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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Lent 1B  February 18, 2018

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

In our opening reading for today, God makes a covenant with “every living creature.” Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes, “The assurance from God is not only about another flood. It is, rather, a pledge to creation by the Creator, a pledge of fidelity which will keep the world safe from every jeopardy.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 193.)

The sign of this covenant is the “bow.” I can’t count how many times I have been driving along and suddenly cars are pulling over to the side of the road to look at a rainbow. The rainbow is a sign of God’s grace and protection.  As partners with God in the stewardship of the creation, we are called to work with God and each other to preserve the creation.

In our gospel for today, we are present as Jesus is baptized by his cousin John. The Spirit descends on our Lord, and God identifies Jesus as the beloved in whom God is well pleased. Then the Spirit compels Jesus to go out into the wilderness. Mark does not go into the details of the temptations, but we are told that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness tempted by Satan. The text tells us that he was with the wild beasts, and that angels waited upon him.

Matthew and Luke provide details about the actual temptations. Mark concentrates on the dangers of being out in the wilderness for forty days. In ancient times, cities and villages were protected, often by walls, and the wilderness was a place of chaos and danger. Wild animals such as wolves, bears, leopards lived in the Judean wilderness at that time, and there could be other dangers as well. Mark points out that Jesus had the protection of angels as he wrestled through the process of discerning who he was and how he would carry out his ministry.

Jesus is in the wilderness for forty days.  Forty is a highly symbolic number in the Bible. After it rained for forty days and forty nights, Noah, his family, and all the animals stayed in the ark for over a year. The people of God wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The prophet Elijah spent forty days in the wilderness after Queen Jezebel said she would have him killed.

The wilderness is also where Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist carried out his ministry. After John is arrested, Jesus comes to Galilee and begins to proclaim the Good News.

Jesus’ ministry began, continued, and ended in struggle with authorities who either could not or chose not to recognize the presence of God. He begins his ministry by saying, “…the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Many scholars say that the word translated as “near” could also be translated as “within you.” The kingdom of God is within you.

The First Letter of Peter was written to a community of new Christians in Asia Minor who were finding that it was not easy to follow Jesus. They were surrounded by people who did not share their faith, and they were living in a world that was suspicious of the new faith, a world that tended to persecute Christians.

During Lent, we are following in the footsteps of our Lord. As he wrestled with what God was calling him to do and how he was to do it,  we are called to take time in Lent to discern our own ministries, to acknowledge our sins and failures, to ask God’s forgiveness and grace and to allow God to help us to grow into the persons God calls us to be.

Most of us have been on this journey for quite a bit of time, so it’s more a process of steady growth than a dramatic transformation, but it’s still hard work, and we wouldn’t even be able to begin without God’s love and grace.

Our gospel and epistle for today remind us of something that I find a great comfort, and that is that Jesus went through all of this, and we are simply walking the way that he has already walked.

We may not be going out into the wilderness in a literal sense, but we can identify the things that tempt us to be less than we know God calls us to be.  There are so many misuses of power in this world that it would be easy to say, “Might makes right,” or “The end justifies the means,” and get off track. These abuses of power can also be downright depressing, and we need to remember that our Lord never gave up. He persevered through everything.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins his ministry after his cousin John has been arrested. John was put in jail because he confronted Herod Antipas with his immorality. He was later killed because he had spoken truth to power.

Jesus worked through his process of discernment. He wrestled with his own demons. And he came through it and carried out his ministry in a way that shows us love, courage, and integrity lived in a human life.

Our prayers are with those who died and were injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and with their families and friends and all who mourn this terrible loss. May we also seek God’s guidance and take whatever actions our Lord calls us to take in this matter.

Gracious and loving God, lead us and guide us as we follow you this Lent. Amen.


                  

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