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The Wild Beasts

Mark 1:9-15 and Poem About Self Worth by Melody Godfred

February 18th, 2024First Sunday in Lent10:30 a.m.

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche


Thank you again for being here. A special thank you to Phillip and to Michael and Kevin for sharing last Sunday. I asked the gentlemen to reflect on the same theme that we were retreating on. 

Welcome again to this first Sunday in Lent, to what the ancients describe as a wilderness time. 

So welcome as you are to this wilderness, where you might be wandering, but never alone. And as we know from Tolkien, not all who wander are lost.

I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, letting ourselves arrive as fully as we can, breathing out worry and bringing in peace, bringing ourselves here to the present moment. 

And I invite you as you are moved, to join me in this prayer from Psalm 19.

God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

After Jesus said yes officially to this path, this path of emptying and surrendering and loving wildly, this path that one scholar describes as a path, of “dying to his assumptions, worldviews, entanglements and obligations as a citizen of the Roman Empire…” after doing that saying yes I think that’s what his baptism was, letting go of all of that. That’s when he goes into the wilderness, after he’s done this religious act.

And as Stanley P. Saunders writes Jesus’ “baptism is not only a religious act, but a political and economic assertion of God’s lordship…” Choosing God instead of Caeasar.

He goes on to point out that “The image is both violent and hope filled.” And that the “only other place Mark uses this word for ripping and tearing is in the description of the events that take place at the moment Jesus dies on the cross, when the veil of the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom.”

So it’s clear that the writers of this ancient story want us to see those waters of baptism as a symbol of both death and life, a turning point, an end of one thing and the commitment to something on purpose, a beginning, ritualizing a willingness to let parts of ourselves die.

So after Jesus said yes officially by going deep into the river with John, he is compelled into the wilderness.  

In Greek, wilderness means deserted, lonely, empty. 

So as I was reading this story this year, in this season at this particular moment, , I was wondering if that is part of what this teaching has to offer us, if part of what this story is telling us, is that the Jesus path, part of it at least, is about being willing to be with ourselves. All alone with ourselves. 

I think it is no coincidence that this happens right after Jesus says yes. As if the Universe says, now you said yes, now I dare you to go on the most important journey of your life, go in.

He ends up all alone. Present with himself. And then what emerges? Both angels and Beasts.

Together.

The text says he was with both of them.


And I wonder if that means that Jesus was willing to face what he was holding inside, that’s one of the first steps on the spiritual journey…

Being able to face the angel of compassion and the wild beast of anger, the angel of generosity and the wild beast of scarcity, the angel of forgiveness and the wild beast of old grudges, the angel of hope and the wild beast of fear…

Together.

Maybe this was an ancient way of talking about how essential it is to our spiritual growth to acknowledge our inner demons? Our pain? Our anger? Our sadness?. 

Eckhart Tolle writes about how what we carry inside can distance us from who we want to be if we don’t shine a light on it. In The Power of Now, he writes about what is called the pain body and how we need to acknowledge it. He says, “if you don’t face it, if you don’t bring the light of your consciousness into the pain, you will be forced to relive it again and again. The pain-body may seem to you like a dangerous monster that you cannot bear to look at, but I assure you that it is an insubstantial phantom that cannot prevail against the power of your presence.”

Pain can indeed become a wild beast, a dangerous monster, if left untended, unseen, unexamined…

I know something about that. I bet you do too.

I think it’s no accident that this oldest gospel starts this way. We don’t have a birth story; we start here in the wilderness. We human beings can become distanced from the best of ourselves when we are driven by our fear, our pain, our hurts, our wounds. When we don’t bring light on what is real, we can end up becoming the very thing we fear. We worry about being harmed so we harm.  Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of that going around in the world?

What if part of the gift of this season of Lent, invites us to go in? To not be afraid of wilderness time, of wandering internally and in the woods is being willing to face whatever we encounter inside? What if one of the most important parts of the Jesus path is about being willing to be with ourselves? To see what is real and to transform the pain of history to be fully in the present. And what if part of being willing to be alone with ourselves is to love ourselves? 

As the poet Melody Godfred wrote, 

Of all thethings I own,my worth is myfavorite possession.

Let’s say that together. Repeat after me. 

Of all thethings I own,

my worth is myfavorite possession.


We can be with ourselves, all of ourselves. What if this Lenten season can be for us a time of both letting the angels wait on us, letting the best of ourselves shine and be seen and affirmed and shared and our worth really felt and also a time where we shine light on the wild beasts that are our old ways of thinking, our assumptions, our small worldviews, our false entanglements, our shallow obligations, our pain and the places where we are driven by fear? Because all of this can become a wild beast, a dangerous monster, if left untended, unseen, unexamined…

Our theme for this season is wandering and part of what is meant by that is going off the path to go deeper. 

So what if being willing to go beyond the surface and off the path and inside ourselves, to the wilderness places and being with ourselves and seeing ourselves for real, what if that’s part of our call in this sacred season? And what if we are saying yes to God, to our Greater Love, to the Lifeforce when we can love whatever it is we find there? Angels and beasts?

What do you think? Do you have or have you had wilderness times that have brought you out alone, but deeper? Times that you might describe it as periods where there were you entertained both angels and beasts? Do you currently have regular time to examine your inner life? If so, how? If not, why not? 

Knowing that each of us arrives from different places and perspectives, seeking different possibilities, and that this is a gift to us all, you are invited now to share as you are comfortable and willing and to listen reflect about what’s come up for you. And to you who are watching the livestream, you are invited to journey or discuss with those in your home or ponder on these same questions.


COMMUNAL REFLECTION


Beloved of God, let us be willing to shine light on our angels and know our worth and let us see and love know also our inner beasts so we aren’t driven by fear and let us remember even when we are alone with ourselves, we are never alone. Let us have courage, let us be ready. May it be so. Amen.


 


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