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Lent 1B Sermon
Mark 1: 9-15

Guest Preacher:
LIC Student, Rita Argus
February
21, 2021


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A TV show opens with a rich, well to-do, need for nothing family suddenly finding themselves broke because their financial manager mismanaged their money…exiled from their former high-class life, the family finds themselves needing to relocate to a town called Schitt’s Creek…no I did not just swear from the pulpit... it is S-c-h-i-t-t’-s named after the mayor’s family this was a town the rich family had previously purchased as a joke.

The family initially struggles with sacrificing their old selfish ways of doing thing and adapting to a new small-town lifestyle. But, over time by working together, with lots of help from other town’s people and many funny adventures, the family slowly build back their lives, develop deeper relationships with each other, and even learn how to be loving and caring neighbors.
But, in the beginning they didn’t see the good or the transformative change coming…all they could see was a barren wasteland of ambiguity…
We are lost in the wilderness of temptation. As the familiar world crumbles around we are tempted by paths that promise a return to the way things were. We are disorientated, unsure, and exhausted by not knowing what today will look like…let along tomorrow or the next day.My friends, we are lost.
As we approach a year into lock down because of the COVID-19 pandemic,there is a temptation to quickly just “get back to normal” …to go back to the way things were before the pandemic…
This morning we were reminded of the story of Noah and his Ark. You know, maybe Noah and his family had similar thoughts. I mean, after being on the Ark for 40 days and 40 nights of rain and storms… and then waiting even longer for the waters to recede so that they could set foot once again on dry land…you can imagine that they too longed to feel normal once again…

Maybe you remember this story of Noah and his family from being in Sunday School or reading it in your Children’s Bible where you were presented with a sweet story of Noah and his family and all of the animals being saved from the flood… but now imagine being Noah and stepping off the ark onto dry land. Initially you might be hit with a wave of relief. You were safe. Life is going to be normal again.But, then you look around and see the destruction and the emptiness of the world…and you know deep down that it is going to take a long time for things to feel normal again. And you know in your gut that it is going to be a slow and frustrating process.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, we long for normal and have become numb to the death and tragedy. I can assure you I am right there with you. I don’t know about you, but I personally am sooo exhausted of hearing the phrases “in these times…” or “given the current COVID restrictions…” or “because of the unprecedented circumstances…” These phrases, while importantly acknowledging the seriousness of our current reality, are also supposed to giving us an assurance that this is temporary, but as time drags on…they just feel heavy… they carry with them anxiety and frustrations…and they leave us uncertain and less than hopeful…or in other words lost.If that was not enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many broken systems in our communities and governments leaving the most vulnerable among us even more lost and hopeless.

My friends we are lost in the wilderness.
Yet! Did you notice? God is in the wilderness with us. God is facing temptations and trials with us. God is with us and holding us. My friends,God is here with us.

It is not hard to see evidence of this presence… God is present in the excitement of a little kid opening presents at Christmas… God is present in the bloom of your favorite flower… God is present in a friend brining you a baked good…God is present in a majestic sunrise or sunset… God is present in the carol that you sing out in your car or home… God is present in the warmth of sun on your cheeks... God is present in the shout of encouraging words as you run a race… God is present in a hug from a parent or loved one… God is present in the excitement of a seedling popping out of the soil in the spring… God is present in that perfect song that makes you just want to dance… God is present in a gentle spring rain brining life back to the trees… God is present in a prayer in a hospital room... God is present in the reds, oranges, and yellows of leaves changing in the fall… God is present in our gathering together online this morning…
And if you cannot see God’s presents in any of the ways I listed, then friends I invited you to breath in…and out…God is present in the very air you breath…

Friends, God is with us in the
wilderness…actively working in our lives…We don’t have to go to a certain building or place…we don’t have to feel a certain way… God is here and actively working in our lives to care for our needs and hold us together.
Because Emmanuel… God has been with us. God is with us. And God will always be with us.
So, beloved we are called to be still and hear God speaking. We are invited to hear God’s voice in the wilderness. We are invited to listen for God. My friends, God is calling us into something new.
I recently read a prayer that started with the line, “How do you know when you are hearing from God?” The writer went on to say that you “put your hand in the middle of your chest…feel the rhythm there…turn down the noise in our minds…in our lives… and whisper, God… Whatever you want to say… I’m here…I’m listening.” …

My friends, when you lay your hand over your heart and feel the rhythm of the beats, know that God is calling us into a new life inthe Kingdom of God.But what does this look like?
In the popular game Animal Crossing, your character moves to a deserted island with a few other characters to start a new life. The island is abundant with basic resources like food, water, and shelter that are shared by you and your neighbors to build more and more a warm, welcoming, and loving community. Other characters are welcomed to the island with open arms and celebration of this new life where needs are met, and everyone is cared for.
Now, I realize there is a lot of video game magic going on here. But the world of Animal Crossing is like the life that God is inviting us to live. We are called to share our abundant resources to build up our community and love our neighbors…Or in other words we are striving for the Kingdom of God.

My friends hear God calling us into the Kingdom of God.
Beloved, the COVID-19 pandemic has us feeling like we are lost in the wilderness. We find ourselves tempted to take paths that promise easy and quick returns back to normal. But, know that God is here with us. God is here in the wilderness calling us into something new. Inviting us into the Kingdom of God. Amen.