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Lent 1B Sermon
Mark 1: 9-15
18, 2018


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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

Sometimes when I baptize a baby I will tell the family to cherish each and every minute you have with the little one because one night her or she will lay their head down on the pillow and the next morning they will wake up an adult. I am sure that those of us who have raised or are raising children feel that way. Yesterday Jon King stopped by the church to do some more work on the new wifi network and he brought his son, Dalton, with him. I asked Dalton if he was in Kindgarten. He said, “No … I’m in 3rd grade. I’m nine years old!” How did that happen?? Some of you remember when Jon King himself was running around here, an active little third grader himself – which itself seemed like just yesterday! And I still marvel that for the 1st time in my ministry my catechism class is made up of students who I baptized as infants! Where has time gone?

Did you know that the Greek word for “immediately” (eutheos) is found 62 times in the entire New Testament? Of those 62 occurrences, 41 of them happen in the Gospel of Mark. This Gospel writer Mark wants to get to the heart of the Good News of Jesus as quickly as he can … and that means getting past the pleasantries of birth and childhood into the meat of Jesus’ life. Just like real life that speeds right along, there is no “honeymoon period” like we Pastors usually look for in the first year when we begin to serve a new church … or that newly married couples anticipate while the affection and romance is still hot! By the 15th verse of this gospel Jesus has been born, baptized, tempted and begun his preaching ministry. Some people call Mark’s gospel a passion story with an extended introduction!

There are some nuances to the language in this passage that give us clues to the fact that Jesus came to get down to business – in addition to the extreme usage of the word, “immediately!” In our passage today we heard it read, “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” In the original Greek language of the New Testament it says that the Spirit actually threw him out into the wilderness where he spent 40 days among the wild beasts, being tempted by satan and served by the angels. It almost reminds me of those parents in days gone by that might throw their timid kids into the pool to try to get them over their fear of water – a tactic that probably worked sometimes, and only added to the fear other times. Here, it was time for Jesus to be exposed to the power of the evil one in the world in an intensive way, so the Spirit gave him a little push there. Mark doesn’t go into detail about the temptations like other gospel writers do … probably because he doesn’t have time for it. Or maybe he hadn’t heard any oral stories himself about it, since Mark wrote the first of our four gospels. Whatever the case, there just doesn’t seem to be time for it anyway because he has to get to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry because John the Baptist has been arrested.

That point is also significant in this story. John the Baptist was Elijah, the one who Malachi tells us in the last two verses of the entire Old Testament will prepare the way for the messiah. In Malachi 4:5 & 6 we read, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” Well, John/Elijah is gone now – he is out of the scene – so it is time for the Messiah to get to work.

Finally, speaking of time, the very heart of Jesus’ message is that the time is fulfilled. God’s reign has come near; repent and believe the good news. It is now time to stop living in fear. It is now time to start living by love. Lent is our yearly opportunity to consider how we need this reminder regularly. So often we live by fear, as if God’s creation is one of scarcity and want. The truth is, God’s creation is one of abundance and generosity. Lent is a time for us to turn away from our focus on sin and death and turn toward love and life. That is what repent means after all – turning away from one thing toward another.

In a world where everything seems to happen so quickly – our kids grow up before our eyes, seasons turn from one to the next despite our desire for them to slow down, and where the word, “immediately” seems to be just as descriptive for us in our narrative as it was for Jesus in Mark’s narrative – it is always time for God’s reign to break through into our broken world and our sinful lives to show us the possibility of God’s love.
We are all reeling, I am sure, because of the tragedies of our communities. Two Westerville police officers killed in the line of duty; 17 adults and kids killed in another school shooting; a two-month old baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Why? We cannot help but ask why. These things happened and people died way before their time. But it is always time for God’s reign to break through. It is always time for us to turn toward God’s love and away from the selfishness and fear that seem to be so pervasive all around us. it is time for people who value money, prestige, power, guns and political victories to turn and value peace and love and God’s grace as Jesus calls us to do. Lent is that time to reflect on how we are called to do this, and to actually take steps in that direction – by turning to the things that are the expressions of God’s love – real concern for things like mental health, education, safety, security, racism, ageism, sexism, supporting law enforcement and military, and our global community.

Now is the time – it is the “immediately” of our story! Our Lenten calling is to turn toward love and away from hate and death so that God’s reign might come not only to each of us, but to the whole world as well. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.