Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 1:9-15, David Ewart, 2012.
Gracious God, every true to your covenant, whose loving hand sheltered Noah and the chosen few while the waters of the great flood cleansed and renewed a fallen world, may we, sanctified through the saving waters of baptism and clothed in the shining garments of immortality be touched again by our call to conversion and give our lives anew to the challenge of your reign.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 1:9-15
We move quickly from the image of Jesus resplendent in light at the moment of transfiguration in Mark's Gospel, Chapter 9, to his baptism and the immediate work of preaching the Gospel in Chapter 1. This is the first Sunday in Lent and we are reminded as we make our way from Ash Wednesday that we are utterly dependant upon the grace of God - the Good News of God proclaimed by Jesus on the edge of his own wilderness journey of preaching and healing.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (vs 15) Could our author have captured the words of Jesus and the words of an early baptismal formula? Perhaps both. What is very clear in the scholarship is that these words that Jesus offers in our passage today is key to the understanding of his message. Joel Marcus (Mark, vol 1, 176) writes:
"Repent, and believe in the good news!" - at their baptism they would have heard this exhortation as a call to bury the moribund world in the water and to rise from it to view, through the eyes of faith, God's new creation. They would in short, have been reminded by Mark 1:15 of the moment when they became disciples of Jesus."
Jesus' proclamation begins following the imprisonment of John the Baptist. This is the first public ministry of Jesus recorded in Mark's Gospel. We might remember from a previous Sunday that while Jesus has come to heal and to over power the evil of this world, ultimately he is here for this single purpose. To bridge the divide between this world and the kingdom of God - the dominion of God.
Joel Marcus (Mark, vol 1, 175) gives us a very clear suggestion of what Jesus is saying:
time has been fulfilled AND dominion of God has come near
repent AND believe in the good news
The time is now, the dominion of God is near. Our response to that grace is repentance and to trust in the good news of God.
For those who now are making their way in Lent, and for those who are still seeking to be restored to the family of God, the faith reality is one that challenges us to change. To be aware. To take notice of our own selves and the way we do not live in the ways of God and to amend our lives.
I was interested recently in an interview that I did and the question that I was asked: Do you think that at times like this we especially need Ash Wednesday? Our culture is a mess the interview seemed to be saying perhaps we all needed this special day and season in order to make things right.
Human nature is the same. Ash Wednesday, as is Lent, a very personal discipline. The confrontation of this ritual life of repentance we so carefully cling to during this season as Christians is one that is not just for today but true for us year round. It is not specifically more important today than it was when Jesus invited us to respond to the dominion of God and the good news. It is only specifically so because you and I today choose to follow Jesus. Relevance to the culture and all of our want to be special is washed away somehow
in this invitation of Jesus. Our season is not a time when we are to critique others, a time when we are to find the splinter in another person's eye, or blame and castigate our culture, rather (and on the contrary) it is a time when we remind ourselves personally that we have not done what Jesus asked us to do.
I claim to follow Jesus but fail. I try to amend my life and fail. I make the kingdom of God my goal and do not reach it. Yes the dominion of God is near and I rest fully upon his grace and mercy to discover it. I repent because of my continuing human frailty which is my nature. I take a moment on this Sunday to be reminded of Jesus' invitation to rise out of the depths of my failure and moribund world/life/relationships and to see before me grace, mercy, forgiveness and invitation.
[You can read more of my thoughts on failure and invitation in my Lenten mediation "Failing Forward" here: http://www.texasbishop.blogspot.com/]
A Little Bit for Everyone
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.”