Friday, April 10, 2009

Lenten 3: The Suffering to Come

Mark 8:31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering...
The disciples were just beginning to grasp who this was that they were following. Peter had declared, "You are the Messiah!" But with that declaration came the full weight of what was to come. The Messiah was to suffer greatly... As our faith deepens and grows, we are faced with the complexity of the one we follow and the depth of suffering involved. How will we respond?

Mark 8: 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must... be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes...
Rejected... thrown out, discarded, discounted, perceived as useless. Those who rejected Jesus would eventually do more than just ignore him. How do we in our own lives reject Jesus in subtle and not so subtle ways? When do I perceive Jesus as useless in my own life? Are there times when I place Jesus on the curb? Or simply fail to see his presence?

Mark 8:31b ... the Son of Man must undergo great suffering... and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Three days... why was there a waiting period between Christ's death and resurrection? Thank goodness we had a warning. A reason not to give up all hope. Not that very many people remembered it at the time. What are the glimpses of hope God gives us? Clues to what will unfold? And how often do we lose sight of them in the midst of life's crises?

Mark 8:33b... "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
So, here are a few of my "human things." I don't think this verse should ever be taken to me that God does not care about our physical bodies or our material needs. It does, however, remind us that we can sometimes lose perspective when God does things that don't fit with our plans for this world. What are the "human things" that I am thinking of these days that I need to put aside?

Mark 8:34b "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Stop! You're going in the wrong direction! Jesus calls to the crowd and challenges them to follow him. Generally, I like to choose my own path... follow my own directions. I hate one way streets. They force you to go where you don't want to... and to be honest, the path that Jesus is calling his disciples to doesn't sound very appealing. Taking up crosses, denying self, losing life. Lent is a time to walk in the anxiety of the disciples... followers before the assurance of the resurrection. And to seek again the direction we are called to go.

Mark 8:35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake... will save it.
We have created a society that says it strives to save lives... Unfortunately, with all our technological advances, we seem to only save a portion of our world. Those with wealth and means, access to resources. Perhaps this is what Christ was speaking against when he called his followers... those who sought to save only their own lives.

Mark 8:36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
A graveyard in the shadow of the city... reminding us that now matter what we gain in this world it is temporary. Christ challenges us to live in the light of eternity rather than this world. A reordering of our perspectives...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lenten 2: Jesus Baptism and Wilderness Experience

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan...
I wonder what the Jordan River was like when Jesus was baptized? Namaan didn't think much of the Jordan when he was told to wash seven times in it to cure his leprosy... For some reason we assume the water must be clean... and yet it is not the water that cleans in baptism, but the Spirit of God which can make all things clean.

Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved: with you I am well pleased."
It is when I behold the beauty of creation that I most clearly hear God's voice saying to me that I am beloved... What a gift it is that God gave us such beauty!

Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
My nieces... beloved daughters of God.I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Jesus. The adopted son of Joseph, had he ever heard his father's voice before? Was this the first time his father had told him he was beloved? That he was pleased with the man he had grown up to be? I long for that audible voice from God myself at times... I know we are to walk by faith, not by sight or sound, and yet... Am I beloved by God? Christ's death and resurrection assure me of this. Is God well pleased? I suppose that is part of what Lent is about. Searching our hearts and asking if we are living a life that is pleasing to God.

Into the Wilderness....

Mark 1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
I must admit that I understand very little about angels. What I do know is that when we are in the wilderness, whether for forty days or forty years, God tends to us. The temptations are not removed. The anguish does not necessarily subside. Yet we are not left alone in our grieve or our trials.

Mark 1:14-15 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."
It's no wonder John had questions for Jesus (Matt. 11:7ff). Soon after realizing his cousin was the coming Messiah, he ends up in jail. His ministry has, in effect, come to an end. I wonder what John thought when, from behind bars, he heard "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near"? The kingdom is rarely what we expect it to be... and so we often miss the signs. During this season of Lent, my we have eyes to see the nearness of the kingdom among us.

Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
First John's proclamation... then Christ, himself. Now we too are to carry on the work of proclaiming the good news. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe.