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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 1:1–13

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
     “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
          who will prepare your way;
     the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
          make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

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

If you haven’t already, at some point in your life you will find yourself in a wilderness-like experience. I like to call it a place of exile, because it is usually a place of discomfort, pain, and struggle, yet the Spirit has a unique way of preparing us for a special life purpose.

Experience has revealed that God places those called in exile to be better positioned to receive instruction without distraction. Time in the wilderness can be a season of separation from what is familiar and comfortable to what is unpleasant. If you are willing, the uncomfortable will bring about a keen sense of focus while the heart is prepared for what is coming.

When God began a deeper work in my life, it required a time of separation from those things that were most familiar. To be perfectly honest, it was painful and scary—but I later realized that God was with me every step of the way. I was never alone. Although tempted to complain, I made the decision to live at my best despite the situation. In retrospect, I now know that through my difficult journey, God was preparing me for a greater life purpose.

In the Gospel, Mark reports the presence of wild animals signifying danger and uncertainty. It is important to note there is no report of harm coming to Jesus, which reminds me that our faith should not be deceived by circumstances. Do not fear exile, for the God of hope sends angels to watch over us in times of trouble. The wilderness reveals what really matters and prepares us to receive the Lord with all our heart.

Dear God, grant us listening ears and accepting hearts so that we will enthusiastically accept what you have for us. Make us mindful of the angels you have sent to encourage us as we live for you. Amen.

Written by Robert Crouch, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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