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And the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (Mark 1:12b-13)
I have a confession to make: my pet peeve phrase is “frozen chosen.” I remember hearing it in high school to describe our denomination. Multiple times. Yet while it was said in jest and humor, I immediately felt excluded. So, I started attending churches that didn’t claim those words like a badge, if even in humor. It was in these churches and spaces where hands were lifted in praise and petition in worship. Where “Amen!” and “Yes Lord” were whispered adoringly or lamented loudly in prayer. Where hands were laid upon each other in prayer, and prayers were fervent, detailed, and intimate.
My spiritual formation happened during those years. The Spirit was continually invited into places and spaces, filling people and calling people to engage. For the first time, I was given permission to be my fullest self, that words associated with the Spirit at Pentecost—fiery, passionate, immersed, filled—were words that I resonated with. Yet there was something missing in those churches. For all the Spirit’s influence, everything was about my relationship with God, with precious little speaking to the calling of the church, both immediate and universal. Between that and the grounding of the liturgy and rhythms of the liturgical year, I returned to the denomination I was baptized in. But I came back with a vow: there would be nothing frozen about me. I would bring my fiery and passionate nature to the pulpit. I would be immersed in the community. And through it all, I would do so filled by the Spirit. This passage is one that has always been a source of comfort to and for me throughout Lent. The Spirit drives us out into the wilderness because there are some things we can only learn in the wilderness, and the lessons are hard because they force us to look at our inner demons that push, tempt, and taunt us.
Yet the Spirit reassures us that we are never alone, that even Jesus needed the community, needed the ministering to of the wild beasts and angels. Angels we expect, but it’s the wild beasts, those who are familiar with the wilderness, who know the ins and outs of the wilderness, who call the wilderness home, who are the unexpected. This, beloved, is the beauty of the Spirit: the Spirit will always show up in the expected and unexpected. Our invitation is to be paying attention so that we too might experience the immersion and fulfillment on this communal journey.
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