Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lent 1B

Mark 1:9-15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And 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. 11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

The Church's year of grace has moved into the 40-day long season of Lent. "Lent" is an old word for springtime that refers to lengthening days and more daylight. The music tempo lento is a lengthening, slowing-down pace. Lent is one of the church's oldest observances that probably began not long after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, although throughout the centuries lent has had different lengths ranging from a few days to our current practice of forty days minus Sundays. As our worship folder cover indicates, Sundays are In Lent but not of Lent, since every Sunday is a festival of resurrection.

Like 7, 40 is a famous biblical number. Moses spent 40 days of Mount Sinai; Elijah spent 40 days on Mount Horeb. Israel trekked through the exodus desert for 40 years. Jesus 40 days of being tempted in the wilderness.

Lenten practices and observances emphasize repentance – thus colors of purple and lavender – and baptism. Just as with baptism, the turning around, repentance aspect of Lent is one of daily walking and living bathed in grace. Traditionally Lent has been a time of preparation for baptism that historically happened during the Easter Vigil; it's also a time for those of us already baptized to remember how in grace God claims us, names us Christian, calls us to witness and service, and in the power of the Spirit sends us into the world to be the gospel, to live as good news to everyone everywhere we venture.

Every lectionary year (A, B, and C) the first Sunday in Lent features Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. The reading for Mark's year includes the account of Jesus' baptism we studied a few weeks ago. You probably remember Matthew and Luke both specify the exact temptations Jesus underwent; Mark doesn't. It's striking how we move from Jesus' baptism in the wilderness alongside the Jordan River to the Holy Spirit Jesus received in his baptism catapulting him out into a deeper, denser, level of wilderness.

After talking about the scripture text, we discussed some of our particular Lenten practices for this year and what we've done in previous years. Consensus was we need to slow down, be very thoughtful and intentional. As Pastor Peg observed, Lent is a kind of spring cleaning, and if you rush through the process you'll relocate all the dust and clutter rather than get rid of it.

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