Friday, April 07, 2006

Journey to the margins - part 1

Tomorrow night I'm taking a church group on a city walk for the first time, looking at Jesus' journey to the margins, in the first eight chapters of Mark's gospel, and how these scriptures connect with what's going on in in the city.

This walk usually starts on the front steps of the church, in Collins Street, one of the most expensive streets in Melbourne. We start off by talking about stuff like

what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste in the city.
what we like about the place and what we don't like about it.
why people come to the city.
what is life giving in the city, and what denies life.
where God might be in the city.

We move into the church sanctuary to read Mark's prologue, which is about John the Baptist:
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 just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
(Mark 1:1-11)
We look at this scripture in the church sanctuary because it's a Baptist church, and John is called a baptist, so it sounds a bit like the sort of place you might find John. But Mark tells us that John was found in a pretty different place. Rather than being found in a clean, safe, important place like Collins Street, people had to travel out into the desert to find John. When they did find him he wasn't dressed in a nice suit, but a coat made of camel's hair.

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