Mark 1:15

“The time has come, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the good news.”

good news is ever present all shall be well
such a time is ripe for the picking

saving time for another time
makes future time uncouth

Mumu was right about dark time
only Bastian could imaginatively rename

good news is not content driven
for creeds are but derivative byproducts

processing experience and opportunity
requires trust beyond belief

freedom generates a next chaos
wherein and wherefrom now and shall embrace

such a time as this
welcomes and moves on

Time that is καιρός (kairos “opportune”) time is seen as present time. This makes this call to be very urgent. No matter what else is going on, there is no one else, no where else, and no other time than this time.

The way we speak of this time is critically important. “G*D’s kingdom” would have been very understandable in Mark’s day as kingdoms were the way the world worked. It was secular or everyday language that communicated very well. “Kingdom”, in particular, has become sacred or holy language that puts it outside of our experience and thus is unhelpful coded language.

The church has struggled with this for a long time and we are still in the process of trying to find language for the presence of a presence that has a mysterious, yet to be revealed, quality to it and is only able to be hinted at in some graphical way such as “G*D”. Until we crucify and resurrect this “kingdom” language, we won’t be able to do the changing required to radically trust a partnership with G*D. Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish is one of the places we might listen for new partnership of mutual humility between our past and future.

Yes, the time is now, but “kingdom” is only near, not present, and our map to new relationships is still being developed. It will be interesting to see what comes from the intersectionality found in ex-plorations by “emergent” church folks and those represented by Shambala Press.

Mark 1:14

After John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God –

each generation’s voice
rings differently
even when the same words
are sounded

a trumpet call to action
comes also
in a growl of bass sax
plinkity uke

basic announcements extend
between arts
each rallying as only it can
common sense

an announcement of good
accepted belovedness
shifts a motivation to partner
toward because

just because it is good
for one
regardless of past circumstance
for all

which brings us to updates
not automatic
ringing unheard changes
awaiting choice

your new word remembers our path
deeply rutted
your next word arrests our attention
thankfully changed

We are about to make another abrupt chronological and geographic shift. Each of these carries a sense of urgency to address a crisis in any communities listening to Mark. How can we survive in our current wilderness?

Not only has John been arrested, but so have all of us. Occupation and poverty weaken our source of trust, whether that is spoken of in absolute terms or metaphorically.

Jesus enters another wilderness by going to Galilee. Here rules Herod Antipas, who had John arrested and executed. For Jesus it is out of the frying pan and into the fire. Luke recognizes this by recording the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod (Luke 13:31).

It also can indicate that John traveled in more than one wilderness—that of deserts and locusts as well as lakes and palaces.

This act of resisting by showing up is significant for each of us as our anxiety about our own safety or how we are perceived within the church or by our peers leads us to compromise our reception of steadfast love and our embodying it in the midst of difficult times.

Mark 1:13

and he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and among the wild beasts, while the angels helped him.

imagine Eden revisited
within a declared good
a mini-wilderness grew

our friend Satan rose
from energized ground
to climb a fruitful tree

a wilderness whisper
of no consequences
piggy-backed a ripe scent

subtle satan smiled
an elderly couple drew near
promises turned to contracts

traveling to Eden
takes but a moment
forgetting angels and animals

our naming and caring
are set aside
anticipating a wild ride

yet one flaming angel
and a host of same
rally to a tree of life

we sleepwalk through
a poisoned apple stupor
one consequence to a next

one bereft tree

left standing

renamed stump
cross and center
cedar and health

we walk in wildernesses
personal and communal
aching to remember

has it been 40 days already
or only 40 years or hours
we walk again between animals

an old promise
flames back to life
you are ever loved

in wilderness and out
we rejoin satans and angels
and claim a new name

C.S. Mann has the temptation as a first engagement in an eschatological conflict.

Immediately there is a mention of animals and angels which gives a sense of how that conflict will ultimately turn out. The animals become precursors to a new creation, two by two they lead to Paradise Regained after being Lost. Angelic messengers are ready to invite, “Come! Receive life-giving water!” flowing through an unguarded tree of life.

Mark 1:12

Immediately afterward the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness;

a dove’s force
plays both
assurer and

alighting lightly
from above
brings comfort
before conflict

a unity of one
and heaven is tested
to become
all and heaven

without enlargement
assurance is a trap
satisfied with
an inner narcissist

adversity sharpens
an appreciation
an affirmation
practiced in mercy

look sharp
a dove become an eagle
is our standard
to assail heaven

There is no avoiding a hero’s journey. The very blessing giving a token of living a quest leads to a willingness to be tested. Unlike the temptation details of Matthew and Luke or those of Mary and Nicodemus in John, Mark simply notes that temptation takes place. A benefit of a lack of details or examples is that this motif can be seen all through Mark’s telling.

Temptations are not overcome marking some immunity from them. They will continue to run through the story to the final words of forsakenness and fear.

