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Preparing

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Friday, December 15, 2017
We have to actually go into the desert in order to hear this word from John.  We have to make the effort to step away from our busy lives and retreat into the desert, away from the comforts of the city in order to hear his cry.
John’s location is significant in this story. He is in Jordan River, the last place on the highway that the returning exiles would pass through before returning to their homeland that has been utterly destroyed and go through the long hard process of rebuilding.   So John situates himself where the people would have this memory of the journey their ancestors took, reminding them that this journey we take is not easy, it takes us away from the comforts of home, and calls for us to do the hard action of rebuilding.  John is preaching about the coming a new kingdom, not one that is built with bricks and mortar, but calls for work none-the-less.  He teaches us that it is through confession and repentance that we are …

Obstacles

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Thursday, December 14, 2017
Yet we don’t want to hear John, we would rather hear the stories of the baby being born, without having to think too much about it.  We want the lullabies about baby Jesus without the prophet, we want redemption without judgment.  Yet John reminds us that in order to fully understand the baby Jesus, we have to prepare ourselves. John calls for a construction project in the desert, echoing the words of Isaiah.  There is to be a highway in the desert where there once was none, valleys are to be lifted up and mountains are to be made low, the rough places are to be smoothed, in other words there is to be a massive removal of obstacles.  So I have to wonder what obstacles might be in our way? 
Obstacles of wanting to go back in time?
Obstacles of measuring success by numbers?
Obstacles of not fully believing that God is present in our exile or in our journey home?
Obstacles that lead us to the believe that the status quo is grounds for clos…

Is this the way it's supposed to be?

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Wednesday, December 13, 2017
While we visualize John out in the middle of nowhere, outside the control of the oppressive Roman forces, outside the nicely decorated temples, away from the bustle of vendors and shopper in the city squares.  John seems to be at a safe distance in this story from really having to bother our lives.
And I have to wonder if we really want to be bothered this Advent season, after all how did repentance and confession get squeezed into our “decking the halls” and “riding in a one horse opened sleigh”?  In this passage, John reminds us that Advent is a season of introspection, of prayer and repentance, much like the season of Lent that leads up to Easter.  Yet our daily lives might not reflect this spiritual journey we are to embark upon.
Instead, we may find ourselves standing in long lines.  Perhaps you read in the papers about the fights that broke out on black Friday in stores.    And I have to wonder “is this the way it is supposed to…

Fulfilled and Fulfilling

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Mark helps his readers to see that God was active in the past and God is active now and God will be active in the future.  He reminds us of Isaiah’s fulfilled prophecy and then introduces us to John, who shares the same longing of the prophet Isaiah, for God to come near and make the world right.  As Fred Craddock wrote, “although the coming of Christ is a new thing God is doing, it is not without a past.  John’s preaching is news, good news, but is has a history, a memory.  Memory is the soil in which hope survives, and that which is remembered is the promise of a faithful God.”
Everything about John points to this past, present and future of God’s promise.  John’s dress and diet remind us of the prophet Elijah, one who was strong and survived in the desert on God’s provision as he remained faithful despite being hunted by his king and queen.

Promising God, open me to your movement in and among me!  May I see need where you see it, in …

Promise

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Monday, December 11, 2017
Motion is a key phrase in Mark’s gospel.  Mark hits the ground running in his telling of the good news.  There is immediacy to Mark’s gospel, in part because he uses the word “immediately” continually throughout his book but also because he doesn’t share in a long explanation of how Jesus came to be.  He shies away from the genealogies we find in Matthew and Luke and the stories of Jesus before he began his ministry. Mark does not linger on the stories of Mary and Joseph’s visit from the angel Gabriel, or on the visit from the shepherds and wise men.  Here we will find no mention of the birth in Bethlehem.  Mark reminds us that Jesus grew up. 
Mark grounds his gospel in promise.  Many scholars believe that the first line of his gospel was originally the title of the gospel, so that the real beginning begins with promise, the promise that we have from the prophet Isaiah.  “Look, I am sending my messenger before you.  He will prepare you…

What are we waiting for?

Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8 Sunday, December 10, 2017
Last week we explored the theme of waiting in worship and lit the first Advent candle of waiting.  Today, the candle of expectation has been lit and joins the candle of waiting.
Have you ever noticed that our waiting experience changes depending upon what we are waiting for?  We can wait with excitement or we can wait with dread.  Waiting can be a build up to something heart breaking and waiting can also be a build up to a release. 
In Advent, we wait because we know that God’s timing is not our timing and God is active in our world.  In Advent we remember the promises that God has made to God’s people, to preach good news to the poor,  to liberate  the oppressed, to set the prisoner free, to recover the sight of the blind, and to proclaim the year of Jubilee when economic in-balances are erased.

Promising God, open me to your movement in and among me!  May I see need where you see it, in myself and in my community.  Help me to be active…

Active Waiting

Daily reading: Mark 13:24-37 Friday, December 8, 2017
Mark invites us to actively wait for Christ, to pray for God’s presence, for God’s justice.  We wait for Christ, because we acknowledge that our world is broken and is in need of healing.  We wait for Christ because we acknowledge that we are broken and we cause brokenness. 
Active waiting happens when are preparing for the arrival of someone or something.  Parents nest in the late stages of pregnancy.  Students gather supplies for school at the end of summer vacation.  Hosts clean their homes and put clean linens on the beds as they anticipate the arrival of guests.  What might you do this season to actively wait spiritually?  How might God be calling you to seek God’s presence in the world this season?  We actively wait by staying alert and by seeking out places where the world’s great needs and our own needs meet. We wait for Christ because in our active state of being alert together we are awakened to Christ’s presence.
Surprising …