Sun 6/12/20

Broadcast and Livestreamed Options for Worship on 6 December
8.10 am Radio 4 Sunday Worship looks at 'Cities of Promise: A Place for Nature'
9.00 am The Church of England Service considers 'Waiting at Home' and is available at: Worship at Home for the Second Sunday of Advent with HOPE Together | The Church of England
9.30 am Christ Church Gipsy Hill will be livestreaming a modern style of worship at: Christ Church Gipsy Hill - Home | Facebook
10.00 am The Cathedral Eucharist will be livestreamed at: Chester Cathedral - YouTube
The Prayer Book Society continue to make a wide variety of Book of Common Prayer services available at: Online streaming of BCP services - The Prayer Book Society (pbs.org.uk)


A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40: 1 – 11; Mark 1: 1 – 8

 

We all know someone, it might even be ourselves, who rushes through life at top speed.  They are on a mission and they rush on regardless of whether everyone else can keep up or not.  Sometimes those people are super-organised and efficient, but not always… sometimes they just leave a trail of incomplete jobs and loose ends in their wake as they rush on to the next thing.

Which is exactly what Mark does.  Last week, on Advent Sunday, we began a year in which we focus on Mark’s gospel.  Except that, at just 16 chapters, Mark’s is a brief gospel and so we will spend quite a lot of time enjoying parts of John’s gospel too as the year progresses.

Mark is on a mission’ he’s in a hurry and he’s not very tidy.  His Gospel barely has a beginning.  It literally starts ‘Beginning the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’.  He doesn’t even have time to write ‘The beginning’ or ‘This is the beginning’.  And there is not gentle start with the birth of a baby.  Instead, we find ourselves thrust into the harsh surroundings of the Judean Desert in the company of a wild-living, bluntly spoken John the Baptist.

For interest, Mark doesn’t really finish his Gospel either… but that is for another day.  For now we must endure the harsh reality of the desert in the company of a rather brutish John the Baptist.

We might wonder what is attractive about this man.  He is living wild in the desert, dresses in camel hair and apparently existing on a diet of locusts and wild honey… and then there’s that message!  There is no warm-up act to get the crowds settled.  No story to give people time to tune in.  John the Baptist launches straight in.  Come and be baptised, and repent of your sins.  We are at least spared the ‘brood of vipers’ found in Matthew and Luke’s accounts, but John the Baptist’s message is no less blunt in Mark’s brief account… and yet the crowds pour in from the surrounding countryside, willing to be baptised and confess their sins.

What is going on?  Even in his hurry to tell the story, Mark will tell us more later.  For now, we need to remind ourselves of the Prophet Elijah.  Another desert-dwelling man of God who wore rough clothing and survived food provided by the desert.  Elijah didn’t die, but was taken up into heaven by a chariot… and so, the Jews believed (and still do), that one day Elijah will return preparing the way for Messiah.

John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament Prophets (even though we hear of him in the New Testament).  Those who flock to hear him, do so because he is Elijah returned, to prepare the way for Messiah.  And John the Baptist confirms it. Even in Mark’s rushed story.  Here, in the Judean Wilderness, around about 30 CE is a prophet like Elijah, preparing the way for one who is even greater.  One who will baptise not with water, but with the Holy Spirit.

Mark may be in a hurry, but in 8 brief verses, he has told us a great deal.  He has also set out the purpose of his hurried account of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The tone of his gospel may be abrupt, but as Martyn Percy comments, so is Mark’s theme.

Mark has no time to reflect and consider.  His message is urgent.  As urgent as John the Baptist’s.  Mark’s message is none other than: ‘Choose Jesus.  Drop everything you are doing, and follow him.  Now.’

It is a message as urgent today as it was when Mark first wrote it.  We might be restricted in all kinds of ways as we try to protect each other to prevent the spread of COVID, but nothing, not even a frightening and unknown disease, can stop us from recognising our need to Jesus again this Advent season.

And if John the Baptist’s message is all to harsh for our liking, perhaps we need to hear it through the more measured tones of Isaiah.  A prophet who spoke in times at least as challenging as our own, as he tried to encourage a second generation of God’s people living as captives in Babylon.  Isaiah too spoke of the voice, calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord.  His message is no less urgent, but it is gentler.  A call to comfort as well as for urgent repentance.

Whether we prefer the gentle urgency or Isaiah, or the harsh urgency of John the Baptist transmitted through the abrupt tone of Mark, the content is the same.  A call to ‘Choose Jesus.  Drop everything you are doing, and follow him.  Now.’

S Anne Lawson

2 December 2020


Prayers

 

The Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent

 

Almighty God,

purify our hearts and minds,

that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again

as judge and saviour

we may be ready to receive him

who is our Lord and our God.  Amen.

 

The Post Communion Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

 

father in heaven,

who sent your Son to redeem the world

and will send him again to be our judge:

give us grace so to imitate him

in the humility and purity of his first coming

that, when he comes again,

we may be ready to greet him

with joyful love and firm faith;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

 

As we gather expectantly in God’s presence,

let us pray.

 

God of cleansing and liberating power,

give us the courage and perception

to see ourselves as we really are,

and repent of our sin;

may the whole Church be cleansed and renewed.

Com, O come, Emmanuel:

come and live in us.

 

God of wisdom and truth,

we pray for the world’s leaders and all in authority,

that they may lead and govern wisely and honestly,

without corruption and for the common good.

Come , O come, Emmanuel:

come and live in us.

 

God of love and faithfulness,

may every family be surrounded and upheld

by your presence,

the conflicts healed and needs provided for,

and every act of kindness blessed.

Come, O come, Emmanuel:

come and live in us.

 

God of wholeness,

bringing your reassurance and healing,

your hope and patience

to all who are suffering in any way;

bring freedom to all imprisoned by hate or guilt,

and a change of heart to all who need to forgive.

Come, O come, Emmanuel:

come and live in us.

 

God of unending life,

bring life in its fulness to us here,

and to those who have completed their time on earth.

May they know the freedom and joy of your heaven.

Come, O come, Emmanuel:

come and live in us.

 

God of warmth and brightness,

we praise you for all our many blessings,

and above all for coming to save us and set us free.

 

Merciful Father

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

© Susan Sayers 




Hymns 

 

Come thou long expected Jesus Come, thou long expected Jesus : St John's College Choir, Cambridge - YouTube

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry [with lyrics for congregations] - YouTube

Hark!  A Thrilling voice is calling Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding [with lyrics for congregations] - YouTube

The kingdom of God is justice and joy the kingdom of god is justice and joy