Sermon Briefs: Mark 1:4-11
The theme of sermons on the text of Mark 1 is repentance. Susan Auchincloss identifies this in her sermon titled Repent, Metanoeite1 with vv. 1-8 as the text. John proclaims the call to repentance. This call is to change direction, to stop and completely shift direction by 180 degrees. Jesus came also saying to turn. But his turn is turning inside out. Jesus announces a new reality, not simply a new direction. Both turns are necessary. The first is one related to human ability, the second is only accomplished by God's work.
Fred Craddock asks, Have You Ever Heard John Preach?2 John was the model for Jesus' preaching ministry. Craddock develops several encounters of Jesus where he was influenced by John. People came to hear John. He was frayed at the edges and lacked some polish, but he had something to say, something that people came to hear. Craddock uses the refrain "Did you ever hear John preach?" You can hear John preach his word of repentance in any time or place where you are called to check where you're going and what you want.
Frederick Buechner3 comments on the speed with which the opening verses of Mark begin. "The time is up!" Jesus announces. There is fulfillment, and yet there are problems. A character in Woody Allen's movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" comments: "If Jesus came back and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up!"
Buechner describes an encounter he had in New York City where he was approached by a woman as he was walking in a park. The woman said to him as they passed, "Jesus loves you." She kept walking. The encounter changed his whole day. It was a glimpse of what might be. In the midst of turmoil, the call is to repent, turn around 180 degrees. The call is not only to individuals, but nations and groups as well. Repent, go in the opposite direction, and believe the gospel. Keep walking in the park.
Joel L. Alvis, Jr.
1. In Best Sermons 5, ed. by James Cox (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), pp. 39-42. 2. In Best Sermons 4, ed. by James Cox (Harper: San Francisco, 1991), pp. 10-17. 3. "The Kingdom of God" in Best Sermons 5 (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), pp. 101-108.