On this first day of Lent, our family woke up without our cell phones on our bedside tables. In collaboration with our 13-year-old, we agreed that in the hour or so between the arising of pets and his departure for school, we would not be sucked into social media, or email, or online news, or video games (him). A few exceptions were made for the adults – yes, the parish pastor in the house can be sure there were no texts or voicemails related to pastoral emergencies, and yes, I could check Facebook messenger for overnight messages from our daughter in Japan.
We have made some other commitments for this season of penitence and preparation, this study I have scheduled out through Easter Monday among them. There is one self-discipline I have not mentioned aloud to anyone in its particulars, which I guess means no one will know whether I “win” Lent or not. Whatever I’m not mentioning is a very small sacrifice in the larger picture of life, but a hard thing for me.
I’m pretty sure it’s not what Jesus had in mind at the end of this introductory portion of Mark’s gospel.
After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:14-15, CEB)
In just 15 verses, this earliest of the gospels has referred to Isaiah, introduced John the Baptist, and given us a thumbnail origin story for Jesus that includes his baptism, an announcement from God that only Jesus hears, and a mere two verses devoted to his 40 day sojourn in the wilderness, in which Satan, wild animals, and angels get equal time. Now Jesus is ready to get to work, and he is not holding anything back!
He 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 any exercises we can manage for up to 40 days, minus Sundays. That doesn’t mean I won’t do them … small, measurable changes can support a changed heart and a changed life.
But what gets us into this in the first place has to be bigger.
Holy One, when I am tempted to think that following you is only two verses or forty days worth of commitment, help me to hear your voice in a new way, to change my heart and my life, and trust this good news. Amen.
I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible. Tomorrow I’ll be reading Mark 1:16-28. Full schedule can be found here.