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Will you step out of the water?

Lent 1, Common Lectionary Year B

Mark 1:9-14

©2018 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Luke is God’s beloved,
the delight of God’s life!
We have all been sprinkled with that same baptismal water
reminding us we are all God’s beloved,
and the delight of God’s life.
Our children have gone to KidZone
to step into this brilliant sunlit
voice of God’s delight a little longer.

Now, if only we youth and adults could end the story right there!
But Mark, man of few words,each one carefully chosen, uses
this word next: (euthys) ?????
Immediately.

Immediately after God has torn open,
not just peeped, but torn apart the heavens
to bridge the gap between spirit and flesh,
heaven and earth, eternity and time,
to speak and be heard,
laughing like a waterfall,
“This is my child, my beloved,
the delight of my life!”

Then BOOM! Immediately.
What…?
God’s dove-like Spirit now grows talons,
and compels this beloved one,
gives him no other choice, drives him,
out of the water into the wilderness
there to spend the fullness of time
in company with wild beasts,
with the tempter Satan,
and a few heavenly messengers.

It’s like the cloud that hides the sun.
Like the frost the grips flowing water.
Like the gut thumping devastating news,
personal, or global.
Euthys. Immediately.
Immediately.
One breath away from “delight” and “beloved” –
the wilderness.
The wild ness.

Surely no one in their right mind would step into baptismal water,
if euthys, immediately thereafter, we are compelled by God’s Spirit
to travel into the wildness, the wilderness?
What does it take to step out of the water?

Now let me interrupt myself to be clear;
I am not merely speaking spiritually here.

For those of us who can walk,
who can think and talk,
who can make choices,
like being a part of this thing called “faith community”
those of us who have stepped into the water,
this is real time talk.

Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday 2018.
A calendrical confluence of love with death.
Who knew how this day would take on such agonized flesh in Parkland, Florida?
Gunshot flesh,
hearts bleeding out,
last breaths taken in fear.
Young lives,
the delight of parents and of God,gone.

What power of God’s Spirit does it take
for us to step out of the water
into this wilderness?
Perhaps some of us will stay in the water,
saying this is not our fight;
what happens beyond a nation’s border
is not ours to address,
(and that would have been me until a mere 72 hours ago.)
But this is life and death we’re talking about;
the truly wild place,
where the Spirit of God is calling
Jesus and those who follow him
to speak up and act, not merely pray
for the innocent, and for life.

What power of God’s Spirit
will it take for those of us who need
to step out of the water
and into the wild places
of recovery – addiction, mental health, relationship recovery
of healing and forgiveness
of racial reconciliation
of recognizing the blindness of our own privilege and working to redress it.
What power of God’s Spirit does it take to enable those in times past and those of us here to step out of the baptismal water into the work for justice for refugees
– or Talibe children,
– or fair trade practises that lift women from poverty in the developing world
– or addressing food deserts globally and close to home?

What is clear to me,
is THAT we will be compelled by God’s Spirit,
to step out of the water into wildness.

How do I know that?
Look no further than the next few chapters of Mark’s Gospel.
Jesus was a political figure.
He was killed because he spoke truth to power.
Jesus was a healer.
He healed, fed, and taught people of the Dream of God,
no matter what the consequence,
his wilderness included being ostracized, criticized, attacked,
rejected by those who shared his religious heritage.
Jesus cast out entrenched demons that held
individuals and communities in a death like grip.
Jesus stepped into the wild places to hang with, to eat with, to listen to,
to share life and death alongside the social and cultural pariahs of his culture.

This water we stand in
is the birthing water of our own call
to follow in his sandaled, wet footsteps,
into the wild places where Satan tempts,
where fears roam like wild beasts.
We can be certain we will need all of
his courage, his vision, his faith
in order to step out of the water,
to match our steps to his.

But remember this too:
before he ever moved a foot,
the heavens were torn apart,
the voice of God rang out
like sparkling, laughing, rippling rain.
“You are my child, beloved!
The delight of my life!”

We all are!
Not by our might,
not by force of our own courage,
or acuity of our own vision,
shall we vanquish the demons of the wild places we step into,
but by the gracious grip of God,
tearing away the gap between heaven and earth,
to hold our hand tight, every step of the way.
So, if you hear God call you by your name,
will you step out of the water?

Sing I have called you by your name, you are mine…

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