We often think of ‘coming to our senses’ as returning to sensible thinking or behavior after a time of behaving or thinking unreasonably. “I’m so glad she came to her senses and decided not to marry that person,” or “it’s a good thing he came to his senses before he drove his business into bankruptcy.”
But sometimes, coming to your senses involves learning something you didn’t realize before, in a way that helps you understand the world more clearly. It’s not that you return to reason, so much as you suddenly become aware of something you didn’t already know. Continue reading →
Sermon on Mark 1:9-15 for February 21, 2021 Lent 1B Watch video
Hal Roach, Sr. made a name for himself in the early years of the silent film industry, producing Laurel and Hardy movies, and the series now known as “The Little Rascals” with Spanky and Alfalfa and the rest of Our Gang. Back in that early era of film-making, most movies were comedies, and most comedies followed a formula. The climax of the film would be a chase scene. When inexperienced directors and screen writers tried to pad a film’s script with extra dialogue, Hal Roach would tell them, “just cut to the chase.”
Film historians credit Roach with coining this phrase, and using it often. “Cut to the chase,” Roach insisted. In other words, don’t keep the audience in suspense for too long, and whatever you do, don’t let them get bored. Get to the point. Cut to the chase.
Hal Roach and the author of Mark’s Gospel would have understood each other perfectly. Today’s gospel reading brings us back to the first chapter, near the beginning of the story. Mark doesn’t waste any time; he gets right to the point. In six short verses, he lays out three important scenes that cut to the chase. Continue reading →
Mark’s gospel doesn’t give us much information about the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, or how Satan tested him there. Mark only devotes two short verses to these forty days:
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 (Mark 1:12-13).
That’s it. Before the water has even dried on his skin from being baptized in the Jordan River, Jesus is driven into the wilderness.
I have often imagined what that wilderness must look like, but now I know. We traveled to the Holy Land last month, and we saw the Mount of Temptation, where tradition holds that Jesus spent his forty-day fast (only Mark doesn’t tell us that he fasts – we get that from the other gospels). The mountain rises above the oasis of Jericho, city of palms and bananas and fresh springs of water. The barren hillside is pocked with little caves, and it’s easy to imagine Jesus spending his nights in those caves.
It hadn’t occurred to me, until I stood at the excavation site in Jericho, that while Jesus was up on that mountain for those forty days, he was within a few minutes’ climb down into the beautiful oasis of Jericho, and he could see that lush, fruitful valley the whole time he was up there. But the refreshing pleasures that were visible from the Mount of Temptation weren’t what Satan used to test Jesus. Instead of tempting Jesus with the availability of fresh fruit and clean water that lay below him in Jericho, Satan offered Jesus a chance to show off his divinity, to play God for a bit. Satan forgot that Jesus didn’t need to play God. He is God, God incarnate. Immanuel, God With Us.