I’ve taken a lot of trips recently. In fact, some have even wondered if I still work here! And each journey has had its own unique qualities (and of course adventures)-- a quick visit to see my dad, a sad one to bury him, another for vacation: from the chills of Scotland to the balmy breezes of the Caribbean, all have involved preparation, good and difficult times, and a primary purpose.
So journeys have been on my mind a lot. And Journey has become a common image for the spiritual life, and particularly for Lent – our midweek suppers are themed around “Journey to Hope”-- so I was intrigued when studying this gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent to see the same kind of movement for Jesus that I’ve been experiencing in my recent journeys: preparation, good and difficult times, and a primary purpose. Jesus too was on a journey….
We find ourselves still in the first chapter of Mark, in fact, retracing our steps back several episodes. Will we ever find our way beyond chapter 1, you ask?
Do you remember this baptism text a few weeks ago? Remember your baptism, we said, and many of us wet our hands or heads or lips or hearts as an act of remembering where we’ve come from, remembering that we are claimed as child of God, and remembering we are named as Beloved of God.
Remembering that is important; it’s vital to get wet in the spiritual journey. I have just spent 9 days in an unexpectedly dry place, where there is no natural water on the island and rain is a necessity, not a nuisance, I also read A Long Walk for Water while I was there, so water has been on my mind, and as I read about Jesus’ baptism, and remember my own, I realize just how important getting wet is in the spiritual life, those deep nurturing spiritual moments, not just actual baptisms, for those are the moments that fuel the journey, that prepare us for God’s call on our lives—baptism, and lush, wet moments and seasons of life, are preparation for the journey.
They’re vital because every one of us knows there are also dry times. Jesus was no exception. He has no sooner had this awesome God experience than he finds himself in the desert, hungry, thirsty, and deeply tempted by a life lived apart from his call.
Dry and difficult times happen.
Mark tells us only he was tempted, and wild beasts were there: it’s a jungle out there……corporate life, wild beasts of anxiety, fear, temptation to power, cut corners, lie……
But angels came and ministered to him: I can almost categorically say (almost) that any time I have experienced dry, or tempted, or fearful wild beast times I have also known there are angels….maybe not recognized at the awful time, but there.
From Matthew and Luke we know one other way Jesus dealt with that thirst, that dryness, that temptation, those beasts….
He remembered. He may have remembered his baptism, but he also remembered all he’d learned as a child—he remembered his Bible….not some dusty scroll or book on a shelf, but deeply ingrained, memorized, and lived-out words from the holy writings. He held on to what he’d been taught.
Here’s a challenge for Lent. Memorize a text, one a week, and talk about it with each other, in family or small group or at work…start with one you already know and talk about how it has helped you.
It won’t happen without intentionality, any more than my recent journeys happen accidentally. You need to make it happen.
sometimes there’s an inbuilt temptation with the journey imagery – it can easily be used as an excuse: oh, I’m not very far along, or I’m resting on the journey right now, or I like where I am and don’t need to move on just at the moment. Then, before you know it, you’re in the wilderness and dried up like a prune.
So watch for that temptation, and remember that the key word in Mark’s gospel is “immediately”, and with urgency Jesus is propelled by his baptism into a time of temptation then propelled again out into a hurting world saying, NOW! Time’s up!
As then, so now. People are hurting, fearful, sick, hungry, thirsty, and messed up. It is a jungle out there. Light and LIFE need, to be unleashed on the world immediately. Now. Right now. Said one blogger on this text.
The Jesus journey, then and now is purposeful, like each of my recent travels. Being baptized, having an intentional spiritual life has a point…and it’s not just for our own feel good satisfaction but for doing God’s work! Now. Immediately.
God has a call on your life and mine, a purpose for each of us, and for all of us. At the very least we are ALL called to bring about the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. That’s what Jesus did…he kept moving, getting the message out that God is here, and God is involved, and the world can be different. LIFE, abundant rich soaking wet lush life is possible. God calls us to live it out! And invite others into it!
Maybe your call is into ordained ministry, maybe to do some pastoral care or visitation, perhaps to share the good news with children in SS and help them memorize stories and texts that will sustain them in their lives, or share your abundance at Covenantor at the Pines Learning Links tutoring programs, perhaps to offer refreshing water of care to someone who’s having a difficult time, or to show by your work ethic how you deal with life’s stress and temptations…perhaps it’s to invite someone out of the dead and dry places of life into what John called the holy reality you find nurtures you here….
What’s your life’s God-purpose?
Be assured, as you seek it and live it, that when we are Wet, we are beloved and called – prepared for the journey
When we are Dry, we are nurtured and fed – on the journey
Then we are Ready to keep growing and moving on, proclaiming and living out the good news that God is here right now, aching to be in relationship with us, actively seeking to help us, like Jesus, to shape the world back into its original God intent.
Wet or dry we must be ready.