February 23, 2021
On this first Sunday of Lent our reading from Mark’s gospel is about a long and treacherous stint in the wilderness. Unlike his counterparts, Matthew and Luke, Mark offers his readers no colourful details about Jesus’s experience in the wilderness. We don’t learn what the specific temptations were, or how Jesus responded to them. Mark doesn’t even assure us that Jesus “passed” his desert test. All he gives us are two abrupt sentences: “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.”
I don’t know about you, but this terse version of events leaves me buzzing with questions. How exactly did Jesus spend his time? Was he tempted 24/7? Did he walk for miles each day, or camp out in one spot? Where did he sleep? What was the silence like, hour after hour after hour? Did he break it up by humming, laughing, or shouting? Did he star gaze? Play with birds? Chase lizards? As the days stretched on and on, did he fear for his life? Question his sanity? Wish to die?
Mark, given, as ever, to conciseness, leaves all of these questions unanswered. But the few details he does include in his account are telling, and they give us much to cling to as we face deserts in our own lives.
February 23, 2021
It has been said that Science teachers never tire of that moment when a student first looks into a microscope. What had seemed like nothing more than a speck of dirt, suddenly becomes something full of colour, patterns and interest. That student will never look at things the same way again; in that moment everything now has the potential to be more than it was.
This same thing happens elsewhere too. Telescopes have the ability to transform. Just think of the night sky when you look through it, it has the ability to turn it into a world of awe.
This morning we hear the story of Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark’s gospel. If you were to take those quite common experiences and move them up a few notches on the scale, this would certainly top the list. The transfiguration of Jesus describes an event in which the deepest significance of everyday reality and overwhelming confronted his disciples Peter, James and John.
February 14, 2021
In our reading from Mark’s gospel we find Jesus after a long day of preaching in the synagogue, healing a man who had been possessed by an unclean spirit and who knows what else. As the day comes to a close Jesus, with the disciples, head over to Simon Peter’s house for a warm meal and some time of rest. When they arrive Jesus is quickly directed to Simon’s mother-in-law who is deathly ill with a fever. We read that Jesus, “came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her and she began to serve.”
He lifted her up. Who do we lift up?
Or to look at it another way, when do we need lifting up?
February 5, 2021
In our reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus encounters a man with an unclean spirit. In ancient times, mental health issues were often identified with spiritual possession. Something was believed to “take over” a person’s psyche, imprisoning them by forces greater than themselves. While we cannot rule out spirit possession, we know that we are possessed by many things that need to be cast out. Virtually all of us have behaviors that we struggle with that are large and small.
We know often what’s best for us, but often also succumb to temptation. Like the man in the story, we need assistance from an energy and wisdom greater than our own.
In today’s reading, the unclean spirit is more perceptive than the synagogue audience or Jesus’ first followers. The unclean spirit clearly knows who Jesus is, and the nature of Jesus’ power. Was the unclean spirit recognizing Jesus as a threat or was there something in the spirit’s make up that was seeking healing and wholeness?