Just like a good novel, Mark’s gospel keeps us turning the page, eagerly anticipating the next episode…
As the writer of the gospel stood in the margin and on the fringe, watching the turmoil, death and destruction of the temple in 70AD Christians sat on the fringe of society, Mark writes about GOOD news from the battlefield, the Good News of Jesus, assuring them the desolation they see as an end to everything is only the beginning.
The empty tomb. The risen Christ. That’s just the “Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ”. It’s as if Mark, much like a QVC salesperson says, “but WAIT…there’s MORE!”
The promise and hope of MORE occurs at the end of the gospel when the women discover the empty tomb and encounter the angel, who tells them, “do not be alarmed…” We can also think of it as “do not fear” – which is Bible-speak for God is about to do a new thing and it’s going to blow your mind and knock your socks off! Not ever in your wildest dreams can you imagine the event, you won’t see this coming because God is loose in the world and the world is about to change!
Surprise! Go and tell!
“The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ”
That is quite some title that holds a tremendous promise for those exiles who just saw the world turned upside down, who are frightened, who wonder “what’s next?” when all around them is destruction and despair.
It holds tremendous promise for us who may feeling the world is turning upside down and becoming more and more frightening, considering what we are seeing in North Korea, now Jerusalem and even in our cities and towns with the opioid crisis and gun violence.
Destruction and despair can take many forms.
And so the first lines of Mark’s gospel reveal and uncover for us just how God is keeping his promise, getting involved, making it personal. And this story begins like every other good story: “once upon a time,” the time of the prophets, all the way back to Isaiah 40:3
A voice cries out. “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord…every valley shall be lifted up; ever mountain made low; uneven ground becomes level and the rough places are smoothed out. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
In other words, God is leveling the playing field or the battle field if you will, considering the title of the Gospel.
Not in the temple, not in a palace but in the wilderness. That is where the battlefield is. That is where Isaiah told the people to go to hear the voice that was crying out.
And the promise is this: In the wilderness times of our lives, God comes. God is here. God wins. God reigns.
And then he introduces us to John the Baptizer, who is just a little bit weird to say the least. Who in their right mind is out in the hot desert dressed in a fur coat. And who eats bugs – grasshoppers to be exact. Perhaps that was his appeal – something different, unexpected, unpredictable.
Country and town folk alike, rich and poor, those who were in, those who were out, are flocking to John to hear his message. Because this message is for everyone. Because all means all.
It also reminds us where God is to be found – out on the edge and in the margins, those living in fringe of society.
The world loves to tell us that we will find God with the rich, powerful and all the accouterments that goes with it. And we fall for that lie sometimes. We look for God to be in the temple of the best and the brightest, according to world standards. Those things that we worship, hoping to find God. And we come up short. Leave disappointed. Feel empty.
We’re looking in the wrong places. We don’t want to wait. We can’t imagine what the “more” could be. And how in the world can there be “more” in the dry desert and wilderness?
Now think about the wilderness areas or the wilderness times of our lives. Has there been a prophet – someone we did not expect, maybe even a little weird – that speaks truth no matter what the cost, even if we don’t like that truth? AND who also shows us Jesus in a new and different way? Who, through the working of the Holy Spirit – that same entity with which Jesus baptizes us, that same entity that pulls us into a personal relationship with God – father, son and holy spirit?
Placing the beginning of the beginning of the Good News in the wilderness, on the fringes, stating that EVERYONE was going there to hear John tell about the Jesus’ advent also tells us THAT is where God will find us. Every. Time. In our own personal wildernesses. Beyond any boundary. In the wilderness.
But wait! That’s where the “more” is!
Surprise! Ready or not, God comes. Not as we might expect but as we need. Not where we are looking but in the right place and right time on time – God’s time. God comes.
And as the prophet Isaiah says, “we shall be fed, gathered, carried in his arms, carried in his bosom” – held so closely that we can hear God’s heartbeat and so tightly and completely that that we are safe and will never be let go, not that we ever were.
Ready or not, God is here!
And this is just the beginning…the tomb is empty. Jesus is Lord. All means all.
The best part of the story is yet to come.
The story that God is writing in and through our lives.
The story that God is writing in and through our congregation as we reflect the love of Christ, Reaching. Loving. Caring.
What will the next installment look like in this epic adventure? What has God written on our hearts? Where are we to go? What will we find? How will God be with us?
Ready or not, turn the page…
But WAIT! There’s MORE!!! So much more!
This month, those attending the specially called meeting of RLC on December 10, voted unanimously to embark on a three-year Capital Campaign to be initiated in the early months of 2018 with the goal of $750,000. These funds will be used to restore the beauty of our sanctuary, make needed repairs to our campus, reduce the level of our debt and finally, to dream! Dream about where God is leading us in this next chapter of our life together as church in the Fredericksburg VA area. Imagine what God is writing in our hearts and lives. Experience the surprise of God’s plan. Expecting God to really blow our minds and knock our socks off. Ready or not. Turn the page. Surprise! But wait…there’s MORE! We are excited to discover and discern what God’s “MORE!” will look like for this wonderful, crazy, beautiful, wild, dynamic faith community we lovingly call Resurrection Lutheran Church!