We are in Lent. Last Tuesday we ate, drank, and were merry. (Were we ever! The Cathedral’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper was great fun, with a capacity crowd.) On Wednesday we remembered our mortality and our dependence upon God for all things, including the very fact of our existence. We imposed ashes and said, once again, that we are but dust. And now we are in the midst of the forty days. The duration of Lent mirrors the length of days that Jesus of Nazareth spent in the wilderness immediately following his baptism. While there, as Mark’s Gospel tells us today, Jesus was “tempted by Satan.”
Right in the middle of the excruciating Book of Job, as long-suffering Job continually debates his friends and maintains his innocence before God, there is an interlude in which Job pauses, oddly, to describe the condition of those who make their livelihood under the earth, mining its resources. Job says, “Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. Miners penetrate darkness, and search out to the farthest bound the ore in gloom and deep darkness. They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation; they are forgotten by travelers. They sway suspended, remote from all people.”
Two weeks ago Jill and I took our kids to see the film Selma. The movie is fantastic in its human portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr., so important in an era in which King, like other great American figures, is increasingly cast in marble and consequently risks losing his humanity among us. There are two images from the film that have stayed with me.
Today’s Gospel passage from Mark portrays Jesus’ very first act of ministry. Until now, Jesus has retreated to the wilderness to pray and wrestle with the Devil, and he has called his core disciples. Using a modern business analogy, we might say Jesus has gone on a visioning retreat to set his priorities and create his strategic plan, and he has assembled his team. But until today Jesus hasn’t launched. He hasn’t done anything. Again, by analogy, if we consider Steve Jobs and the annual Apple shareholders meeting, we know that first actions intend to set tone, name priorities, and declare to the world what is central to mission. They serve as the “big reveal.” On center stage, when he has people’s attention, Steve Jobs (or, now, Tim Cook) announces the iPod, or iPhone, or iPad, setting the consumer world on fire. What does Jesus do?