And the Spirit immediately drove him 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.
The whole forty days? We read of three temptations, but can't really tell from the text how long each one took. And was it wild beasts the whole time, or did they come and go? And how did Mark know angels came and waited on Jesus? Did Jesus mention it later on -- Say, you know that time when I was in the wilderness all alone? You'll never guess who came and waited on me!
Doesn't sound very Jesus-like, that last bit. I think we're seeing the flight of Mark's imagination here, rather than journalistic fact.
What we do know is that the good and the bad pushed hard upon him in his spirit-driven isolation in the desert. He found silence and his own courage. But he found his own weakness, too: the temptations to comfort, to power, even to self-destruction were real. Resisting them was no easy thing. And there would be more before his story was finished -- this was a real person we are talking about, not a God pretending to be a real person. From his birth to the death for which we now begin to prepare, and even after, we never escape the mystery of who Jesus is, and we never solve it. It remains a puzzle.
Here at St. James we are considering something we did at St. Clement's some years ago, a Passion in Real Time. Slowing down the mannered liturgical marking of the terrible events of those last three days into the actual time span involved, so that the tedium and exhaustion, the horror and the hope-against-hope are all as real as they can be, from this distance in time and across the cultural gulf that separates us from first-century Jerusalem. Some of us will be up all night, from Holy Thursday into Good Friday. Some will wait and tell stories in the dark church all through Saturday night, until the first light of the Easter sun tell us that, once again, He Is Risen.
Oh, I am not getting younger! To sleep on a church floor is a hard lot -- I might have thoguht I'd be done with that sort of thing. But a new generation waits to hear the story and feel it, and we must show and tell it again. And there are those who never have anywhere to sleep but on a hard floor. There will be a time for an Easter nap when the last Alleluia has returned to the lips of the faithful, forty days from now.
1 Peter 3:18-22
Coming up: Friends of St. James Florence in Atlanta and Dallas welcome Barbara Crafton for her only visit to the USA this spring with a variety of events, and you are invited to all of them.
First, Georgia --
Saturday, March 7th --Praying When Times Are Hard-- A Quiet Day with Barbara Crafton, 11-6 at Holy Trinity Parish, Decatur, GA.
We imagine that changes and obstacles in the rest of our lives shouldn't cause a change in our spiritual lives, but of course they do. Turning points, losses, new beginnings, illness --and who these days is not facing economic challenges?
God is never more present than when we are most in need, but sometimes it's hard to see that, and very hard to know how to pray through it. That's what we'll explore together in this one-day retreat.
The cost is $40.00, and reservations are a must, to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be Barbara Crafton's only retreat on the East Coast of the USA until September.
Sunday, March 8 -- Barbara Crafton preaches at all services at Holy Trinity, Decatur
Holy Eucharists at 8 and 10. Barbara also speaks at the rector's forum between services.
Monday, March 9th -- Trinity Church, Columbus, GA, Barbara Crafton is featured speaker at Trinity's Annual Lenten Luncheon Speaker Series. Lunch is $5, no reservations are necessary. Email email@example.com for more information.
Monday, March 9th -- American Friends of St. James Benefit at the Decatur home of the Rev. Claiborne Jones. Hear the news from Firenze as Barbara sees it, enjoy refreshments and catch up with Barbara and your friends at St. James. Horace Gibson will be on board as well. 6pm to 8pm. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
And then on to Dallas --
Tuesday, March 10 -- American Friends of St. James Benefit at the Dallas home of Marla and Tony Briggle. Hear the news from Florence as interim rector Barbara Crafton sees it. Horace Gibson will be in attendance as well, and is eager to see many old friends -- that is, friends of long standing. 6-8pm. RSVP to email@example.com.
Wednesday, March 11 St. Michael and All Angels Lenten Evenings
6.15 Choral Evensong, 7pm Supper. Barbara Crafton is featured speaker. Make a reservation at http://www.saintmichael.org/pages/Lenten_Series_Registration
Then it's back to Florence on Saturday, March 14th.