John and Austerity

Mark 1:4-11

Meditation consists of intentionally eliminating the things that are so familiar that we have allowed them access to our souls. Spirituality begins with naming our inner idols and the material albatrosses hanging around our necks. So, Jesus comes to be baptized by John in the Jordan. Then, he immediately goes further into the wilderness for forty days. These two events lack noise. They lack clutter. What specifically is missing from these two events?

 

Hierarchy - John says I need to be baptized by you. What would happen if, for today, the preacher comes into the congregation and says, “I need to be taught by you?” Jesus sets the example. Hierarchal structures are constructed to promote specific outcomes; in business, having a boss enables a group of employees to be more profitable. In times of war, having a general increases the chances of winning a battle.Over the course of our spiritual development, the things that hierarchal structures aid become our most pernicious idols. Jesus here, and elsewhere, reverses the master-servant structure in order to dispel its hold on our lives.  

 

Friends and Family - Both Jesus and John come into the wilderness alone. Jesus will exit to build the fellowship of disciples that becomes the church. Times of transition are often very lonely. It is in the baptism of solitude that we learn new ways to be in relationship with other people.

 

Money - This, and many other parts of the Bible, have absolutely nothing to do with money. Yet, almost every aspects of our personal lives relates in some way to the acquisition, spending, or saving of money.

 

Buildings and Institutions - Much of what Jesus did was outdoors. Paul did most of his evangelism out doors. John Wesley’s was thrust into his role as founder of the Methodist movement by his experience of outdoor preaching. We tend to assume that the lack of buildings in the Church’s formative story is because these things happened where the weather was nice. It often snows in Israel, Macedonia can be brutal, and England is infamous for its damp. Our baptism stories should awake us to the fact that institutional concerns can become idolatrous. Church buildings are unnecessary.

Epiphany 1
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Baptism involves letting go