Here is the worship service for December 6, 2020, the 2nd Sunday in Advent! Keep in mind it won’t be viewable until 10am on that day.
The worship bulletin can be found here. The full sermon can also be found under the video
You may have a bowl of water, something small to eat and drink, and a lit candle in your space to help enhance your worship experience. They are all optional of course, but could assist you in your meditation and reflection.
Here is the video:
Mighty God, send your Spirit to speak peace, that the good news of these times might be proclaimed through our witness and our lives, through your Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, with whom we pray. Amen.
So hot on social media this week (at least in my Christian pastor circles) are the churches in our area and around Canada who have decided to basically ignore the recent “no gathering” rules put in place by the health authorities. Granted, some of these churches have been gathering in their property’s parking lots and everyone was instructed to stay in their cars and that there would be no bathrooms for them to use. But there were others who had full blown services with people inside the building, singing, chatting, and doing all those germ-spreading stuff that the health officials really don’t want us doing… because it spreads germs.
And so the cops of course got involved, at least at the ones that I read about, and the whole backlash started. The cops just doing their job in breaking up what was a clear violation of the new health mandate, and the churches claiming that their civil rights are being violated. And articles on these stories circulate around and around on social media and guess what dumb thing I did?
I read the comments.
It was just what, two weeks ago that I warned you all against reading the comments? And here I went, reading them again. And so I scrolled through the inevitable finger pointing and name calling, the defensive language of internet stats and memes, and of course, people dead set on the assumption that they are right and the other is wrong. It was tough to read because my emotions then get riled up, but just like a few weeks ago, I couldn’t stop.
But like, everyone has an opinion. Everyone is angry at the other side. Everyone has this divine foreknowledge of “the truth” that for some strange reason, no one else has. And I get it, in the midst of this pandemic, people are on edge. People have been wallowing in their pent up emotions and then they erupt and take it out on others. What I think is happening is that people, deep down, are afraid of the change that is happening all around them, in their jobs, the economy, their emotional health and well-being and maybe aren’t acting all that rationally.
This might sound offensive to some, as everyone usually thinks that they’re always rational. But seriously, looking at some of those online comments? Even arguing with some random person online? And even taking a stupid amount of time reading those comments? Irrational, I tell ya.
But this height of emotion, this kind of collective anxiety, this friction and animosity that is going around these days, they’re not unique to our time. In fact, as I always seem to mention in all my sermons, every generation has had their own unique set of struggles and hardship. Be it wars, or famine, or an enemy occupying your land, every generation had to go through something like we are going through now. It might not be exactly the same in the fine details, but the emotions, the anxiety, and the stress around it all, is.
At the time that the gospel of Mark was written around 70AD, so like roughly 40 years after Jesus ascended into heaven, the nation of Israel was going through a rough patch themselves. For a while there, things were going ok, they were in the land that was promised to them by God, they had no enemies eyeing their spot, and religious life was good. So they thought it would be smooth sailing from there on out. But then the Romans came. And while things still weren’t that bad per se, it was just different knowing that they weren’t exactly “free”. Then there was a rumour about someone coming to save them, a Messiah of sorts, but that ended up in one of many crucifixions that the Roman Empire used as a public example of what happens when you cross them. Then fast forward a few more years and Rome started to tighten their grip on Israel. Rome had some changes in government due to death and murder, and their current emperor started to really put pressure on this small and devout nation, not really strong in anything but their faith. Suddenly all seemed uncertain and scary again. It all seemed so confusing and anxious. It all seemed like everything was lost.
Sound familiar? It sort of sounds like the times we’re going through now, at least the emotions that we’re feeling. We’re uncertain and scared of who might be carrying this virus and could inadvertently pass it to us, we’re anxious of how we might react to the virus and how all of this could continue to push our society on this downward spiral, and it might seem, like we talked about last week, the end. The times are different, the situation is different, but the feelings are the same.
But then going back to 70AD and the times that the Israelites were going through, imagine someone handing you a scroll, and as you unroll it, you see the first sentence and perhaps also the title, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Good news? The beginning? Son of God? Is this real? At first it might seem like it’s not, as each of those phrases actually carry their own connotation, mostly all political and leaning towards Rome. But it is intriguing because it says it is the beginning, the start, something fresh and new and maybe even perhaps exciting.
Because at times like these, we need to restart, give us something fresh that would point to a new beginning and remind us that God is good.
So this scroll that has this story on it, this good news, this “evangelion” as it would have been called, isn’t what you think. You’ve heard the story before, maybe you lived it, maybe you took part in some of the events that were described, or maybe a friend of a friend was there and confirms it all to be true. Although you’ve heard the story before, this time it hits different. It hits different because in these times, these times of anxiety, conflict, and fear, this story seems to offer something else. It offers community, it offers comfort, it offers peace.
There is peace in knowing that God walked as a man among us. There is comfort in knowing that we are forgiven of all the things that would have excluded us before. There is community found in knowing that we are all beloved children of God, in spite of difference, upbringing, or even belief system.
See this story found on this scroll, this beginning of the life and teachings of Jesus, teach us that life isn’t about a set of rules that we must or mustn’t follow, but that it is a fluid journey of ups and downs. It teaches us that we aren’t given the responsibility of judging who belongs and who doesn’t, but we can deal with each other with grace and mercy. It teaches us that even in times of anxiety and fear, we have a God that bestows upon us a Spirit of hope, joy, love, and peace.
And so we can take these lessons that we learn from this scroll, this evangelion, this gospel according to Mark, and we can apply them to our lives. The lessons in this book, this good news, are lessons that teach us right relationship, teach us how to live in community, teach us how to be a loving neighbour to all.
What it doesn’t tell us, though, is that we should go and prove each other wrong, point fingers and ridicule, and judge others on the sole basis that they don’t agree with us and our opinions. It most certainly doesn’t say we should argue with each other on the internet or otherwise. But instead, the scroll teaches us not to judge, not to exclude, and not to draw lines in the sand. Rather, live in God’s forgiveness, revel in God’s love, and rest in God’s peace. These are all easier said than done, but the scroll also teaches that we aren’t alone in this journey, but we are given a community of saints to lean on, to give and draw support, and to grow with in this difficult thing we call life.
But this scroll ends with a cliff hanger. At least, in the earliest copies that we have of this scroll ends with a cliff hanger. It just ends with the women at the tomb of this Jesus but instead of finding him they encounter a young man dressed in white, telling them that Jesus isn’t here, but he has risen, and that they need to tell the disciples what they saw. And the scroll ends with, “so they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
That… isn’t really an ending at all. I mean, what happens next? What happens now? Why did this random stranger share this scroll with me?
See, the scroll is the beginning. How it ends is up to you.
As we continue in this season of Advent, may we rest on the peace given to us by God, the peace that surpasses all understanding, that while we are living in these uncertain times, we might know the sure and certain hope of a Saviour who loves us, saves us, and equips us for love and community. Thanks be to God. Amen.