Monday, February 27, 2012 — Week of 1 Lent

George Herbert, Priest, 1633

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) 44 (evening)

Genesis 37:1-11

1 Corinthians 1:1-19

Mark 1:1-13

We enter the Daily Office Lectionary for Lent today. Each of the three readings begins a period of sequential reading from scripture. Today we begin the Joseph saga in Genesis. We also start Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, and we open the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark.

Joseph’s story begins ominously. He’s the special child — the youngest and favorite. There are signs that he is precocious and gifted, but naive and spoiled as well. His self-centered dream images provoke his family. We can feel the jealousy take root.

Mark’s gospel begins with a special child — “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” — but we get no birth narrative as in Matthew and Luke. It begins with the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” But this story begins in humility rather than jealousy. John the baptizer looks forward to God’s fulfillment of the baptism that John initiates. And Jesus receives a vision that he is a father’s beloved, but instead of the naive gloating of Joseph, he intuitively follows the leading of the Spirit into the wilderness for a time of testing about this calling.

Paul’s letter will be all about the complexities of being the beloved, called children of God — a gifted and special people. But with those gifts comes responsibilities. How do we use the wisdom and freedom we’ve been given? Will pride or power spoil the gifts?

The people I admire and look up to are people who seem very special. They have gifts and talents that seem wonderful and remarkable to me. But when I look a little closer, the best of them seem almost unaware of their giftedness. What they do just seems like what they should be doing. For them, it’s no big deal. It’s nothing special. And the best of them betray very little self-consciousness about their wisdom or leadership. They are just doing the work they’ve been given to do.

Each of us is a special child. Beloved and gifted. How will we use our gifts? Reflectively after a time of testing and intention, or thoughtlessly with an immature naivete? In service or selfishness? In pride or humility? Over each of us has been spoken the divine blessing — “You are my Child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Now, what will we do with that?

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