My plan during the summer vacation is to go through the gospel of Mark with Landon, so in upcoming blogs, you may encounter some of Landon’s more raw thoughts and questions regarding the text. It could be interesting.
This morning’s reading was Mark 1:
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
The two questions that came out of this were:
1) If God the Father is God, and Jesus the Son is God, isn’t God talking to himself?
2) John the Baptist prepared the way well so that people were ready to meet Jesus. In what way does my life point people towards Jesus, and in what ways might my life be hindering people seeing Jesus?
So let’s start with the first one, I mean, all I have to do is explain the Trinity, right? The way in which theologians talk about this is usually in terms of the three “persons” of God, but that language leads us into difficulty, because person = individual, and God is not, in the ultimate sense, three distinct and separate individuals.
The usual ways of explaining the Trinity and the three leafed clover (which is not too bad I suppose) or that God can be both water, steam and ice. All essentially the same, but in three different forms. Also, not bad, but it encounters the problem of not being able to be all three states at the same time. Let’s face it. Any analogy to explain the mystery of the Trinity will be imperfect and inaccurate since it is a divine concept we are trying to adapt to finite human minds and understanding.
The way in which I expressed it to Landon this morning was by replacing the word “person” with “expression. As in, Jesus is a different expression of God than God the Father. I used the analogy that although I am Glyn, depending on where I am placing my emphasis, I may be Glyn the Pastor (GP) Glyn the Father (GF) and Glyn the Table-Tennis Player (GTTP).” And even though Glyn the Table-Tennis Player may want to go and play table-tennis, Glyn the Pastor might remind him that he has a role to be a spiritual example to his son, and Glyn the Father might instead sit down with Landon and study the Bible with him. All of these three, GP, GF and GTTP are still essentially Glyn, and yet they can talk to each other because they have different roles. They are all valid expressions.
The big difference here is, of course, that God is always agreeing with himself and not in any sense schizophrenic, but we still see a degree of distance between the expressions where, for example, God the Father affirms Jesus the Son after his baptism (in the passage above) and where Jesus the Son asks God the Father at Gethsemane if there is another way to accomplish the results of the cross without the experience of the cross.
Imperfect, inaccurate and limited though this analogy may be, it helped Landon understand the Trinity (at least at a level appropriate to his age) and for now, that is good enough.
The second part was the examination of our lives, to see whether, like John the Baptist, we are making straight paths for others to come to Jesus, or whether we may be hindering them. Landon thought of three areas that he needs to work on, and I was impressed with his honesty and capacity for self-examination, and then we prayed about those things.
I still need to give it further thought. My issues may be just as heinous, but perhaps better disguised and deeper to root out, but I too want to be sure that I am a path to Jesus, not an obstacle in people’s way. How about you? What is there in you that may be making the path crooked or providing an obstacle?
As God reveals this to us, may we be challenged to change, but also comforted by this truth:
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
Perhaps you would like to join Landon and I in our journey through Mark this summer. Be sure to subscribe at glynnorman.com to receive these (almost) daily devotions by email. Welcome to the journey!