Mark 1:9-15

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  Mark 1:12

         Two things happen in this passage in quick succession. First, Jesus is baptized. The heavens open up, the spirit comes down upon Jesus like a dove, and the voice of God comes down saying” “This is my son.” But oh, how quickly the scene changes. A few verses later Jesus finds himself in the desert where he is tempted and tested by Satan. Not only this, The Greek word used for Jesus’ being sent to the desert is a strong one. Jesus is not casually led to the desert; he’s compelled there. He’s thrown there, with force. I heard someone say once that it’s almost as if the dove that came down from heaven transformed into an eagle whose talons reached down and grabbed Jesus, picked him up, and carried him into the desert, where he was dropped for his forty days of trial.

         It’s a hard but ever-present truth that we live our lives in the delicate balance between these two places. One moment God is commissioning us for greatness. The heavens open up, and God’s voice is right there with us. Before we can get too comfortable there, however, we find ourselves expelled into the desert.

         This Lenten journey will be a journey of both desert wanderings and baptismal promises. The best thing we can do on the way is to be open to the spirit of God in all circumstances that seem to be neither mountaintop nor valley, and to recognize that God will be with us in all of these places.

God of grace and love, draw near to me on this Lenten journey. Help me to see you in the ups and downs, the rivers and the deserts, Amen.