Ashes 6: Well pleased...

All it takes is the sky being ripped open...

Mark 1:1-13 1 The 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,'" 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He 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. 8 I 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. 10 And 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. 11 And 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. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

A good friend shared with me this morning that he's finally found his calling. Part of me wanted to ask, "Where'd you find it? Was it easy? Did you have to look hard?" For some of us, the experience of finding our place in this world (forgive the Michael W. Smith reference) is not a pleasant or enjoyable one. It's difficult, painful even — feeling layer upon layer of ourselves be pulled away from our skin until, at last, we begin to see our true selves.

When most people read or exegete (read: interpret critically) the passage above, they often focus either on John the Baptist's role of preparation, or on Mark's description of Jesus' wilderness experience (or lack of description). Others focus on the imagery of the Trinity present in the voice, the dove, and the person of Jesus. Hell, most of the time when I read it, these are the areas of my focus. Yet this morning, enjoying the breeze through the window and a hot cup of coffee, my focus went elsewhere: the words of a Father to his Son.

“I'm so proud of you that it makes me proud of me. I hope you know that.” — John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

In Mark's Gospel, we don't get an Advent season of any sort. Mark cuts right to the point with the inauguration of Jesus' ministry via his baptism. We don't even get the juicy details of his wilderness experience, only the word "immediately," a word some might describe as overused in the book of Mark. But what we do get is the picture of a parent (or parents) and a child, a commissioning of sorts. We don't know anything about Jesus' life so far. We don't know what he was like as a kid, who is friends were, what he liked to do for fun. We don't know what his relationship with his earthly parents is like: do they get along; do they fight a lot; do they have any clue what's in store for their son, and if so, how do they feel about it?

Instead we get this little snippet delving us into the relationship between God and Jesus, a brief retreat into how Father and Son interact. And though it's brief, it says a lot. God is happy with Jesus — well pleased, we read. Some might think this announcement is for the people watching. Personally, I think it's for Jesus. Here's a man in his early thirties about to take on the monumental task of reconnecting humankind with their Creator. He has to be scared out of his mind, regardless of how certain he is of his task. So God, having some clue how God's son is feeling, takes a moment to remind him, "You're mine. I'm proud of you and what you're doing."

Some of our parents have taken similar steps, and some of us have had to look elsewhere for these sorts of affirmations... 

I don't know what your relationship with your parents is like right now, much less if you've ever heard these words from them. But I hope that you take a moment today to let yourself hear them from God. Let yourself be reminded of the pleasure God takes in you, always, at every moment. No matter what the world says, you are loved. You are Beloved. Hold onto this...