Blessings of the Wilderness by Bob Wickizer

Blessings of the Wilderness
Bob Wickizer
Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
1 Lent

What is your image of God's Spirit? Do you conjure up Spielberg Hollywood images? Do you image a Pillsbury dough boy with soft, fluffy edges? Does you Holy Spirit come to you only when times feel right and good to you?

At Jesus' baptism by John, we learn "just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him." Maybe I could help frame this in a more appropriate context if I told you that the term "torn apart" appears only one other time in all of the Gospels - at the crucifixion when the sky darkened, thunder clapped and the veil of the temple curtain was "torn apart," would you understand the role of the Spirit differently?

At the crucifixion scene in Mark's Gospel, the Centurion testifies that "truly this man [Jesus] was the son of God." Likewise just after the Spirit descends on Jesus we hear the voice of God testify that "You [Jesus] are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of Jesus' identity are bookends to Jesus' ministry in Mark.

Outlining the events at the beginning and end of Jesus' earthly ministry would put them in exact parallel order like the following:
Baptism of Jesus
Heavens torn apart
God's Spirit descends like a dove straight down from heaven
Testimony: "You are my Son; the Beloved..."
Begin earthly ministry of Jesus
Crucifixion of Jesus
Temple curtain torn apart
Apocalyptic signs and terrible fear
Testimony: "Truly this was the Son of God."
End earthly ministry of Jesus

Imagine, just before the Holy Spirit appears like a dove, the heavens are torn apart, the sky darkens, the earth trembles, the thunder rolls, people are terribly afraid. Now I need to tell you something about how doves fly. In level flight with n ...

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