Blown and Windswept by the Spirit!

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I have been reflecting on the breathless speed with which Mark’s gospel introduces us to Jesus, to what is happening and how his ministry commences.  And I remember someone saying to me that when the Holy Spirit blows, resistance feels almost impossible!  It’s a mighty wind which God blows and you can see people looking stunned and certainly not feeling in control when it overtakes them and brings them along. 

I had that sense when I started thinking and praying about coming to Buderim, which had come out of nowhere.  The whirlwind impact of that question which I asked God and then listened and responded to God’s answer, meant we were blown here almost without drawing breath, and I felt very windswept and still do on occasion!

I have the same sense of God overtaking us (Mark 1:9-15), with our introduction to Jesus as God’s Son, reflecting the prophecies from ancient times: God’s plans always showing us the way, as we catch up at Jesus’ baptism, as Jesus is blown into the wilderness and then the commencement of his ministry!  Along the way, John the baptiser and his purpose as God’s messenger we see and hear, is equally swift, and full of impact.  The speed of events and John’s willing, deliberate participation in the bringing together of the fullness of time and God’s kingdom is equally impressive and breathtaking. 

And, I wonder if you noticed what is not included in Mark’s version of the commencement of Jesus’ ministry.  In Mark, there is no conversation, dialogue or debate.  Jesus doesn’t speak until Ch 1 v. 17 when he says to Simon and Andrew, James and John: ‘Follow me’ as he calls them into discipleship; and their response to Jesus and the Holy Spirit is also immediate.

Then we read there is no fasting or prayer described in the wilderness experience.  No hunger.  There is no meditation, reflection or ethical challenges described.  There is no moralising.

As always Mark keeps us focussed and moving as his telling of the story consistently acts upon Jesus until Jesus comes to Galilee and he begins by ‘proclaiming the good news of God’ (v14) and ‘saying’:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.  (Mark 1:15)

Only after Jesus hears about John the baptiser’s arrest, does he act.  He steps into the space left by John and proclaims the good news of God.  How often does that happen with us also, when there is a major life-changing event, a significant experience and we change direction and our lives forever.  We see and understand things differently and we can’t ‘unsee’ it, and all we can do is respond to the Holy Spirit.

In thinking about what wasn’t included in Mark’s story, and about the direct connection which is described, between Jesus with God, as Creator and Holy Spirit, not only does God speak directly to Jesus to acknowledge him as God’s Son the Beloved, but it is God who also drives Jesus out into the wilderness.  God sends Jesus to this place, where only the demons and the wild beasts were present and Satan tempted him and the angels waited on him.

As we begin our Lenten journey, we are invited by God to go out into the wilderness, to understand our own temptations, to reflect on what frightens us, what wild beasts surround us, and to relearn the joy and relief of relying on God rather than the world, to love us and save us.

We are invited to think about what God is calling us to do and be in God’s kingdom during this season; and to be prepared to be blown where God sends us and to respond to what God asks of us.  In the readings on Ash Wednesday at the start of Lent, the prophet Isaiah tells us very clearly what is required of us:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  (Isaiah 58:6-7).

As we prepare for the coming of God’s Messiah, we must be ready to answer the call from Jesus as he says: ‘follow me’ and to know the Holy Spirit is guiding us. God says: 

Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.  Return to the Lord, your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Joel 2:12-13).

In the wilderness we confront what we have not been doing, the distractions and distortions of our world that we have accepted and delighted in with our lives.   Our temptations and choices have helped to create the world we live in; and in the fullness of time which has drawn near, we are now able to choose God who loves us rather than the gods of this world which despise and destroy us. 

I will end with a Lenten prayer which comes from my daily Compline and the Service of Light:

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, the shepherd of Israel, their pillar of cloud by day, their pillar of fire by night.  In these forty days you lead us into the desert of repentance, that in this pilgrimage of prayer we might learn to be your people once more.  In fasting and service you bring us back to your heart.  You open our eyes to your presence in the world and you free our hands to lead others to the radiant splendour of your mercy.  Be with us in these journey days for without you we are lost and will perish.  To you alone be dominion and glory, for ever and ever.  Amen. APBA p.436

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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