Wednesday Bible Study by Pastor Kelli

Light a candle

Read Mark 1:9-15

I recently attended a virtual preaching workshop on the Lenten gospel texts with Dr. Karoline Lewis.  You might recognize her name because I quote her often; she is one of my favorite scholars, after all.  I’ll do my best not to parrot her conference back at you the next couple of weeks, but I make no promises.

Near the start of her lecture Dr. Lewis said, “Mark is the perfect gospel for right now […].  It speaks to the insistence of God being with us no matter what, no matter where.”[1]  Mark is perfect for a time of global pandemic?  This caught my attention.

I’ve talked before about how the God rips through the heavens at Jesus’ baptism and how the temple curtain was ripped in two when Jesus was crucified.  This ripping of barriers signifying God ripping through any limitation or boundary that might try to keep God at a distance.  Dr. Lewis teaches that “Mark frames his entire Gospel by that which separates us from God is ripped apart, says something about what’s theologically at stake.”[2]  God tearing through – not opening, not moving, not rearranging – but God tearing through all that might keep us separated is really good news at any time, but especially now.  Especially now that separation and detachment from the familiar ways we experience God seems so relevant and familiar. 

In light of our collective experience of separation, Dr. Lewis asked the question: “We’re not meeting God where we’ve met God before (i.e., church), so what does it mean to meet God in my space, like in my house?”[3]  I was intrigued by this question.

We have a faithful and dedicated community that loves worshipping together and who – I hope – experience God’s presence and love for them as they worship.  But right now, corporate worship is not a safe option.  We know that God is everywhere, but do we function as if that’s true?  How often do we flex the muscle of recognizing God beyond our congregational walls?  We’ve never needed to before now.  Granted, sometimes God’s presence is felt while cradling a new baby, listening to certain songs, or exploring nature – but I was intrigued by the question of meeting God in my space, like my house.

It seems as if God’s presence is reserved for the big, grandiose moments, but do we recognize God’s presence at the dinner table?  When we’re fighting with our kid about which socks are the scratchy ones?  When we receive a bill we are not sure we can pay?  Or when we brush our teeth or fold laundry?  Many of us have reduced the number of places we go and the people we visit, and some of us have a commute that only takes us to a different room of the house.  And it’s been this way for almost a year.  So how do we recognize God’s presence in our everyday, unchanging, mundane spaces?

How do we recognize God’s presence when we long to be in worship together, when we want nothing more than to hug a family member without being afraid, when we are aching to go back to the library or museum or swim lessons?

Whether it was the heavens over the Jordan or the curtain on a Friday afternoon, God promises to never let anything stop God from being with us, “no matter what, no matter where.”  Even when we struggle to recognize God’s presence, even when we have to shift our perspective for where we are looking, God is determined to always be with us.  Maybe Mark is the perfect gospel for right now.  Thanks be to God.

[1] Karoline Lewis, “2021 Lenten Lectionary Study Featuring Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis” (Lecture, Zoom, February 8, 2021).
[2] Lewis.
[3] Lewis.

Reflection Questions

1) How often do you think about looking for God’s presence in places that aren’t “tried and true,” that might be new or unexpected or unconventional?

2) How do you feel about meeting God in your space, in the mundane places in our lives? Is that comforting, or too close?  Do you recognize God in your everyday midst?  How so?

3) How might God be calling you to respond to this passage?

Extinguish the candle