Message for Canyon Meadows 2018 02 08
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.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tested by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Our reading from Mark puts three stories into one story: Baptism, wilderness and beginning of his ministry: What connects them? The Spirit descends on him, drives him into the wilderness, and then, after the arrest of John, he starts preaching, inspired by the Spirit. Mark uses this passage to bring Jesus into his story, include him in the community following John the Baptizer, claims his relationship with God, presents the time of testing as validation of his ministry, and spells out the core of his ministry. How do we fit into this story?
We are the beloved children of God. When we have an experience of God’s love, many of us are driven to test our belief that God truly loves us and that we are worthy of God’s love. We spend time seeking a way to choose a way to serve, to test that love and our worthiness, and then we serve when the time is right. Sometimes the time span is weeks or months or years, and sometimes the time span is seconds or minutes.
John Newton, the captain of a slave-hauling ship, looks into the eyes of a black woman, sees her humanness and feels the Spirit descending on him, and he is converted. It takes a while but he becomes a supporter of the abolition of the slave trade and an evangelical Anglican minister.
Mark’s story also presents Jesus as one whose life retells part of the story of the people of Israel. His baptism represents the crossing of the sea; his 40 days represent the 40 years in the wilderness, his time with the beasts represent the hazards of starvation, thirst, poisonous snakes and so on, and the ministry of angels includes the manna and quail, the water from the rock, and the brass serpent on a pole used to heal those bitten by the snakes.
This is part of what I get from this reading. What does it mean to you? Time for discussion.
I will now finish referring to what he is supposed to have said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Repent means to turn away or turn around, to stop going in a direction away from the kingdom. The good news is that God loves each and every one of us. Believing that helps us experience life now in the kingdom of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.