he assumes our sins. When God looks at us, he doesn’t see us as we are. He sees us through the eyes of Christ. We are God’s beloved. And today, I want to remind you of that. So look in your bulletin, at the line the Voice says. I want you to read that line again, but with a change or two. Begin with your first name, then read the rest of that line, changing son to daughter as needed. We will all do it together. Ready? Brian, you are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. Remember that, you are God’s beloved child. God is pleased with you, just as you are.
Immediately, (we’re going to use that word a lot) Jesus is taken into the dessert to be tested for 40 days. We aren’t told what the tests are, the details aren’t important.
Just as quickly as John the Baptizer appears, he disappears. He is arrested. His work is done. He has prepared the way. It is now time for Jesus to begin his ministry.
He begins by proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, the victory of God. He said, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.
Scholars call this the theme of Mark’s Gospel, especially the part focused on Christ’s ministry, when he acts as the Christ, the promised on, before he focuses on Jesus’ role as the Son of God. Fortunately, the way the lectionary is scheduled. This transition from our focus on Jesus the Christ and Jesus, the Son of God, occurs right as we enter into Lent.
But the ministry of Jesus is the fulfillment of what God had promised, why God sent the Messiah. In the chapters and weeks to come, we will hear of miracles of healing, feedings, impossible deeds being done, and we will hear of teachings about the very nature of God’s love to humanity. With the Messiah here, the kingdom of God has drawn near.
As John had done, Jesus calls for the people to repent. He calls for us to turn away from our self-centered acts and instead, share our time, gifts and talents with others, sharing the love of God with them. God’s commandments are focused on loving God and not abusing others. When we are focusing on others and their need, and not on our own desires, we are ready to do God’s work. Now, all we have to do is DO SOMETHING. To hold someone in your thoughts and prayers is good. To do something to help that person or those people is to do God’s will.
Having proclaimed the victory of God, and telling us that God’s kingdom is near, Jesus calls us to turn to God, to return to God, to return to the teachings that are so simple and basic that are innate in us.
He calls his first disciples, two sets of brothers with the simple challenge, Follow me, and I will make you fish for people. Their job will be to learn from him, and then draw people to following his example, doing what he did, living as he lived, loving as he loved.
This is the beginning of the Good News. Amen.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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