Sermon Lent 1 22/02/15

Mark 1. 9-15

Earlier this week I received a text from a friend of mine in Wales saying that she’s seen her first lamb of this year. It may not quite feel like it yet, but the seasons are changing yet again and before long we will clearly see the signs of new life telling us that winter is behind us and new life is preparing to show itself. If we look closely we can see the early signs of this for ourselves, it’s lighter in the evenings and some of the spring bulbs are shooting, or they were in my garden until my dog decided to dig them up!

As we progress down the weeks, these signs will become more tangible as new colours, songs, life and warmth enter our world. This all sounds really lovely, but we mustn’t forget that with new birth of spring will come the violence of storm clouds to fill the rivers and water the land and the pain of child birth as new creatures are born.

Spring and new life means turmoil, and disorder.

Lent is the church’s spring.

It is the time for us to prepare and show those early signs before we are reborn in the gentleness and violence of new life in Christ.

New beginnings are exciting. It was six months ago last weekend I ‘officially’ started working in the Abbey, that that was really exciting. Most of us can remember that sweet anticipation of starting on a new journey.   New beginnings also involve risk. They call us out of the comfort of a familiar world that we have known, to a strange new reality. New beginnings take courage, because you don’t know what you’ll face and it can be difficult to see the path ahead.   And this is where we are this morning.

The1st Sunday of Lent reminds us that this is a new beginning. A chance to start a new journey.

Lent for me is an exciting, and scary time. Full of possibility and opportunity for the taking, if you are brave enough to step outside your comfortable familiar, safe world and step into the possibility of something greater.   And this is the way of God’s people. Stepping out of what is safe and familiar whether by choice or by being pushed.

Adam and Eve left the garden. Noah left his dry land home. God told Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gn. 12:1). Jacob feared for his life. Moses and the Israelites left Egypt. And in today’s gospel it’s Jesus’ time. As Mark tells it, “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” to the Jordan River.

He left his family home, the area he knew, and the people who knew him. And now he’s wet, standing in the Jordan, between home and the wilderness.

Jesus is standing between his private life and his public ministry. And this moment marks a covenant, a pledge, a pact between him and God. It is a point of intersection, a meeting of heaven and earth. “You are my Son, the Beloved,” God tells him.The Spirit of God enters him enabling him for what lies ahead. It is for Jesus as it would be for any of us, a time of decision, of pressure, of anxiety.

This is not just about Jesus, or the faithful people of the Bible. This is our story too. The Father’s words refer to Jesus in a uniquely literal way but they also apply to each one of us.

So how do we go about making this step and entering the wilderness?   How do we make the most of these days of Lent?

Baptism is the new beginning for the Christian. We go down into the water to die. We emerge from the water to new life. It is an exciting moment in our lives as we make a decision to follow Christ. We enter into relationship with God. It is an exciting moment. as we recognize the Spirit of God at work in our lives. But there is also risk at entering the water. It is a time to let go, to lose control, to become vulnerable.

Whether you were baptised as a child, or an adult, we all get to a point in our spiritual lives when we will want to renew that contract with God.

Lent is a time of self-examination, of checking our focus, of sorting our priorities. It is a time to reflect on God’s promises and to recognize our failure to live up to our part of the relationship. It is a time to begin anew, through repentance, through seeking God’s guidance, through struggle, and through renewed commitment. It is a time to seek God’s guidance. Hopefully we begin to rely on God again.

Lent is a journey. Time given to us. If we are brave enough to face the facts and take that step into the wilderness with Christ. We do not know where this new beginning will take us, but together we enter into a journey from ashes to Easter.