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During Lent many of us are reading the gospel of Mark as we anticipate the birth of PASTORATES and D4D (Designed For Discipleship) communities.  Last week I shared a few thoughts on Mark 1:1; The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Today I want to live in Mark 1:2-8. When the story begins in Mark, the first character on stage is not Jesus, but John.  During Advent (I know we are in Lent) we often remind ourselves that in order to get to Jesus birth on Christmas we have to go through John the Baptist.  This is one of the timeless truths of the gospel; in order to go deeper in the life of Jesus, some digging is required.  What is the digging?  The Bible calls this “repentance.”  To repent is to make a 180% turn, to change your mind about things, to turn from old habits, traditions, values and customs (the old wineskins) and be recalibrated, re-created and redefined!  To repent is to realize your genuinely desperate need for Jesus.

And sometimes, as Mother Theresa used to say, “you never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you got!”  One of the gifts of fasting on Mondays is that the scaffolding of support gets dismantled and you begin to understand that Jesus is everything. Or consider repentance as a huge bulldozer making its way into our cramped, busy, self oriented lives and plowing everything aside so there is room for Jesus.  Repentance is availability – stopping and listening – being ready to say “yes” to the Spirit.  We began Lent a week ago with the imposition of ashes; “remember that from dust you came and to dust you shall return.”  At its deepest level repentance is to understand our mortality.  We are broken people, unable to fix ourselves, and more often than not we are at odds with God as we live our shallow lives.

But when we go out in the wilderness the shallow stuff doesn’t suffice – we want more, we yearn for the ‘real bread’ of life.  We hear John the Baptist cry out, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming…..and he will baptize  you with Holy Spirit.”  Last night at our Tuesday evening prayer service a few us knelt around the altar and prayed that the Holy Spirit would come amongst us and take us deeper into Christ!  This is my prayer for you today – on this day of snow – when the rhythm of so many has been interrupted. May the Spirit interrupt us in the same manner!

On Valentine’s Day I shared with the staff the following quote from Joan Chittister;

“The first purpose of the Sabbath, the rabbis said, was to free the poor as well as the rich for at least one day a week, and that included animals, too. Nobody had to take an order form anybody on the Sabbath. The second purpose of the Sabbath, the rabbis teach, is to give people time to evaluate their work as God evaluated the work of creation, to see if their work, too, is really life-giving. And finally, the purpose of the Sabbath leisure was to give people space, to contemplate the real meaning of life. If anything has brought the modern world to the brink of destruction, it most surely, is the loss of the Sabbath.”