Sunday, March 1, 2015

First Sunday in Lent: Into the wilderness


The first Sunday of Lent. Pat and Larry are getting the sanctuary ready. Pat has prepared a beautiful table.
Pat's table
We’ve chosen as our theme Pathways: Into the wilderness and out again. And this Sunday, the first, is Into the Wilderness.     

We begin with my chant, Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within my soul . And then  this week’s prequel, Genesis 9: 8-17, and we all sing:

God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water the fire next time

Pharoah’s army got drownded, O Mary don’t you weep.

O Mary don’t you weep don’t you moan, O Mary don’t you weep don’t you moan

Pharoah’s army got drownded, O Mary don’t you weep.

Jeremy has written a response for Psalm 25: 1-10, Make me to know your ways, O LORD;  teach me your paths.  And then the story of Jesus being driven into the wilderness (Mark 1: 9-15) followed by Lord Who Throughout these Forty Days. And then it’s time for reflection.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. In this day of black lives matter, it’s important to remember.

I saw the movie Wild the other night …it’s the story of a woman Cheryl Strayed,  who seeks to find herself after a divorce by hiking the 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Oregon. When she has accomplished her journey she says:

 What if I forgave myself? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

It’s a great example of our almost annual movie ventures into the wilderness as a place of challenge, testing, and yes, redemption. Wild was this year’s  127 Hours where James Franco amputated his arm after getting stuck in a crevasse.

There is something about the wilderness that draws us.

Our doorway into the wilderness this morning is  through the story of Jesus in the wilderness. Begins with his baptism…if it sounds familiar, we had this same passage just a few weeks ago…January 11th, on Baptism of Jesus Sunday. And there’s that same voice we  heard  last week on Transfiguration Sunday, This is my child, the beloved, listen to him…and this week You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Notice that he sees the heavens torn apart, Jesus and no one else sees that’s an almost  violent tone…

And notice that it is the same Spirit that drives him out for this period of testing…of challenge…like hikers Cheryl Strayed or Aron Ralston.

There Jesus will be tempted by Satan…there will be wild beasts…and angels waited on him…

We have no details on Jesus’ temptations in Mark. It’s a simple story.

Our prequel was the story of Noah…40 days and nights of rain. Then there is Moses and children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Both of these are present in Jesus’ 40 days..In the wilderness, the children of Israel became a people..In the wilderness, what you really encounter is yourself…We have 40 days..the traditional giving up something  is a way of stripping down, a way of experiencing the simplicity of the desert metaphorically. Where event he tiniest of flowers appear more beautiful, cactus flowers burst into bloom and vanish soon.

It’s kind of like the spring training that Jesus needs before his ministry season begins. We can use it in a similar way.

Someone once said it’s not giving up something, it’s taking on something…taking on  a discipline.. a way of being conscious, mindful, intentional about what we do…about our daily decisions…

(Back in Pittsburgh, it was the season of fish fries….another Catholic church every Friday night. When I was a kid in school, fish sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, cheese ravioli…)

So today let us imagine our wilderness, imagine your wilderness, step into it..and we will journey alone…and together.

We sing I want Jesus to walk with me for our prayers…all along my pilgrim journey…

And Jeremy and I sing Farther along… and we bring it back at the end of the service.

Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong

When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all, by and by

Faithful 'til death, said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweep through the beautiful gates

                                                         Farther along...

Pat and Leila
After service, the session meets. Some options still alive. Others not. There are difficult days ahead. Some are hopeful. Some are weary. We’ve just stepped into the wilderness. Again.
A New Mexican Cross

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