7 January • Mark 1:4-11
The difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus is quite something. John’s is a baptism of known quantities. Water is tangible. Repentance is, likewise, a known phenomenon in the culture.
But Jesus’ baptises with the Holy Spirit. What does that even mean? The Holy Spirit is the spirit of ‘otherness’. The spirit which is not simply the human spirit. It is a spirit we are not familiar with. It is a spirit which is beyond us and who calls us beyond ourselves.
Messiah’s baptism of us with the Holy Spirit takes us places that we are not familiar with. This Spirit leads us into new ways of relating and doing things. A way beyond reciprocity. A way imbued with grace and truth.
What do you make of your own experience with the Holy Spirit? In what ways have you experienced the Holy Spirit as a spirit of ‘otherness’?
14 January • John 1:43-51
Jesus begins to invite disciples to follow him. There are clear signs people were hoping for Messiah to show up. Nathanael’s initial scepticism and then polar opposite acceptance of Jesus as Messiah reminds us how easy it is to ‘believe’ based on fairly insignificant data, especially when we want to believe and doing so is not too costly.
Of course things were to get far more challenging for the disciples, especially after Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. When it comes to seeing the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God we cannot avoid our attention being drawn to Stephen’s witness just before he is stoned by a mob lead by his religion’s leaders.
The journey of discipleship has different phases and many turns. Only the committed continue on.
How have the challenges you have faced in your discipleship served to refine and deepen your faith? Are you continuing on?
21 January • Mark 1 :14-20
Jesus appears to be focused and deliberate when it came to selecting disciples and challenging them to come with him. John had been arrested. The political temperature was getting warmer. Jesus knew the environment was not going to be neutral.
The strategy Jesus opts for is to call a range of people – mostly fairly common in their station and experience. Jesus does not position himself within the formal religious or political institutions of his day. Neither does he pursue the highly educated or the materially wealthy.
The kinds of people Jesus called, tells us something of the nature of his call. Jesus invites his followers into a way of doing life that is inherently essential to all humanity. It is equally accessible to all – regardless of station, education or material resources. Indeed, at times if we are too heavily invested in our station, education and/or material resources, we can encounter Jesus’ call as a threat to our way of life. Make no mistake… it is!
When you reflect on who you are, what do you value the most? How ready are you to let these things go if you have to choose between them and Jesus’ call?
28 January • Mark 1:21-28
What is it that gives teaching authority? It is quite different to teaching that references authorities or that debates various competing ‘authorities’. When Jesus taught, the people heard something that was noticeably different to what they generally heard from their regular teachers.
Jesus brought to the forefront of people’s awareness truths that they all knew to be true already. The authority the people experienced was not that of a great new idea or a clever way of saying something. It was the deep authority of truth that resonates through one’s very being. It has an almost irresistible to our consciousness.
But of course we can, and do, resist truth. Fear and greed and the desire for safety and power battle within us against the vulnerable truth. When teaching with authority brings that vulnerable truth to the fore, we can welcome it or we can hate the teacher for the added discomfort we experience as we actively repress it within ourselves.
Jesus encountered both responses to his teaching and his ways. One group became his disciples. The other group ensured he was crucified.
When have you heard teaching with authority? What have been your responses?
Rev. David Gore of Mustard Seed Ultimo Uniting Church.