Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  February 21, 2021

Mark 1:9-15

Jesus is baptized and tempted
9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
12 At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
Jesus’ message
14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”


I.      This is the 1st Sunday of Lent reading — Jesus is baptized.  In advent, our readings are about the beginning of Jesus’ life, when he’s an infant.   But now God is a young man, around 30.
        He is the one people would call God’s son (the angel commanded Joseph to name him Jesus, which is Greek — Iesous — from the Hebrew name Yeshua, meaning GOD SAVES or GOD IS MY HELP.  The Greek form of the name, Iesous, means HEALER, PHYSICIAN, or SAVIOR).

II.     So just by the name we can see that God came here to heal, help, and save us.  But he kind of had to do it fast because people tried to kill him from the time he was born.

III.    Advent is the story of God coming here as an infant Jesus, and lent is the story of that young man beginning his ministry of healing and salvation.
        We don’t know how long his ministry lasted.  It could be as short as just one year.  Think of the effect Jesus had in one year.  And we’re still trying to know who he is.

IV.     The moment after he was baptized,  after a voice only Jesus heard said: “This is my son” — the Spirit FORCED him into the wilderness — where “he was among wild animals and the angels took care of him.”
        Lent is the season that begins in the wilderness with wild animals and it ends in Gethsemane.  The short ministry of Jesus Christ begins with a 40 day ordeal of temptation by Satan in the wilderness and ends at a place called Skull where Jesus sweat blood and begged God for his life.  Who would want to follow him?  He suffered for us and told his followers to do the same for others, but — is that what we want?  It sounds noble, but..

V.      I you had a choice between SUFFERING in a frozen landscape without heat or drinking water or shelter — WITH OTHERS, or a vacation in Cancun, Mexico, with your family — wouldn’t you want the vacation?  If I could afford it, I would be tempted to leave the frozen wilderness and go to sunny Cancun.  Not that I don’t want to help people — but…
        Is this what being tempted by Satan means?  To choose myself over others?  My will instead of God’s?

VI.     And what do the wild animals stand for?  Are they a metaphor showing us THAT THE PLACE WE LIVE IS THE WILDERNESS?  There’s something wild in every new day and we have little control over much of what happens.  THIS IS OUR WILDERNESS.  AND THE WILD ANIMALS ARE EVERYTHING WE CAN’T CONTROL.  LIKE —
        TEXAS.  We’re the most advanced nation in the world — the weather has kicked us back to the stone age!  The greatest energy-producing state in America — and their energy FROZE!  AND THE WATER STOPPED!  We think we’ve got things under control — but we don’t. 
        Our life is a wilderness and the wild animals of our emotions and events we can’t control harass us.

VII.    Look at the wild animal of Covid 19.  It’s killed half a million in Americain just a year.  More dead than the two world wars and Vietnam.  And it’s mutating — as we race to get vaccinated.
        Another wild animal?  People who disagree with us.  People who vote for Biden when you voted for Trump.  People who call God Allah when you call God Jesus.  Poor people who want to come to America when you want to keep them behind a wall. 
        People who disagree with us are the wild animals in our wilderness.  They can be our family.  I want my daughter to read books and keep things neat and clean — but she only wants to read her I-Phone and make messes!  WILD!

VIII.   Janet, my wife, said to me the other day, “Why don’t you give us some good, practical advice in your sermon — something we can use for a change?”  SEE — even those closest to us can be like — WILD ANIMALS!

X.      BUT HERE’S THE PUZZLE — WE NEED THE WILDERNESS AND THE WILD ANIMALS.  IF WE DIDN’T, THE SPIRIT WOULDN’T BE FORCING US INTO IT.  For our spiritual growth — we must be tempted by the devil.  If we always had our way — how would we know humility.  And if I don’t have pain, how will I feel yours? 
        So God sends us into the wilderness of each new day with the wild animals of people and events that tear us to pieces and break our hearts — so that, with love, we will learn to touch and heal the hearts of others, as Jesus did.   
        I wonder if God sends angels to take care of us — I believe so.  And I believe that Jesus is with us, and helps us.  And in those moments when we’re aware of his presence,  this wilderness feels like home.