Sermon for March 10, 2019 First in Lent “In the Wilderness”
In the next weeks I am going to explore the themes of Lent, the opportunities of stewardship and the delight of working toward a common goal. This may be a bit ambitious but I am sure that together we can move forward. As I turned my calendar to March, there is a picture of a wire footbridge spanning a large chasm. It reminds me of the nature of goals and in print are the words ‘you must keep your mind on the objective, not on the obstacle’.
Our Gospel lesson today is the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. As the story unfolds Jesus has fasted for forty days and is then confronted by the devil who challenges him to turn rock into bread, that all glory and authority will be granted in Jesus bow to the devil and the claim that the angels will save him if he threw himself off the spire. Even famished, Jesus had his eye firmly fixed on the goal, which is to love and trust God. This time of preparatory fasting gave Jesus the insight and sight to know when something or someone around him was not of God.
This is what Jesus did to prepare for his ministry; it is not what we have to do. Fasting for forty days is in all likelihood not a good plan. The message is to prepare, not too fast for forty days. Preparation and living a Christian live is a practice, with practice comes insight, with insight comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the knowledge that in this life we can never complete the practice.
As those who follow Jesus, each of us, constantly get to choose ‘no’ or ‘yes’. Will I do this or will I to that? How will I use the time resources I have be given? That’s a stewardship and discipleship question.
Actually, that is THE stewardship and discipleship question. As people of faith, we believe that all we have, from mismatched socks to our very lives. Comes from God. God generously shares and gives to us, because God loves us. And not just us, but everyone. Every living being on the planet and beyond the planet. That is how expansive God’s love is.
It is up to each of us then to decide how we are going to use whatever God has given us. God knows us pretty well. So God has given us some guidelines, assistance, and yes, even some rules to help us make good decisions about how we are going to use all this that God gave us. It is not that God doesn’t trust us, but let’s just say our track record for using what God has given us hasn’t been exactly stellar. There is the story of Abram and Sari where God says go where I tell you and I will bless you and make you a great nation. All Abram and Sari have to do is follow God and they get it all. The catch is to follow, use all they have to bless God and lean into God’s leading and all around will experience the blessings of God.
God’s call to follow and be a blessing was not a one time thing. It is still true today. I want you to recall a time when you were blessed……. And now I want you to recall a time you were a blessing. Being part of this family of faith is a blessing.
Now for my not so rhetorical question: why is it that we keep our faith and St. Mark’s such a secret?
I know there are time when we want to speak to others about St. Mark’s and yet somehow we keep silent. Nowhere in scripture or the teachings of Jesus is there the directive to be silent about your faith or your church. There was no school yard pinky-swear to keep a secret. To use the Gospel language, I challenge you to speak the Good News and the good news of St. Mark’s especially when the “devil” implores you to be silent. I challenge you to not only speak but to invite someone or somebodies to join you in worship for any and all Sunday’s but especially March 31 when we will have a celebration Sunday and lunch. St. Mark’s seems to be the best-kept secret in town and that condition stops now. No longer will we be the church tucked in behind Barnhill School, we will be the place to be, to worship, to learn and to reach out in Saint John. Yes, we are planning to enhance our social media presence but our best presence is you. You speaking and inviting and living out the teaching of God and Jesus to follow and be a blessing. I assure you there will be a chorus of voices saying ‘you don’t really have to do that’ or ‘someone else will do that’ or ‘that will be embarrassing’, the sound of that voice is the one saying ‘be small, be silent, success is too costly’. That is the voice of obstacle and to that Jesus says ‘get behind me satin’. Keep your heart, mind, soul and eye on the objective. For us right now that is: alive with the Spirit, relevant and a place where all belong and are welcome.