February 18, 2024
First Sunday of Lent

Things move quickly in Mark’s gospel.
Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan.
The Spirit, like a dove, descends upon him.
A voice calls out from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
And at once the Spirit drove him into the desert,
where he was tempted by Satan.

I don’t know about you,
but if I had heard a voice cry out from heaven,
I would be a bit terrified,
and I’d be tempted to wonder what it all meant.

What did God mean,
“You are my beloved Son?”
Why is God well pleased with me?
Now what I am supposed to do?

Jesus spent forty days trying to answer those questions
and tempted to answer them according to Satan’s plan.

Mark doesn’t tell us much about the temptations,
so I’ve been tempted to imagine them for myself.
I would have been tempted to forget the whole thing,
to return home and pretend that nothing had changed,
to keep on doing what I had been doing for a number of years.

I’d have been tempted to continue
and maybe even expand my carpenter’s business.
Business was good,
so why would I want to abandon that
to do something completely different?

Almost every other person ever called by God
had come up with excuses.

Moses was afraid he’d be arrested if he went back to Egypt.
He also told God that he couldn’t speak very well.

Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God
calling him over and over again,
until Eli helped him realize who had been calling him.

Isaiah said that he had a filthy mouth
and lived among people with filthy mouths.

Jeremiah claimed to be too young,
and Amos had marriage problems he need to take care of.

And that was just the beginning.

If I were Jesus,
I would have known what happened to so many of those called by God.

After all those years of leading the people of God
out of slavery in Egypt,
Moses never got to set foot in the Promised Land.

The people the prophets were sent to warn
and to save,
ridiculed them,
sometimes tortured them,
almost always rejected their messages,
and sometimes they were even put to death.
So, why would I want to follow in their footsteps?

If I were Jesus, I’d also wonder what God meant
when the voice from heaven said, “I am well pleased with you.”
Jesus hadn’t done anything worth remembering,
or even worth writing down by the evangelists,
up until that time.

Sure, some of his customers were well pleased with the work he had done for them,
but why would God be well pleased with a carpenter who just did a good job?

up until then,
he had never worked a miracle,
preached in the synagogue,
gathered discipled around him,
or even read during the Sabbath gatherings
in his home town.

there are some things
that you and I might be pleased with ourselves about,
but today,
as we begin this holy season of Lent,
God is calling us beloved sons and daughters,
God is well please with us, too.

And like Jesus in today’s gospel
we are being driven into the desert of Lent,
and we may be tempted let things stay the same in our lives.
We might be tempted to leave here
as if nothing amazing or miraculous has happened.

But something amazing and miraculous has happened,
and something amazing and miraculous is about to happen.

First, we were called God’s beloved sons and daughters.

Then we were told that God is well pleased with us,
not because of what we have done,
but because of what God has done and is planning to do in our lives.

And soon, we will be fed with the very Body and Blood
of the One who is indeed the beloved Son of God,
the One who was tempted by Satan in the desert
and told him where to go,
the One who faced his fears,
left the desert,
left the safety of his career and his home town
and ventured to places he never dreamed of going,
who called and sent disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand,
the One who willingly accepted death in order to save us,
the One who rose so that we might rise to glory one day.

Something amazing and miraculous happened
when Jesus was baptized,
when the Spirit descended upon him,
when the voice cried out from heaven
and the Spirit drove him into the desert.

I pray that something amazing and miraculous will happen to us all this Lent
because we have been baptized,
the Spirit has descended upon us,
a voice from heaven has called out to us
and the Spirit has driven us into the desert we call Lent.

We will be tempted to let this Lent just pass us by,
but I pray that we will all be blessed during these forty days
so that, we, like Jesus, will be changed
and become even more faithful to the call we have received.