Mark 1: 1-8

The Big Bang of Good News

One motor enthusiast has short-listed four cars in a recent AA magazine and one of those will be voted the car of the 20th century. Short listed are: the Model T-Ford, the VW beetle, the Mini-Minor, and the Porsche 911. All have been selected for different reasons, but each one signifies a major achievement in the motoring world.

The process has begun. Most people are thinking and reflecting back over the 20th century to its finest moments and human achievements. What were they? Recently a news announcer on Channel 1 was reporting on the most popular book of the 20th century. He mentioned some from the short listed books: War and Peace, Lord of the Rings, the Power of One, and the Guineas Book of World Records. The most popular book in the 20th century is the Word of God, the Bible. I am thrilled and encouraged by it that the Word of God is still the most sought after word. I feel that the Bible is like a world cup winner amongst the books. A great achievement for all who are on the team of God, in the kingdom of heaven.

This century we landed a man on the moon. That was great! Now we are dealing with the universe within us and experimenting with DNA and cloning pigs and things. What will become of that? At another time the great Pyramids of Egypt were built, the Great Wall of China, and the Gothic Cathedrals are listed amongst the great achievements of humankind. Some human activity great and small have been inspired and blessed by God.

What has been your greatest moment and achievement so far? Coming New Year’s Eve there’s one thing I want to achieve. At the right moment, at midnight I’m going to light my Boom-Man fireworks. I’ve been saving it from the recent Guy Faukes night. It’s a mortar fireworks for enthusiast that shoots into the air a single fire ball of the maximum allowable explosive. Once up, it will explode into colour and noise. I’m hoping that it will be a big bang as promised by its maker.

That is how Mark begins his gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He begins it with a big bang, a big bang of good news. It is good news of a great achievement of God. It is nothing like our earthly achievements that in time will crumble away or are soon forgotten. It is an achievement that is equal to God creating the heavens and earth as told in the beginning of the Bible. It’s big, it’s mighty and it’s forever.

The gospel writer, Mark brings us to remember the God given vision of the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, I send my messenger before they face, who will prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight-.” This is part of the vision. Isaiah has been allowed to look into the great council of God, to see the whole company of heaven, angels and the lot, during a meeting with God in the heavenly council. This meeting is important to God, for he is about to undertake a wonderful thing. The timing is right. God wants everyone to known about it because everyone will be effected through it.

The King is coming, the Son of God is coming, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight-,”is the message of the voice of one calling in the wilderness.

Our lives at times can appear to our self and others like a wilderness. A wilderness can be a harsh environment where very little grows. The hot sun burns the ground and all that lives on it. While the strong winds blows away the loosened soil leaving pot holes, and exposed stones. They are places to be avoided. Few people live there, and travel through desert places can be hard and slow. And yet at times it is necessary to travel through such place of bareness to reach the promise land.

The sin in our lives, the evil we do to God and each other continues to enlarge the wilderness in our heart. Being selfish and continuously wanting our own way is probably the quickest way to create pot holes and expose the rocks in our heart. To others we look like a desert. Someone to be avoided. So our lives remain empty, and empty of love and concern from others.

The writer of the gospel, Mark points to John the baptiser in the wilderness who is calling to all of us to repent. We also have a voice in our wilderness, in our heart calling us to repent, to change our ways. We need to listen to that voice and stop making pot holes and exposing the rocks in our hearts. John the baptiser is calling us to change our ways, to fill the holes, to bury the rocks, to make smooth the path through the wilderness. He is asking us to repent of our self-centred ways and to start giving of our selves for the well being of others. That is what God had intended at the beginning of creation. Then our lives will look like a Garden of Eden. Prepare the way of the Lord. When you repent and are truly sorry of the pain you have caused to others and yourself, then your pathway will be like a slippery slide that will quickly allow the King, Jesus Christ to come into your life.

The writer of the gospel, Mark continues with his own vision, “And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark sees and believes in the promise of salvation for everyone. It is not that we need all to be good at the same time before the King, our Saviour comes. Nor, is it that we need to be good all the time before we find favour with God, for that is an impossibility. God knows how we continuously fail to do what is right in the sight of God. Indeed, when we do repent of our bad ways, it does make it easier for the King, the Saviour to come and restore us to the way we ought to be.

John the baptiser baptises with water from the river Jordan. He knows that what he is doing will not have a lasting effect on peoples lives. People come to him confessing their sins, and seeking some comfort in their life, and even hope for a lasting change. In many ways we too seek some comfort in our life, respite from our troubles. We turn to doctors and chemists, spiritual healers, lawyers, family, friends, neighbours, anyone that can offer a glimmer of hope. Their endeavours can only bring temporary relief, and so we continue to suffer. John the baptiser can only do the same, but he points to the One that is coming, he is greater and will work true wonders in our life.

The One that is coming is Jesus Christ, Son of God. God has many times before entered his creation in some way and touched people’s lives. We remember how God had worked in the lives of the Israelites while they were wanderers in the wilderness. He sustained them during the wilderness years and built up their faith in God. When the time was right, God led a faithful people into the promise land. No sooner were they there in the land of abundance that they began to forget about God’s goodness and began to behave badly in the sight of God.

This time, God’s involvement in his creation is to send his only begotten Son to comfort his people, to comfort all of us. God’s mighty act, his mighty achievement is to begin a new creation in us through Jesus Christ, Son of God. It is a big bang of cosmic proportions that God has decided to create anew. He is doing this out of his continued love for all of us. Despite our sin, our failings, our short lived repentance, Jesus Christ comes to give us a new beginning.

When you find yourself again having a wilderness experience, listen to the voice of the one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight-.” You will find this time Jesus Christ waiting for you to confess your sins ready to baptise you with the Holy Spirit.

This is no ordinary person waiting to help us this is the King, Jesus Christ, Son of God our Saviour. As unworthy as we are Jesus Christ, Son of God has his sleeves rolled up ready to help us, ready to give us his divine service.

Through this baptism that Jesus Christ gives, it is as real as the cleansing water we touch every day. Through this baptism a new creation has begun. The Holy Spirit is given and dwells in you and with you to help you through the wilderness experience. You are no longer on your own. You have a helper with you. It is the Spirit of God, through Jesus Christ that begins a new creation in you.

The effects are lasting, now and forever. Together the pot holes are filled and the rocks are buried and there will come a time when you will cross over into the promise land together with Jesus Christ, Son of God. On the way you will experience his blessings upon you and your life will change forever.  Amen.

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