Second Sunday of Lent: Being Counter-intuitive (Mark 8:31-38_

By Rhonda Compise

Mother Teresa Statue. Photo used by permission CreativeCommons.org

Sometimes I feel like my life is going against the flow. Things that should be simple somehow feel complicated and difficult. And, the harder I try to get something straight, the worse it usually gets! I wonder if that is how the disciples felt when Jesus was teaching them.

I read the passage of Mark 8:31-38. Then I looked at the previous verses to see what had happened before. I saw in verse 29 that Peter had a moment of clarity when he told Jesus that he believed Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah. Already by verse 32, Peter had changed course and pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him for the comments that he made. Then in verse 33 Jesus called Peter “Satan,” and told him to get out of his sight!

I can relate to Peter, because everything was simple in verse 29: Jesus was going to make everything wonderful. But the more Jesus said, the more confusing and complicated it was getting. He was asking the disciples to believe something which was completely counter-intuitive. Every Jew believed that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom which would never end. But Jesus was telling them that he was about to be killed by the very religious leaders who were expected to serve the Messiah in his kingdom.

Just when it seemed things could not get more complicated, Jesus made another statement in verse 35 which was even more confusing:

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

2000 years later, I think we are all still having trouble understanding this concept. It is still counter-intuitive! For me, the observation of the time of Lent helps with understanding what Jesus was trying to communicate. During Lent we give up something in order to get something: the enrichment of our spiritual life. This self-discipline requires faith, it challenges our faith, and our faith grows in response to the challenge.

As I pondered this counter-intuitive concept in Mark, I thought of Mother Teresa. She is a great example of an average person who gave up her life for the gospel. She took an oath of poverty and lived in the ghettos of Calcutta to bring the love of Jesus to people who had nothing. This woman, who had nothing during life, and nothing at the time of her death, did have the respect of the world and also a Nobel Peace Prize! I read that she refused the acclaim of the awards dinner and requested that the $192,000.00 that would have been spent on the dinner be given to ministry with the poor. In every way that she gave up her life, it produced results for the gospel.

During this season of Lent, let’s pray to find new ways to give up temporary material things to receive eternal spiritual results. Let’s live counter-intuitively!

Rhonda Compise is the president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Indiana/Kentucky Region.

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First Sunday of Lent: Being Overwhelmed (Mark 1:9-15)

By Yana Pagan

John baptizes Jesus. See postscript for more information about this image.

This Lent, let’s take what is perhaps a distinctive look at this passage, one that we may be very familiar with. I’ll be honest and admit that when it comes to Lent I get a bit overwhelmed. I try to think of my favorite beginnings instead of thinking of my childhood, in which somehow we were somber all the time: no laughing or playing, and just weird stuff. Consequently, as an adult I have adopted new traditions, like the practice of self-care, that go with Lent. For example, I now have an intentional practice of contemplative prayer and exercise.  I’ve tried to incorporate lots of play and laughing into my spiritual life. If I think too much I get overwhelmed.

Since Jesus was also human, he too may have felt overwhelmed by everything. I mean, can you imagine? He comes up from the waters and sees the heavens open, and we are told that a voice came from heaven (think Hollywood). In fact, it’s not just a voice but, to top it off, the Spirit descended like a dove on him.

This had to be a proud parent moment! But, as funny stories are often told about Greek, Spanish, Italian families, this also could have been a big family embarrassing moment! Notice that I’m only mentioning the “how do I hide” moments, the “oh dad,” moments. Well, when you trying to be holy sometimes family can mess it up! Here, Jesus is a young man and he is trying to do his own thing; he just found himself proclaiming his own experience to his cousin so there could be a family dynamic here. Then the Father God couldn’t be more embarrassing! Amid the family dynamic, a young man being baptized by his cousin, there is a calling! Jesus’ Dad makes a big announcement: Jesus is sent forth! Jesus must have been aware of his cousin witnessing all of this. This is a true test of that human family relationship!

It’s tempting to think of this solely as Jesus’ story. While it is clearly the story of the affirmation of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, it is also our story. It is here, with Jesus, that we to are sent into the wilderness. It is here, with Jesus, that we are tempted. It is in the wilderness that we find God’s words come to us when we least expect it. Jesus was at his weakest in his humanity; let’s not forget that! When he is sent forth into the wilderness, we are not told in scripture his state of mind as a human being. We do know that he then experiences the human feeling of hunger, the temptation of riches, the temptation of all the promises that Satan comes to offer each of us in our lowliest points of life. Yet Jesus is able to prevail, to come out to the other side.

This is part of the reason why I choose to focus on self-care. In a way, self-care is a discipline of drawing nearer to God. For me, Lent is a season not of sadness like I once thought, but instead it is a time in which I must fill my jar with all the oil that I will need for the rest of my journey.

What is it that you need in your wilderness so that in this season of Lent you can focus on God and your journey together?

Rev. Yana J.C. Pagan is national coordinator of Young Adult Women’s Ministries for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Postscript: JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings. 

 http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48290 [retrieved February 8, 2018]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). Used by permission, CreativeCommons.org.