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Mark 1:1-8

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

“It is Time to Change”

I want to start with a funny story: I heard about this couple who moved to a new neighborhood. One morning, while they were having breakfast, the wife looked out the window and noticed that their neighbor was washing their clothes. The wife said to her husband, “I think they do not know how to wash. The clothes they washed are so dirty. I am sure they didn’t use detergent.  Week after week, it was the same. She looked out the window, saw the clothes, and made the same comments about how dirty their laundry was. One morning she looked out the windows in the same way. She was surprised that their clothes were so clean. She said to her husband, “Honey! Look at them. Finally, they learned how to wash. Her husband smiled and said to her, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

Hearing about this couple, you may remember Jesus saying, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). I think it is not only for their story but for all of us in some ways. Each of us has a window we look through to see the world, see people, and see things. However, sometimes we do not notice what we look at things through. The window is perhaps our mindset. Our mindset is formed unconsciously during our life by our experiences, both directly and indirectly, and perhaps we think of our mindset as the right rule like the window. The window might be the principle of our lives, which is formed by what we have learned and by our experiences. No doubt that the principle must be great when you first made it. But, my point is that it is time to clean your window again, or maybe it is time to change it.

I learned about a man who changed his own window and asked others to change it. His name is Mark, who is the author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark was not one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. But, he became an author of the Gospel of Mark, which is written at first in the New Testament. Mark was there when Jesus was arrested. You may find his story in the Gospel of Mark. Mark wrote about himself as an unnamed young man: “A certain young man was following him [Jesus], wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked” (Mark 14:51). Imagine that he went to sleep early that night and heard an unusual noise outside. He woke up about midnight because of this noise and went outside wondering what was happening.  He wasn’t wearing normal clothes. The linen cloth he wore was like a bedsheet. He went out wearing a bed sheet because he was in a hurry to see what was going on out there. At the moment, when he followed the crowd, he saw that Jesus was arrested and that all disciples deserted Jesus and fled (Mark 14:50). Finally, he also ran away as naked.

Mark was a person who looked things over through his window curiously. He lived in the place Jesus offered to his disciples at the Last Supper and the First Communion, and where the Pentecost event happened. We know it was the upper room of Mark. That was his house. Mark looked over all things that happened around Jesus through the window and was never involved in it. However, he joined in the first missionary trip of the Apostle Paul as his helper (Acts 13:5). It took such a long for him to change his window. He changed his whole life from the person who used to look over the world through his own window to the person who joined in the new world. He changed his window to be Jesus. He started seeing the world through Jesus. His confession about what he saw through the new window is the Gospel of Mark.

He saw first through the new window that the good news is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Even though it was written in the Prophet Isaiah a long time ago, he found it much later than five hundred years. He proclaimed the good news for all the people, especially for the poor, the weak, the powerless, the oppressed, and the sick that Jesus Christ came to the world as a human being to serve all the people and save all the people from their sins. He says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He asks the people to see what he saw through his window, Jesus Christ. He says that Jesus Christ coming to us is the beginning of the good news. And he gives us the evidence of it in the Prophet Isaiah’s letter: “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 his paths straight.”  And he introduced  John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist was a person who had the new window from birth. He was very different from Mark. That’s why Mark introduces John the Baptist as the evidence that Jesus Christ is the good news. John the Baptist could see the people and the world through the new window and waited for Jesus. He knew that it is time to change all people’s mindsets. He came from the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus Christ and proclaimed a baptism of repentance to forgive sins (Mark 1:3-4). At that time, nobody knew about baptism. John the Baptist was the first person who performed the baptism. He taught people that baptism is the way to prepare for receiving Jesus Christ as the Savior and the Lord. Nobody thought that the Messiah that God promised came to the world as a baby even though it is written in the Old Testament. The people saw through their windows that the Messiah would come as the King of the world. Jesus Christ indeed came as the King of the kings. But, he came to serve all people, not be served by the people. Many people could not notice that Jesus Christ was the Messiah God promised because they had their own windows. Some still do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior.

Well, you may say, “Pastor Jenny, I received baptism already. So do you think I am ready for the coming of Jesus Christ?” I may say, “Yes and No.” The baptism you received already is only to initiate the unity of the body of Christ, and you have to grow in faith. John the Baptist says, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1: 8). As we learned that one baptism by water is enough in our lifelong, but the baptism by the Holy Spirit is good as much as we can receive. The Holy Spirit is the Living Spirit, who is moving on. So, I may say, it is time to prepare for the Holy Spirit by renewing our minds, hearts, and souls. And, it is time to change our mindset or renew it.

We are experiencing many changes in our lives, especially due to the COVI-19 pandemic. The biggest change is perhaps our virtual worship service. I never thought we could have worship service virtually. In Korean culture, worship service should include having mealtime together in the fellowship. So, mostly on Sunday, Korean Christians spend their time with church members in the church. Koreans build up a good relationship by having meals together. However, the pandemic blocks building good relationships if we see it through the common Koreans’ windows. However, Koreans changed their windows as IT (Information Technology) is a tool for building a good relationship with people and God. How could it have happened? I do not understand it well. But they showed us to block the pandemic with IT. For them, the virtual service is, perhaps, going to be a normal rite. It is not only the Koreans’ story. We also have Zoom services, drive-in services, and virtual services, even services at home and by phone or by computer. We have already changed our mindset in some ways. Do not close your windows. Let us open our windows widely and see the world. Who knows, Jesus comes through the people around us. The way we change our mindset is to open our minds, our hearts, and doors. Remember, for God is the Spirit, we can worship God everywhere and in different ways.

Let us open our minds and hearts and doors to see Jesus Christ, who comes as the King of Peace. Remember, we are the children of God. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). As Jesus died on the cross, he destroyed all dividing walls to reconcile with God and with one another: “For he [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14). The peacemakers would be the people who open their windows for others. Do not close the windows again, which Jesus opened. Let us wait for the coming Jesus with peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.