Mark 1:4

John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins.

Baptizer John
or any prophet
worth their salt
in a wilderness
whether an internal
or external wilderness

for a sign of change
first a sign of grace
preemptively merciful
forgiveness is a creation
we swim in

if these then risk
if risk then generosity
if generosity then no prophets
no Jesus John-ed
no baptism
no G*D

when generosity falters
prophets cry
don’t follow the money
follow the tears
tears enough to baptize
a first change and a next

Isaiah’s wilderness does not presume a physical wilderness. A people can provide their own wilderness through micro-decisions that add up over time until no one knows where our current difficulties lie or how to face them.

Image John in the middle of the Jordan, at the boundary between ancient Egypt and contemporary Rome. This location dramatizes choices of defection or disruption when a majority or other power enforces its will. Eventually there will be a call for repentance from greed in everyday life. Response will be difficult because it is always easier to see this wilderness of greed as a vice in another or displaced to some other place than everyday life.

These first four verses can be seen as announcement, connection to the past and present are the title and introduction of Mark’s Gospel. This misses a larger sense in which the whole of Mark is an introduction to a question of whether we see ourselves in a wilderness which can only be addressed by going into a larger wilderness where we fix a commitment to cease building debts as the basis of relationships and begin the long slow process of deconstructing a society built on the institution of and sustaining of inequality.

A need for change in John’s day continues to our day. No matter the clarity of a John or a Marx and Engels or today’s candidate for better living, implementation continues to run into unchanged hearts.

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