Mark 1:1-13 1The beginning of the good news* of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.*
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,*
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,*
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’,
4John the baptizer appeared* in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He 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. 8I have baptized you with* water; but he will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit.’
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.
Wilderness. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of wilderness–a place where you can more clearly hear yourself think, a place where you might more clearly hear the whispering of the Spirit. For me these places have often been actual places like the mountains of north Georgia or simply a quiet forest or stream side. Sometimes the ‘wilderness’ is a time or period of time in my life where things seem stripped away and I can more clearly discern what is important in my life.
A couple of years ago a good friend gave me a copy of “One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey” because he said read it and knew I’d love it. So I read the newly published edition of the 1973 ‘classic’ and learned about the life and times of Richard Proenneke, a man who took it upon himself to journey into the Alaskan Wilderness seeking:
“To live in a pristine land unchanged by man…to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed…to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin…to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available…to be not at odds with the world, but content with one’s own thoughts and company… Thousands have had such dreams, but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country.”
What I truly enjoyed about Mr. Proenneke’s journey into the Alaskan Wilderness was that the writings were mostly compiled from his journals and essays on his first-hand experience with the wild flora and fauna of the area and his ability to literally find life and subsistence in the natural world around him. I don’t know all of the reasoning behind why Proenneke went into the Alaskan Wilderness, but my estimation is that it was for a few reasons: the first of which resonates with me: to go somewhere where people had not disturbed the natural order. The second perceived rationale for his journey is one of self-sufficiency. Now, there is nothing wrong with self-sufficiency and Proenneke may have perceived of the bounty of the natural world around him as God’s provision, but the truth is that many of us (people in general, but especially Americans) want to “do things on our own.” That is, that we believe if we try hard enough we’ll make it on our own. However, we all need help–we literally can’t save ourselves.
In this scripture passage today we read that Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. Perhaps you’ve read the story of his 40 days in the wilderness–how he was tempted and tried by ‘the accuser’ (satan)–but that Jesus was sustained by the Spirit of God. It is a passage that reminds us that we “human beings do not live by bread alone” nor are we completely self-sustaining. We need God’s action and Spirit in our lives.
Would you pray with me:
God of the wilderness,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
we pray that you will guide us this day to recognize how your Spirit is with us:
help us to perceive the needs of those around us
being generous and loving to support those in times of difficulty
and taking time to reflect upon our own lives during this season of Lent.
Make your presence known to us and may we truly know that we need you.
In the name of Christ who lives and reigns with you and your Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Rev. Joseph McBrayer, Campus Minister