This devotion is based on Mark 1:1-8, one of the lectionary texts for December 7, 2014–the second Sunday of Advent.
What I love about the Gospel of Mark is that it is a whirlwind of action with only the barest of details, only a limited hint of dialogue. Yet for all his brevity, his Gospel is for me the most powerful and rich.
In the first eight verses of the Gospel, Mark tells the story of John the baptizer, the man with an odd fashion sense and even odder dietary choices. Mark doesn’t tell us much about this outdoor preacher, but this scarcity of information allows us to “fill in the blanks,” to imagine and ponder.
While John surely is intriguing, I find myself wondering more about the folks who trapesed out the wilderness to hear him preach. What were they expecting from this fiery preacher: A good show? Relief from boredom? A bit of hope? Whatever they were looking for, seems like they got more than they bargained for. Their listening resulted in confession of sin and a trip into the river.
But why? Why were they so willing to join themselves to the ministry of John? I am guessing that they had heard plenty about this wild-eyed preacher. They knew what he was saying, were well-acquainted with his call for repentance. They knew he was offering something new, a different message. So they made their way out to his “sanctuary,” and when he invited them, they couldn’t help themselves from following him into the water.
On that day, these “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” joined themselves to the work God was doing through John. They were people NOT afraid of the water. They didn’t mind getting wet. But they also seem to be people NOT afraid of the others that they would meet in the water for indeed the Jordan was crowded that day. By wading in, the people opened themselves to fellowship with a wonderfully diverse new family.
In the way that only Mark could do, the Gospel writer compresses time and experiences into a few words—and propels us into the journey, a journey that begins in the waters, the swirling baptismal waters of the Jordan, where his followers walked unafraid:
unafraid of the water;
unafraid of meeting John there in the Jordan;
unafraid of being plunged into the river and raised up, soaking wet;
unafraid to live out the gospel message with others who had also waded into those waters;
unafraid to join in the work that God was doing in the world.
May our story be one and the same. May we be
unafraid of walking into the water;
unafraid of being taken under the water and then raised up, soaking wet, standing unashamed surrounded by our community of faith;
unafraid of all who we will meet in that water;
unafraid to be partner with all those who are already busy doing kingdom work.
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.