Call to Worship
We live between the two Advents (comings)
Of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The last few days and weeks
We remembered and celebrated the first advent of Christ
In the incarnation of the Son of God as a little child.
And we live in the expectation of his second coming,
His second advent
As King of Glory, high and lifted up.
We are never so certain of this
As on a day like today,
When a Sunday falls between Christmas & New Year…
The old has passed away,
And we behold the new that is yet to come.
We are awaiting Christ’s return,
When His Kingdom will be fully revealed.
In the meantime we pray,
Thy kingdom come
On earth as it is in heaven.
We pray that God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness
And peace will be established
Once and for all.
As we gather to worship on the last Sunday of 2008
We look towards the Kingdom of God
That Jesus came to proclaim.
Let us worship Christ the King.
!! Gebet zum Neuen Jahr - auch das Jahr hindurch -
Guter Gott, Du Schöpfer allen Lebens.
Wunderbar hast Du den Menschen erschaffen
und noch wunderbarer erneuerst du jährlich
die Natur, wenn sie grünt und blüht
Und wenn der Schnee zur Winterzeit
So rein und weiss die Erde bedeckt.
Du, der Du Deine Schöpfung und die Menschen
über alles liebst,
steh uns Schwachen mit Deiner Kraft bei
und behüte uns vor allen Gefahren
an Leib und Seele.
Sende uns Deinen Heiligen Geist,
damit wir erkennen, was Du mit uns vorhast
und was unsere Aufgabe ist.
Leuchte uns mit Deinem Licht,
damit wir den Weg zu Dir finden,
und sei es auch nur schrittweise.
Sei alle Zeit mit Deiner Gnade bei uns
und schaue gütig auf uns herab.
Lass uns erkennen,
dass alles, was Du uns schickst,
und wenn es uns auch schmerzt,
letztlich uns zum Heile gereicht,
weil Du ja die Liebe selbst bist.
Gott, unser Vater,
auf Dich hoffen und vertrauen wir,
Du bist unser Schöpfer
und willst, dass wir leben
und glücklich sind.
In Deinen Händen liegt unsere Zukunft und Zeit.
Bewahre uns o Gott vor Katastrophen,
Krieg und alles Böse.
Schenke der Welt Frieden und Versöhnung.
Begleite uns mit Deinem Segen
auf allen unseren Wegen. AMEN
Signs of the Kingdom
The Christmas season is still lingering in our hearts
as we move from the story of Jesus’ birth
to his commissioning and ministry.
The last few weeks we heard the story of God’s coming to us
in a little child.
And today, on the last Sunday of the year 2008
we want to concern ourselves
with the message that Jesus brought into the world.
Matthew and Luke tell us with great passion
about the incarnation…
God coming to us in human flesh.
Today we want to shift our attention to the Gospel of Mark.
When we read the Gospel of Mark from the very beginning,
the first question that comes to mind is:
“Where was Mark on Christmas Eve?”
Did he miss the candle light program at church?
He seems to have totally missed
the mysterious announcement by the angel Gabriel,
and there is also not a single word about the Virgin birth,
the manger scene,
the visit of the Maggi, and so on.
Mark’s report begins with John the Baptist preparing the way.
Listen to his account:
1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ,
the Son of God.
2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way" —
3 "a voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.'"
4 And so John came,
baptizing in the desert region
and preaching a baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee
and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water,
immediately he saw heaven being torn open
and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
11And a voice came from heaven:
"You are my Son, whom I love;
with you I am well pleased."
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
13 and he was in the desert forty days,
being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals,
and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison,
Jesus went into Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God.
15 "The time has come," he said.
"The kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!"
This is a very rich text, that describes
the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.
1. Jesus’ Baptism and Commissioning
Timothy J. Geddert, wirtes
in the Believers church Bible commentary on Mark,
that through repentance and baptism
all the people of Jerusalem
and people from the whole Judean countryside
who came out to be baptized by John the Baptist
have declared themselves ready for God’s salvation (1:5).
However, the baptism of the many people
will not be the beginning of a great renewal
as one might anticipate.
Only Jesus’ baptism will have a lasting impact.
Yet, Jesus’ baptism does not symbolize cleansing from sin;
instead, it sets him apart as the one
whose faithfulness provides salvation for many (10:45; 14:24).
Here, right at the beginning of the Gospel,
Jesus is baptized and declares his mission for the world.
Mark does not give us very much background information
and he does not waste his time with many details.
He cuts right to the chase.
And he frequently uses words like “immediately”,
and “at once”.
There is an urgent tone in this gospel.
There is no time to be wasted…
the Kingdom of God is at hand.
John the Baptist came to prepare the way.
Jesus came to walk the way…
in fact Jesus is the way…
and those who seek to follow him
must also have the single mind
to do the work that must be done
to prepare for the Kingdom of God.
As Jesus emerges from the baptismal waters,
the heavens are torn open (1:10).
This is not a public event.
It is something Jesus sees
and something that Mark felt was very important
to share with his readers.
The prophet Isaiah longed for the day
when God would “tear open the heavens
and come down” (Isa. 64:1).
That day has now arrived!
Mark uses the word to tear apart (schizomai)
to symbolize the incarnation:
God has come down to dwell among us.
The opening of the heavens
is followed by the Spirit descending
like a dove into Jesus (1:10, TJG;
not on or onto, as in most English versions).
Mark presents Jesus as having the power of the Spirit
within himself (1:12).
