February 21, 2018
“People of Promise” ~ Sermon for February 18, 2018
Our reading this first Sunday in Lent takes us back to the beginning of Mark’s gospel.
Once again, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism and annointing, but also the saga of his temptation in the wilderness.
Mark’s gospel presents an abbreviated version of the wilderness temptations, compared to Matthew and Luke who tell the story in greater detail.
Regardless, we are reminded that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine.
Hear now a reading from the gospel of Mark 1: 9-15.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
God of our salvation, your bow in the clouds proclaims your covenant with every living creature.
Teach us your paths and lead us in your truth, that by your Holy Spirit, we may remember our baptismal vows and be keepers of your trust with earth and its inhabitants.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
It is the beginning of Lent, the liturgical season when we are supposed to turn our thoughts to our sinfulness and mortality.
We are called to a time of repentance and reorientation.
We are encouraged to spend the next forty days in acts of self-discipline that bring us closer to God.
It is an important part of our spiritual journey that we recognize our need for God, as well as taking responsibility for those times we have turned away from God.
I, however, feel too weary from the events in the world to want to sink any lower for forty days.
Instead, I want to use the 40-day Lenten journey to rekindle my love affair with God.
I don’t think it was mere coincidence that Valentines Day fell on Ash Wednesday this year.
Rather than smudging ashes and lamenting “Dust you were and dust you shall be” I wanted to be shouting ‘I Love You.’
I’ve had enough sadness these past few months to carry me right through to Easter.
I think we need to spend our Lenten season reorienting toward what is good; returning to a life of faith and trust.
I want to focus on the rainbow rather than on Satan’s temptations.
Our gospel passage from Mark today spends very little time on the baptism and temptation narratives because Mark is eager to get to the start of Jesus’ ministry, to the announcement that God’s Reign has arrived and is accessible to all.
In spite of the brevity, Mark includes one small detail that provides hope – after Jesus was tempted, he was cared for by angels and wild animals!
This detail is more significant than it may appear at first.
Mark is providing a glimpse of what the Reign of God that Jesus will preach looks like – and it’s an exciting vision.
Angels and wild animals caring for a human being!
It’s a picture of a world healed and made one.
Natural and “supernatural” beings together, humanity and the natural world living in harmony – this is what God wants the world to be.
This is the world we are called to co create with God.
Mark knows, however, that the ministry of Jesus, like all of those who seek to follow Jesus, needs preparation.
In Jesus’ case, God prepared him in two ways.
The first, which happened at his baptism, was the anointing with God’s Spirit and the affirming voice of God that proclaimed Jesus as God’s beloved Son in whom God was pleased.
We too, receive this message: We are blessed and beloved by God.
The second way Jesus was prepared for ministry was far less attractive – the testing in the wilderness.
I find it interesting to note, that it is God – God’s spirit, who “drives” Jesus to this time of trial.
Scholars explain the reason for this was that, in order to fulfill his calling, Jesus needed to know himself honestly and thoroughly.
If there was no desire in Jesus, no thought that perhaps he could do things differently than the way God asked, then this was not a real temptation.
There must have been the possibility that he could fail – and he needed to see that possibility in himself, or he would not have had the strength to face the cross when the time came.
We need to be prepared for our tasks in the same way.
We also receive God’s Spirit and God’s affirmation.
And we also need to face our temptations.
I want us to face our temptations and sinfulness from a position of strength and humility.
Rather than beating ourselves up and enumerating all of our shortcomings, I want us to celebrate all that is good and recognize that God is with us on this journey.
I want Lent to be period of time when we move closer to God, closer in love.
I want us to spend the next forty days thinking of new and better ways to serve God.
Rather than a season of lament, I am advocating for a season of awe.
Abraham Joshua Heschel said “Awe is a way of being in rapport with the mystery of all reality. The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence. Awe is an intuition for the creaturely dignity of all things and their preciousness to God. Awe is a sense for the transcendence.”
Let’s make Lent about cultivating awe.
Let’s strive for transcendence.
What better way to prepare ourselves for the glorious Easter resurrection?
Let’s give up doubt, control, and judgment for Lent.
The reign of God is not something that happens after you die.
Jesus said it is here and now.
Here, where we are – in our lives.
All we have to do to realize the promise of God’s kingdom is to pay attention, to be alert for signs of holiness in our everyday lives.
When we live under God’s reign we care about the earth and its creatures.
We include all people, and all things.
We live to serve.
We live under the rainbow – the promise that God is with us wherever we are.
Poet Ann Weams tells us:
“Lent is a time to take the time
to let the power of our faith story take hold of us,
A time to let the events get up and walk around in us,
A time to intensify our living unto Christ,
A time to hover over the thoughts of our hearts,
A time to place our feet in the streets of Jerusalem
Or to walk along the sea and listen to his word,
A time to touch his robe and feel the healing surge through us,
A time to ponder and a time to wonder…
Lent is a time to allow a fresh new taste of God!”
Let us pray.
Loving God, whose realm was revealed to humankind in Jesus of Nazareth, open your heavens to us that the Spirit may come among us, reclaiming us, helping us to know our infinite worth in your sight, strengthening us to cope with temptation, equipping us to minister in Christ’s name.
May our faithfulness draw others into your covenant community, where mutual trust and joyous service unite us in Christ.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For Robert at his baptism.
For our new covenant partners, we thank you God.
Help us to be good companions on the journey as we travel with you toward Jerusalem.
Hear now our silent prayers as we turn our hearts to you.