We are quickly closing in on a year since the world as we knew it changed out from under us due to a global pandemic. Throughout this year we have ridden the ups and downs of ever changing recommendations and restrictions to how we live our daily lives and how we interact with others. We have lived the ups and downs of mental and emotional exhaustion brought by living through a pandemic. Finding many moments when we feel like we have nothing left to give. The past few weeks I have been in one of the low spots on the rollercoaster of pandemic life. My cup feels empty. Many days’ motivation has been hard to come by. I am sure many of us have had these moments, especially throughout the last year. This year has been a marathon and we are running out of adrenaline to keep going and make it to the end. Right now it can often feel like our plates are full trying to do everything, yet our cups are empty. So what can we do in these moments to help fill our cup again?
One of the things I find most helpful when I am in the midst of these moments is connection with community. Connecting with friends and family, with people who help fill my soul. Living alone through the pandemic has been challenging at times. Yet, we are people made for community. We need connection with other people to help us through our low moments. Even Jesus didn’t go through it alone, but relied on community in his moments of need. This Sunday we hear from the Gospel of Mark (1:9-15) about Jesus’ baptism and temptation. As Mark tells it, when Jesus is baptized the Spirit descends and proclaims him as “Beloved,” then Spirit immediately drives Jesus out into the wilderness. Out into the desolate terrain of beasts and nothingness. Out to the place of the tempter for 40 days. Jesus goes from the high of baptism and doves descending, to immediately being cast into isolation and desolation. But here is where we must pay attention to what Mark tells us in the last part of verse 13. While in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, while in the midst of the wild beasts, Jesus was also waited on by angels. In a moment of isolation and temptation, of being in the full experience of his humanity. God sent angels to care for, and deaconess to Jesus. We see that even Jesus needed angels to wait on him in his wilderness, even Jesus couldn’t go through it alone.
This can be a reassuring image for us as we face our own times of wilderness. When we are caught in the midst of the chaos of our own lives, in the midst of the temptations of society, of trying to fit the mold society says we need to, to look or act or be a certain way. In the midst of isolation, in a time when connection is so hard, yet so important. In the midst of grief, as we come to terms with so much loss all around us due to a global pandemic.
As we sit in the wildernesses of our own lives, the story of Jesus’s time in the wilderness can be a reminder to us. It is a reminder that we cannot and we Do Not go it alone. We were created into community, in the image of God, of the Trinity, the three in one. And in Baptism we were baptized into the community of faith. Into a promise that we will never be isolated, that God will be there because we are “Beloved, children of God.” In the Baptismal promise there is also a call to the gathered community, to be the affirmers of community. We are called to be community, and to serve others. We are sent into the chaos and wilderness of the world filled with the Holy Spirit, as a reminder that we are not alone in our wilderness, in our moments of feeling empty and alone.
May we be reminded today that even Jesus experienced wilderness and isolation, but he did not go it alone, he had angels to wait on him. And neither do we go through our moments of feeling empty and broken alone. We have angels around us to serve us, and deaconess to us through those moments. May we be made more aware of the angels in our lives as we go through our wilderness journeys.
Prayer: "The Adventure of Community, a prayer from Iona": by Fiona Barker
God who walks with us the adventure of community, remind us of your constant presence.
When we are full give us the strength to bring light to others.
When we are empty comfort and renew us.
When we need challenge teach and stretch us.
And when we need rest provide a stopping place on the way.