On the first Sunday of Lent, Pastor Lewis reached out for something she expected to find on her bedside table, but it wasn’t there. Waking more fully, she reminded herself that her family had made a commitment for the season together. All their phones were plugged in to a charging station in the kitchen, the key to a mutual promise to hold off on checking email, responding to messages, or getting sucked down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos in the hour or two between arising and leaving for work, school, or in this case, church. This was the fourth day of their practice, and despite forgetting overnight she could already measure the ways they were making space and time holy together.
Mark's Gospel devotes three verses to Jesus’ baptism and a mere two for the story of Jesus’ forty-day sojourn in the wilderness, in which Satan, wild animals, and angels get equal time. Blink, or check Facebook, and you might miss the whole story. By verse 15 of the Gospel, Jesus’ work has begun: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (CEB).
Jesus is talking about himself. He is God, and God’s kingdom is walking into our midst in his person.
“Change your hearts and lives” has to mean more than a fast we can manage for up to forty days, minus Sundays; but it is a start. What is getting in the way of your relationship with God? Is it something from which you can choose to fast, beginning today? Small, measurable steps will support a changed heart and a changed life.
Holy One, when we are tempted to think that following you is only two verses’ or forty days’ worth of commitment, help us to hear your voice in a new way, to change our hearts and lives, and to trust this good news. Amen.
The season of Lent is now upon us, a time of inward examination that begins on Ash Wednesday. We search ourselves and ask God to search us, so that we can follow God more completely. This examination, however, can become a cause for despair if we do not approach it with God’s everlasting mercy and faithfulness in mind. Although the Flood was a result of judgment, God also saved the faithful and established a covenant with them. The psalmist seeks to learn God’s ways, all the while realizing that he has fallen short and must rely on God’s grace. For Christians, baptism functions as a symbol of salvation and a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness—not because the water is holy but because God is holy and merciful.
Read Genesis 9:8-17. When have you, after a season of loss, experienced new life? What was the sign of that new life?
Read Psalm 25:1-10. How are you experiencing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness in your life? How do you offer thanks?
Read 1 Peter 3:18-22. When have you sacrificed something for the sake of someone else?
Read Mark 1:9-15. Recall a “wilderness” experience in your own life. What helped you to move through that experience? What were the spiritual gifts of that experience?
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