Sermons 2006
"Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Lent 1B 2006 Mark 1:9-13

Today's scripture lesson is for anyone able to grapple with a rough and ready God. What takes Luke two chapters of tender phrases, Mark burns into our souls in seven verses of stark physical images.

God "tears open the heavens" in order to claim and bless Jesus. The image of ripping apart the heavens (Greek schizomenous) means that the boundary separating heaven and earth has been breached. Things are not normal, and it will be difficult to do business as usual. God is on the loose on the earth, no longer confined to the safety of the heavens above. Little wonder Jesus will soon proclaim that the reign of heaven has "come near." Too near, too close for comfort.

And immediately after Jesus is baptized, God drives --"throws" in the Greek -- Jesus into the wilderness. The God we meet in Mark does not coddle us, does not entertain us, does not try to please us. This God takes Jesus — and takes us — and throws us, hurls us headlong into the rugged desert of the disciplines of Lent.

There’s a story about the graduation ceremonies at Princeton Theological Seminary—traditionally a birthing ground of many ecclesiastical movers and shakers. The ceremony was held in the University Chapel—a large, ornate structure where the pulpit soars twenty feet above the pews. After a procession complete with brass and organ fanfares and academic hoods from every prestigious university in the country, it came time for the sermon. That year Henri Nouwen, a Jesuit priest well known for his books about spirituality, had been asked to deliver the message. It soon became clear that Nouwen's soft, gentle voice was somehow out of place in the midst of all that forceful pomp. His message, it turned out, was even more misplaced. For Nouwen talked about humility and simplicity and the poverty of a faithful life. What he told his listeners was that "downward mobility" is the only appropriate goal of the Christian life.

The call to downward mobility is what Jesus wrestled with in the wilderness. He wrestled with what it meant to know the power of the Holy Spirit poured into him from the beginning, and use it only for the glory of God and for the building up of the kingdom. In the wilderness, God challenged—tested—Jesus to make sure he understood what his public ministry is really for. God did this by forcing him into threatening territory—leaving him to ask and answer some tough questions with only his own heart as a mentor. So Jesus was thrown into the wilderness and tested for forty days to see if he could and would claim his own authority and then use it for God and good.

Harold Kushner once wrote in When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough that "For responsible religious adults, God is not the authority telling them what to do. God is the divine power urging them to grow, to reach, to dare. When God speaks to such people, God does not say, as one would to a child, "I will be watching you to make sure you don't do anything wrong." He says rather, "Go forth into an uncharted world where you have never been before, struggle to find your path, but no matter what happens, know that I will be with you." Like a parent who is genuinely proud when children achieve success entirely on their own, God is mature enough to derive pleasure from our growing up, not from our dependence upon God." (1)

He was also surrounded by wild beasts. Jackals leopards, wild boars, bears, and snakes roamed the barren wilderness near the River Jordan. But wild beasts can also exist in a spiritual sense. Often the beasts that threaten us when we struggle with our own temptations are the beasts of anger, hatred, anxiety, envy, greed, bitterness, jealousy, and despair. And all as terrifying and destructive as any snarling beast or slithering snake.

There is a true story about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull. He went to his physician who found nothing wrong with him physically. The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal. He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else. The doctor then handed him four prescriptions—one to be read at 9AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3PM, and the final one at 6PM. The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.

At 9AM he opened the first prescription, which read. "Listen carefully." For three hours do nothing but listen? He was annoyed, but decided to obey. At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf — predictable beach sounds. But then he found him self listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as a child — patience, respect, the interdependence of all the different parts of nature. Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.

At noon, he opened the second prescription, and it said, "Try reaching back." His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.

At three, he opened the third prescription. This one was harder. It read, "Examine your motives." Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life—success, recognition, security—and found satisfactory explanations for them all. But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment of honest insight, that those motives were not enough—that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life. "In a flash of certainty," he wrote later, "I saw that if one's motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney. It is only when you are serving others that you do the job well and feel good. This is a law as irrefutable as gravity."

At 6:00 PM he read the final prescription. It said, "Write your worries on the sand." He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away — never turning back. He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his worries would be washed away. (2)

This Lenten season will we allow God to lead us on a desert pilgrimage to the foot of the Cross, facing the wild beasts of our own temptations as we struggle to accept our own authority and responsibility? Then we can leave our worries and temptations in the sand at the foot of the Cross and leave the Lenten desert to get on with the work God has given us to do. This is the promise and possibility of this Lenten season.

Adapted in part from sermons by Susan R. Andrews (SermonMall), various Lent 1 sermons from selected Sermons, (Worship that Works,, SermonMall Commentaries, etc, for Lent 1B

1. As quoted in Andrews
2 as adapted by Andrews from Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits of Effective People, pp. 292-294)

Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579