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The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ: A sermon on Mark 1
December 4, 2011, 8:19 am
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“Once upon a time…” 

“It was a dark and stormy night…” 

“In a galaxy far, far away…”

The most important words of any good story are the very first ones. They transport the listener to a new place and time, opening her mind to experiencing something new, created by the words and the story they conjure. Any good writer knows that a beginning either hooks in a reader, or loses him. 


Today we hear: “The beginning…”

And we are at the edge of our seats, waiting to hear how the great story of our salvation unfolds. 


The Gospel of Mark opens, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And then, rather than pulling the curtain back on a manger scene, Mark continues by going all the way back to the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah. Right away we have a disorienting setting shift. Just as we might have been settling back into our cozy chair, we’re startled into sitting up straight, ears wide open. The authors says, “Ah, you thought you knew how this story goes, that you could skim through it all, but pay attention, there’s more to the story!”


The “beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ” doesn’t begin with Jesus’ incarnation, its beginning is located even farther back. Mark writes, “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See I am sending my messenger who will prepare your way.’” Mark casts our search for the true beginning all the way back to Isaiah. God’s work was at hand hundreds of generations before. 


But now we’re awake, on the lookout for the deeper story behind these words. Being wiser from Mark’s gotcha moment, we wonder if there might be even more to the beginning than Isaiah. Does the “beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” start even further back? 


Where does this good news really begin? 

 Mark sends us searching: What other beginnings does this Holy Book offer? I go all the way back to the very beginning, Genesis, which literally means “coming into being, beginning, or birth.” Book 1, chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” 


In the beginning was God. There was nothing else, nothing other than God’s presence. Nothing was separate from God. Then God created. Molded, breathed into, spoken over: creation came into being from God’s presence. 


This sounds like the real beginning! 


At the very beginning, there was only God. There was nothing without God. Nothing waited for God’s coming. God acted, God brought forth, God made possible all of creation’s coming. 


The beginning of the good news goes all the way back to “The Beginning” when God first chose to form and breath life into creation. There is good news for us of God having a special relationship with the human creatures God formed in God’s own image. God entered into promise-relationship, covenant, with certain people, blessing, teaching, guiding, and protecting them. Generations witness to the power of God in the midst: their stories fill up our Old Testament. 


Mark launches us to find the beginning of the “good news” and we are cast all the way back to the very, very beginning, but Mark’s witness reminds us that this good news finds its central moment at the incarnation, when God took on flesh, when Jesus was born among us, as one of us. The separations that split God and creation as a result of sin begin to be sewn closed. 


The good news of God’s coming is centered in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God fully comes into creation. Jesus embraces all of creation, embraces us. Jesus’ incarnation and Jesus’ teaching are vital to the story of God’s work among us. But Jesus’ death on the cross is the most important. 


The cross stands as the center of all time. It is the most decisive moment of God’s revelation and action for us. There God comes into all creation- entering even what was not part of the original creation: death and suffering. The cross changes all our assumptions about God and our lives. Jesus’ actions on the cross reveal a God who chooses to act in faithfulness and love for you. You can do nothing more evil than what was done by those who betrayed, scorned, rejected, and killed the Son of God. Yet Jesus will do for you as he does for those, Jesus forgives. Jesus loves. Jesus reaches out to embrace and drawn in to God’s embrace those who have turned their backs on him. 


Jesus’ action on the cross and God’s affirmation in Jesus’ resurrection propels us and this good news story on into the future. As Jesus reaches out and holds onto all creation, Jesus will restore and renew all things. As Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus will raise all who have died. The story of the good news of Jesus Christ will end with a glorious healing of all hurts, an exchange of tears for laughter, and life in the presence of God forever. 


I know there are some people, even some among us, who don’t read a story in the order you’re supposed to read a story. They don’t start with that opening line and follow along through the pages one by one until they reach the back cover. Some people read that opening line and then flip to the very end and read the last! They read the beginning, and then the ending, and then if it’s good enough, they read everything in between. 


As we prepare for Christmas, many people are reminded of the baby Jesus. It might be that the images of a baby in a manger and hope of heaven is all people really know about Christianity. As much as a static manger scenes might depict otherwise, God’s coming is not a one-time-event, not a historical moment to be written and the book closed. It’s not as if the world was devoid of God’s presence before Jesus’ birth, and now, after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, is without his presence once again until some future return. 


Baby Jesus and heaven might be the book ends people think the most about. But there is more to the story than a historical moment and a future hope. Those who focus on the two ends are missing out! This story of the good news is being told right now. 


We live this middle part of the story today. We enter this story in the waters of our baptism. We call the water of the font storied water, because it carries the promise of God. It is steeped in the witness of the generations who have experienced God’s fulfilling of promises: to give life, forgiveness, and a future. We are carried by this water into God’s promises: the good news. It becomes our life narrative. Our story. The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ is the beginning of the good news that is for you! God created for you, God became incarnate for you, God acts in mercy and love for you! 


We both proclaim and take on authorship of this story today. It is our story, and so we are called to share it. We live in the love of God, and it is our joy to share this love. As our world celebrates this season, we are given the opportunity to name the author of the good news which causes us to celebrate. Wish people a Merry Christmas, and be open to explaining what Christmas means for you: a God who comes into our world, who works for peace and life, and who promises to heal all hurts. 


Mark’s opening launches us not only into the book of Mark, but into the big book, the whole story, of “good news.” From cover to cover, beginning to end, embodied in us: the story of the good news of God’s action in Jesus Christ is proclaimed. This Advent, celebrate God’s coming for you: at creation, at Jesus’ incarnation, and at the present and future: as the dawn breaking on the horizon to bring the new day of wholeness and peace. Mark’s beginning might be the hook that pulls us in, but once drawn in, we find ourselves immersed in a story that had been going on for generations, all the way back since creation, and continues on in us today. 




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