The First Sunday in Lent (B)
“The Wilderness Days”
February 18, 2018
Sermon Text: James 1:12, Mark 1:9-15, Psalm 91
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
So writes St. James in our appointed epistle text. Blessed is the man, the woman, the teenager and child who remains unmovable, unshakeable, un wavering when faced with trials and tribulations… when under fire… when under great pressure.
There is certainly enough of that to go around… the trials and tribulations … the fires and pressures of life. And this is true of everyday life for everyone, but then add on to that the trials and tribulations… the pressures and the coming under fire for being a Christian… for holding to the Christian faith… for remaining steadfast on the Word of God and the confession that Jesus is Lord.
Put quite simply, “It ain’t easy.” Because of what we face out there… in the world… in the wilderness… the “WILDER-ness” of this life which is only getting worse, crazier by the minute… insane even.
The things that are happening all around us… to us and to others. Take for example the school shooting in Florida and countless other stories of man’s inhumanity to man. Add to that man’s perverse ways, sick ways… twisted and sordid and it is downright laughable those who say that things are getting better… that things are looking up… that real progress is being made… that our world and our society are becoming more and more sophisticated, civil and refined.
Really? The same world and society where hundreds of unborn babies everyday are torn apart and thrown into the garbage and this while the right to do so is staunchly defended because, after all, it’s a matter of choice?
The same world and society that gives sanctuary and support to that which is illegal and unlawful while thumbing their noses at that which is legal and lawful and penalizing the law abiding?
The same world and society that of course, dismisses God’s Law in total, but also throws common sense out one window and natural law through another regarding issues such as gender differences and human sexuality? I would say that monkeys know better, but that would just fuel the evolutionists.
It is wild out there, my friends… and getting wilder. It is like the Wild West only it is the same in the north, south and east. And the better we understand this under the gracious guidance of God the Holy Spirit, the better we can deal with the same, cope with the same… make it through the same… all of us… our children and our children’s children… alive and well… physically, mentally and most importantly, spiritually. To understand what is really going on here and make it through the same… through all of the days of our life in this, our sojourn here on earth.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden… from paradise. They were driven into the wilderness where they and all of their offspring… all of their descendants… live out their days on earth.
And so it was necessary that the second Adam, our Savior, our Substitute, Jesus, was also driven into the wilderness to be with us, He who became one of us.
Jesus was with the wild animals in that wilderness, St. Mark tells us in our Gospel text. WE, my friends, are with the wild animals as well… including those who walk on two legs.
Jesus faced Satan, as do we, every day. Jesus was tempted by Satan, as are we, every day.
Jesus was ministered to by angels… there, in the wilderness. And guess what? So are we, every day. Really and truly. God’s angelic beings who do His bidding… who are with us every hour of every day.
I shared with our junior confirmation class that we pray those precious young people and adults who died in the recent school shooting knew Jesus as their Savior and confessed the same, because no child of God who died that day in that place, died alone. They were surrounded by angels who ministered to them and bore their very souls to heaven.
What is more, we are attended to by other “angels” … that is, messengers of God, namely His called and ordained servants who preach and teach the Word of God to us. The Word which alone saves. The Word which alone sends Satan and all who do his bidding here on earth fleeing.
St. Mark doesn’t go into the specific temptations that Jesus faced at the hand of Satan, but we know from the other Gospels that to each of those temptations, our Lord countered with the Word of God… He who actually is the Word incarnate… the Word made flesh… the Word all-sufficient, all-powerful and potent.
And we, likewise counter, my friends. For we do not live by bread alone, but by the every Word of the Lord our God that sustains us… that sustains our children and our children’s children as we live in this Wild West… East, North and South.
Through it all, we fear no evil. Even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear nothing that is evil. It cannot harm us. The worst it can do is take our mortal lives… we who are really immortal from the moment of our baptism where, in that very water, we died with Christ and rose with Him to newness of life.
As we also discussed in confirmation class this past week, everlasting life is not something we look forward to… it is ours NOW in Jesus Christ and what He did for us… what He won for us on the cross. Do you know that? Do you live that and live accordingly… live in light of this glorious fact?
The wilderness way… it may seem scary and downright frightening. But it is ok. And this in Jesus Christ who shows us the way… who feeds us, sustains us and guides us all along the way, every step of the way… and this by His Holy Word and the Blessed Sacraments.
If you would, please take out your worship bulletin and let us speak in unison the words of our Introit taken from Psalm 91 which wonderfully sums all of this up:
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Rejoice, my friends. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The Wilderness Days” 2/18/18 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL