Weekly Bible Devotional
“Those Who Dream Prepare the Way”
December 5, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Notes on the Text:
When we think of the Christian story, we often begin with the birth of Jesus. The beautiful and powerful stories told of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have fueled our imagination for centuries with many nativity scenes. But this week, we look at the beginning of the story of Jesus according to the Gospel of Mark which begins in a different place. We are not told about the birth of Jesus. Instead, we are told about the ministry of the one who prepared the way for Jesus: his cousin John the Baptizer. It seems like an odd starting point when the main the character is Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark tends to surprise and disorient its readers in order for them to pay attention to the amazing news of the story of Christ. Both the beginning and ending (shorter ending in verse 16:8) of the Gospel leave us with little certainty and with a lot of wondering to do. In the verses listed above we have a beginning that does not have a genealogy, a birth story, shepherds, magi, or great theological proclamations about Jesus. Not only that, but the Gospel of Mark also begins in the Judean wilderness with the ministry of John the Baptist who was a wild prophet living intentionally on the edge of society. This was not the place where the people were looking for God’s action to take place. God acted in the wilderness a long time before that, in the time of Moses in the story of liberation in Exodus. But after that, religious action and devotion seemed to have moved closer to the cities. The center of people’s worship and experiences of God was not in the wilderness. It was instead in the temple in Jerusalem. The work of John the Baptist in the wilderness was an intentional departure from the expectations and limits of his society. The unexpected was taking place; God was coming into the world in such an unexpected way outside the margins of society and power.
That is how God’s radical change comes! When we have people who are willing to risk their own comfort in order to disrupt the injustices and wrongs of the day. Jesus’ ministry needed the ministry of John. John was the one who trained him and who got people prepared to think outside the box of the temple in Jerusalem. John was the one who called people to remember God’s dream of justice, peace, and compassion. The Roman Empire offered peace through domination and violence. The religious leaders in Jerusalem cooperated with the Romans for the sake of political power and gain. Yet, God’s dream was being renewed through John’s ministry to cast a vision for peace that would come through justice and compassion where people would forgive debts, share resources, and care for the most vulnerable.
Today we are called to be like John the Baptizer to prepare the way for God’s dream of peace, even if we are not the ones who get to see the results. In history, there are those who are often forgotten because they were preparers of the way but not the one who got to reap the harvest of what was planted.
We are invited to consider our calling as ones who prepare the way for God’s action and dreams for peace to unfold in the world. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord by working for a robust peace that brings wholeness and wellbeing for all. God’s dream for peace challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to engage the realities of suffering in our world and within ourselves with a commitment to the common good.
“At Advent, God’s people summon the courage and the spiritual strength to remember that the holy breaks into the daily. In tiny ways, we can open our broken hearts to the healing grace of God, who opens the way to peace. May that peace come upon us as a healing balm, as a mighty winter river, gushing and rushing through the valleys of our prideful fear and our own self-righteous indignation. . . . And so we do not lose heart; rather, we live with our hearts broken open so that compassion, caring, and God’s reckless love can find a way into our hearts and the heart of the world. Make straight in our hearts a highway for the possibility of peace.” ~Patricia E. De Jong.
Prayer by Sarah Are:
In the beginning,
It was you who spoke over the water and brought forth creation.
And then it was you who asked, “Cain, where is your brother?”
It was you who spoke to Elijah in a still, small, voice.
And it was you, through angels,
Who spoke to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.
You have always been speaking—
In words, in memories, in songs, and in dreams.
We come to you today, asking for the strength to join our voices to yours.
Open our ears to hear the voices of those crying out.
Open our mouths to speak aloud your dream for this world.
We are listening. We are grateful. Amen.