In the wilderness, carrying a deep appreciation of being loved, we understand danger abounds but the blessing already received is greater still. Testing a blessing will anneal it.

Mark’s eleven uses of ἐκβάλλω (ekballō “drove”, “forced”, “impelled”) are connected with exorcism. Blessing, as a cheap grace, needs exorcising. Without this pressurized setting of testing it will be too easy to fall into the façade of a prosperity gospel.

It is at this point that the gentle dove shows its other side—eagle. Nikos Kazantzakis notes this in his statement of faith, Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises, when he has an eagle drop and insert its talons into the back of your neck to drag you where you did not want to go.

While urgency has been present and implied with “beginning”, “Isaiah”, and “repentance”, we have here the first of the urgent words, εὐθύς (euthys “at once”, “immediately”). Richard W. Swanson’s translation of this in, Provoking the Gospel of Mark, has in caps, “BANG”. Swanson notes that “immediately” is too long a word to be immediate, to speed up and intensify a story!

Mark 1:11

and from the heavens came a voice – “You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy.”

self-contained heavens
create deafening echoes
whereupon splitting open
out rush inchoate hope
while an in-rushing gasp
shoves in the gap
a birthing groan sighs

awareness dawns
as newly washed ears

attend to the unheard
and there was music
connecting old horizons
to one widely precious
simple next breath

echoes like crashing surf
block all accumulated identities
until a song of myself
out waits a heaven bound
breaking heart
be love beloved
begin a new echo

voice to voice
calls deep to deep
heaven to hearth
opened to open
calls each to each
love times love
claims steady joy

A voice. Resonant baritone? Young girl whispering? Siri? Carried on the wind?

In Matthew we have “Beloved” as a title. Here it shows Mark’s understanding of Christ-Messiah that will blow apart every closed system to reveal a pleasure principle that has staying power. The older phrase of “steadfast love” would do well here.

Recognizing that Jesus does not live up to the usual measure of a Messiah—just look around at the lack of change in a world before and after Jesus—moves us into a re-creation of Messiah.

This important line, too easily glossed over as a statement of faith rather than the explosive reorientation it is, needs more looking at. To catch a glimpse of this listen to C.S. Mann on Mark in the Anchor Bible series.

The complexity of the declaration in this verse … can hardly be exaggerated, since it combines motifs from the soteriological ideas of Genesis 22, a messianic designation in Psalm 2, and the Servant of Isaiah 42. The combination of motifs is startling, yet all the elements are at home in Palestinian Judaism.

However you entered into overhearing this voice, it is a blessing. Look around for who else has heard and is working on allowing it to flow through and from them. Look, also, for those who haven’t heard. Bringing these two together is Messiah work.

Mark 1:10

Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove,

every little once in awhile
Sylvie brings needed water

while in deep water
we are ungrounded

are centering down for enough
to flip into a new orientation

have we stayed down long enough
to gasp at beauty open-eyed

every little once in awhile
a level of awareness is leapt

our ungrounding and regrounding
occur together—beyond a while

heaven breaks loose from eternity
and opens a newly seeded path to explore

into Noah’s hand comes an olive branch
land ho! time to release all pent up tensions

a next game is afoot as our treading finds sea floor
and we bounce to a strange shore

every little once in awhile
life’s tides ebb and flow through us

we move from drowning in prevenience
to jumping from justification to justice

The unbinding of a lost stone needs a name that stands for what it holds and is drawn forth.

In later mythology King Arthur finds a stone within water that holds a sword named Excalibur. This sword becomes his weapon whereby he rules.

Here the Jesus stone has his authority coming to rest solidly within. The two are wedded in a way not available to Arthur whose sword is finally lost to him.

A contrast between stones may be instructive.

Excalibur (a hard cut), pulled from stone, is quite different from Beloved (a generous welcome), invested in what seems to be lost in dim memory and of no account. Now a Messiah message of a split open and loving “Paradise” or “preferred future” is to be carried into every wilderness.

Mark 1:9

Now about that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

acknowledged or not
a next generation
builds on
past gains/losses

none of us are
our own strength

we call to vocation
each to their part
in common choices
and overarching journey

heartily sorry
for ancestral choices

we gather to see
what’s left
what’s surplus
what’s needed

heartily sorry
for relational choices

we gather to hear
a lament
a dance
a stillness

from no-town
to river of consequence

we drop our sorrow
claim our everyday
within and beyond
hospitality’s restraints

From promises of old we begin an urgent journey with a retreat to the wilderness.

Jesus “happened” to come from the hills of Nazareth in the north to a river, probably South Jordan near Jericho. In a sense Jesus is preparing his own way just as all of us do. Lots of things “happen”, so how do we come to be at all the important events of our life?

These simple location points say much about how revolutions take place. They take place when there is nothing left to lose. Nothing good is expected from those in Nazareth. The experience of Nazareth will be critical, but the shift will not take place there first. One needs the experience of being so close to seats of power and seeing what it does before gathering an insight as to where its failure point lies.

