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You are my own beloved child.

                                                                  “You are my own beloved child.”

                                                                                    Mark 1: 9 – 15

In every great book you have ever read and in every fabulous movie you have loved watching, there comes that pivotal moment when the story makes a radical turn. It is that moment when the hero or the heroine "gets it" or "makes it". You know this moment when it happens and it is the very scene you can't wait to watch again, over and over. It is the scene where, if you have taken your best friend, your spouse, your partner to see that movie just so they can watch the scene, it is this moment they inevitably turn and stage whisper "I'm just going to go get some popcorn now" and you shriek "NOOOO!!" And the moment is missed!

This is that moment in Mark's gospel story today. As I worked with this text all week, I began to hear and imagine an entire Jewish world open up to me. Understand that these stories about Jesus were first passed orally, repeated and shared, spoken. No really good story, well told, needs a sermon. These first believers listened to the story, in the fullness of their time and place and heard a story that changed their lives.

Wrestling with the Greek, I realized that what they heard, what they pictured in their minds has been left out in our version – left out because it is understood. So. I re-wrote the Gospel. With your permission and knowing that what I am about to do may be considered heresy, I would like you to suspend this time and place, listen with first century Jewish ears and imagine with me the power of a truth story.

                                                  The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark

                                                                                       ( and Vinnie):

There was a time when anyone who felt hopeless or useless, who feared they had done something unforgivable, who believed no one could love them, people who were grieving or in pain, anyone who was desperate for healing and cleansing - they all went to the river. The Jordan River. To be washed clean, maybe healed, certainly relieved, to be helped by John - he was the baptizer.

That fellow Jesus went there too. He walked into that river with John, went under the flowing waters and came up with his eyes wide open...as some people do. And he saw the thin veil that separates this world from the other world ripped in two. From that tear the Spirit, large and white, with strong sure strokes, flew straight into him, went smashing right into the heart of him. And then he heard the voice we all know is from heaven: "You are my own beloved child. I am so delighted with you."

In that instant, the Spirit in his heart grabbed hold of him, forcing him, practically throwing him into the land of nothing, of fear and hunger, of darkness and doubt - you know that place. We have all been there - the very place we were trying to get away from by coming to the river in the first place. Jesus was in this place inside himself and outside of himself for 40 long days. The time it takes for human beings to get themselves, ourselves, right. The length of days we seem to need to dig deep down to the bottom of our being to find out just who we really are, what we are really made of.

The angel who works for God (watching and then telling or reporting on our choices and our behaviors) that angel was there in that awful place and time too. His name is Satan. The invaders showed up too. You know them, the doubts and fears that paralyze your life, the demons that make your stomach sink or flip, the night terrors that keep you awake - the wild beasts we have to deal with all the time. They were there too, of course, they always are when we are feeling like we are alone and lost.
But the other angels were there with him as well. You know those angels, they who whisper, "all will be well", the ones who show up to wipe your tears or send your fears packing, the ones who defend or protect you when you are most down. They showed up to help Jesus too.

Well, sometime later, after the 40 days, John was handed over. Even in the face of this huge betrayal (who could hand him over like that? John was so popular, famous really, a bit odd, but from such a good family. Who handed him over to THEM???) After that horrible event, Jesus went right out into that busiest of places, the Galilee, to bravely announce, to tell any and all that what had happened to him in those 40 days in that dark, wild place could also happen to us. He told them: "You can have God, have a relationship with God now, today, while you live and breathe, this moment. The restoration of creation, all things set right is within you, you have what it takes -dig deep inside yourself, find out who your best self is, embrace the person God imagines you are - come back to God."

“You have to believe you can do this hard work. I did it. I have been in that sad, terrible, frightening, grieving, doubt filled place, just like you. It is the best place to find God. That's right - the dark time in your life is the absolute best time, the richest place to find God. This is just how close God is to you right this minute."

"Touching into that wholeness of self - even if it is only for a moment lets you know what the kingdom of God is meant to be - a moment however brief of pure peace, no pain, delight and promise; no fear, amazing faith. We live this out, here and now, in how we become the person God imagines and then in the ways we treat every single other living creature in God's creation. Do it. Believe it. Transform the world."

                                                                               The Gospel of the Lord

Well, this was a radical, revolutionary message to giving out willy-nilly. The authorities were naturally concerned. This kind of empowerment was bound to start people thinking and acting out in ways hard to control and manage. However much we have taken these words that started a revolution and sanitized them, watered them down, dressed them up to look sweet and clean and nice for Sunday church, the reality is: Jesus started a real revolution. Actual people died, people were killed – they still are. His passionate plea for the kingdom to be made real and present in a particular place and time is as alive today as it was then. How desperately we are in need of a cleansing! How deeply we desire wholeness and peace.

More and more I am convicted that Jesus does not command us to do that which we cannot do. He means for us to do the hard work of going into the wilderness of our own darkness. He intends for us to embrace the dark side, examine who we really are in the light of a living and present God. He believes we can touch into the kingdom of God and then bring it up and out, live the Word, be the Word. None of the stories about Jesus suggest to us that this will be an easy task or one that is accomplished quickly at all. The stories do urge us, however, to do the work on our insides and then live the truth on the outside. This is what repenting means – going back inside yourself with courage and honesty to face who you are, what you have really done, why you do what you do, how you can embrace humility, self sacrifice, love and forgiveness. Repent. What we do matters and our doing can only be authentic if we have done the inner work. Jesus did it. So can we.

We are in Lent. These are our 40 days. I invite you, urge you and believe in you – repent, go into your darkness. Someone once told me that our dark side is 90% gold. It is there where God can do so much with us. Take Jesus with you, know that the Sprit is in you, go mining in your wilderness and see what you find there. Know that the kingdom of God has come near.