Sermon of the Week:
Again & Again: God Meets Us
First Sunday in Lent
Keywords: Angels, Temptation, Baptism, Chesed, Mr. Rogers. #pcusa
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
Again and Again, God Meets Us.
That’s the sermon theme for this first Sunday in Lent,
The first sermon in a new sermon series, Again and Again.
I’m grateful to call Denise Anderson a colleague and a friend.
She was co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly of our denomination
And works as the Coordinator for Racial and Intercultural Justice
With the Presbyterian Mission Agency now.
I’m mainly following her suggestions, exploring these Lenten stories
With an eye to God’s persistent, maybe even relentless grace.
Again and Again, God meets us.
Here’s how Denise talks about this passage before us this morning.[i]
My personal story is, though my family wasn’t very “churchy”
I somehow came to religion in my teens.
I came to my denomination in seminary
After learning more about the Reformed tradition.
Reformed theology emphasizes God’s initiative
Which is consistent with my own experience.
I can’t tell you if I ever really found God.
It was God who found me,
And kept finding me throughout my life.
Whether I was observant or indifferent about my faith,
God was always close by.
Mark’s Gospel (Denise Continues)
Serves as source material for both Matthew and Luke…
It’s the shortest and most perfunctory of all four Gospels.
In just seven verses, we learn of three significant events
In the life of Jesus
As he began his ministry.
The first is his baptism,
Where God claims him as God’s beloved son.
The second is his experience in the wilderness,
Where God sends angels to attend to him as he faces the Accuser.
Lastly, after John the Baptist’s arrest,
Jesus begins proclaiming God’s proximity and reign while calling for repentance.
The common thread in each account (Denise says)
Is God’s closeness.
In pivotal moments, God is extraordinarily present with Jesus
And those around him,
And for good reason.
In the Black church,
We sing of how God picks us up,
Turns us around,
And places our feet “on solid ground.”
God’s proximity informs our trajectory.
God approaches us to claim, equip, and send us to do God’s will.
Again and Again, God meets us where we are,
But doesn’t leave us there.
We shift from sinking sand to solid ground,
Navel-gazing to community,
Personal pietism to justice for all,
And away from behaviors, both personal and systemic,
That frustrate God’s vision for the world.
I particularly appreciate Rev. Anderson’s insight,
That Mark wants us to connect Jesus’ baptism with the temptation.
God met Jesus at the water before he is tempted in the wilderness.
Mark is so quick in his telling of the story,
that we need to take care not to blink and miss it…
if you are looking at what GOD is doing here, in the first chapter of Mark,
Jesus shows up on scene, God is there, blessing, empowering, supporting
This is my son, the Beloved…
And then, too, when he is pushed out into the wilderness,
God sends Angels to care for him, to minister to him.
God meets us where we are.
God met Jesus where he was, and stuck with him.
God’s covenant with all of creation…the rainbow in the heavens,
Reminds us that God meets us where we are…
Those Angels are easy to skim over, too.
The wild beasts might grab your attention,
So you just might let the Angels go unnoticed…
We have a bible study that meets every Friday morning,
by zoom, these days.
(If you want more info about it let me know and we’d love to have you).
It has been a chance for people to check in with each other
And we do that first, and then get to the bible study.
This week, one of the members really wanted to know about the Angels.
We had talked about those pesky demons just a few weeks before that,
And here Mark talks about Angels.
What is that all about, anyway.
I confess, I wasn’t ready for that question yet,
But I have been thinking about it since.
I’m not sure I’ve preached very much about angels
In all the years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a preacher.
Sure, maybe about Gabriel, around Christmas
Or even the Angel on the stone, near the tomb, at Easter.
But during the rest of the year, they’re not part of my ordinary repertoire.
One reason for that is that there really aren’t all that many references
to Angels in the New Testament.
Certainly not as many as Hallmark or Martel or even Hobby Lobby,
Bless their heart,
Would have you believe…
They’d love to sell you an angel figurine or nicknack.
But, if I’m honest,
its also because I’ve never been quite sure what to say about them.
An angel, traditionally, is a messenger for God.
The word ANGEL itself literally means that:
A celestial being acting as God’s divine intermediary.
On the other hand,
St. Augustine would argue that an Angel
is an office, a job,
Its what they do, not what they are.
What they ARE is a spirit, Augustine said
given purpose by God, to go DO something.
To share God’s story, God’s news.
I like that. A lot.
It helps me understand, and reframe,
what angels might mean for us
and for our day.
And just as our contemporary age has struggled to know what to do with
The different cosmology, the different worldview
we find in the scriptures—
this world of demons and spirits and Satan, the Tempter
the being who tests Jesus in the wilderness,
not to mention the angels…
Just as we aren’t quite sure what do to with all of that…
There are good ways in which people of faith
Have sought to better understand these cosmic creatures
In modern ways, with faithful reframing. [Read more…]