Into The Woods
Marcos 1:9-15Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI)
9 En esos días llegó Jesús desde Nazaret de Galilea y fue bautizado por Juan en el Jordán. 10 En seguida, al subir del agua, Jesús vio que el cielo se abría y que el Espíritu bajaba sobre él como una paloma. 11 También se oyó una voz del cielo que decía: «Tú eres mi Hijo amado; estoy muy complacido contigo.»
12 En seguida el Espíritu lo impulsó a ir al desierto, 13 y allí fue tentado por Satanás durante cuarenta días. Estaba entre las fieras, y los ángeles le servían.
14 Después de que encarcelaron a Juan, Jesús se fue a Galilea a anunciar las buenas nuevas de Dios. 15 «Se ha cumplido el tiempo —decía—. El reino de Dios está cerca. ¡Arrepiéntanse y crean las buenas nuevas!»
Mark 1: 9-15
9 In 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.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now 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.’
Let us pray: As we begin our Lenten journey, help us to move forward not as spiritual tourists, O Lord, but pilgrims of faith willing to journey into the deep, to discover deeper dimension of Your and your eternal love. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen
During our joint Ash Wednesday services with First Presbyterian, I introduced our Lenten theme. With the help of the Apostle Paul and his second letter to the Corinthians, we waxed theologically and philosophically about the idea of “now.” We may all have a sense of what “now” is. Webster defines it as, “At the present time; at this moment.” Horologists, who study clocks, watches, hourglasses, marine chronometers, atomic clocks, use instruments to measure now. We all know what “now” means from the stern voice of a parent indicating the times for dishes to be washed or to get to bed. And even theologians weigh
in. In his Confessions, Augustine calls time a “distention” of the mind (Confessions 11.26) and suggests that now is a present moment shaped by the past and future. Our Lenten theme, is living in the now—experiencing life and faith in its abundance by living in the moment.
On Wednesday, we looked at time travel for greater perspective for a deeper understanding of “now.” Permit me to review for those who were not here.
July 3rd will mark twenty years since the release of the movie “Back to the Future.” This movie piqued an interest in the notion of “now,” as viewers witnessed Marty McFly inadvertently travel from 1985 to 1955. The journey led him into encounter with his parents, who were in high school, and his activity in the past threatened the future as a he was befriended by his father and his mother became infatuated with him. It took some careful maneuvering to be able to restore history to its proper place. Marty played matchmaker for his parents, and harnessed a lightning strike that he knew, from the future, when and where it would happen, in order to generate enough power for him to launch his DeLorean time machine to take him home to 1985.
One intriguing aspect that helped the movie become the top grosser in 1985, was the idea of being able to travel into the past or future to manipulate events to improve desired ends in the now. The sequel, released in 1989, coincidentally enough involved traveling into the future year of none other than 2015. NPR has dedicated a part of one of its technology shows to examining whether the technology imagined for 2015 in 1989 was accurate or not. Some of it was surprisingly spot on, while inventions like automatic drying clothes have not yet hit the market. These time travel-centered movies appease the mind. Being able to chronologically travel backward or forward, made me, an eleven year old at the time, wonder, if “now” even exists. It was one of those thoughts that perplexed like whether or not the universe really ends.
This Lent, we are invited to journey as spiritual time travelers for the next forty days. As we follow Christ’s steps into the wilderness, we become mystics maneuvering the corridors of our souls and discovering our stifling attachment to past events like lament, disappointment, or idealization of what was. And we concurrently uncover how our hearts may be swimming in anxiety or fixation upon the future with little regard for the now. The wilderness is a good place for
this spiritual work since is void of typical distractions.
Scripture allows us to travel back, just under two thousand years. Paul writes to the church at Corinth that has its own set of time challenged issues.
Commentator Ernest Best reveals tensions in the minds and hearts of those in that church at Corinth. They struggled to live in the now of their faith because church members, “have never fully shaken off the ways of life and thought of their pre- Christian period,” (Interpretation, Second Corinthians, Pg. 3) To the church (and to us), for our Lenten journey, Paul writes, “As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’” He continues, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” Embedded in these words in the admonition to embrace the now-ness of our faith. For the community at Corinth that meant letting go of the past and living with Christ in the present, into a hopeful future. For us, it means as a church, to live as a community of faith with Christ in the now, not reliving past glories or traumas, or worrying about tomorrow, but living into God’s timeless love now. And for our personal journeys? The same thing. For by being beholden to the past or inordinately anxious about the future, we inadvertently accept grace in vain—we lack trust necessary for faith.
