Frederick Buechner Sermon Illustration: The Kingdom of God (Mark 1:1-15)

In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic.

Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. Here is this week's reading from the gospel of Mark:

Mark 1:1-15

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and Saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."

The following excerpt was first published in The Clown in the Belfry and later in Secrets in the Dark:

I always get the feeling as I read the opening verses of the Gospel of Mark that he is in a terrible rush, that he can't wait to reach the place where he feels the Gospel really begins. He says absolutely nothing about how Jesus was born. He gets through the baptism in no time flat. He barely mentions the temptation in the wilderness. And only then, after racing through those first fourteen verses, does he get where he seems to have been racing to—the real beginning as he sees it—and that is the opening words of Jesus himself. Up to that point it has all gone so fast that hardly anybody except John the Baptist knows who Jesus really is yet, just as it might be said that most of the time hardly any of us knows who Jesus really is yet either.