Thank you for joining me on this journey through Lent! Beginning today and continuing through Easter Sunday on April 4, I will be writing and sharing brief reflections on readings from the Gospel of Mark. I've made a reading list (see the link in the right sidebar) with daily "portions," as I tried to divide the book to fit the days of Lent (also ensuring that the "correct" readings fall on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter). I won't be going into great theological research, nor into full exegesis of every single element of every single text. Instead my intention---and for me, a realistic guideline of keeping up with a daily writing practice---is simply to respond thoughtfully and creatively to some part of the text. It could be an overarching theme, or it could be a single phrase or word that strikes a chord in me. It may be expressed as a poem, a prayer, a prose "devotional," or even just a series of bullet points or questions. Certainly, there will be MUCH that is left unsaid... but that is always true both of writing and of reflecting on scripture. Still, I hope these offerings will be helpful to you during this season, and will give you some encouragement, something to think about, and some sense of being a pilgrim along the journey toward Easter.
Today's reading: Mark 1:1-8
This may seem obvious, but for the first time I'm thinking about how the "preparation" of Lent is quite different from the "preparation" of Advent: bottom line, in Lent we are preparing for death. To be more accurate, I suppose, we are preparing for resurrection--"newness of life" quite literally. But it's very different from the newness of little babies born in mangers (or anywhere); before you can get to resurrection, you just have to do the death part. There's really no way around it--there's no rising from the grave without the grave.
I've always associated the coming of John the Baptist with Advent--the messenger crying in the wilderness was preparing the way for his younger cousin to come on the scene, to be born in the stable, and to come teaching and baptizing and forgiving and making his own disciples. To put John's calling in a Lenten context means we must also consider how the way is to be prepared for Jesus' solitude, for his agony, for his sacrifice, and for his return.
John did his preparatory work knowing full well what he was doing. He knew--and said--that One was coming after him who was more powerful than he. He knew--and said--that the work he was doing, baptizing people with water, was only a foretaste of Jesus' work of baptizing with the Holy Spirit. And John did all this knowing that the preparation itself was his calling.
I wonder how my "work" would change if I started thinking of it in terms of preparation? How important is it to know what I'm preparing for? Can I accept the possibility that I am simply called (even just for now) to the act of preparation?
Lent is a season of preparation--not for Baby Jesus' arrival, as in Advent--but for Christ's living and dying and living again. Perhaps Lent is also a season of preparation for all the work He does in us, as we live our everydays, encounter deaths, and anticipate living again alongside Him.
God, help me in this season to accept the call to preparation, even when I may never see a culmination of the effort. Give me clarity about what it is that I am preparing for. Grant me courage in the face of finality, when I'm forced to let things go. Keep the Easter hope alive in me; remind me always of your power over death.