Leave A Mark...Marks of Grace


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Maybe it is on the door frame in the laundry room at Grandma’s house where you marked the spot that you finally outgrew your older sister. Do you see the dirty finger prints on the top of the door frame going out of the front door cause your finally tall enough jump high enough? Hand prints and paw prints are left in concrete. Scars are left behind on trees. For about six years I covered up the scar that matches leave on carpet…that was until we packed up our house to move.

We leave behind marks and marks are left on us. The physical ones are the easiest to see but there are marks which leave far more telling and influential impressions on our lives. These marks are left upon our lives most often by places, predicaments and people. When and where have you seen your life marked? Who has made an impact on you? I regularly credit Don and Jon Hall and Curtis Martin who were both youth counselors and Scoutmasters in Troops for shaping me.

The marks are marks of grace for they are gifts to us. They are teachers and markers, guides for our journey. Each mark is unique; their power and purpose aren't always the same. I think it was evident that Elizabeth’s story is a story of just such a mark. We may not all have such an experience of divine intervention but marks of grace aren't intended for just a one time thing as Elizabeth noted. They are for a lifetime. But one thing I'd like you to remember is this as we journey through the next six weeks...Jesus is only baptized once. Once was enough.

Check out Mark 1:9-13 CEV ...
About that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. (10) As soon as Jesus came out of the water, he saw the sky open and the Holy Spirit coming down to him like a dove. (11) A voice from heaven said, "You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you." (12) Right away God's Spirit made Jesus go into the desert. (13) He stayed there for forty days while Satan tested him. Jesus was with the wild animals, but angels took care of him.

Before Jesus goes to the wilderness there is this moment. Before His ministry gets underway, before he takes responsibility, Jesus takes pause to be marked – marked by the baptism of John in the Jordan River. The voice of the God the Father spoke and the Holy Spirit as a dove descended upon God the Son confirming Jesus as the Christ. And “Right away God's Spirit made Jesus go into the desert...(v12).”

Now Mark's desert has some distinctives...
      1. God knows there are wilderness times.
      2. God knows there are temptation times.
      3. God knows there are wild beasts out there.

We'll come back to those in a minute. But let's remember that one baptism was enough. A true mark of grace like baptism will continue on indefinitely signifying you are God's own. Once done, it never has to be repeated, the Holy Spirit does not have to be reminded you are a son or daughter of God. A mark of grace isn't for the moment but for the moments which follow.

Other gospel writers get into more detail regarding the temptations. But that Mark keeps it simple and concise, I think, is more than just keeping with his story. The history of the desert is different for us all. Sometimes the desert is a wilderness and that is what we face: isolation. Other times the desert place is about facing temptations: yes, it is about Satan. And still other times there are wild beasts and the desert presents itself as a struggle for survival.

In the early centuries of the church, there were a group of men and women called the abbas and the ammas who went to the desert following this very pattern. Their histories and writings confirm the marks of grace are to sustain us no matter what we face in the desert.

What we dare not lose sight of is that Jesus faced all of these. God, in the flesh, left a mark by facing all that the desert place has to throw at us. The writer of Hebrews explains that... “[Jesus] had to be one of us, so that he could serve God as our merciful and faithful high priest ...And now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else who is tempted. (Heb 2:17-18 CEV)”

Is it easy for me to talk about suffering? No. So much has been said about it and not understood. As a pastor, what I can tell you that the mark of baptism is mark of adoption into the family of God. Communion is a mark of grace which sustains us on our journey. But those aren't the only marks I carry. I carry the marks of radiation treatment from cancer. I get to admit to my tattoos that marked me. Earlier this month, I woke up and suddenly discovered I had lost close to 40% of the vision in my right eye due to a swollen optical nerve. As I have walked through the desert these days, I have been reminded and upheld by marks of grace.  Those same marks from cancer became marks of grace in my desert of vision loss and I have been reminded - "...now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else..."

In a recent devotion in The Upper Room, the writer shared hearing a conversation between two high school girls where one said, “I’ve unfriended Jessica.” “Really?” came the reply.” “She really messed up this time. Our friendship is over for good.”

This act of “unfriending” — removing someone’s name from a list of friends onFacebook — has become so common that “unfriend” is now in dictionaries. It is sad that friendship is tossed away by a tap on key or a swipe on the screen. We all do stumble and it has been the help of a good friend, more often than not, that has helped me back on track.

Unlike people, however, God will never unfriend us. In fact, today is about how far God has gone to FRIEND us. He became like us. Gave us the mark of grace in baptism and marked himself in the struggles of the desert so he can help anyone else. My invitation to you today is to accept the friend request of God.   

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