Homily: Our Journey with Jesus
Genesis 9:8-17 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:9-13
We have now entered the desert of Lent on a spiritual quest of our own. Lent often gets turned into a very domesticated kind of pious self-improvement; I give up something that most respectable people think is a good thing to give up, at least for a time — chocolate, beer, swearing, or something similar — drop a few pounds and maybe look a little more like what our culture thinks of as ‘good,’ and other than the purple on the altar Sunday mornings, hardly notice the difference. But if I want to experience this quest fully, I need to note for myself the ways in which the quest we’re on for these forty days is NOT tame or respectable. Jesus left his family and entered a desert with wild beasts and we are striving to follow him.
That sounds lonely as well as terrifying. How on earth could we do it? Why on earth would we do it? I think that this Sunday’s gospel provides a clue. Jesus enters that desert as a man who is discovering his Baptismal identity, taking it in fully and acting on what he hears from God in Baptism. Jesus has no family where he is — but in Baptism, God calls Jesus his beloved son, and Jesus hears God say, “with you I am well pleased.”
That means that Jesus has a family. His family by blood is going to come after him to drag him home as a crazy man who’s bringing shaming the family name, but in Baptism, Jesus has mother and sisters and brothers in whoever does God’s will. Jesus is leaving house and tools, but he will find shelter with others seeking God and God’s reign. Jesus is not alone on his journey, and neither are we.
We have one another, and we also have something else on our journey — the opportunity to encounter God as Jesus did, to take in deeply God’s word to us that we are God’s beloved children, to claim that identity as the central one or maybe even the only one we have.
I don’t think that Jesus spent his life after his Baptism trying to figure out what a good person, a good teacher, a good friend, a good leader would say or do and then trying to say or do that. I believe that Jesus sought the living God, claimed his identity as God’s child, and let his life, his words, his relationships, and his love, even to giving of himself on the cross, flow from that identity as God’s beloved.
Perhaps that’s what God is calling you and me to do this Lenten season: to follow Jesus into that desert to listen deeply for what God has to say to me through my Baptism. And if that’s God’s call, those wild beasts won’t destroy anything worth keeping. As Mr. Beaver said of Aslan, in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia ‘he isn’t tame, but he’s good,’ and I believe that’s true of God as well. I want to be alive in the spirit, as Jesus was, and that’s a good enough reason to follow Jesus. If God is there, I won’t be alone.
And besides, you’re coming too, aren’t you? © Sarah’s Blog; Sarah Dylan Breuer Cambridge, MA