MARK 1:1-8 & PSALM 29 

Rev. Adam Tierney-Eliot

Scripture Readings: Mark 1: 1-8 & Psalm 29

Focus Quote: “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: prepare the way of God and make the path of God straight.’” (Mark 1:2-3)

I remember as a kid looking forward to snow days.  Sometimes, guided on by the obvious excitement of the meteorologists on the evening news, the potential of a snow day would start to creep in to my being and become a reality in my mind.  I knew that it wasn’t, of course, and I would ask my parents questions like “Do you think there is about a 30% chance of school, or is it more like 20%?”  Naturally, given the odds, my homework would remain undone or, at least, done poorly.  Sometimes I lucked out.  Sometimes I did not and wound up in detention with many other kids who played the same odds and got the same results.

Now that I am older I realize that this same dynamic exists for all of us to some extent.  Right now they are predicting a storm for Sunday morning.  Do I plan a sermon?  If I do (and I certainly will) how do I maintain my concentration knowing that this sermon may very well be put away for weeks or even years?  It may never be delivered at all, in fact, if the right moment never comes.  Still, focus is what is needed.  Creativity is what is needed.  So, too, is inspiration.

The fact of the matter is I am trapped in a thicket of potential futures and competing realities.  What I need and what all of us need at moments like this is a lifeline, a compass, or perhaps a voice calling to us in the wilderness.  This is where our readings come in today.  Poor John the Baptist who got trotted out so recently over the Christmas season still has something to say to us.  We may be bored or in a post-Christmas funk, but John keeps calling, pointing a finger toward something greater.  He is, in fact, pointing toward Jesus, his saving message and his life.  That is, Jesus is calling to us as well.

Still, there is another voice that is worth noticing this time of year.  In the midst of all the cold and of the sometimes stark and difficult terrain, we can and should listen for the voice of God.  Psalm 29 verse 3 tells us that “The voice of God is over the waters; the God of glory thunders” and later “The voice of God flashes forth flames of fire.  The voice of God shakes the wilderness.”  (Ps 29:7-8)  Think about that during the next snowstorm!

The trick or challenge for us is to listen for these voices as well as for that still, small voice that resides inside us.  It can be easy sometimes.  However more often we find ourselves at the eve of some metaphorical potential snow day, unsure how to proceed and distracted by all the things that come hurling at us on a “normal” day.  Perhaps we should, while the year is still young, make an attempt to build in some time each day for retreat.

If the wilderness is at hand, now is the time to use it!  But really we don’t have to leave our homes if we don’t want to.  After all Henry David Thoreau, that great American Philosopher, once said that “the frontiers are not east or west or north or south but wherever a man ‘fronts’ a fact.”  Of course today we would add women and children to that list of fact frontiers and question askers.  We all can broaden our frontiers through both reflection and action.  As long as we are mindful and as long as we are faithful to finding the voices of God and our own voice in the process as well.

Prayer:  O God who thunders over the waters and who whispers in our hearts, please speak to me.  Please help me to see what lies ahead but, more importantly, please help me to see what lies before me now.  I wish to be about your work.  Please help me to see your motions and hear your voice.