notre dame montreal

Sermon preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

Second Sunday of Advent 2005

A Sense of Urgency

Each of the gospels has a distinct style and emphasis which gives us an insight into the gospel writer

For Mark, I get the sense that if mobile phones and SMS messages had been around at the time it had been written (generally though to be written my Mark as told to him by Peter around AD 65 – 70 in Rome) it would have been written using the cryptic style of SMS messages

It the shortest gospel and has the content outline that Joan covered last week

One of the words which occurs in it typifies it style. Mark makes repeated use of the phrase ‘immediately’ or sometimes translated as ‘at once’, Greek = eutheos

In Mark a sentence about Jesus going to Jerusalem would probably be: ‘Immediately Jesus went to Jerusalem’

Matthew, who we were studying last year, would probably have as the same sentence: ‘Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, knowing that the writers and the teachers of the law were in the Temple Courts, went to Jerusalem, a day’s walk away, to meet them’

Luke, who we study next year, would probably write: ‘Jesus went on his way to Jerusalem and on His way say a woman who was sick. Filled with compassion He stopped to help her, to heal her sickness and forgive her sins’

John would probably write: ‘Knowing it was His destiny to meet with the scribes and the Pharisees, on the third day Jesus went up to Jerusalem so that the scriptures could be fulfilled’

You get the sense that Matthew’s house would be very orderly with all the ornaments precisely set out on the mantelpiece with almost Hercule Poiroit-esque order

Luke’s house would probably be full of people all of the time, John’s full of candles and books, and Mark’s looking like a whirlwind had just hit it, post still on the table and Mark nowhere to be seen…

Mark just seems to focus on the immediate, the important and the urgent, sometimes not giving us the time to think or understand the background. He assumes we know it or can find it somewhere else

But he does give us a sense of urgency about the gospel message and the coming of the Messiah and what our response should be while He comes

What are the important and urgent things we need to think about in Advent?

Certainly it’s about Christmas and we need to remember that we need to get prepared for Christmas soon, sending the Christmas cards, buying the presents, making the Christmas cake and puddings, putting up the tree, spending hours on finding out why the lights don’t work when they did when you put them away last year…

Some of those things we need to do urgently, its getting late to send Christmas cards abroad, if we don’t do it soon it will be too late, 12 December the last date for Air Mail from the UK to the US this year…

But we need to remember too that the most important thing about Advent and Christmas is Christ Himself, the Messiah who became fully human and came to live among us

The Messiah who will come again so that we can live together with Him

In all the important things we need to do and in all the important things we need to remember at Christmas we need to remember Christ, the very meaning of Christmas itself. He is the reason we have Christmas, we celebrate His birth and what it meant for the world

But it’s also important at Christmas to remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves

Those who have less than us, those who are ill, those who are lonely, those who can’t get out, those who don’t get many Christmas cards and presents

Those who suffer and need our help and support if they are to begin to understand the meaning of God’s love coming in person and reaching out to the world at Christmas

At St Mark’s we are supporting Mildmay, a Christian charity which works in the UK and abroad with those who suffer from HIV/AIDS

Those, who in the words of Lord Carey if Clifton, need our compassion not our condemnation, those who Mildmay reach out to on our behalf as Sir Cliff Richard expresses it

At Putnoe we’re supporting a local children’s charity and are focusing our giving there

We are thankful of the gifts we have been given, physical, financial and spiritual, and in God’s economy we’re called to share those with others less fortunate than ourselves

Thank you for all your generosity to the work of God in this place and beyond

But the message of Mark is also important to us today because of its sense of urgency

There is a sense of urgency that we need to be preparing the way for Christ and His return, we need to be sharing the good news of Christmas with those around us who need to hear it, perhaps we need to hear it again and be reminded of the importance of Christ and Christmas in our lives

Perhaps too, we need to be reminded of the sense of urgency we should have as we reach out with God’s love and respond to the needs of others

There’s always a reason to put off giving of ourselves, our time, our talents and our money

Mark reminds us that some things in the Christian life are more urgent than others, some things are just too urgent to put off until after Christmas when we have a bit more time

Mark challenges us this Advent to look at our lives, our priorities and look at what are the really urgent and important things we need to do for Christmas

The Rev Dr Sam Cappleman