“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God!”
I think one of the most dangerous things that we can do as human beings is think that we have arrived, that there is nothing more for us to learn. When we take this stance, on any issue in our life, in my opinion it is less likely that we have actually come to a place of complete understanding and more likely that in our ignorance or our arrogance we have put the brain’s full sign on our foreheads and become belligerent about change.
When Mark wrote his gospel he begins with what I believe is a phrase that has layered meanings for us if we listen closely - “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ!” It is the beginning of Mark’s telling of the story of Jesus. Now right from the start of his gospel Mark let’s us into the secret - Jesus is God’s Son.
If you sit and listen to the whole book from beginning to end it’s as though we as listeners are privy to a bit of a joke. Jesus is God’s Son but most of the rest of the characters in the story don’t get it.
So on one level Mark’s words are just telling us that this is the start of his story. But on another level there is a more personal impact that comes from these words – this is the “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God!” in our lives as well.
For the words are not static, stagnant things left festering on the page, but are words which are meant to speak to us at a personal level. This is good news for you!
As I was thinking about this and how this emotion attached to these words might be expressed I kept thinking of that old game show The Price is Right. Contestant were selected from the audience with the word “Come on Down!” And as the words were spoken the audience erupted into cheering and excitement – it was good news to be picked.
Family members jump up out of their seats, the rest of the audience cheers and claps, the host smiles his cheesy grin and the person who had been selected could look shocked, amazed, astounded, elated, asking is it really me?
To me this is the image we need to have in our heads when we consider the excitement of the good news of Jesus Christ.
It is almost as if we should read:
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, for Bob!”
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, for Jane!”
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, for Fred!”
And as we hear those words, as fellow participants in the event we cheer and we encourage and we share that excitement.
This is life changing stuff and there is newness about it – begins are about newness. For someone in the game show there was the beginning of their opportunity to win some prizes; there were new games to play; and if they did well there were new household items – even to the point of being life changing for a person. The consequences of coming on down could have longer term implications.
For us as Christians it should be no different. With the excitement of hearing the good news and our name being called there is a new beginning and ongoing journey a different kind of engagement. This is not the arrival this is the beginning and a beginning that would recur.
In Mark’s gospel he goes on to set the scene by speaking about John the Baptist and the call to repent and be baptised. I think over the centuries in many ways we have sanitised baptism and made it nice.
Reading the Biblical scholars many will say that the strongest association with the image of baptism is not so much being washed cleaned as being drowned and being brought back to life.
This is why full immersion baptism is considered the most effective sign of baptism. You dunk people under the water, they are drowned and rise from under the water in new life. Unfortunately, for most Uniting Churches we have baptism fonts that are more like thimbles and our celebration of baptism whilst containing powerful words of grace often feel more like we are just giving a nice blessing to the child. Let alone the complications of baptising adults in droplets of water.
Yet our baptism, our calling to come on down, daily confronts us and calls us to change and to grow. Baptism is not the arrival! It is the new beginning of our relationship with God which is renewed everyday. The words of the Psalmist come to mind – God’s mercies are new every morning, so great is his faithfulness.
I think somehow I would like to capture that sense of excitement and call every day as if Jesus is saying to me “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God, for
To live with eyes wide open to the transformation God is working in my
life and the world around me, for God’s promise in Jesus is to make all things
As God’s people we need to be wary that we have not put up the brain’s full sign; that we can be open to the new thing that God is doing in our midst.
This is not always easy for us as people. We like the security of the familiar, it is safe and comfortable. And new beginnings, newness can be viewed as blessing and gift but also can viewed as change, and we don’t always like change.
Yet if we consider the birth of a child, the newness and excitement that accompanies this change is fantastic, but it is also not easy. Caring for a new child takes work, adjustment, and learning new things.
As a congregation we have been thinking about the new things God might be calling us to: a church open day, brunch on the lawn, a service down at the park, different views about music and how we use it. As God brings these things to birth new opportunities, new excitement, and even new dread fill us but we remember that God’s mercies are new every morning and that each day is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God!”