Monthly Archives: November 2012

“Mockers” – Mark 15:16-32

Jesus Crucified with Criminals

We continue, in this our second week, in the last full chapter of Mark. The landscape, as we come into the home stretch, is much different than when we began this journey back in January. Mark’s gospel began with throngs of people crowding Jesus and nears the end with Jesus completely alone. Earlier in the gospel, Jesus was praised by the masses but nears the end despised and mocked by religious leaders, Roman soldiers, the general populace and even rebellious criminals.
Have you noticed how this passage places emphasis on the mocking of Jesus, time and time again? That mocking seems to be the central focus of the entire passage this week. It makes us ask the question, “What is the meaning of it all?” The mocking of Jesus seems to accentuate the contrast between Jesus and the others. Jesus is silent and appears powerless, while the others are impassioned and forceful.
Together, we’ll dig deeper into this contrast on Sunday, which is our first Sunday in Advent. Because it is Advent, we will sing our first carols of the season, light candles and receive God’s grace when the entire body comes together for worship.

 

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“Black Friday Deal” – Mark 15:1-15

No the church isn’t jumping on the Black Friday sales wagon this week.  The Black Friday our Sunday sermon title refers to is the last day of Jesus’ life and ministry.  This is the day Christ was crucified and it is the day we’ve now entered in our journey through Mark’s gospel.  The “deal” refers to the deal Pilate made with the Sanhedrin and the multitude to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.  This is a story of the love of God doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  The guilty man was set free and the innocent man condemned.  That is something to meditate on and be thankful for.
I pray that you all have a great day of Thanksgiving tomorrow. We will have Christian formation classes at the normal time of 9:15 AM  this Sunday and worship at 10:30 AM. A special time of fellowship, to give God thanks for Elizabeth Biron’s 97th birthday, will follow the service in the vestry.  A great way to share Jesus is by inviting a friend to church.  Ask someone this week!

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Fear Not! Rejoice!

 

 

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8–14)

 

I find striking the fact that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to a bunch of shepherds out in a field, while they were tending their flock at night.  Why not, rather, someone more holy?  Shepherds were often looked down on, even despised by the pious, religious people of their day.  Shepherds had a great deal of trouble maintaining the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish law.  They could not maintain all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations.  They were the last group of people one would expect God provide such a visitation.  So, it is no surprise that these lowly men were struck with fear at the appearance of an angel, who was accompanied by the glory of the Lord.

 

Fear is not only for shepherds, it is the natural response of men and women to the presence of a holy God.  When we are struck with God’s glory, we cower because we know that our sin makes us unworthy to be in His presence.  I see it in some of my friends when they are invited to church.  They often reply that “the walls will fall down if I go to church.”  They sense the weight of their own sin and it sends them running as far away as possible from the presence of God.  Even Mary, the mother of Jesus was fearful when visited by the angel.  But in the case of both the shepherds and Mary, the angel told them, “Fear not.”  Why? Because the angel was bringing “good news of great joy that will be for all people.”  It was not just good news for the shepherds and not just good news for Mary, but “good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

 

The sign and hope of that good news came in the form of a baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  He was and is the good news; the good news that we no longer need to fear being in the glorious presence of God.  His coming that day was to strike down fear.  It is through Him that the “gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows are put to flight.”  Yes, even our greatest fear, the fear of death has been put away in Jesus.  When our faith is in Him, we have been accepted and need no longer run from but to God.  Like the shepherds when they saw Jesus, we cannot help but rejoice!  We are no longer condemned but forgiven and accepted by God with the very righteousness of our Savior.

 

God has removed any and all reasons to fear if you are trusting in Jesus.  If God has put away even the fear of death, surely He does not want you to fear the lesser things in life that trouble you daily.  His sovereign love has cast out all fear and provides for your constant care.   “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)  Rejoice!