So we move from being at a loss, wandering without understandable direction, to a place where previous wilderness times have ended. Here we pause to let the waters flow around us as it does a rock.

A picture comes to mind of rocks lifted from the Jordan to be an enduring memorial of moving from wilderness to realized promises. (Joshua 4).

Jesus arises ready to be a living stone that wherever he wanders hopes will be raised and self-captivity will no longer rule.

This is spare language for an event which shifts seismic plates within intentionality.

Mark 1:8

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

expressed binaries

seldom integrate

or divide

baptismal water


Holy Spirit


resolve into priority

chickens and eggs
can dance together
for a long time
equally mysterious
water and Spirit
find their privilege
in exclusion

past and future
catch and release
their armored plates
determining primacy
the present trembles
in the shaking
rebalancing false choices
blaming old wounds

in this very work
present unbalances
visions of a future
still far off
and now further
expressed binaries
seldom divide
or integrate

What we do is common, ordinary. What is yet to come is for us quite uncommon and surprising.

These two states indicate a disjuncture common to beginnings, to Ta-Da announcements, to a new way and new life.

John is not Jesus. Jesus is not me. All three of us are growing into G*D. Theosis is a journey of grace. This Orthodox orthodoxy is involved with a journey from water to Spirit.

The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America puts it this way in their blog on “Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature”:

In fact, deification is very akin to the Wesleyan understanding of holiness or perfection, with the added element of our mystical union with God in Christ as both the means and the motive for attaining perfection. Fr. David Hester in his booklet, The Jesus Prayer, identifies theosis as “the gradual process by which a person is renewed and unified so completely with God that he becomes by grace what God is by nature.” Another way of stating it is “sharing in the divine nature through grace.”

This journey will be revisited in Chapter 9 when the revelation of “belovedness” at a riverside baptism is reprised on a mountain.

For now, note Mark’s building of a story of Jesus’ beginning and movement toward a mysterious promise of resurrection and reunion.

Mark 1:7

and he proclaimed – “After me is coming someone more powerful than I am, and I am not fit even to stoop down and unfasten his sandals.

everyone serves
someone something
stronger or
you’d all serve me
we’d all serve you

identifying strength
is a critical
survival skill

evaluating strength
is a critical
growth grace

not all strength
is equal or
real or true
we too easily
give in to

claimed or
perceived strength
always wears
a curtain to be
drawn back

in what strength
do you really
go forth

Note that there is no wild warning of impending doom here, no calling out “you snakes” at crowds in general or Pharisees in particular. Mark’s Baptizer John is a preparer of a later choice of the message we will learn to give.

Everyone, including Jesus, can see “better” on its way. Care for next generations demands that we expect and encourage them to do greater things than we have been able to achieve. We welcome their outdoing us and redeeming our lack even as we attempt to do the same for those who have gone before us.

To this extent we are able to emulate John as we set the table for better to come. This is not some pie-in-the-sky being talked about, but an on-the-ground, steady affirmation, “It gets better”.

A weak baby of today is intended to grow stronger and wiser than ourselves or we have totally messed up our values.

This is a humble position to be in, expecting tables to turn and to be a part of seeing that they do. A gift of humility is finding the truth in “the last shall be first and the first, last”. In this is a deep satisfaction beyond pride. It is our shoulders they have stood on. And, it turns out those who follow are not heavy.

All of this suggests that John understood being a grandparent who can see beyond the limits of what they could accomplish with their children to what the children of their children are going to be able to bind together as a rainbow promise of no more violence is implemented in their lives.

Mark 1:6

John wore clothes made of camels’ hair, with a leather strap around his waist, and lived on locusts and wild honey;

describing behavior
implies interiority

with camel clothes
leather belt and
locusts eaten
with uncommoditized honey
we are brought up short
we can’t avert our eyes

people might journey
an easy way down
to see a buttoned-down preacher
in a splendiferous setting
but a quick dip
to sustain a difficult climb
puts this beginning
in as untenable spot
as its ending

Baptizer John
didn’t pull punches
with his outside
non-conformed dress
or his inside
pro-prophetic sustenance
which all-in-all
is attractive and

come for the latest spectacle
come for a needed meme

We are what we eat. Likewise we dress our social location, even when our dressing down evidences our ability to dress up—note pre-distressed jeans.

In both instances we model our understanding of our standing. There is a look to a prophet and another to a profiteer. Wisdom in the world’s way requires a keen sense of style to know where real power and weakness lie.

Would people have willingly gone to see a successful trader ultimately incapable of being a traitor to all that brought them success?

Perhaps for a while. However the parade would end as internal dissonance cannot last without being seen as the crazy place it is.

Eventually, though, not even a style congruent with a message can carry the day. John is not Elijah. A messenger is not needed for Prophet Jesus. He stands on his own. John is not his clothes or his food. Similarly confession, forgiveness, and repentance are not sufficient to precede or follow an act of baptism. These works are too small for a changed heart and do not carry sufficient energy for a life out of sync with its time.