The Mark Challenge and the Lenten Journey have impacted each of us in different ways. Together we have waded into the depths of the Gospel according to Mark and encountered the incarnate Jesus, born of human flesh and living a life of mission and redemption, calling others to "come and follow." As we draw near to the cross and nearer to the resurrection, these are precious moments in which to reflect on the Spirit's work in each of our lives - molding, transforming and equippping us to join Jesus in his mission to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Scott Patchin holds many titles - husband, father of four, independent business person, leader of the "Pastoral Search Team," etc. - and chief among them is "child of God." Here, he reflects on his experience of listening and living into the Gospel, accompanied by the power of the Spirit. His words are honest and unedited. I pray that you will find his insights compelling and even encouraging as you continue your own journey in developing as a faithful follower of Jesus.
As I read the Mark challenge outline, the first thing that hit me was time. When would I do this? But God gives me a gift every morning. It is called the bus schedule. The first children leave at 7am from my house and the next batch needs to awake at 7:45 to be ready by 8:30. Often in the scripture Jesus was described as rising early to go off into the darkness and pray. This was my ‘rising early’ time and I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat on the floor in a corner of my home office and dutifully followed the three steps in processing the scripture.
I know the term radical disciples was used to describe our theme, and as I think about the things that hit me during my journal and prayer time I am not sure they feel very radical. Here are the transforming moments for me:
Why do I do things? Pilot made some bad decisions, but I had never really thought why. His first was to behead John the Baptist. Why? He liked John and thought it was wrong, but did it because of his ‘oaths and dinner guests’. He was afraid of what the people would think of him. When it was time to crucify Jesus he kept asking why and saw no crimes, but he was afraid of the crowd. So he ordered Jesus to the cross.
Do I recognize God’s presence? The first people to really name Jesus and see him as the Son of God? The demons, and they even asked for mercy from him – and he GAVE it! Then the Pharisees repeatedly asked for miracles as proof or tried to catch him with a question – but he saw their hard hearts and their lack of faith, and he refused. I thought of when I go to God and talk with him, do I really believe?
So what do I do with all of this? I am eighteen months into starting my own business and the list of things to do is always long. There are ups and downs with providing a service, and it is easy to panic in the downtimes and try and do more. Clearly in Mark Jesus does not say do more, but pray more and believe more. So when I get worried about how much work I have, I have tried to pray more and make sure my morning time is uninterrupted. I have received a couple of customers that in the past I might have attributed to my hard work, but they were answers to prayer.
The second thing is allowing time to slow down and do God’s work. I try and block a day a week to focus on friends, using my gifts just to help someone, or just answering a request that I feel God has put in front of me and I need to listen. This is the biggest challenge, because my work is on my mind seven days a week and it wears me down sometimes. I try and tithe my time (4 hrs a week) just to answer the calls of others to listen and help where I can. These are the moments I see God at work because I am am present out of love and a feeling that God asked me to be there. It is also in these moments that I am often overcome with the love I get back.
It is hard to see God when we are busy doing. The demons did because in some twisted way they were on the lookout for him. He threatened their power. The Pharisees had a list of laws they were often too busy following, so they were looking for someone to prove to them that they should stop doing what they were doing. Jesus rebuked them. Ironically I walk away from this exercise trying to be more like the demons, purposefully looking for God in my life, not as a threat to my power, but believing he is at work already and ready to love and support me.
As I read this last sentence, I guess it does sound kind of radical. God got me again.
If we are willing to look, we will not fail to find signs of God in our midst..."Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly, this man was God's Son!'" (Mark 15:39).