Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reflections - Baptism, Temptation, and Beginnings

The time of Lent has arrived! We welcome in the beginning of this church season with Ash Wednesday. It is a time when we are called as followers of Christ to repent, spend time examining our lives, and thinking about our relationships with God.
Our Scripture this week is from Mark - which I admit is my favorite. It seems to me that there is an urgency in the way Mark tells the stories of Jesus. Remember that there are many versions of the same stories throughout the four Gospels. The same stories told by different authors intended for different audiences.
Mark jumps right in telling the story of Jesus - skipping the birth narrative and starting with the story of Jesus’ baptism. And the story is told with very few words.
John was baptizing in the Jordan river and Jesus came from Nazareth to the river and John baptized him. After the baptism, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove and a voice from above said: “You are my son, I love you and you make me very happy,”
That’s it—that’s the way Mark tells it.
The next part of the story is also important for us to hear during the first week of Lent.
Mark reports that after the baptism—right away the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert wilderness and that Jesus was there for forty days.
(How my other stories from the Bible you recall that involve the number 40? Noah was on the ark for forty days. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. And there is more...)
For Jesus in the desert - this wasn’t like a vacation or a camping trip. Jesus had no food and there wasn't a Sheetz just around the corner. The versions of this story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell about the devil tempting Jesus three times and how Jesus answered the Devil.
But in Mark’s scripture, it just says that Satan tempted Jesus. That’s it.
Wild animals lived in this wilderness and Jesus lived among them. Mark also says that the angels took care of Jesus.
It’s as if Mark is in a hurry to get to the parts about what Jesus taught and did.
But first, Mark wants us to know that Jesus was ready to do this. Jesus went through all these things— his baptism and the time alone in the wilderness. Jesus was blessed by God at his baptism and watched over by God’ angels in the wilderness. After this, Jesus began the work that God sent him to do.
During Lent God is calling us to do what Jesus did during his forty days in the desert. Pray, Listen to God, and prepare ourselves for what is next in our lives.
People from different religious traditions often think of something to give up during Lent - something they want to challenge themselves to sacrifice. Other people take on new things, do things for others, start a new adventure, or create a new habit.
What kinds of things can you do this Lent to help you refocus your hearts with God?

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