Choices, choices

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The Pas Lent 1
Year B
18 February 2018

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9 pg 733
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

God of the wilderness,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these forty days
to grow in wisdom and prayer,
so that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In today’s gospel we see the early steps, the first days of Jesus ministry in the world.

And like looking back and trying to remember our first steps as children, we don’t often focus on those first steps, rather we focus on the distance we’ve walked, or run since then.

So, when we look back at the first days of Jesus ministry, it’s interesting to note that he begins where John has left off.

So, then, not only was John the prophet to point the way to the Messiah, but his message to the people was and remains the message that we need to hear, in and for our lives.

John’s message was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Mt 3:2)

Jesus tells us, “The time has come; the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15)

So, we can see that Jesus ministry in the world begins at the time that John’s is arrested.

And their message is the same: Repent and believe.

And this is where we live, still today. This is where free will exists for us, who are the followers of Christ, the inheritors of John’s legacy, the children of God, and we ask ourselves, we ask, today, what is it that we need to do, in and for our lives?

And like the majority of society, we are able to look at John’s message and tell ourselves that all is fine, that we’re on the right path, and that we have nothing to worry about, but if that were the case then what is the purpose of Jesus repeating John’s message?

But if that were the case, why was it the focus of John’s ministry? And why is it the focus, in its many variations, in Jesus ministry?

And this is a choice for each one of us.

Before Jesus tells us: “The time has come; the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15) we see that Jesus has been baptized by John, in the River Jordan, and he has been tempted for forty days by the devil in the wilderness. (Mk 1:12-13)

During Lent we are called to intentional self-examination. We are called to repent and to believe, and this is what Jesus is calling us to do, today.

But it is still a choice, for each one of us.

Even in John’s ministry there were those who sought to undermine his message, his words. There were those who thought that John was more than he was, although he denied it each time.

They thought their lives, their adherence to the law of God given through Moses, was ‘just fine’ and didn’t need to be reviewed, overhauled, examined in any way. And there are still those in the world who feel the same, and they have the right to do just that.

However, for those of us who desire a closer relationship with God, who desire to know God better than just a list of do’s and don’ts in regard to God’s action in and for our lives, we are faced with Jesus words, today. We are faced with Jesus actions, in today’s gospel.

Today we find, in seven verses, that several important events have happened in Jesus life.

First, he was baptized with a baptism of repentance.

He received John’s baptism of repentance for those who wished to turn over a new leaf in their lives. He received a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, for one who does not sin.

He received a baptism for sin so that he is able to take on the burdens and the sins of those who choose to repent, those who choose to believe. (Mk 1:15)

And this is our first clue.

The second is that Jesus spent forty days in “the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mk 1:13)

So, one without sin, who has been baptized with a baptism of repentance, is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by sin, by the master of sin, by Satan himself.

He enters into temptation so that when he comes to us and tells each one of us to repent and to believe then he knows what it is that holds us back.

He knows what the struggle is, and what is offered to each one of us in order to keep us from looking God’s offer straight in the eye and jumping for it.

The other gospels are more expressive in what Satan offers Jesus, and the way that Satan twists those offers to his benefit.

In the midst of physical hunger, he tells Jesus to turn stone into bread and feed his body, yet Jesus tells him that we need more than just physical sustenance to be sustained.

In the midst of heat and delusion, he tells Jesus to bow down and worship him and all of the nations of the earth will be under his control. And Jesus tells him that we must worship God alone.

And lastly, he tells Jesus to jump from the highest point constructed on earth, and that the angels will catch him. Jesus tells him not to tempt God. (Lk 4:1-13)

Mark sums this up by saying he was tempted in the wilderness. So, we can presume that Marks audience knows all too well the kinds of temptations that Satan puts in our paths, and so do we, in our day to day lives.

Each one of us faces temptations that are designed to lead us away from the love of God, from the light of Christ, and to leave us in the darkness without love, support, or guidance.

But Jesus again, in today’s gospel, points out to us that we have a choice, every day. We are able to repent, and we are able to believe the good news. (Mk 1:15)

So, this is where we are, today.

Today, we are at the beginning of the season of Lent. As of Ash Wednesday, we are intentionally turning our faces toward the cross, and we are needing to assess how deep the muck is of our lives, so that we can see what steps are needed to change how we can move fully into the light and the love of God, as we move toward the cross and toward Jesus passion, crucifixion and resurrection.

And this is where we find ourselves today.

Often, we like to look at this like a scavenger hunt, to hunt out the clues, to bring them in our arms to Jesus and to see if we’ve figured it out correctly.

But Jesus message is straight forward, and the rest of his ministry, the rest of his teachings carries on from this point. “15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” (Mk 1:15)

Perhaps the scavenger hunt part is because we don’t want to look too closely at where we have given into the temptations, and the shortcuts that have, in the end, eroded our lives of faith?

Perhaps we just wish to gloss over the darker parts of our sin and error in order to move forward and accept the love and grace of God’s forgiveness, God’s absolution.

But if it’s like standing in muck, then we need to take steps to remove ourselves from the muck and to remove the muck from each of us. Sometimes a bath, like Jesus baptism, is needed. Sometimes, it’s turning intentionally from the temptations that are put in our path. But in the end, we are still able to “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15)

And this is our choice.

During Lent we are called to prayer, to fasting, and to almsgiving. But if we don’t have a reason for such practices, how are they beneficial to our lives.

Today, Jesus calls us to repent and believe the good news.

Today, Jesus doesn’t tell us that he has endured forty days in the wilderness on our behalf. Nor does he talk about his baptism of repentance for our benefit, yet, such were his choices to be able to take on our burden of sin, to be able to understand where we’ve come from and how we have made the choices we’ve made in and for our lives.

Yet, they are our choices. From this point on, we are able to make better choices, choices grounded in Christ’s love, grounded in Jesus message, today.

Choices remembering that Jesus suffered at the hands of Satan so that Jesus knows how such offers are twisted to sound like more than they are, for our lives.

But it all comes down to choice. It comes down to our ability to choose.

Not all who came to John chose to receive the baptism of repentance. Not all who heard Jesus chose to believe. Yet, Jesus still urges us, each one of us, to make that choice, to learn from him, to lean on him, and to follow where Jesus leads.

And still, today, Jesus proclaims “the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”



About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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