Calling Leads to Resistance Leads to Commitment

become change written on fingers
Photo credit: <a href="">Abe Novy</a>

Mark 1:9-15

That was when Jesus came. He arrived from Nazareth and John dunked him in the Jordan River. As he emerged from the water he saw the universe as it really is, and he felt it resonate to his core: that he was God’s precious child, and God was joy.

But as soon as this had happened, the vision cast Jesus into a desert of uncertainty, where for 40 days he wrestled with the Resistance, where he came face to face with fear, and still the divine vision endured. Then, when John was arrested, Jesus returned to Galilee where he started working toward the goal. “It starts now,” he said. “The goal is close. Turn your life around! It’s going to be awesome.”

[See previous comments on:

  1. 1:9-11, Baptism Redefined
  2. 1:12-15, Getting Started
  3. 1:4-11, You’ll Know it When it Happens
  4. 1:14-20, Who Are Your Fans?]

In the context of the first Sunday in Lent, the first two of the comments above will be the most immediately relevant, and especially the second. Also, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art
ought to be required reading for sermon preparation this Sunday. If you want an abbreviated version, read Pressfield’s own Cliffs Notes version: Do the Work.

This passage begins with the moment Jesus knows clearly who he is and what he is called to do. Immediately, he is also confronted with every reason why he should forget everything he knows and just go back to being an ordinary guy from nowheresville. These two experiences go hand in hand. It’s the human condition that you never know one without the other. Jesus was no exception. You and I are no exception. Your little church (or your big church) is no exception. The moment you know most clearly who you are and what God/the world/your soul requires of you is the moment when you will encounter the Resistance to doing it. It’s this simultaneous knowing and resisting the move from knowing to being which introduces the theme for Year B Lent.

For Jesus, the entire ministry – everything from here to the cross – is born (and borne) out of this tension between Vocation and Resistance. Against the Resistance, may your Lenten journey be one in which the divine vision endures. Turn your life around. It’s going to be awesome!

Jesus Will Set You on Fire

on fire
Photo credit: Eva Garmendia

Mark 1:1-8

It all started with Jesus, the child of God.

Isaiah the truth-teller wrote:

Watch! I’m sending it out on the early warning system so you will be ready –
A clear signal breaking through the noise:

“Get the road home ready.
Straighten up!”

So John showed up in the middle of nowhere, dunking people in a river telling people to straighten up because it’s time to break free. People came from everywhere, even from Washington DC, to renounce their misdeeds and get cleaned up in the river.

John dressed in ratty coveralls and leather suspenders. He kept to a strict vegan diet. And his message: “Get ready for someone so cool I’m unworthy to even tie his shoes! I just got you wet. He’ll set your life on fire!”

(See also, previous comments on this passage, October 6, 2011.)

The clear sign of Jesus being in the house is when people’s lives catch on fire. Not the kind of fire that gets people all hyped up for an hour on Sunday morning and then they can go back to whatever they were doing before. Not the flash-in-the-pan kind of fire, like your Uncle Max who always has a new thing that he’s really excited about, and everybody knows that nothing’s ever going to come of it.

When your life is on fire the way Jesus sets it on fire is when your inspired to do something great and stick with it for the long haul. Something that really will change people’s lives. Maybe even change the world. It could just as easily be teaching kindergartners at the school down the street as it could be digging wells somewhere in Africa. It could be feeding people dinner every night as easily as launching the next iPad. It could be getting on a bus to Washington for a demonstration, or it could be running for town board at home.

Like John, you show up. Maybe in the middle of nowhere. And you start helping people put their lives back together, or maybe build them for the first time. Wherever they come from. Whatever their patchy past may have been. Whatever your patchy past may have been.

And when that happens. It’s really cool.