Lent; The Barren Waste We Face - 2/18/18

LENT; … THE BARREN WASTE WE FACE

Mark 1: 9-13

Today is the first Sunday of Lent; … the annual period of reflection leading to the
joy and celebration of Easter.
We once again read about the baptism of Jesus, … and God’s affirmation that He
is His well-beloved Son. …
It surely helps to remind us of our own baptisms.
Our baptism is the first sacrament or duty that we share with and owe to Jesus.
Just as it was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, … it is the beginning of our life in
Christ, … requires us to follow His teachings … and to imitate His life.
It’s been so long ago for some of us that we may not even remember our baptism
… but that does not dictate that we cannot relive it each time we witness a baptism.
In that witness, … we have the opportunity to begin again … our life in Christ
repeating our baptismal vows in our heart and mind.
Certainly, … together as a family of Christ’s followers, … we commit ourselves to
try to live the life that Jesus taught.
We try, … however unsuccessful we may be at that task!
Pretty powerful stuff; … or at least it can be.
Lent is about being given the opportunity to start again, … to do better this time,
… to live up to the teachings of the Christ … and values that implicates.
As the Scripture continues, we are told that following His baptism, … Jesus went
into the desert for forty days.
He did not choose to do this willingly … but as you will note in the scripture, …
was driven out into the desert by the Holy Spirit. … He was cast into the
wilderness in order to prepare for His great work for which He had come to earth.
He didn’t go to a library, … He didn’t go to a spa nor the Mall; … He went alone
into a wilderness with wild beasts, … dust, … sand, … and debilitating heat during
the day, … cold during the night, … no food, … no water … for forty days of
fasting and prayer.
It was a demanding time, … it was a lonely time, … it was a time in which most
would have turned back and given up from fear, … doubt … or selfish
motivations.
During these forty days and nights, … we learn that Jesus was tempted by Satan
three times:
1. When hungry He was challenged to turn stones into bread; … Jesus replied that
we cannot live by bread alone;

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2. When in His solitude, He felt powerless, … He was taunted by Satan to have the
angels catch Him as He threw Himself from the temple pinnacle; … Jesus
reminded us that we should not tempt God;
3. When He was overcome by loneliness and weakness, … Satan offered Jesus the
kingdoms of the world with all its power and riches; … Jesus rebuked Satan, …
reminding us that we should worship only the Lord our God and nothing else.
In the desert, … Jesus sought the inner strength, … calm … and resolve to claim
His identity as God's child … and to let the rest of His life, … His words, …
His relationships … and His love, … even to the point of dying a painful and
unjust death on the cross; …
come from that identity … as God's beloved Son.
Jesus denied Satan’s three temptations and then told Him to go away (do you
remember the scripture: … “Get behind Me Satan?”)!
At that point, … He was ready.
Jesus comes out of the wilderness proclaiming that the ultimate battle is won: …
the reign of God had commenced!
Forty days and forty nights Jesus suffered and prayed in the desert; …
this is why we have Lent.
Anyone see a pattern of His forty days in the desert … and our forty days of Lent?
During those forty days, … Jesus was without food and water, … being tempted by
Satan to prove He was the Son of God.
It becomes clear that even though Jesus was baptized, … He (and we) do not get a
“get out of suffering” card … when we are baptized.
We will still have conflict and suffering.
Our baptism equips us both for the realities of the wilderness … and the work of
joyful proclamation … at the resurrection.
Through prayer and the grace of God, … we also, … will get through it.
We have now entered the desert of Lent on a spiritual quest of our own.
Lent is not a domesticated kind of pious self-improvement (giving up something
that most people think is good to give up, … at least for a time; … chocolate, beer,
cussing, … drop a few pounds and maybe look a little more like what our culture
thinks of as 'good,').
Nevertheless, … if we want to experience our Lenten quest fully, … we need to
realize that the mission we're on for these forty days is NOT tame NOR flippant !

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Jesus left His family and entered a desert with wild beasts, hunger, bodily
discomfort and all the temptations of Hell. . . and angels.
I don't know about you … but I suspect that the reason the first thing out of an
angel's mouth is “don't be afraid!” … is because angels are often as terrifying as
any wild beasts (just ask Balaam!).
If we are striving to follow and be like Jesus, … we should make our Lent a time
of fasting, … reflection, … penitence, … searching … and prayer.
During our forty days of Lent, … we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves for
the triumph of the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning.
Jesus was alone … but we are not alone. … We have each other … (remember
that!) … and we also have something else for our journey; … the opportunity to
encounter God as Jesus did, … to wrap ourselves in God's Word to us that we are
His beloved children; … to claim that identity as Jesus did; …
the only identity that really matters … as a child of God.
Lent is not only forty days of centering and reflection, … it is preparation for truly
participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
It is about dying to an old identity (that one that keeps creeping back up on us) …
defined by our culture, … our traditions, … our habits … and even our families.
Being born into a new identity centered in the spirit of God.
It means dying to an old way … and being born into a new way of being; …
being centered in God!
It is about dying to our deadness, … that daily routine of our lives that we trudge
through, … oblivious to the needs of others … and the call of our Lord.
It is a time of reminding ourselves of God’s love … and God’s reality.
It is a time to be lifted out of our confinement, … removing those feelings of
burden and mortality, … of fear and doubt.
*How shall we spend these forty days of Lent?
How about forty days where we truly … open ourselves to God through prayer
and meditation … inviting God to live through us as never before;
*How about forty days where we examine ourselves, … our shortcomings, …
our judgments, … our arrogance and egos, … where we face who we are …
and strive once again to be all that we can be, … confident in the love and
acceptance of God;

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*How about forty days in which … we remember we are dust … and to dust our
bodies will return … but with God’s grace, … our spirits will be transformed …
and we can live THIS life and THE LIFE TO COME more fully, … embraced in
God’s unending love to do His work through us.
So just as this last Wednesday, … Ash Wednesday, … we bore on ourselves the
ashes of the sign of the cross, … may we open our hearts, … admit our
helplessness to save ourselves … and accept the grace and forgiveness that marks
us as a child of God with a new resolve to be His body on earth.
Let us pray:
Dear God, … how you honor us by creating us in your image and giving us the gift
of life. … We want to live in a way that will honor You in everything we do.
We want to be like Jesus. … We want to see the image of Christ in the eyes of
everyone. … We want to be part of the gift, … the gift of the Holy Spirit that lives
in each one of us … and enables us to share; … to share love, … to share concern,
… to share service, … to be disciples.
Bless us on this day and every day with the opportunity to be like Jesus, …
to make a difference in the world that You have placed us on.
Dear Father, … when we are in the wilderness, … help us to experience Your
presence, … help us to know that we too are attended by angels … and that we can
come out of the wilderness into the world … and make a difference in Your name.
AMEN