As we begin our journey of Lent, it behooves us to travel through time— moving our minds and hearts into the now. For “now is the acceptable time.” Though we cannot bridge time the way it is done cinematically, we can do it spiritually. To provide us a sense of security, we spend a lot of times thinking about and even consciously or subconsciously living in the past or the future. Author Eckhart Tolle describes this in his book The Power of Now, “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but...the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time— past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” Living in the now, I would add, is not ignoring the past and future but rather giving it its proper place. You may be familiar with the popular quip, “It’s okay to look at the past and peer at the future, just don’t stare.”
We may also take to heart the words of Father Richard Rohr in his book, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. (Parenthetically, you may have noticed an article about Rohr on the cover of the Journal today.) Taking into account past and future, Rohr writes, “If you surrender to the fear of uncertainty, life becomes a set of insurance policies. Your short time on this earth becomes small and self-protective, a kind of circling of the wagons around what you can be sure of and what you think you can control. It provides you with the illusion that you are in the driver’s seat, navigating on safe, small roads, and usually in a single, predetermined direction that can take you only where you have already been,” (Pg. 17).
What is keeping you and me from living in the now? It is not easy to live in the present. In order to get there in our minds and hearts, we have to face any discomfort or fear that often keeps us living without attentiveness in the moment. And week one of Lent, reminds us how to do that. We are invited into the wilderness just a Jesus went. There is something about wilderness. It is disorienting. We cannot go in and come out the same. Something changes every time we go into a metaphorical wilderness. But wilderness is often the starting point of transformation. It is away from distraction and brings to the surface all of the concerns of the ego that would prevent us from living in the now of Christ. Admittedly, life will throw wilderness at us when we are not expecting it: through loss, suddenly compromised health, relationship or financial challenges. And that is wildernesses we must face. But during Lent, we may voluntarily choose to go into the metaphorical woods for spiritual reasons.
Though the Mark passage that Iris and I read contains scant details, it does mention that in the forest, Satan tempted Jesus and that he was surrounded by wild beasts. The wilderness can be intimidating. Who would choose that?
Thinking about the ruggedness of wilderness and the challenge of being there alone, I am reminded of the man whose doctor asked him about his day, and the man responds, “Well early this morning I waded across the edge of a lake, escaped from a mountain lion in heavy brush, marched up and down a mountain, stood in a patch of poison ivy, crawled out of quicksand, and jumped away from an aggressive rattle snake.” “Wow,” remarked the physician, “you must be an awesome outdoorsman!” “No,” replied the man, “Just a horrible golfer.”
But it is exactly that the wilderness is a necessary part of the spiritual journey to encounter liberation, salvation, to arrive in the now. It is where Jesus went as a time of preparation for his earthly ministry. It is where the Hebrews wandered for forty years before approaching the Promised Land. In New Seeds of Contemplation, contemplative Thomas Merton writes, “The man who does not permit his spirit to be beaten down and upset by dryness and helplessness, but who lets God lead him peacefully through the wilderness, and desires no other support or guidance than that of pure faith and trust in God alone, will be brought to the Promised Land.” We do well to go into the woods, to take time alone, to face who we are—the beauty and the idiosyncrasy, the fears, complexities and hopes, and gain a greater awareness of the makeup. And then, rather that relenting to fear, acknowledging reality, accepting it, and then making room for God to enter our realties. The wilderness, the tough times, the challenging eras of our lives, are the ones that can ultimately be the most transformative and even gratifying.
Yes, it is difficult. Fredrick Beuchner writes, “To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness - especially in the wilderness - you shall love him.”
The wilderness brothers and sisters is that spiritual place that we struggle, feel alone, face our longings, fears, and even demons. We come to terms with the past and the future and leave such attachments into the hands of a loving God. But the wilderness we can learn and grow. And as Merton suggested, if we learn to find peace in the wilderness—if we don’t let it beats us down, God guides us through to the other side.
Let us begin our Lenten journey trusting that God, the Alpha and Omega, will meet us in the present through Jesus Christ. By seeking to live in the now, we travel through time from the past and future places that we are living in our heads, and we arrive at the now. Now is the time. Now is the day of salvation.
And as we wander the wilderness as that transitional land between frontiers, let us be assured that as we walk in the steps he already took, it will lead to spiritual death and new life, with eternal implications.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Leave a Reply.
Palabra de Vida
You will find sermons preached by Rev. Robert Woodruff and guests preachers.