Sunday Sermon – February 18, 2018

Mark 1:9-15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

why-was-jesus-baptized

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our creator who provides us strength amid temptation, and hope amid chaos. Amen. 

John the Baptist had taught hundreds if not thousands of people.

He had brought them to the wilderness at the banks of the Jordan river. He had invited their repentance, heard their confession, and baptized them into new life.

But he knew the day that he baptized Jesus would be different. He knew Jesus was the one that he had spent his whole life preparing for, the one he had spent his whole ministry telling others about. He had prepared the way of the Lord.

And so it was probably no surprise that when he baptized Jesus, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice coming from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

But it might have been a bit more surprising to see what happened next.

To see that same Spirit which descended on Jesus like a dove, suddenly drive him out into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan for forty days amid the wild beasts and angels.

Maybe Jesus knew this would happen, but I have to believe that John was not expecting that.

But then again, I think that we rarely ever expect it when evil shows its head in our world.

On Wednesday afternoon, when I was trying to keep myself organized in between the two Ash Wednesday services, when I was trying to take a few minutes of rest, I didn’t expect to turn on my television and see news of yet another school shooting in Florida.

I didn’t expect to see mothers, standing behind police tape, crying, marked with the same ashen crosses I had put on members of our own two congregations.

I can still remember the day I came home at the end of the school day in third grade, April 20th, 1999. My grandma was sitting in our living room, watching CNN as she typically did every afternoon. Only, it was not regular news, but aerial images of groups of students being ushered out of a school by SWAT teams.

Columbine. One of the first really well-known school shootings.

I didn’t expect to see the way that evil reared its ugly head that day.

And I certainly didn’t expect to see the ways in which it has continued to do so almost nineteen years later.

It can be incredibly tempting to ask an age-old question.

“Where is God in all this?”

When Jesus is tempted by Satan… When people bring guns to school… When we’re feeling alone and scared in the wilderness of our lives…

Where is God in all this?

As I was preparing my sermon this week, and asking this question, I began to feel like I had almost backed myself into a corner. How could I bring up such a question, how could I answer such a question?

And isn’t that just the very heart of temptation?

Don’t you think that’s the question that Jesus himself was led to ask by Satan in the wilderness? Where is God? Where is his power? Why can’t he do something?

But through it all, Jesus kept the faith. In the midst of enormous temptation that no man on earth has ever faced, Jesus kept the faith.

And maybe that’s just the inspiration we need when the forces of evil and chaos show themselves in the world. Jesus looked evil in the eye for forty days straight.

And then he turned around and started trying to make the world better one step at a time. One heart at a time.

And that is what we are called to do as people of faith. To be God’s hands in the midst of evil. In the midst of chaos. To love our neighbors; even the seemingly unlovable ones. To do everything we can to laugh in the face of evil. To make the world a better place even when forces beyond our control are trying to make it a worse one.

And the good news is that through it all, Christ is with us. Christ gives us hope that even death has no power over us. Christ gives us strength that we can resist even the strongest temptation of the devil.

We may be down, but we’re not out. Because God is with us every step of the way.

So, where is God in all this?

God is with us. God is with all those who mourn today and in the days to come. God is with all those who pray for peace. God is with all those who find concrete practical ways to put an end to evil.

Though the tempter’s power is strong. God’s power is stronger. And we can show the world just how powerful it is. Amen.

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Posted on February 18, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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