Advent 2B, 2018

The Comfort of God’s Forgiveness and the Challenge of Our Baptism

 

St. Pauls Lutheran Church, Cambridge ON

Sunday December 10 2018, 10:00 a.m.

 

*    Isaiah 40:1-11

      Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

      2 Peter 3:8-15a

*    Mark 1:1-8 (Blue)

Preparation:

·        extra Advent Bible-reading chain handouts from last week

 

Prayer of the Day[1]

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

 

Children's Message:

-So glad you're here!

 

-In the Bible story I'll read in a few minutes, a cousin of Jesus, called John, told the people that Jesus was coming,

 and they should turn toward Jesus.

 

-Jesus is coming, so let's continue our backwards countdown!

      -It's backwards: it doesn't start at 10 and go to 1; it starts at one and goes to four!

-Each Sunday we light an additional candle, and when we get to all four, Christmas will be that very week!

-As we light two candles, the congregation sings Light One Candle, # 240, and on the screen, stanza 2....

 

Prayer:

Come to us, Lord Jesus. Help us leave this place today, challenged by the prophet's call to change, ... to turn towards you, ... to repent. Help us to live as you would like. Amen.

The children receive the Children's Bulletin from the acolyte and return to their seats.

 

 

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-8

P.   The holy gospel according to Mark.

C.  Glory to you, O Lord.

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

 “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of the Lord,’ ”4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “After me one who is more powerful than I is coming; the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I have baptized you with water; but the one who is coming will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

P.   The gospel of the Lord.

C.  Praise to you, O Christ.

 

Sermon: The Comfort of God’s Forgiveness, and the Challenge of Our Baptism

-"Comfort, comfort now my people," says your God.

 "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem ....

 The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people shall see it together ....

 [The Lord God] will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom,

 and gently lead the mother sheep."

 

-A pastor once said that today's first reading is so beautiful, there's a danger it will become nothing but a warm bath:[2]

      -a massage, not a message!

-"Hot tub theology" he called it!

 

-But there are times when a hot tub can be very therapeutic and helpful!

-In the rehab section of hospitals, there is often a hot tub next door to the exercise room!

-Exercise, followed by relaxation and warmth.

 

-And that's what today's readings are all about!

-The call to exercise, and the promise of consolation!

-Challenge, as well as forgiveness!

-Repentance, and comfort!

 

-Let's first look at comfort: at forgiveness!

-Today's Gospel reading is from the very beginning of Mark's Gospel.

-He introduces his book by saying: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ..."

-And then Mark almost immediately launches into writing about forgiveness!

      -Forgiveness is the reason that God came to earth:

       “for the forgiveness of sin” as we say in the Communion liturgy every week—

       to remove the separation between us and God.

      -Forgiveness is the good news of Jesus Christ!

 

-And Mark, himself, knew all about being forgiven, knew all about a broken relationship being healed.

-After accompanying Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, [3] Mark had bailed-out part-way through the 2nd trip![4]

-Whatever his reasons had been for abandoning Paul and Barnabas on that trip, Mark was hoping to join them again later

 for their 3rd journey, as they planned to revisit the mission congregations they had previously started.

-Barnabas was willing to give Mark the benefit of the doubt.

-But Paul objected to taking along the one who had failed them!

-So sharp was the disagreement between Barnabas and Paul, that they parted ways!

      -Barnabas took Mark with him, and Paul took Silas!

 

-But it seems that the judgement of Barnabas was a good one!

      -Later, when Paul was writing from prison, he said that Mark was with him![5]

      -In another letter, Paul asked that Mark be brought to him in prison.[6]

-Mark was very important in early Christianity:

      -His home was a central meeting place for the early Christians in Jerusalem.[7]

      -And a very old tradition says that Mark's house was the location of the Last Supper!

-Mark was so important in early Christianity, that Simon Peter referred to Mark as his "son"![8]

      -And that close relationship made possible the writing of Mark's gospel, which is believed to have been based on the recollections of St. Peter himself!

 

-All of this – the mission work, the comforting friendship with St. Paul, and even the Gospel of St. Mark itself –all of this became possible because Mark had been given a "second chance" by God and by Barnabas!

-Christianity is the religion of the "second chance"!

-And Mark stands as the leading symbol of this good news!

 

-To know God, is to know forgiveness!

-That's the "good news of Jesus Christ"!

-We can take great comfort in God's gracious mercy, pardon, amnesty, and forgiveness!

-Whenever we fail, no matter how much we have disappointed or hurt another, God forgives!

-No matter how much we have been let down or hurt by another – or even by ourselves – we, too, are called to be Barnabas-like and God-like in our forgiveness of that other, ...and even in forgiving ourselves!

 

-The good news of Jesus Christ is the good news of forgiveness!

