First Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
Many times I have heard from several sources a formula to approach life. “If you keep before you who you are and what you are about you will most often be headed in the right direction. In different words that saying is something Jesus taught us.
On Maundy Thursday we often hear from John 13:34 “A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. Who are we? People Jesus loves. What are we about? We are to be people who love as we have been loved by Jesus.
Another example is the great commission from Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus says, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Who are we? We are disciples under Christ’s authority. What are we about? We are to make more disciples of Jesus Christ.
Still it is tempting to say the equivalent of what business professor’s often said to students who suggested employees should be given more consideration. “That is well and good but have you ever had to meet a payroll?” A disciple’s might be, “Gee Jesus, you don’t know the half of it. An incident like falling on ice can alter how one looks at a day. Having a fire, hurricane, or tornado wipe out your home or workplace can be greatly devastating. Love others! Make disciples! How can one even force the effort?”
Unlike some professors who it can be said, ”Those who can’t do teach” and in response to the more who say, “What’s the point in a world where awful things occur?” Jesus who teaches can do. Jesus endured tough shots and headed into troubling seas. Jesus knew who he was, and what he was about, and headed in the direction he was supposed to go. Today’s Gospel makes that clear.
The lesson spells out who Jesus is. Jesus goes to baptized and there we learn who he is. He comes out of the water and the Spirit descends on him like a dove and the Father’s voice declares, “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is the one who stands in that special eternal relation of always the Son. He is about pleasing the Father by carrying out the Father’s will. He had shown that coming to the Jordan and insisting John baptize him. Matthew provides more detail. John indicates ‘Wait one’ saying “I need to be baptized by you.” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now. It is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” John baptizing Jesus is the way it is supposed to be. The Father says at the baptism he is well pleased with the Son. In summary we learn Jesus is the Beloved Son and he is about carrying out God’s will for him.
The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness where Jesus confirms being God’s Son means taking his lead from the divine, and not from Satan, who tempts him toward disobedience. He meets the temptations that attract us, physical desires, wide recognition, and power. He remains in the wild being attended to by angels. Anchored in who he is and what he is about he moves out.
In the last couple of decades I have taken particular notice of what has occurred when Jesus begins his public ministry. It is not a good time for prophets. Jesus goes into Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God in a powerful way declaring, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the good news.” He does this after the John, who baptized him, was arrested. He comes forth when the message from the political leadership in Galilee is saying, “Be very careful on what you say.”
In several verses Mark moves us from the wonderful events of Jesus baptism, to God placing this beloved Son in temptations way, and going forth boldly at a time when there is a political power that has no fear of disciplining prophets whose messages are found distasteful. Jesus, knowing who he is and what he is supposed to be about begins the ministry of teaching and showing God’s kingdom breaking through in an unexpected way.
In Jesus we have someone who shows he can operate anchored in his identity enough to do what he is supposed to do when the going is tough. Living in awareness of having a connection with God of that nature makes a positive difference in life.
A few weeks ago I shared Martin Luther came to the point that he was so confident of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ Jesus, that when he sensed Satan’s presence wanting to tempt him or poison his spirit, rather than becoming fearful, he would say, “It’s only you.”
I confess I am not always as quick to respond to the prods of wrong like Luther or rest confidently in my status of beloved heir of God through Christ, as Jesus was as the Beloved Son. I think of the seventh grade when Bruce was in my face for a month proving his toughness. One late afternoon I had it. He shoved and I rolled on top of him and rapped his head on the sidewalk. He bravely fought tears. My first internal reaction was, “God what am I doing?” My first exterior reaction was to make sure Bruce was all right, not fearing punishment, but concern I may have really hurt him. It made a change. I have to say, not counting occasional scraps with my brother; there has been only one real hit back physical encounter since. Someone smacked me across the mouth in a college pick-up basketball game. I shoved him down to the ground. I think he was so surprised I was able to do that he did not thrash me as he could have. Otherwise I would just tie the other up so no one would get hurt, eventually including the rare brotherly battle.
Remembering Jesus example from baptism through temptation to beginning his public ministry and those teachings that tell us who we are and our mission from that identity, though it may take time, we will come to experience more purposeful peace in life’s commotion as we await the ultimate peace before God. Recognizing we are Jesus’ followers and are about following his will is a most excellent formula for life. Amen.