Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mark 1:9-15 It started in the water. Lent 1B

Jesus baptism story is a story of intensity and drama; and if you're hungry for connection with God this story is for you.

Jesus came to the water for baptism along with all the sinners. He came to earth because we sinners need God; but he came to the water for something big to happen. When he was baptized by John heaven was torn apart and God extended his presence into our world and time.

We need God to break out of heaven and reach into our lives. Our selfishness and greed proves just how broken we are. There's only one in the whole universe who can ever put all the pieces of our broken lives together. Baptism is God's breaking in moment. This is know quiet moment. The cosmos is being shredded so that God can claim his adopted son or daughter in the water and blood of baptism.

We need God to break it. We need the one who made us and who offered a son's blood and life to make us whole. We need baptism just like every one who came to find John at the Jordan River needed baptism. We need to confess our sins and be washed in the water; washed in the blood of the lamb. We need to be made whole. Baptism is not a naming ceremony. Baptism is bigger. Baptism is a deep and primal connection with God who withholds nothing to save us. Baptism is bathing in the blood of Christ's death in order that we might rise with him to new life.

There's real drama in baptism. There's a real story here to tell that makes the announcement at the end so sweet to hear, "And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”" (Mark 1:11, NRSV) We love to hear the voice, but we forget the drama of the dying and rising in the water that go along with the announcement of our new identity.

Baptism means dying and rising.

I've met some families who really wrestle with baptism. One dad and I spoke about his son who's not baptized. His son's mother refuses to even consider it. She was never baptized and she won't hear of her son being baptized; but this dad knows full well that baptism matters. He knows in the very core of his being that his son needs to hear the word of grace that Jesus heard when he emerged up out of the water; and this dad knows that there's drama going on within a baptism that he can't deny just to placate his son's mother.

As a pastor here I've rarely turned down a chance for a baptism. There's a drama going on in church every time a child or adult comes for baptism. David Wells said it this way, "What happens at baptism is that God places a song in the new believers heart. And it is very easy for her, especially if she is around four months old, to forget the tune.” Holiness: Baptism (Mark 1:9-15) by David F. Wells Wells wisely reminds us that we need company with us to help us know the story. When we are separated from the church we lose sight of the drama of baptism. We need to know the story and to know that the drama has happened for us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'd like to share a poem I wrote for this week

Remembering I'm dust.

Halfway through the week,

in the middle of life,

its Ash Wednesday,

and we gather to remember we're dust.

In the middle of the church,

a pastor will dig his finger into the ash,

he'll put a mark on me,

remembering with me that I'm dust.

Easter is coming, hope is coming,

in the middle of my week,

in the midst of birth, death, and living

the ash on your forehead reminds me that you're dust too.

Jesus' Word reminds me,

the real treasure is not on earth but in Christ.

The ash proves I'm dust.

His Word says dust isn't necessarily my end.

Inspired by Walter Bruggeman's Marked by Ashes

thanks for sharing your thoughts on Ash Wednesday with me.



on a personal note. We've been blessed by the arrival of our 3rd daughter. Check out some of the details (a few pictures included) at Unlikely Banter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

He had to tell Mark 1:40-45

A hurting man came to Jesus. Everyone could see his disease. He was a leper. The broken skin and open sours proved it to everyone around. He came to Jesus in faith. He didn't ask Jesus if he was capable of healing. Instead he pleaded with Jesus in faith bowing down before him,

If you choose, you can make me clean
Jesus responded to the hurting man's faith with a touch and words of healing. Only someone with power could do and say what Jesus did. Pity alone wouldn't heal him. A human touch alone wouldn't set him free. He needed Jesus to choose to act on his behalf.
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
The next words from the story surprise us. Jesus told them man sternly not to tell anybody except the priest about being made clean. But the didn't stay silent; he told story. The story he told and the story others told about Jesus spread. People came searching for him. They knew that he had the power to renew all things.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Healer has Come. Mark 1:29-39

Jesus' ministry begins fast in Mark --
-- Baptism, temptation in the wilderness. In just a few days time he was inviting others to follow, having a confrontation with the daemonic and an exorcism right in the middle of the synagogue. All that in the first few days of Jesus' ministry. Today's reading is the next thing that happened after the exorcism. Right after leaving worship, Jesus went to Simon's house and healed his mother in law. And as fast as she was healed she got up serving Jesus and his friends as guests in her home.

The action happens fast, right in the first few paragraphs of the story. In the earliest days in ministry Jesus became known not for what he taught but for who he healed. God's creative and re-creative power were personally visible in Jesus.

Healing for Jesus was never just been a matter of good health care. Jesus met the Devil head to head and healed. The evil one works corrupting through sin, death, and disease. Jesus came restoring the broken and mending the fallen. First were the daemon possessed. Next was Peter's mother in law. Then came the leper and many others. The Kingdom of God quickly came near. Don Juel and Patrick Keifert observed that next in the story,

When the sun has set (and the Sabbath is past), people who are sick flock to Jesus—
confident that he can help (1:32-34). Their faith is rewarded. The story of the leper (1:40-45) provides a concrete and dramatic example of the same message: those who ask will receive. Jesus’ conversation with Peter (1:35-38) indicates that he is not simply a healer—or perhaps more accurately, that his healing is tied to a larger campaign that involves announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand; his mission cannot be reduced to healing. Jesus’ need to press on does not imply indifference to suffering, however. The stories of his encounters with the sick invite confidence—faith—and offer promises to those who ask. Word and World 1998
Jesus was searched out. People came with hope and faith. They came looking for him even when he sought out a quiet place to pray. The disciples told him that "Everyone is searching for you." Jesus responded to the needs of the people. He didn't send his friends to keep the crowd away. He chose to go find the people preach. 
38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:38-39 NRSV
Jesus was living with purpose. The kingdom of God was coming near and he was up on his feet ready to spread the story.


a few personal notes: I may not have time to keep up the lectionary commentary in the next few weeks for two good reasons.

First my beloved and I are awaiting our 3rd child's birth in the next couple of weeks. Things look very good.

Second is that I have decided to accept a new call as a pastor a little further west in Southern Minnesota's Prairie country. It all came together quickly. My wife and I both received solid offers me from a church and her from a clinic in the past few weeks. We are both very excited about the possibilities open for the two of us to serve in a new place.