-Our God is the God of the Second Chance!

-That's the comfort of today's readings!

 

-Knowing that God freely forgives, is the hot tub which enables us to push on and struggle, to become the kind of people

 God empowers us to be!

-And that's the challenge of today's readings!

      -To change, to be turned-around, to repent!

 

-We don't gather at the waters of the Jordan River, as they did in today's Gospel reading;

 but we do gather around the waters of the baptismal font!

-And through those baptismal waters, God changes us!

-In Baptism, God gives us the Holy Spirit, “delivers us from sin and death and raises us to new life in Jesus Christ,”

 so that “we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God,”[9] proclaims our baptismal liturgy!

-Baptism changes things!

      -If you, or someone you know, isn’t baptized and would like to be, please let me know, and we’ll start a conversation.

-Being claimed by our God in Holy Baptism makes a difference in our everyday lives.

 

-A business manager was on the verge of executing a shrewd business plan.[10]

-The scheme involved temporarily dropping prices below the level of profitability in order to starve a smaller competitor

 out of the market.

-Then, with a monopoly, this business manager could again raise prices, and increase profits!

-The manager knew that his competition was a struggling, family-owned operation, the sole livelihood for 3 small children.

      -But business is business!

 

-Just as the arrangements were nearly all in place, the manager was called back to his home town for the funeral of a beloved great aunt.

-During the graveside service, the manager's eye fell upon the gravestone of his grandmother, who had died when he was only a boy.

-Inscribed on her tombstone were words from the book of Proverbs: "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is upon her tongue."[11]

-"The teaching of kindness"....

-The words seemed to be written in fire as they burned his heart.

-Memories of his grandmother's commitment and her life filled with kindness, welled-up before him.

-But would it make any difference later in the week in his plan to force-out that competitor?

-”The teaching of kindness ....”

 

-As Lutherans, we certainly know God's kindness towards us!

      -We get an A+ in understanding God's grace!

      -We enjoy the warm comfort of the hot tub.

-But we all know that spending too much time in a hot tub makes us all wrinkly and tired.

-Maybe we also need times of exercise and challenge in working-out our faith.

 

-How is your life different because of God's claim on you? ...

 

-What is it that you do — or don't do —because you are a Christian?

      -How often does your faith make a difference in your actions? ...

 

-When was the last time you felt challenged enough that your faith grew? ...

 

-What issue has caused you to struggle as you sought God's will? ...

 

-Is there someone that God is calling you to give a second chance?

 

-John the Baptizer prepared the way of the Lord.

      -Do you ever consider that God might be calling you to such a ministry?

            -To be used by God to introduce others to Jesus? ...

-We are blessed.

-Blessed by a God who gives us hot-tub words of comfort, forgiveness, and love.

-And we are blessed by a God who makes a difference in our lives!

 

-As we draw nearer to Christmas, John the Baptizer reminds us that God came to earth in order to forgive us — to move us closer to God— and to change us!

-May this season of Advent be a time in which we know both the comfort of God's forgiveness, and the challenge of our Baptism,

 as we move appropriately through life from exercise room to hot-tub!

-Amen!

 

Gathering Song: O Holy Spirit, Enter In ELW 786 [ P.D. ]
Advent Wreath: Light One Candle to Watch for Messiah ELW 240 [A-F] Stanza 2
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Hymn of the Day: O Lord, How Shall I Meet You? ELW 241 [ P.D. ]
Offering Song: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Stanza 2) ELW 490  [P.D.]

Communion
    Lamb of God, page 182 (Setting 7).
    a) On Jordan's Banks the Baptist's Cry ELW 249 [ P.D. ] D Major already done with arrows
    b) Comfort, Comfort Now My People ELW 256 [P.D. ] F Major
    c) O Come, O Come, Emmanuel ELW 257 odd verses: males; even verses: females [AugsburgFortress ] E minor   

The Commission and Blessing[12]:

May God bless you with discomfort, at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may live deep within your heart.

 

May God bless you with anger, at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

 

My God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

 

And may God bless you with enough foolishness, to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do

      what others claim cannot be done.

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Sending Song: Prepare the Royal Highway ELW#264 and on the screen

 



[1]     Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #47256.

[2]    Aha!!! Dec. 5 '93

[3]    This section based on "Witnesses: 7. John Mark", The Canada Lutheran, July/Aug '87. Page 19.

[4]    Acts 13

[5]    Colossians & Philemon 24]

[6]    II Tim 4:11

[7]    Acts 12:2

[8]    I Peter 5:13

[9]    From the Baptismal Liturgy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p 227.

[10] Unfortunately, I’ve lost the reference for this story.

[11] Proverbs 31.26

[12] A Franciscan Blessing http://www.franciscans.ie/a-franciscan-blessing/