Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service 

February 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon Mark 1:9-15:

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” (Mark 1:9–15, NIV)

Reading about how the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is first framed by baptism, the Spirit, and God’s voice – Jesus is very quickly tested after that in the Judean wilderness. One might perceive how even though we too are loved, nurtured, and encouraged, there are also tests and trials which are not far removed.  They come in many forms.  For example: the school child experiences them as something a teacher poses, like a list of questions on a quiz; or how an employee prepares and presents an annual report for his or her boss; or how an older person may be tested by reexamining life in the aftermath of losing a loved one or receiving an unwelcome medical diagnosis.  At any age, times of trial and testing not only mark a threshold where we might come to acutely challenge what we believe in a visceral way, but simultaneously, also sense opportunity to grow, by additionally defining or subsequently redefining who we are.

Should one shy away from testing?  Can a trial of some sort be understood as an empowering experience?  Look to Jesus. We hear his life clearly echoing from the “forty days,” especially now, as we consider the beginning of Lent.  During this time in church life, we are encouraged to fill out our theological understanding, which includes a deeper connection to the inspections we frequently face.  Hopefully, we will find inspiration leading to greater dedication as his followers.

The testing of Jesus begins early in his life and never really ends.  It’s present throughout his ministry… even throughout history, yet the impression he leaves is still seen as loving and strengthening.  It’s further exemplified within a positive, empowering, emboldening spirit which remains to reassure, restore, and regenerate.  Disciples who knock on the door, who ask, seek, are encouraged to come in… and find, often through testing.  It’s nothing to fear.  Disciples grow through trials, like Christ did, exemplifying his self-sacrificial nature.  The tests are brief but have an eternal consequence that God uses to sustain, support, and save.  If anything, each trial urgently inspires.  In this, the calling of Christ never tires.

 

Rev. Richard Wagner