Here is what strikes me today about this reading from Mark’s Gospel. The battle is local. It is in the home of Simon and Andrew and visits them on their front porch. And it is in nearby, neighboring towns. Indeed, one doesn’t have to travel far to witness suffering and often the despair that results. And one is called to bring healing and hope into those same places.
During these days I have been piecing together a congregational book study on Madeleine Le’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time. You may have heard that the movie is coming to the big screen in March and this seemed like a good opportunity to offer a means for conversation about the ancient themes of faith which weave through the novel.
Now I will admit, I had not read it before. For some reason it was not required reading when I was of the age that the characters who populate this powerful tale would have served as companions on my way. I only picked it up this winter and while I am, by now, decades older than young Meg, I resonate still with the feeling of ‘not fitting in,’ of having — already and still — experienced deeply the ‘darkness’ invading and threatening our world which the author so vividly details, and of wondering if I had what it took to prevail in the midst of all that threatens. It is, no doubt, the same ‘darkness’ which Jesus came to confront and defeat right in his own neighborhood so long ago. Even as Meg did, although she and her little brother, Charles Wallace, and their friend, Calvin traveled far to do so as well…
Here is what has struck me so far. The book is decidedly about ‘faith.’ The author explicitly quotes scripture. Jesus even gets a mention ‘by name.’ I will be curious to see how the new movie treats it, but an earlier film version pretty much mutes these explicit references to what you and I know so well. For that matter, most of the study guides out there do the same, no doubt attempting to make it more appealing to a broader audience. No matter, though. The vocabulary does not have to be the same for us to recognize these truths which guide our lives of faith: that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, that in dying we live, that there is a whole host of others — past present and future — alongside us bearing us up, and that love wins. Love always wins.
So it is in this first chapter of Mark in the space of forty-five verses we hear about Jesus being baptized by John, entering into the wilderness to battle evil at its most basic, preaching, calling disciples, teaching in the synagogue, casting out unclean spirits, healing the sick, casting out demons, retreating for prayer, preaching some more, and cleansing a leper. He is using every means at his disposal to confront and defeat the darkness — both that which threatens from without and from within. And though we live in faith that on the cross it was all defeated once and for all, we still live in the struggle, don’t we? And oh isn’t it so that you and I are also called along with Jesus’ first disciples, along with a fictional middle school-er named Meg to dig deep into the both the strength and the weakness which resides deep within to drive out the darkness which threatens wherever that may be. For while the three young people in the novel travel far distances to do so, their first battle was in their own hearts, their own imaginations, their own homes, their own neighborhoods. Even as it still is for all of us.
I, for one, find myself bolstered on the way to see stories like this one played out in popular culture, for whether themes of faith are explicitly named or not, we can still recognize one another in the characters which are developed in one another’s imaginations. And in the recognizing we not only know that we are not alone, but also that there, perhaps, all around evidence bearing out our hope. For as the battle wages in our homes and on our doorsteps and in our neighborhoods and in the town down the road, so also does the promise of our shared victory. For in ways we can see and understand clearly and in ways we are still seeking to understand, as we lean into the promises of God, we are carried towards a future marked by life and hope and wonder and joy. Where love wins. Again, where love always wins. As love won in the house of Simon and Andrew, and on their front porch, and in their own neighborhood, and just down the road.
- Where in the world do you see this battle being waged today? Where in your world is it being waged now?
- I have offered an example from popular culture where I expect to discover the ancient themes of faith played out in a way which promises to bolster faith. What examples would you offer where you have found this to be the case?
- My work on a congregational book study is still in progress. If you would like an update when it’s done, please let me know!
- If you want a more ‘traditional’ take on this Sunday’s Gospel reading, you may want to check out what I offered in previous years: