Advent II Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Advent II • December 1, 2020
Isaiah 40:1-11 • Psalm 85:1-2. 8-13 • 2 Peter 3:8-15a • Mark 1:1-8

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel according to Mark was the first Gospel to be written,
moving from the oral tradition—stories told within the Christian
community about Jesus and his teachings—to the black-and-white
page. Interestingly, it was not written on scrolls, but in a new form
with a new technology: the “codex,” or ordinary book that we are
used to nowadays.
Mark apparently was not one of the Twelve Apostles, but a
younger disciple associated perhaps with Paul and certainly with
Peter. Some scholars speculate that Mark’s Gospel was narrated to
him by Peter himself before his martyrdom in Rome. Maybe so. In
any case, Mark’s Gospel was the basis for two other Gospels,
Matthew and Luke and was written roughly thirty years after Jesus’
death and resurrection in about the year 62 CE. There is general
agreement that it was written in the city of Rome and reflects the
stories and memories current in that community.
Mark is not, strictly speaking, a biography of Jesus. Indeed, a First
Century church official commented, “Mark indeed, who became
the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, as far as he remembered
them, the things said or done by the Lord, but not however in
Instead of being an orderly historical biography, Mark’s Gospel is
intended to support Christians in their chosen life together. It is
intended to show the church—Gentiles, or non-Jews,
mostly—how the power of the Good News that Jesus proclaimed

can help them in their daily life. As he says in his first sentence, it
is a telling of “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Mark’s Gospel is written in simple “street” language, not the
elegant, educated Greek of Luke and John. His approach is
straightforward and direct. Mark probably was not a Jew, insofar as
he misunderstands some Jewish customs that no Jew would
mistake. He is a Gentile Christian writing for other Gentile
Christians, encouraging his fellow Christians who are just emerging
from Nero’s persecutions but whose lives are uncertain.
Even though not a Jew, Mark and his early Christian community
knew the Hebrew scriptures, and he saw the prophecy in Isaiah
being fulfilled. John the baptizer was the “one crying in the
wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
Straightening things out was a matter of confessing one’s sins and
repenting, of turning around.
Alcoholics Anonymous holds eight meetings each week at Good
Shepherd. The essence of their method for achieving a spiritual
awakening is in the Twelve Steps, twelve simple practices that lead
to wholeness. The Fourth and Fifth Steps are to “Make a searching
and fearless inventory of ourselves” and then to “Admit to God,
ourselves, and another person the exact nature of our wrongs.”
I asked a friend about his “spiritual awakening.” He is a long-time
member of AA, and he said his spiritual awakening began with this
searching moral inventory—a catalog of all the wrongs he had
done to others. He avoided this as long as he could, and then was
appalled at the number and severity of the wrongs he had done to
others. As with John the baptizer, his transformation began with
confessing his sins. He woke up. And then his life began to
straighten out.

When our lives are straightened out, then Messiah can enter in
with power—a power much greater than any of us has on our
In this Advent season of preparation for the coming of Messiah,
we have the opportunity to look again at our lives, to take a
“searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” to heed
John’s call to confess our sins. What is at stake is the presence of
the Lord, the entrance of Messiah into the lives of the people
around us.