First Sunday in Lent—Year C—February 17, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
From the moment we are born, we are tempted and tested, because the reality of our existence as humans is that Sin lurks all around and even inside us.
And sometimes that evil is hard to identify, because as we read this morning, even the devil can quote scripture…well more like twist scripture. It is the devil that twists the word of God and turns it from good news into bad news. It is the devil that twist the word of God into hateful words for us to use against people who look different from us…or people who come from a different part of the world than us…or worship in a different way than us…or have a relationship that does not fit our idea of normal and right…or talk different than us…or against people who suffer from disease, whether of the body, soul, or mind.
All of this twisting of God’s word and God’s good creation leaves us living in a barren wilderness most of the time. We exist in a world in which it is sometimes hard to keep track of what actually gives us life—God’s word and meal—because they are obstructed by false promises of better food, more happiness, more money, more power, more protection, better relationships, more fame.
Just like Jesus, we come up out of the waters of our baptisms, soaking wet with God’s love and grace, washed clean of our sin, and we immediately re-enter the wildernesses of the material world. We live most of our lives in such a wilderness, plagued by messages of inadequacy, damaged by hurtful words, ravaged by disease, pushed down by bullies trying to climb their way up, and left brokenhearted when our loved ones die—are taken from us suddenly, too soon, without explanation.
We each suffer in such kinds of wildernesses—it is just a fact because we live in a broken world, plagued by Sin.
But even though we live our lives with this sense of wilderness, we do so sopping wet.
We are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Therefore there is nothing that we, or any twisting of God’s word by the devil, can do that dries us off. We are baptized once and for all, God made God’s promises of love, forgiveness, and eternal life to us once and for all, and NOTHING can undo that. Nothing overpowers the waters of baptism.
Jesus, after forty days of fasting and temptation by the devil, was still sopping wet. God’s love remained with him. And that is not just because Jesus was 100% divine at the same time of being 100% human…the same is true for us.
We, after forty days of life in this world, or forty years, or 140 years, we remaining sopping wet with the waters of our Baptism and the Spirit that is infused into that water. And when it seems like there is nothing else around to keep us going when we are in the middle of a really vast, dry, desolate wilderness, and we cannot find anything to nourish our bodies or our souls, God’s love sustains us. It is the water of our baptisms that are constantly providing us with new life.
Every day, we die to our Sin, and God raises us to new life, soaking wet with baptismal water. We are reminded of this every time we wash our faces, take a shower, or stand in the rain. All of this water can remind us that God loves us so much that we are sopping wet with God’s grace.
So even as we move forward through the season of Lent, the metaphorical wilderness of the church year, as we hear of Christ journeying towards the cross, towards death, to face Sin head on, once and for all, we still celebrate Easter, the resurrection, the triumph over sin and death.
This is why we call them Sundays IN Lent instead of Sundays OF Lent. Sundays are not counted in the 40 days; they remain separate. And although we make some changes in our service, and we bury the “A” word, we still celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ passover from death to life, and our participation in that, by way of our sopping wet baptisms.
So you may be in the middle of a wilderness right now—a wilderness of grief, a wilderness of loneliness, a wilderness of confusion, a fight with a disease the feels a whole like wilderness, or a wilderness of despair—but it is not the end of the story and you are not alone. We all reside in the wilderness together, and we are all delivered from the wilderness together. There is no distinction; all are saved. God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm reaches out to each and every one of you to bring you into a new land, one flowing with milk and honey, marked by light and love, forgiveness and everlasting life. It does not always happen on our time schedule or in the ways that we expect, but the fact that we are still soaking wet attests to the fact that it does happen. The hugs, prayers, meals, quilts, housework, songs, and visits add up to bring us comfort and messages of God’s love in whatever wilderness we currently reside, and ultimately Christ’s sacrifice in Jerusalem, his death and resurrection pulls us out of that wilderness once and for all, fills our bellies with good food, and makes us want for nothing.
It is God’s word, carried out by God’s hand, that you can put your trust in. Disregard the twisting that the devil does, for “the Lord [is your] refuge and [your] strength,” “and the Most High your habitation.” God “will be with [you] in trouble” and “rescue” you and “show [you] salvation.” Amen.