Imagining the Lectionary: Wild and unrelenting – By Dave Perry

by Christine Sine

This morning’s post in the series Easter is Coming: What Do We Hunger and Thirst For? is by Dave Perry:

Dave Perry is a Methodist Minister who blogs at www.visualtheology.blogspot.com. A passionate photographer, he is keen to use visual imagery as a way of bringing the faith alive. Dave is currently Superintendent of the Hull (West) Circuit in East Yorkshire.

Wild and unrelenting see the true picture

An experience both wild and unrelenting: this is not your typical ‘giving up chocolate’ appreciation of Lent, but it is the uncomfortable and inconvenient gospel truth out of which our largely neutered and neutralised present day observance has arisen. As surely as night follows day the cherishing embrace of divine grace becomes the point of departure for a unrelenting personal journey deep into the wild topography of the soul and psyche. The Spirit which empowers and affirms Jesus compels and forces him into an experience which is authentically wild and unrelenting.

The sparse prose of St.Mark distils the spiritual dynamics into a crystal clear clarity of meaning which is meant to be taken neat and undiluted.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:9-15)

Mark invites us to down in one the spiritual truth he sees, to taste its breathtaking intensity and experience its unique potency, and to share it wholeheartedly and unreservedly. If we could but grasp it, here is the unchanging basis for our Christian faith. The encounter with the Holy Spirit confirms the beloved in God’s amazing grace and takes them deep within their being to that place wherein the transforming power of God is manifest so undeniably that they emerge filled with utter enthusiasm for God’s love at work in the world.

Cherishing, transforming, liberating: these are the three movements of the Spirit which shape our understanding of Christian discipleship and which Lent compels us to reconsider. Held secure and safe within the Spirit’s embrace, we are brought face to face with the truth of our broken and distorted views of ourselves and others. The first image portrays this visually: we see a landscape that is fragmented, disjointed, unreal. Some aspects are out of proportion, others are incomplete or false representations of what is actually there. And the whole vista is viewed through an impenetrable fence which blocks our progress. This is how it is and we are stuck with it. This is our wilderness prospect, and God wants to confront us with it and get us to the point at which we can see the true picture.

In its wild and unrelenting character the story of the temptation shows us a home truth we would rather ignore. Even when we have reassembled the disparate pieces of our self-understanding and worldview into something recognisable which makes sense, we discover that the work of transformation isn’t finished. The picture is whole but still not right. And we realise that we remain captive behind the fence of our desires, defence mechanisms and self-serving intentions. The wild and unrelenting work of transformation goes on until the true picture emerges, the one in which we see from a godly point of view, at last unhindered and unfettered by all that was unhealed, unresolved and unreconciled within us before the journey began.

This is the kingdom outlook of Jesus. It is the Spirit’s gift.  It is why God compels us into the wild and unrelenting experience of Lent in the first place. Because God loves us so much that God just can’t leave us stuck where we are. Once transformed so that we see the true picture, we become part of God’s liberating purpose in the world. For now in us and through us the Kingdom of God is clear and comes near.

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