 

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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“Testimonies” – Mark 14:53-72

Finally!  Jesus gets His day in court.  Yeah, He gets His day in court alright.  But justice is not about to be carried out when the judge also serves as prosecutor.  It is ironic that the true High Priest is called to account by the high priest.  That the Judge of the world is being judged by the world.  The Sanhedrin is not interested in determining the facts, they are only interested in testimonies resulting in a speedy conviction and a death sentence for Jesus.  This has been the plan for the religious leaders for some time, to get Jesus out of the way.
This kangaroo court provides the final hinge point in Mark’s gospel.  It leads us into the final phase of the story that asks the critical questions, “Who is Jesus?” and “What does that mean for me?”  As part of His trial, Jesus provides the answer to the first question, both pleasing and infuriating His captors.  It is infuriating because they assume His answer is false without examining the evidence and it pleases them because they know it will result in the conviction they are hoping for.
Just when we were ready to write Peter off, he shows up again at the beginning and end of our passage (can you smell a sandwich?).  But Peter seems influenced by those around him and doesn’t deal well with the truth when it comes to his own testimony about Jesus.  He has distanced himself from Jesus and that brings into serious question the integrity of his faith.  What would God’s word have us learn about Peter and ourselves from this passage?  Have you examined the evidence about Jesus or have you already made up your mind without a fair hearing?

Christian formation classes start at 9:15 AM and worship at 10:30 AM. A time of fellowship follows the service.  A great way to share Jesus is by inviting a friend to church.  Ask someone this week!

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Kiss of Death – Mark 14:43-52

 

The term, “Kiss of Death,” originates from our passage this week, referring to Judas’s kiss that betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders known as the Sanhedrin.  When we use the term today, it refers to a ruinous act.  It is an act with fatal consequences.  Certainly the act of betrayal portrayed in Mark’s gospel resulted in fatal consequences for Jesus when He was murdered on the cross.  It also resulted in fatal consequences for Judas, who took his own life rather than face what he had done.  But for many, this kiss set off a chain of events that would mean new and eternal life for thousands of years to come.  Christ’s death on the cross was followed by His resurrection, and the offer of eternal life to all who place their faith in Him.  What Judas and the Sanhedrin meant for evil, God meant for good.
Even though we may be saved by the good plans of God and the faith we’ve been given in Jesus, there are times when we as Christians don’t feel so good.  There are times when we feel as if we’ve failed God and let Him down.  We identify personally with the behavior of the disciples more often than we do with the righteousness of Jesus.  Over time, this view of ourselves can result in our slide away from rather than toward God.  But Mark shows us, this week, that God will not give up on or fail in His plans for us, even when we give up on and fail Him.  Come join us as we look at and seek God’s Spirit in applying that truth to our own lives.

Christian formation classes start at 9:15 AM and worship at 10:30 AM. A time of fellowship follows the service.  Invite someone new to church this week!

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This is Love – Mark 14:32-42

The view of Jesus recorded in this week’s passage is one that we don’t often think about.  It portrays Jesus’ humanity in the clearest sense.  As He waits for the hour to come, Jesus is troubled and deeply distressed.  He is in so much inner agony and sorrow that it nearly kills Him.  He even asked the Father to take away that which stands before Him, if He would.  We’ve all had to wait for potentially bad news or a dreaded event and know that the waiting and uncertainty is often worse than the event itself.  That certainly is true for Jesus, but not in the way you may think.  Jesus spent His hour of suffering and agony in prayer and through it found comfort and strength.  When the answer came, that it was God’s will for Him to suffer for many, the suffering ceased to be suffering.  He had accepted God’s will and was strengthened for the hour to come.
So what does all this have to do with love?  Perhaps you think, like others have, that Jesus almost backed out of His appointment with the cross to save His own hide.  Perhaps you think His Father did not love Jesus very much when He refused Jesus’ plea to remove the cup and the hour to come.  Well, I beg to differ.  I believe there is no greater expression of Jesus’ love found anywhere else in the Bible than in the olive grove at Gethsemane.  I believe there is no greater expression of Jesus love for the Father and no greater expression of Jesus’ love for you.  In fact, this might just be the greatest love passage in the entire Bible.  I hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we try to both  fathom and receive so great a love.

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