Good News Is Here!

Good News! Mark 1:1-20 Janury 3, 2016

What is the best news you’ve ever heard? Was it the birth of your child, the call about the adoption? Was it the cancer free diagnosis? Was it some kind of truth about yourself or someone you love? Was it revealed to you in a phone call, a letter in the mail, an email, a visit from an old friend? What do you remember about that moment, that life changing good news? And just how did it change your life?

Today, the Best News Ever is announced by John the Baptist.

But before I jump in there, we’ve got some blanks to fill in because just a week or 2 ago, John was yet to be born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, soon to be followed by the birth of Jesus. We’ve got about 30 missing years of these 2 guys with only a few mentions of Jesus between the birth story and, according to the book of Mark, his appearance in the wilderness along with John. It’s a mystery what he was up to in that time, but I believe he was already up to the kinds of things we know about Jesus. Because today, as we jump into the book of Mark, it’s with an announcement of Good News, also known as the Best. News. Ever. So Jesus was already creating a stir, but this is the official beginning of his work.

And just look where it begins. Instead of this news being announced in the city square or in the king’s palace, this news is announced in the wilderness. In a place outside regular society where the unwanted, the marginalized, the oppressed are. So the audience is the sick, the untouchables, the people with bad reputations, the widows and orphans. And this good news is announced to them and in a place where it was believed that God was not.

Which sounds just like the Jesus we know, doesn’t it? Always in the wrong place, talking to the wrong people, healing them, teaching them, tipping their worlds upside down, making the higher ups uncomfortable and mad through loving the wrong people.

Lets recap today’s reading: So this announcement of Good News is made, Jesus is baptized and is immediately driven further into the wilderness, away from the crowds, by God’s Holy Spirit where he is tempted by the devil for 40 days and emerges to then call the first 4 disciples: Simon and Andrew; James and John. During this time, John gets arrested for going on and on about Jesus as the new political power, the new king, the new leader. Good News, in 1st century Palestine, meant the rise of a new political leader. It meant military victory on the battlefield. So this Good News was an absolute threat for all those in power. This Good News was the Best. News. Ever. to those mowed down and taken advantage of by the political powers of the day.

What was that event or moment or series of moments I asked you to think of at the beginning of the sermon? Think of that again. How did your life change? What things did it shift around in your life – how you think or how you see things? What illusions were dispelled? What realities got tipped upside down?

Do you see what happens because of this good news? The heavens are ripped open by God as God claims Jesus once and for all as his son through baptism. This newly claimed Jesus then is driven further into the wilderness to face temptation, and when he emerges from this 40 day fast, he knows his work is all about reaching others. It’s all about making disciples. It’s all about the love of God.

I finished Carrie Browenstein’s memoir in these last few days. She is a guitar player and singer in one of my favorite bands, Sleater-Kinney, and also stars in Portlandia. She begins the book with this stunning sentence: I’ve always felt unclaimed. That first sentence gave me pause. I actually stopped reading and let the gravity of that short sentence settle in. Her story is one of an extra dysfunctional family which left her on her own emotionally early on and sent her into the world of music to find home and family. But she has always struggled to feel part, to feel like she was claimed.

That word, claimed also came up in a podcast I listened to where a mother, looking back over 40 years of raising 3 children, struggled to respond to people suggesting she would love her biological child just a little bit more than her adopted children, you know, because of the blood connection. She finally landed on the word claimed – that she claimed each of her children as her own, would think of them in no other way. Could not imagine quantifying or qualifying love for them. All 3 claimed as her children.

I don’t know how you do with the beginning of a new year. If it’s a relief or a burden, a reset or just another day. However it is you’ve stumbled into these first few days of 2016, I invite you into the reality of your being claimed. The book of Mark begins in a bold and obvious way: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A very different beginning than that of the memoir.

It’s just the beginning! You are claimed by God through Jesus Christ. The rest of the book of Mark sets about to tell you this about a thousand different ways. God will be with you in the wilderness times when you are certain you’ve lost your way. This same God through Jesus Christ will call you by name when you have forgotten you are a child of God. This same God will claim and reclaim you if you fulfill all your New Year resolutions or if you don’t fulfill a single one. This same God will lead you into new places so you can share that good news or hear it in a whole new way from a whole new person or experience. It’s a life of discipleship. It’s a life of practice in following Jesus.

Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Look out folks, he’s just getting started. Hear this good news, the beginning of the Good New of Jesus Christ in this new year: You are claimed. You are loved. You are called to follow. Once and for all.