The First Sunday in Lent
Sermon starts at 18:45 in recording
Gospel: Mark 1:9-15
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying,
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
Afterthoughts: Repent and Return
…and the angels waited on him.”
It was good to be together with some of you this past Sunday.
On Ash Wednesday, I said that I felt regathering in Lent felt right because of what the season involves.
Lent is a season of preparation and growth, and I feel like we are preparing to come out the other side of our long winter of COVID.
I spoke this past Sunday about being prepared for what is coming next in life.
As an example, I shared about the preparation of my garden.
The good thing about preparing a garden is that it bears fruit.
Which is what our preparations in our lives are meant to do.
Jesus, during His time in the wilderness,
needed to prepare for what was ahead.
His life would bear fruit,
but He needed to be prepared.
He was alone, in a quiet and desolate place.
He had the Accuser whispering confusion and challenges in His ear.
He found Himself in a wild place with wild beasts.
For forty days.
While He was fasting.
He was cared for.
We see this in the last description of what His time in the wilderness looked like,
…and the angels waited on him.”
Another translation would be to say,
they began to serve Him.”
In other words, when Jesus was at His weakest point,
having been in the wilderness fasting for a significant amount of time,
He was served by the angels.
There a few words that mean “a messenger” in the Greek language.
The two most common are angeloi and apostoloi.
Both mean “a messenger” or, better, “a sent one.”
The English translation of these two words is angels and apostles, respectively.
The difference in the meaning is that an angel is sent to serve and an apostle is sent to represent (like an ambassador).
The messengers present with Jesus were sent for service (angeloi).
They were present to provide care for His weakened body during His fasting, being tempted and being in the midst of an unknown place with the wild beasts.
It occurred to me that when Jesus was in the midst of this difficult place and season, which felt very Lenten (read dark and foreboding),
there were messengers present to bring both hope and joy.
Hope that He was not alone in this journey or in this time of trial.
Joy in realizing the power of relationship.
It also occurred to me that in our times of trials,
God sends serving messengers to us, and that,
because of our belonging to the community of God,
we can be these messengers (and others can be this for us too).
We are called to be the manifestation of God’s love to those who are in need of that. In that way we are like the angeloi.
This, to me, makes the Lenten places good seasons for growth.
If we know that while we are in the midst of temptations, trials and tribulations that we are girded in by those sent from God to care for us, this hope alone can allow us to have the strength to endure the season that we find ourselves in.
This idea is opened up at the end of the Gospel reading from last week (which I did not speak about, specifically).
The Gospel reading from last week ends with this:
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;
repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus had been baptized and God had inaugurated a new dispensation in the world through the revealing of His Son, Who would be tempted and tried and emerge victorious.
It is through this victory that Jesus was now enabled to announce the kingdom of God had come near (and would never be any other way).
Because the kingdom of God is near,
Jesus called them to repent of their misunderstandings about life as God had planned (including their misunderstandings about his absence from them).
He then would call them to believe in the Good News
(which, by the way, would have been the New News to them).
It was the call to repent and return.
Which is our Lenten call:
To repent and return.
To recognize how our harmful ways of seeing the world have created false, damaging narratives for us and to turn away from it, returning to God’s intended life; a life of restoration and healing.
Many times in Lent,
people will visualize the Lenten season as a “walk of shame” because of how we miss the mark.
That would not be very Good News, would it?
If the Good News is really “good news,” then our attitudes should be one of joy and hope as God continually invites us back into the fullness of His love.
And if we take this message of hope to others,
this message built through God’s redeeming work in us,
then we move from angeloi to apostoloi.
We move from being sent,
to a call to represent.
We now, having experienced God’s goodness and love,
have become ambassadors of His message of grace, mercy and love.
That is the experience of Lent that is our goal.
Not a brow-beating, dreary, lonely time.
A time of great hope and assurance that our lives can be more.
That there is always room for us at the table of God.
That there is always a way through the seasons that are heavy for us.