A moment in the spotlight
The Reverend Michele H. Morgan
Lent 1 2021
Feb. 21, 2021
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 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.”
So if you are a preacher your reaction to this week’s gospel is this, “Jesus Baptism….AGAIN.” My goodness I feel like I have preached on this over and over again this year. Though my sense of time is off, this pandemic time is so difficult to track. I have spent some of the longest days of my life these past 345 days since we closed the physical building of St. Mark’s. Yet the weeks seem to have flown by.
Except now the last six weeks, which have slowed down to a crawl. I can identify at least a couple of reasons why, first it was watching the vaccine roll out, I think that hope took over my life. It felt like all of this was done, long before it is. We are not all vaccinated, we will not be for a while so that burst of hope has just about killed me, and made me feel even more human. It is a good reminder that it is not about me and our gospel today has Mark’s version of
- Jesus getting baptised
- The clouds split open
- The VOICE saying this is my son the BELOVED
- The Spirit DRIVING him out to the wilderness.
- Jesus does not have any time or space to bask in the limelight, he is driven to the lonely place
- Have you ever seen the play Dream girls, Michael Bennet does a heartbreaking thing to the character Effie.
- (“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going“), the heartbroken Effie is left behind as Deena Jones and the Dreams forge ahead without her (“Love Love Me Baby”).
If I was Jesus I would be ticked, I would have liked a moment or two in the spotlight and instead he is out in the wilderness, Jesus needed to go off and do his inner work off into the wilderness. That is what he had to do. It is why we observe a Holy Lent, so that we can name the wilderness we might already be in, or that we need to acknowledge and go towards it.
I did not miss reminding you all of your mortality, it seems we all are well aware of it right now, ashes are not necessary while we are all/or should be wearing masks. I did ask people at the Ash wednesday service to consider these questions, 1. Is there a daily action/behavior that you might take on during Lent that would help you affirm God’s life-giving power over death? 2. Is there a daily action/ behavior that you want to let go of during Lent in order to embrace God’s promise of new life.
It has been a long 11 months and it has also been a huge time of learning, and it feels like we will be in a place of mopping up a lot of grief, a lot of damage and finding a lot of new ways forward. So even though I am finding it a difficult time it is not about me. Walter Brueggemann’s, a theologian I like a lot spent some of his time writing a book: Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Anxiety
The hope that Jeremiah the prophet still holds, the anticipation of the return to festivals and dancing, is not a return to the old order but to a new order of God’s good intention. Less God’s punishment and re-establishment and more God’s disappointment and redirection. Our work in the penultimate, (not the last the second last) may be to notice what new things are coming into life, not as temporary alternatives but new beginnings.
We will regather after Easter, and it will be different, there will be a new beginning and we have to wait for it, our work continues as we continue, CONTINUE to be a community. We will gather and it will be a slower start to a community gathered. Yet our work continues. Bruggerman would tell us that, “The work of ministry is to render the virus as penultimate, to see that even its lethal force is outflanked by the goodness of God.”
May it be so, AMEN.