Rev. Matthew Crebbin has been the Lead Pastor at Newtown Congregational Church, UCC in Newtown, CT since 2007. His is also a facilitator for healingthehealers.org which provides online resources to assist faith leaders in ministering in the midst of communal and personal trauma.
Scripture: Mark 1: 9-15 (NRSV)
Key Verse for this reflection: Mark 1:13
“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him”.
Reflection: It Has Been a Long Lent!
It has been a long Lent! Although the official liturgical calendar of the western church will disagree with me, I am convinced that this year’s Lenten journey through the wilderness began last year on or about March 15, 2020. That was the day my church in Newtown first cancelled in-person worship due to concerns about a new virus called Covid-19. And though the liturgical calendar has moved us through the seasons of Easter, Pentecost, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany since that day, there is a part of me that continues to experience our current life as a continuing journey through the wilderness.
Nearly everything that I thought I knew about living as the church - all the day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season - markers and activities have been altered by this journey through this strange and unknown territory called “global pandemic”. Nothing is the same: worship, pastoral care, meetings, budgets, stewardship, justice advocacy – all these and many more areas have been profoundly affected by pandemic living.
I must confess that I would prefer that my wilderness journeys to be controllable. I want them to unfold in ways that fit my needs and expectations. I would appreciate having a time frame that works with my schedule: 40 days would be best – but no more than 40 weeks thank you! However, I have learned the hard way that untamed journeys have little regard for my sensibilities.
When I was younger, Mark’s telling of Jesus’ time in the wilderness seemed uninteresting. There were no details about what happened. There was only one pithy verse about unnamed temptations, wild beasts, and unidentified angels. But now I wonder if Mark understands more about what it is like when you find yourself in the middle of the wilderness. Maybe the journey is not controllable or easy to describe. Maybe it is not really a linear journey of facing a series of temptations - and then recovering and moving on. Maybe the wilderness is about the swirl of struggles that are difficult to describe. Maybe strange beasts - within and beyond us - show up without warning and refuse to be tamed. And perhaps angelic care appears like a cup of wet and refreshing grace on the dry and barren path of despair.
In this long Lenten journey of pandemic, I have become keenly aware that temptation – as well as grief – does not follow a linear path. The wild beasts of stress and trauma swirl and stalk about as they come and go in my life. And just as importantly, angelic care often shows up at unexpected times with deep and generous gifts that nourish the depths of my being. Which is why during this ongoing Lenten journey if (and when) angels show up with shrove pancakes or Easter sweets or kind words or compassionate support, I am not going to tell them to wait until I am done with the struggle. In the wilderness, you are never quite sure when and how resurrection might arrive. So, I’ll just do what I can to be open to grace-filled care whenever it appears and do what I can to share such care with others on the journey.
Holy One, sometimes the wilderness seems like it will never end – we pray that no temptation will be too overwhelming and no angelic act of compassion too insignificant. In all things may your Spirit sustain us on the journey before us. Grant us the hope and grace needed to make manifest your realm – in this moment and in every moment. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 482,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease (22,000 more than last week)
- For the families of the victims of the 54 mass shootings already carried out in 2021 (9 more than last week)
- For the people of Myanmar where thousands are protesting a military coup after pro-democracy leaders were detained
- For children everywhere who have been and continue to be prohibited from favorite clubs and activities at schools, even as some sports are being allowed to practice
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the a weekend celebrating those we love
- For moments with friends and family that happen spontaneously, and create memories for a lifetime
This Week in History:
February 21, 1965 (56 years ago) African America nationalist and religious leader Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City. Malcolm was the son of a Baptist Preacher who was brutally murdered in Nebraska in 1931. While in prison between 1946 and 1952 for a burglary conviction, Malcolm discovered the teachings of Elijah Muhammed, leader of the Nation of Islam. After his release, he became a minister of the Nation of Islam, in Harlom. Malcolm's message is often compared and contrasted with Martin Luther King Jr.. Unlike King's message of change through peaceful protest, Malcolm advocated self-defense and liberation of Blacks "by any means." His fiery oration skills made him a powerful leader during the civil rights movement, but he was also seen as a threat by others. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm returned to the states with a more moderate message, which increased his popularity.
Celebrating Black History: Born February 18, 1931, Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was an American novelist, essayist, editor, professor, and one of the most celebrated authors in American history. Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize for her book "Beloved" in 1987, a fictional novel based on the real story of Margaret Garner who attempted to escape slavery in 1856. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 2012, President Barack Obama presenter her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison died in 2019, and was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2020.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”