December 4, 2005 - Year B - Advent 2
1 • 1 This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you to prepare your way. 3 Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, level his paths.”
4 So John began to baptize in the desert; he preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins and be baptized by him in the river Jordan.
6 John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather garment around his waist. His food was locusts and honey. 7 He preached to the people saying, “After me comes one who is more powerful than I am; 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. As for me, I am not worthy to bend down and untie his sandals.”
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• 1.1 In verses 1 to 13, Mark gives us in three small tableaux three important insights about Jesus’ salvation. Vv. 1-7. John the Baptist announces the coming of the One sent by God: this Jesus about whom the Gospel will speak to us has been announced, prepared by all the great witnesses of the Old Testament. In him and by him God’s salvation will be accomplished.
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1. John was about the forgiveness of sins, a new start, a fresh relationship with GOD and others. His process included baptism. A question for us is how integral baptism is to forgiveness.
Does baptism, whether of repentance or some other quality, precede forgiveness or is it a sign of its presence? This is an interfaith question that helps to focus our thinking about and interpretation of our experience of forgiveness.
2. Jesus baptizes "in the Holy Spirit", as distinguished from "with water". Is this something beyond repentance? That is, does it require repentance or is it about something else and so repentance may or may not be present?
A part of our response comes in light of how we understand Advent. Where is the distinction or the bothness of yet awaiting and understanding it already accomplished? Our take on this influences the amount of emphasis and energy we place upon the issue of repentance and the subsequent ways in which we ritualize it.
3. As we ask questions about the process of salvation we will spend some time reflecting on whether it is 100% GOD's salvation work and what part we play in that through repentance or other responses to a Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit the process whereby GOD's salvation is accomplished, or, at least, lived out? Is the Holy Spirit unique to Jesus or present through a variety of traditions and new teachings?Again, questions of the limits of what we are waiting for and the avenues through which we will accept its presence, arise.
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