FEBRUARY 21, 2021
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
READINGS AND PSALM
1 Peter 3:18-22
Grace and Gloria Dei Lutheran Churches
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Brenda Tophoj, PMA
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mark, the evangelist, begins his gospel in the wilderness. According to him, the good news of salvation doesn’t begin with mysterious angels proclaiming peace. According to Mark, the good news begins in a dry, desolated place inhabited by wild beasts and demons.
And that’s the message of our text – the promise of salvation starts in a place that is lonely, disorderly, and dangerous. Good news begins in the midst of trouble, tribulation, and torment. What seems to be a negative is a vehicle for the positive to occur. What seems to be a trying situation is actually a chance for triumph and victory. What seems to be a mess is actually an opportunity for a miracle to occur. Good news begins in the wilderness.
And, any servant of God can talk of a wilderness experience. At one point or another, we can tell our story of our own private wilderness. We’ve had that desolate place in our lives where we dealt with temptations and snares. We’ve been in crooked places and valleys so low that we thought we’ll never get out. We’ve been in our own private wilderness.
And, if the truth be told, some of us are still in a wilderness. Whether it’s a dying marriage or a dying loved one, we’re in a wilderness. It may be wayward child or unfaithful spouse, we find ourselves in a wilderness.
We may be in a state of joblessness, on the verge of homelessness. We are in a wilderness. We are in a place where we are struggling for our lives.
If we’re not fighting poor health, we’re fighting powers and principalities in high places. If we’re not involved in church conflict, we’re in the midst of marital conflict. If we’re not wrestling with God, then we’re wrestling with God’s people. We are tried and tested on every side. Wild beasts are trying to devour us. Demons are trying to take over us. Desperation and despair have become our traveling buddies. We know all about the wilderness.
We know every tree, every bush, every hill, and valley. Many of us have gotten lost there. We’ve been wandering in the wilderness for years looking for a way out.
And, Jesus knows that we’ve been tempted to give up. Some of us have given in to our pain and misery.
We’ve given in to discouragement and doubt. We’ve lost our faith and given up all hope of seeing our wilderness turn into a paradise. We cry out, “Lord how long must I dwell in this barren land? When shall I receive your promise of deliverance? When shall we lay down our burdens and cease from wandering?”
Well, the answer may lie in the experience of John.
One could say that he became a permanent fixture in the wilderness. He knew how to survive its dangers and how to conquer its beasts. Oh, he had no gimmicks. No glamour. No self-improvement program or psychic network. His clothing was scarce and his food was simple.
All John had at his disposal was three things. And these three things helped him to survive the wilderness. These three things were: 1a sense of purpose, 2a proclamation, and 3a God given promise.
John had a purpose which was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. He knew that no matter what his circumstance, he was called to prepare God’s people for the coming of salvation. Likewise, regardless of our situation, each of us has a purpose. There’s something that we were created to do. And whatever it is, we are to do it for the glorification of God.
Whatever our profession or career, we should glorify God. Whatever our state or condition, we should glorify God. Whether we’re on our sick bed, standing on the unemployment line, or living in the homeless shelter, our lives should demonstrate our faith in God.
If we’re true to our purpose, then we’ll always have a proclamation. We’ll have a faith story – a testimony of hope. And all of us have a testimony about God’s goodness. We didn’t make it this far on our own graces, but only by the grace of God. We all can share our on personal autobiographical sketch of how God has made a way out of no way.
That is our proclamation. We can tell how God fed us when we were hungry; how he gave us a place to lie our head when we were homeless, and how he gave one more day, when we thought we were about to draw our last breath. We have a story to proclaim and people need to hear it.
And, I have come to realize that the best stories come from people who have held on to God’s promise. The best stories come from those who refuse
to let wilderness conquer their trust in God. Someone once said that whenever we’re confronted with a bad situation, we should say to ourselves: “This is the reality with which I have to live and I must figure out a way in which I can meet my situation bravely and heroically.”
There are many examples in history that can show us how life can be met bravely and effectively regardless of the tragic situation we find ourselves. Claudius, the great Roman emperor, stuttered. His wilderness was poor speech. And, it was his inclination to hide from people and not use his great talents. But finally he realized that only as he spoke, stammering and all,
would he learn to conquer his handicap and his wilderness.
The great poet Milton had to learn, painfully, to believe that he could make his life sing with his poetry in spite of his blindness.
Robert Louis Stevenson seemed to produce his greatest works when he was suffering most physically.
And, Beethoven had to be satisfied with composing beautiful music even though he couldn’t hear it.
Likewise, when we’re in what we consider insurmountable situation, we should be challenged to devise ways of conquering our wildernesses.
And the good news is that God will not leave us in the wilderness alone. We have a promise that God will show up. He may not come when we want him, but he’ll show up right on time. That’s the promise we have to hold on to. I’m sure that someone told John, that his Christ would never show up. They told him that he was wasting his time. But one day, probably on a hot afternoon, John was going through his same old routine — Preaching and baptizing. I can imagine him standing there receiving the candidates. One by one, dipping them in the water. One by one, baptizing them upon their confession of repentance. One by one wandering when God’s promise was going to show up.
Who will it be? What will he look like? Is this one, Lord? What about that one? But when John least expected it, there comes a man from Galilee.
Jesus will show up in the wilderness when you least expect it. You are not in this thing alone. Wait on the Lord.
And All of God’s People Say…Amen.
GRACE: Neva Schmid, the family of Cheryl Long
GLORIA DEI: The family of Cheryl Long, Shanna Misegadis, Doyle Misegadis, Rita Bartling, Ernie Kahrs, Pat Rufenacht, Barb Namuth, Richard Bruns, Della Weber, Kimberly Valla Martinez, Rita Bartling, Marv Bartling, Dan Dickinson, Kelsey Watchorn
BLESSING: And may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and + give you peace. Amen.