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.” [NRSA: Mark 1:1-8]
- It is interesting that Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus and John the Baptist.
- The starting point is baptism. John’s invitation was a call for people to repent.
Moving spiritually closer toward God requires that we acknowledge our separation from God.
- Some of the spiritual distance comes from our moving away from God by wilfully choosing what we know to be harmful to others, ourselves, and/or the opposite of God’s best for us.
- Some come as we allow other relationships and responsibilities to come before God. It is not that the relationship and responsibilities are bad, it is that we look for strength, judgment, discernment from ourselves, or others ahead of God.
- In this year we have particularly been asked to trust the science, trust the scientists. We appreciate those who devote themselves to using the mind, research, calculations, measurements, and follow the methods and practice of science. But even science is the discovering, understanding, and use of God’s creation. There are those who want science to be void of God and stand as an authority that needs no idea of God, this is not why God has given us the ability to reason, to be self-aware, and to imagine new solutions. If we study at the marvel of God’s creation and not honor that God is greater than our greatest minds, then we create our own God. (commandment #2)
- Some the gap is created when we choose little, by little, our will over God’s: The fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was just one piece of fruit. What difference does one tangerine, one apple, one pomegranate make in a garden of plenty?
- God is gracious to forgive, but our failures to follow God’s direction and call in our daily lives in whatever form reveals the chasm we are from God. (Lazarus and the Rich Man)
John drew crowds of people from all around who came to hear him help them see their weakness and make changes. The sign of this fresh start was given through baptism in the Jordon.
- Think about a good athletics coach, their job is not to only talk about the good things that the team accomplished, but they spend more time pointing out the problem, potential problems, studying tapes of past problems, assistant coaches to look out for offense and defense, all to make changes to improve each player and the team.
- Even the very best teams, in every sport and league, are made of players that have mistakes, misjudgments, poor choices, grow weary, break the rules, miss opportunities, don’t score, and lose games and seasons.
- Repentance is looking at the tapes and seeing where we failed and grace is knowing there are another game and other opponents the next day or week.
SANDALS and SERVANTS
John’s illustration is about a simple task that most everyone in this room and stream has done throughout their lives… tying shoes and sandals.
Do you remember learning to tie shoes? We have a different experience with our footwear. The task of washing feet was the task of the least person of status to prepare people for leaving the dirt of the world in the street and washing the feet to be clean in the house.
There are strong images of baptism in foot washing. Recall how Jesus surprised everyone when he washes the disciple’s feet.
There are several example of sandals, feet, and laces in the old testament:
- Gn 14 Abram tells the King of Sodom that he would take even a thread from his sandals so he would be faithful that the Lord’s work provides and not the wealth of other nations.
- Dt 25. If a woman’s husband died, her husband’s brother was to take her in and provide a family for her. If he would not, the woman would take offer her sandal and spit in his face.
- Ruth 4. If someone took off their shoe and give it to his neighbor, he was disowning their friendship and not welcome them as part of the community.
These three examples cover, tithing, marriage, and care of one’s neighbor, and now baptism. Key themes we weave together through laces.
John’s connection is that the Messiah was so much more qualified, able, AND worthy to look for, follow and trust, that John, himself, was not even worthy to carry his shoes or untie his laces.
The baptism John is offering is a helpful sign of washing away the past to start fresh, but it was only symbolic, and all the ‘work’ and the need to ‘wash’ happens as often in daily life. BUT, Jesus is coming to wash our spirit!
LACES and BETTER FIT
- When we tie our laces we are drawing together the wide open gaps to a snug fit.
- When we untie our laces we are making room and setting free our feet for rest and welcome.
- What can set our spirit free to be fulling God’s People?
John the Baptist:
- I’m famous, but I am not worthy to set you free,
- I’m a good coach, but I am not worthy to hold your faith together;
- I can draw a crowd, but I am not worthy to keep your family safe;
- I can offer you a valuable message, but I am not worth enough to make you wealthy,
- I am not able to hold the community together, BUT the Messiah can do all that and more…
Here John Proclaims the coming Good News: Jesus both holds’s us snug in this world and free’s our spirit and makes us both physically and spiritually whole.
- You and I help each other see our sins and Jesus is the one who saves us
- You and I care for those who hunger, and Jesus makes our spirit new and full.
- You and I can do great things, but if we think they are possible without God, we steal the glory
- You and I cannot do all things, but Christ can.
- This is who we seek,
- this is who we trust,
- this is who we praise.
In this second week we review the tapes from this year’s season and see what we need to repair, renew, and restore… Through this we repent and make ourselves ready to meet Jesus who is our salvation, hope and joy.