Advent 2 B: Plague Days as Messy Beginning

It’s starting to look a lot like winter here on the farm.

First things first: Out of bed just as dawn is breaking I fortify myself with warm clothes from head to toe, and brave the dark, cold and windy world outside.

Any day on the farm I must make an initial mental and spiritual adjustment—but particularly December through March. The adjustment requires me to decide to believe: “This messy moment is just the beginning of something wonderful.”

The “something wonderful is the gift of a new day, full of ancient beauty and grace, and the breaking forth of nature’s newness.

Of course, the barking and leaping of the dogs, the racing rabbits, scattering birds, and opening sky all help. But I must make that decision to adjust.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 1:1-8, and it starts out with the words: “The beginning of the good news.” But, as you read the Gospel, you too must adjust. You will find little of what people would commonly think of as good, or even news. It begins with a crazy guy with crazy clothes, hollering in the wilderness. Then it’s the old, old story of a good man bringing healing and fresh perspectives into the world, and being misunderstood, feared, and hated for his efforts. The scribes want to kill Jesus. His mother and siblings want to hide him away as a madman. His closest friends are attracted and repulsed at the same time by his ideas. Everything he accomplishes seems to amount to complete failure; and in the end, even his God seems to reject his prayers and abandon him.

Does this help you put things into perspective when you hear the Dr. Fauci and election officials, who have given of themselves to get us through these difficult times, are receiving death threats?

The original ending of Mark has three women, confounded,  running away from Jesus’ tomb in fear and silence.

Can we really call Mark’s book  good news? Is this the Gospel?

“No,” Mark tells us, “It’s only the BEGINNING.”

In the meantime, in chapter 4 of Mark, Jesus will speak a parable about a sower tossing out seeds with reckless abandon. The sowing is messy. Some of the seed winds up on the beaten path, some among thorns and on rocks. All of these fail to take root, or are soon choked out; and they all die. But some seed lands on good soil, and the bursting out of new wonders of growth is beyond all expectation.

The sowing is just the beginning. Then it all depends on the soil. It all depends on the soil of God’s grace which gives us the power to adjust to the troubles of the beginning—the Sower gives us seed and soil. It is our job to run with it in expectation, hope, and trust.

One of the Oxford English Dictionary’s most important words of 2020 is “unprecedented.” Every day lately we hear that the deaths from Covid 19, the uprisings over systemic racism, the words and actions of our President are all indeed unprecedented. We are all anxious to put 2020 behind us.

But, what if these ugly days are the threshold of the Day of the Lord? What if they not only signal a New Age but actually prepare our minds and our spirits for the Advent of our new Ruler—an actual Savior who does not win the seat of power by way of the Electoral College, but by laying down his life for us all?

Today is just the beginning. O come, O come, Emmanuel!

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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