Sunday, March 01, 2009

Into the Wilderness on the Cross

Today's Link
Calvinistic Cartoons

Today's Saying
The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Today's Picture
Ash Wednesday Meal and Smiley

We are into the first Sunday of Lent. We have ended Epiphany where week by week we saw the Light of God breaking in and changing things. We saw people catching a glimpse of that light quit their jobs and follow Jesus, we saw healing, and finally we went up on the mountain and saw Jesus transfigured . Epiphany is a mountain top kind of experience.
Now in the liturgical churches we are in the season of Lent. The prime symbol here is not the mountain top but the desert. It is a time for us to see that everyone doesn’t welcome the light. Some hate change, any change. Some feel their position is threatened by the light. Some can’t stand what they see when the light falls on their life. Together they will work to destroy the one who is the light. Our walk through Lent will at the end lead us to the final effort to get rid of the light once and for all. It will end at the Cross.
The Gospel for this Sunday in Churches using the Common Lectionary is Mark 1:9-15. It is like a reader’s digest version of the experience of Jesus in the desert before his ministry begins. From it we know that Jesus is tempted by the devil but the temptations are not spelled out. You will have to go to the other Gospels for details.
There are three things that standout for me in this text.
The first is that there is a direct connection between the desert and the Baptism. The same Holy Spirit that is present in the Baptism ( a mountain top experience) drives Jesus out into the desert or the wilderness That‘s important to me. My less than mountain top experiences, the experiences I would like to forget, may also have been part of God’s plan for me.
I can not minister on the Mountain Top . I can only praise God and rejoice, The Spirit has to drive me back down to the desert , to the wilderness of everyday life for me to point the way to Christ. If I stayed up on the mountain which I really want to do I would be of little use to the people lost and scared in that wilderness. So God’s Holy Spirit drives me down to where I can do the most good.
The second thing is that while in the wilderness I will be tempted. God will not erect an invisible shield around me to keep Satan away. Unlike Jesus, however I won’t always resist the temptations. But I will be forgiven.
The third thing and this is found only in Mark’s gospel angels came and ministered to Jesus. Though we will be tempted in the wilderness we will also be cared for and comforted. God will not leave us without help.
In my own life God has sent angels in the form of other caring Christians just when I really needed them. These angels took many forms, a grandfather, a Catholic Priest, a secretary, a fellow clergy person, Betty, a former confirmand, a little old lady and ever so many more even a Bishop. Every one came with a kind word, a caring action, or a gesture that lifted my spirits and helped me move though the wilderness.
I remember in my last parish a lady who once a month or so would grab my hand at the door and say “ I’m so glad your our Pastor”. She always seemed to be there just when I needed that word. About the time I was wondering if I really was meant to be in the Ministry she would be there. You will never know how many times I thanked God for her.
Then there was the time when I was wondering if the Confirmation process was worthwhile since so many kids dropped out of Church after they got Confirmed. Then I got a letter from a former Confirmand who had dropped out. She was now living far away and had joined a Lutheran Church there. She wanted me to know that she treasured the time she spent in Confirmation. “Treasured” that’s the word she used. Just the right letter at just the right time.
It occurs to me that you and I can be the angels that bring a word of cheer or comfort to God’s people struggling through the wilderness. It isn’t only Pastors that have problems ministering where God has driven them. How about a nice word to a Sunday school teacher, the lesson reader, the soloist, the Hospice worker, the policeman, the lawyer or to any Christian struggling to be faithful to Christ in the wilderness. Your word could make all the difference in the world.

News from Pigeon Falls
The little town in my basement where the trains still run, dragons fly, and life is back to normal
Pastor Joan has decided that today is the day that she tells the congregation she is pregnant. It is a miracle that thus far the news hasn’t leaked out and entered the local gossip stream. She will make the announcement at the end of each service so that people can concentrate on the message and not the announcement. This is, after all, the first Sunday in Lent. She is preparing a special series of sermons entitled “ Journey to the Cross”. Today she wants to be sure that they know that the Holy Spirit goes with them on this journey and they won’t have to walk alone.
She thinks that the reason her pregnancy never made it out into the rumor stream is because people were busy talking about leprechauns. She would say they were crazy but then until she came to Pigeon Falls she didn’t believe in dragons or inland whales either. This was one crazy town and reality here seemed skewered. But she was still sure that the God of her baptism was there with her and she drew strength from Him. But there were times she wished she had the kind of unquestioning faith that Herman had.
But then she remembered that Herman’s road through the wilderness had been fairly bumpy. It wasn’t too long ago when he was numbered among the leading drunks in town. He was far more likely to be found in the Fly Inn or the Happy Pigeon than in Church. A number of times she had sat with Herman’s crying wife who was having such a hard time with his drinking, particularly when he was claiming to be the town seer.
But all that changed and God called Herman to become one of the angels in the wilderness. The God she served was capable of turning things upside down. Now there were even people who were coming to Last Lutheran because Herman had ministered to them.

