We Hold These Things Together

Each week, we look at one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday. This week for the first Sunday of Lent, we're going to look at the Gospel Passage: Mark 1:9-15.

In my mind, Lent is this slow and quiet time of reflection. It's the liturgical equivalent of a Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens song: emotional nakedness backed by a plaintively plucking banjo. After all, this is a forty day buildup to Easter. It's a marathon and not a sprint.

Then I read this passage and I get whiplash. Seven verses. Three major events: Jesus' baptism, his temptation in the wilderness, and the beginning of his ministry. Each is something on which we could reflect and discuss by itself. But the lectionary crams all of these together.

Our guide through the gospels this year is Mark and Mark does not do slow and reflective. Mark's favorite word is "immediately" (it appears twice in just this passage). There is an urgency to the entire story. It hurtles forward pregnant with purpose and momentum. Future weeks may adjust my view, but Mark's Lent is the liturgical equivalent of an Arcade Fire song: frenetic, an equal mixture of world-weariness and hope.

I read these passages and I have to hold together these seemingly disparate threads. We start with the joy of Jesus' baptism. He hears that he is the Beloved and that he brings God great pleasure.

And then he is immediately driven into the wilderness to be tested, to feel hunger, and to feel God's absence. He goes from hearing God's voice to being thrust into a place where he likely could have wondered if he was making the whole thing up.

Then he comes out of the wilderness. Things are not much better. John has been arrested. Yet Jesus preaches and it is a message of hope: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news."

It makes my head spin, but I feel like those are the elements that we often have to hold together as we follow Jesus. Though there is an ebb and flow to the elements, we constantly feel the joy of our salvation, the wrestling in the wilderness, and the hope of God's salvation. It is our past, our present, and our future all here, but somehow not quite yet.

In this passage, we see Jesus running through the peaks, valleys, and plains that make up our lives. In Lent and in life, we will experience these moments. We hold them together in tension. We will rejoice in God's love, we will struggle with feeling lost, we will sing, we will repent, we will point towards the kingdom of God.

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The Water and the Dust (Found and Lost)

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