Obviously, this is God’s Spirit.
It is the promise of hope,
the gentle voice of God,
and the creative power of God
that ushers in the coming of the Kingdom of God.
With the empowerment also comes a voice from heaven:
You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased (1:11).
“A loving father first expresses deep affection for his son
and then gives him a ringing personal affirmation” (Boomershine: 48).
This affirmation is also given to us
as we commit our lives to Christ in service.
And it is this godly affirmation,
You are my beloved,
that gives us purpose as God’s children.
4. The Temptation of Jesus 1:12–13
Immediately after the divine affirmation
Mark includes a brief story of Jesus’ temptation by Satan.
The Spirit drives Jesus to the place of testing,
showing that the testing itself
is part of his preparation for ministry.
The desert symbolizes temptation,
hardship, and danger,
but also intimacy with God (1:4–8, notes);
Jesus experiences both.
The wild beasts are there,
and of course Satan.
And angels attend to him.
The forty days recall Israel’s forty years of temptation
and wandering in the wilderness.
The people of Israel came out of the dessert
after 40 years of testing
to inherit the Promised Land.
Jesus came out of his time of testing
to announce that God’s final victory had arrived.
5. Changing of the Guards
With verse 14,
Mark begins a transition to the next section.
The work of the forerunner is complete.
John is handed over (TJG; paradidōmi).
The translations arrested (NRSV)
and put in prison (NIV) are poor translations.
John was indeed arrested and put into prison (6:17),
but the word used in 1:14 does not mean either of these.
It means handed over (delivered up, betrayed).
Mark has carefully chosen this word.
Here John is handed over;
later Jesus will be handed over
(14 times paradidōmi refers to Jesus’ passion; e.g., 3:19);
still later the disciples will be handed over
(three times paradidōmi refers to their passion; e.g., 13:9–13).
Each time someone is handed over,
a new stage in the proclamation of the good news is reached.
The handing over of one leads directly
into the ministry of another.
For Mark, this is the way;
it is the way of the cross (8:34).
The passion of a faithful messenger of God
is never a defeat for the kingdom (4:11);
it is always a doorway
through which the kingdom advances and grows.
Mark has presented John as Jesus’ forerunner.
John has prepared the way by preaching and baptizing (1:3).
Now he is preparing Jesus’ way
by going that way himself.
The way is the way of obedience
even in the face of rejection and death.
The passion of John opens the door
to the expanded kingdom ministry of the Messiah…
the passion of Jesus will open the door
to the expanded kingdom ministry of his followers;
their ministry in turn will lead
to the evangelization of the whole world (13:9–13).
6. Good News of the Kingdom of God
Jesus’ message is called the good news of God (1:14b).
It is good news from God
and also about God.
God’s reign has drawn near
through God’s own initiative (1:15, TJG)
The word for has come near
can refer to nearness in time or in space.
It can also mean either being almost here (but not quite)
or having arrived.
The expression (has come near) suggests
that something decisive has happened already,
and the effects go on into the future.
Thus Jesus announces not only the kingdom’s imminence
but also the beginning of its arrival.
Some events marking the arrival of the kingdom of God
were still in the future…
(Jesus’ death and resurrection,
and the return of the Son of Man).
Yet Jesus is announcing that God’s reign
is already actively present
for those who repent and believe the good news (1:15b).
Repenting and believing are necessary preparations
for a still future kingdom experience.
This is also how the Kingdom of God
becomes a present experience.
7. The Message of Jesus
As readers of the Gospel of Mark we know who Jesus is…
he is Christ, Son of God…
we know that God’s Spirit is within Him,
and that he will work in the power of the Spirit.
We know what God the Father says about the divine Son;
we know that Jesus won an initial victory over Satan
in the desert.
Mark tells us,
“Everything that follows is a loud and clear message
that God’s kingdom has arrived.
Every time Jesus encounters people,
he gives a call to repent and believe.”
That call is goes out to us as well, even today.
The key to the whole story in Mark
Is Jesus’ announcement of the coming of God’s reign.
But, how does Jesus demonstrate
the arrival of God’s kingdom?
His first act will be to call disciples (1:16–20).
He will ask them to leave their past behind and follow him.
Jesus is also calling us today
to leave our past behind,
and to follow him into a future that is yet to be uncovered.
When Jesus calls disciples
it is not only in preparation for his ministry;
calling and making disciples
is the very heart of Jesus’ ministry,
and also the most important calling of the church.
Jesus’ message is “Repent and believe”
the Kingdom of God is at hand.
The questions that is left for us to figure out is this:
“What does it look like,
when God’s Kingdom is near?”
What are the signs that tell us with conviction
that God’s Kingdom is present?
As we continue to read the Gospel of Mark
a stricking image becomes visible.
The sick are healed,
the blind can see,
prisoners are set free,
enemies are reconciled…
Over the next number of weeks
we will hear about these signs of the Kingdom
in the time and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.
As we turn the page from the year 2008 – 2009
May we be alert to the Signs of God’s Kingdom
In our church and community.
May we watch for Signs of the Kingdom,
as we also grow in our commitment to Christ and the church.
Christ has promised to come back again
And to bring in the Kingdom of God
In its fullness at the end of time…
And we are invited, as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ
to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God already now.
May the signs of the Kingdom be evident
in our lives and the life of our church.
TJG by author.
NRSV New Revised Standard Version Bible
NIV New International Version
e.g. for example(s)