Wrap UP
Great day today. I went to Church with two of my children and three of my grand children. The choir was good. we had a guest preacher who did a nice job with the gospel. Then the kids that are going to Bible Camp hosted a pancake breakfast to raise some Money, great fellowship.
Coming home I played canasta with Alex as a partner . We played against Betty and Pennie and we lost. I had to wait until they went home to get to my computer . Then I had to convert all the pictures and little movies for St. Mark's website as well as the sermon. So I didn't get many blogs visited but I promise to do better tomorrow. If you like great poetry that will be treasured down through the ages skip my blog tomorrow . I will be posting some of my poetic drivel which takes us either to the pinnacle of the depths of poetry or to the very depth of the pinnacle of poetry. In any case I will be reading it to you. Now I need a breathing treatment.


Blogger Russell said...

Most excellent and thought provoking post... I especially liked your suggestion to say a nice word to a .... lawyer!! Heh!!

Seriously, though, just a word or smile of encouragement can be so significant. We so often forget or just don't think about the influence our actions -- or inactions -- can have on others.

I appreciate your observation that you can't do a whole lot if you are on the mountain top - you have to be down in the desert or at least lowlands to connect with people. I was reminded of an important communication rule about not talking down to people...

Take care and know I enjoyed your words today. Very much.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Nessa said...

Again, a beautiful sermon. I really do enjoy reading them. You help me think in a new way. Thank you.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Raven said...

Lovely homily... easy to see why you were loved by your congregation. I'm a great believer in kind words and compliments. They are so easy to give and can do so much good.

Wanted to thank you and the dragons for your kind gift. I've posted it... and also posted a moral dilemma for today.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Melli said...

God's own message delivered here again! Amen! Pastor preached on James today. About saying NO to temptation... about Satan tempting us, but that WE are ultimately responsible for our OWN sin - NOT Satan ... and no one else and no other circumstances. Me, just me...

WOW! Herman has come such a long way! It IS amazing what God can do... and I'm sure He's doing GREAT things through Herman! Boy... the town will REALLY be abuzz now that Pastor Joan has spilled the beans! :)

11:41 AM  
Blogger Carver said...

I love the quote you started this with. Good post.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Dr J~ I like your new look! Very cool! Todays saying is great.
Very nice post!

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not being a very religious person I did enjoy this. Especially to say a nice word to someone. I think in life we tend to forget that on a day in and day out basis. Hopefully I will remember this now on a day in and day out. Mahalo Dr. John

12:20 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Thank you. As always, your post inspires me.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your sermon and our sermon were very much a like today. I read the scripture for today while Mel performed a dance (spiritual interpretation) and Davey, hiding behind the choir with a hand mic, spoke as the voice of God.

Judging by the amount of people who touched me -- just touched me -- on the way out of church, I would say our efforts were appreciated. One of the ladies told me she was quite startled when Davey spoke and for a second she wondered how I changed my voice like that. HAd I known that such would be the reaction, I would have kept moving my lips ....

6:50 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

It's amazing how your messages, others and my own are so in tune with one another as of the past few weeks.

God bless you Dr. John.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Finding Pam said...

I am so thankful that I can come here and receive the word from you, Dr.John. I really miss my former church and have not gone to one in our new town.

A kind word can lift you up at just the right moment. Wonderful sermon!

Please pray for my sister, Candy. She is in need of a mountain top experience and a kind word.

I forgot that Pastor Joan is with child. That is so exciting.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Pat - Arkansas said...

A good sermon, Dr. John; thanks.

For some reason, I cannot leave a comment on your March 2 post with the two *wonderful" YouTube videos with your poems. It's great to hear your voice!

I hope you get a thaw... soon!!

1:32 PM  
Blogger tsduff said...

Faith is so fickle. I used to imagine mine would never leave but I was wrong.

3:39 PM  

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