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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Focus: A Fast Start to Lent

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."  Mark 1: 9-15

There are times when scripture seems to run on and on to make a single point. This week’s gospel is not one of those times. It is rapid fire, brief and to the point. A preview of Christ’s public ministry is condensed into a single line: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news. Every phrase, every word packs a powerful message.

Repent is the operative word for this First Sunday in Lent. Repent does not mean a burlesque of breast-beating and lamentation. It literally means to re-think; to put some quiet time aside; to stop; to interrupt our routines; to re-assess and adjust our priorities and our behavior. Jesus understands our natures. He knows we are a bundle of reflexes and instincts. He knows that we constantly need to reorder our lives to bring them in line with God’s plan for us. He knows we must constantly repent to get ourselves right with God. That’s why we have Lent.

From the time of Abraham, the chosen people had waited for the kingdom of God. They weren’t entirely sure what that meant; but they knew God had something big in store for them. Then Jesus comes along and tells them that their time of waiting is at an end. He is the Messiah – the Promised One of God. Doubtless, he is not what they expected. But God knew better. The kingdom he promised was not meant for us to lord it over our neighbors. It was meant for us to love them.

That the kingdom was and is near has sparked two millennia of speculation; little of it very productive. I find it more useful to frame the concept of near in terms of spiritual and psychic proximity rather than as a fixed position on a man-made timeline. In Christ we have Emmanuel – God with us, not just while he walked the earth, but as he promised – with us to the ending of the world. In Christ, God is not remote, not unapproachable. He is a palpable presence in our lives. He is near.

The mystery of the Trinity also begins to take shape in these brief lines from Mark. Later in Acts and in the Epistles, the Spirit will come to the fore. But here, we are only briefly introduced to the Spirit, urging Jesus into the desert to be tempered by solitude, sacrifice and temptation for forty days. All of which brings us quickly back to this fast start of Lent. These are precious days. Let’s not waste them. Repent. But also rejoice. For forty days let’s live his kingdom. Share his love. Spread his good news. It’s Lent and Jesus is near.


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