Sermon for Lent 1 ~ Feb
week I saw the movie Wild that tells the story of a woman’s search for
herself after the death of her mother and descent into drugs and promiscuity
and the loss of her marriage. She is driven to sort things out and spends 100
days in the wilderness walking the Pacific Crest Trail. At one point she
accidentally knocks her hiking boot down a mountainside. She swears and
screams and throws the other one away. She pulls the sandals out of her pack
and wraps them to her foot with duct tape and walks on. She encounters
threatening strangers and friendly hikers. She struggles. She feeds her fire
with the pages of the hiking guide that cover the distance she has walked. She
completes the journey and writes the book and the movie is made. Somehow she
sorted out the past, faced the present and was ready for the future in a whole
Jesus had his own wilderness experience.
is a good metaphor for life without luxury, without padding, without makeup.
What does life look like when it is not sanitized and dressed up?
we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, the Lutheran
World Federation has announced an Anniversary theme: Liberated by God’s
grace. The sub-themes tell us some of what we are trying to sort out in
the wilderness of our life today:
is not for sale
beings are not for sale
is not for sale
religions and radicalized leaders of terror use genocide and threat to coerce
people to believe a certain way. But salvation is not bartered in such a way.
God’s mercy is free in Christ – not for sale.
trafficking, prostitution, hostages, child labor, child soldiers, neglect of
the mentally ill. We are made in God’s image – human beings are not for
wilderness, disappearing species, carbon footprints, poisoned earth, air and
water, vanishing habitat. Creation is our home – not for sale. Liberated
by God’s grace we move through the wilderness
the world is a wild place governed by survival of the fittest – does that mean
only the violent and controlling win? Or is there hope for the strength of
compassion? I think Jesus had to sort that out in the wilderness. He was
appointed at his baptism to step forward with God’s values compassion. Could
he do it? Would he do it? Easier said than done.
bad and the scary
gives us 40 days to sort things out in the shadows of faith. Like 40 days in
the wilderness. We have the symbol of lessening light. The wilderness of our lives
carries both the bad and scary things. Satan represents everything we think of
as bad: lies that cater to our fears and selfishness; and wild beasts are whatever
is scary. Jesus would have been alarmed out there. Snakes and serpents gave
him cause for caution and taking precautions. Jackals, leopards and wolves are
present there today. Was he bitten or stung? Did he hurl stones or burning
sticks at laughing hyenas? Did the howl of wolves awaken him?
were threats and threats remain for us. We are flippant at our peril. We have
locks on our doors, alarm systems in our homes, police on our streets and a
department of national defense. Prisons house those who have sold out to lies
and selfishness. We buy insurance because of the unexpected and we long for
trusting community and real friendship.
when all the façade is stripped away – we live in a wilderness.
scares me? ISIS, disease, failures, fear without relief, love-less life.
was driven to sort things out. His role was to bring compassion. Compassion
to stand against lies and selfishness. Compassion in the face of the scary
things all around. Could he do it? Would he do it? He had to walk. He had
inner debates. Sleepless nights. What was really important?
a 42 km marathon, there are water tables about every 5 km. The first few are
easy to run past, but in the last half, nobody runs past anymore. Volunteers
are like angels. As an exhausted runner their water, smiles and encouragement
keep me going.
Gospel of Mark doesn’t talk much of angels. There are no Christmas angel
stories, there is no angel at Gethsemane, and the angel at the empty tomb was a
young man dressed in white. No wings, no golden faces.
messengers of God… are the ones who keep us going when it’s tough. Like the
people at water tables. Like the advice of your grandmother, the reassurance
of your friend, the person who dropped everything to be with you, the one who
helped you on the road with a flat tire, with a ride, or a phone call. Who has
kept you going in the wilderness of your life? God sent them.
waited on Jesus. Who did he meet on the trail? Who gave him a drink? Whose
eye twinkled as they walked together for a time? Who shared a campfire and
listened? Who was God using to bring encouragement? Angels. Messengers
the end of the story, the angels win the day. Jesus comes out of his 40 days
strengthened by the angels. In other words, God’s support is there even when
things are bad and scary. God is present when we face all our fears. God
assists us when the wilderness of life in the world seems out of control. A
cross of forgiveness and empty tomb of new hope are markers.
discovered that he had something to offer. He knew that even if there was only
him, or only him and a few others with compassion… something could still be
so with compassion, with the help of angels, with each other – we sort things
out. We stand for God’s values in a wilderness world and know we are valued.
We hold up the sign: Salvation is not for sale. People are not for sale.
Creation is not for sale. Or, as Jesus said as he came out of the woods: The
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe
the good news.
is present in your wilderness. You are not alone.