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11.22.20 Turn Right at the Corner Isaiah 40 with Mark 1 Sermon Summary

by on November 23, 2020

Shortly after the new corona virus arrived we were told relief was “just around the corner.” “Just stay at home,” we were told. “The summer sun will make it disappear,” we were told. “Everyone wear a mask,” we’re told. These provided some relief but not deliverance. This week we might actually see the corner! There are at least two promising vaccines “just around the corner.”

The Bible also talks about rounding a corner.

Isaiah was writing at such a turning point. Ancient Israel had been exiled to Babylon for 70 years and were on the threshold of returning home. He speaks of a voice in the wilderness crying, “Prepare the way of the LORD!” Mark picks up this image and applies it to John the Baptist. John’s is the voice from Isaiah.

Isaiah begins with words of comfort. This is the same word as Jesus used in the Sermon on Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Why do we need comfort? Because we mourn so many losses. Isaiah’s audience had lost their homes, their homeland, and their religious base. 

We have lost jobs, schooling, and our mobility. Some of us have lost our health. Some have even lost their lives. 

As he watched the turning point get closer, nearing the corner, Isaiah used visual aids to assure the people of God. The mountains of debt will be made low. The valleys of anxiety will be raised up. And the rough places of strained relationships will be made smooth. 

Finally, Isaiah envisioned a shepherd king tending his flock, gathering the lambs, carrying us close to the divine heart, and preparing a table before us. Mark again picks up this image from Isaiah and applies it to Jesus. It is Jesus who brings us near to God and feeds us in the wilderness. 

Isaiah says, “Prepare your bags!” John says, “Repent and be baptized.” And John says one more thing: One is coming, THE One is coming—our comfort, our deliverer, the LORD. The corner of our comfort has arrived.

Jesus came to John and was baptized. After John is imprisoned, Jesus begins his preaching. His message? Very similar to John’s: “The time is now. The Kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe.”

What shall we do at this corner? At the intersection of this world and the Kingdom? At the crossroads of our sinful lives and God’s righteousness? Isaiah says prepare for it. John says it is coming soon. Jesus says, “It is here; repent and believe.”

Repent means “to turn.” It means to turn from one way to another, from one destination to another, from the ways of the world to the ways of the Kingdom. It is to turn from paths of power, control, riches to path of love. To turn from sinfulness to righteousness. To turn to the right. 

At the corner, turn right. That corner is Jesus. This is the good news of Jesus. The time is now, the kingdom has come, it’s time to repent and believe. 

But Mark says this is only “the beginning” of the good news of Jesus. The good news includes Jesus’ example, his teaching, his suffering and death, and his resurrection and promised return. “Resurrection and promised return.” The kingdom has come and yet its fullness is still coming. The corner has arrived but it takes time to round it.

In Jesus’ resurrection and promised return we are assured that life follows death, that dawn follows night, that healing follows brokenness, and that singing follows silence. There is no darker night than death. There is no greater brokenness than death. There is no more profound silence than death.

But the good news of Jesus is that God has overcome death. Christ’s resurrection promises the dawning of a new day, the healing of old wounds, and the singing of new songs. 

We begin Advent today. It is a season of remembrance, of remembering Jesus’ first coming and remembering Jesus’ promised return. And the Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus is present even now.

So let us believe in the light even when it is dark. Let us believe in God’s strength even when we are weak. Let us believe in harmony even when there is dissonance all around.

And when you come to the corner of the Lord’s Table, turn right, and believe in God’s presence even when God feels distant. Amen.

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