Altered on the Edge of Belonging.

 Here are some random thoughts on this Sunday's gospel. I'm using the resource Lent in a Box, which has the overall theme for Lent as Altered by the Spirit. For the first Sunday, we're focusing on Altered on the Edge of Belonging.


Gospel: Mark 1:9-15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Our overarching sermon theme will be Altered by the Spirit throughout the Sundays of Lent. For this particular Sunday, it is Altered on the Edge of Belonging. What does this mean? It means that we’re looking at what’s happening with people on the edges, outsiders, outliers. 

Rather than John the Baptist traveling from village to village, people had to come to him at the Jordan River. Among those people was our Lord. It is a trek from Nazareth to the Jordan River, and it is uncertain as to which portion of the Jordan John was situated in. Was it closer or farther from Galilee? 

Let’s see how the Holy Spirit showed its work in this passage. First, it came down from the torn-apart heavens, descending like a dove. Dove is the same word translated as pigeon in Greek. Hmm… not so sweet sounding, is it? Just as the people came from the Edge of Belonging, so did the Holy Spirit, coming down from the distant, wide-open heavens. 

Jesus received quite an “atta boy” from his Father. Oh, how nice and encouraging, until the Spirit “drove him” into the wilderness to be tempted. “Drove” is the same expression used to refer to Jesus driving out demons from people. Basically, the Spirit drop-kicked him out into the wilderness. 

We might wonder if Jesus was truly tempted, but unless he was, he would not be truly human. He certainly was. 

Where is John in the story? “In order for Jesus (or anyone, for that matter) to be baptized by John, he has to leave the boundaries of the city, safety, and comfort behind and enter the wilderness place” (Church Anew, Lent in a Box). It is most definitely not safe there!

The wilderness was Jesus’ proving ground, after which, he was ready to proceed with his preaching and healing. 

We may be the ones on the edge. Maybe it’s others at church. Perhaps those who are in no way related to the church. Could one of them be pointing a finger at the Savior, who is right there with them? Can He be seen by them and not us?

Open our eyes, Lord, to your presence in and around us, in friend and stranger alike. Use us to bring others to you now and always. Amen. 



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