Service: February 21, 2021 (First Sunday in Lent, Year B)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
Amen.

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin. Renew us in the gift of baptism. May your holy angels be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

 

Then the readings for this day may be read, as follows:

First Reading:  Genesis 9:8-17

8God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.

 

The Psalm may be sung or read in response to the First Reading.

Psalm 25: 1-10

1To | you, O LORD,
I lift | up my soul.
2My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be | put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph | over me.
3Let none who look to you be | put to shame;
rather let those be put to shame | who are treacherous.
4Show me your | ways, O LORD,
and teach | me your paths.
5Lead me in your | truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all | the day long.
6Remember, O LORD, your compas- | sion and love,
for they are from | everlasting.
7Remember not the sins of my youth and | my transgressions;
remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your good- | ness, O LORD.
8You are gracious and up- | right, O LORD;
therefore you teach sinners | in your way.
9You lead the low- | ly in justice
and teach the low- | ly your way.
10All your paths, O LORD, are steadfast | love and faithfulness
to those who keep your covenant and your | testimonies.

 

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

18Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.

 

Gospel: Mark 1:9-15

The holy gospel according to Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

12And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the dominion of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

 

Reflection

Having read these readings, think on this:

Here are metaphors for how we are right now: We are in a flood, drowning. We are wandering in the wilderness, afraid of the wild beasts, and, if we are being tested, we fail. We are surrounded by death and that imprisons us. But Jesus Christ comes preaching and in the power of the Spirit he comes to us now. His coming changes everything. Jesus has seen the dove coming, the end of the flood. Baptized into him, the Spirit comes to us, too. Jesus’ resistance to the evil one turns our wildernesses into places of peace with all creation and places where the angels serve. Baptized into him, we see our world with new eyes and are given strength to resist evil and take joy in the creation. Jesus’ cross and resurrection break open the captivity of death. Baptized into his death we are raised with him out of fear. The forty days of Lent invite us to remember again that we are baptized, to rejoice in God’s rainbow covenant with all creatures, and to be ourselves part of the sign of God’s love for the world.

Some thoughts from Pastor Phil:

How should followers of Jesus begin a new venture?  Whether it is simply starting a new day or beginning a new job or undertaking a new relationship or opening a new season of Lent…how should we go about it?

On the surface one might answer the question with two words:  Plunge in!  Get started, the sooner the better.  The one who hesitates is lost.  However, Jesus did it differently in today’s Gospel text.  His model for beginning a new venture is one we should consider.

When Jesus was about to begin his public ministry, our text says, “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”  The word, “immediately” reminds us that Jesus had just been baptized by John in an exalted experience when the Father’s voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  And then, what a contrast immediately follows; “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”

That word, “drove,” is a forceful word in the original Greek.  It was used when Jesus drove demons out of people.  It was used when Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple, using a whip.

It almost sounds as if the Holy Spirit whipped Jesus out into the wilderness.  But human nature resisted.  His ministry would be short enough. Why take more time out of it for this?  Besides, the inspiration of his baptism was fresh upon Jesus.  Why not begin his mission with this fresh inspiration?  Friends, the answer is simple.  Because Jesus needed time alone with God to get his bearings and set his direction. This would strengthen his mission and save time in the end by eliminating wrong directions.

So, the Holy Spirit, who was symbolized as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, became almost like a whip to drive Jesus out to a lonely, lengthy time with his Father in the wilderness.  The text continues, “he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts…”  Forty days is a long temptation.  We can imagine that Jesus was lonely and physically weak.  He had severed ties with family and home. He had not yet chosen any disciples.  No human was observing him.

In Shakespeare’s play, “Henry the Fifth,” on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, it is said of one participant that he will “eat breakfast on the lip of a lion.”  That would take courage!  Now, Jesus didn’t eat breakfast in the wilderness because we are told that he was fasting, but he lived there near the “lip of the lion,” as indeed he did during his whole life for us on earth. As so we are reminded that any new venture, any new start will involve risk and “the lip of the lion.”

But friends, there is good news in this text! We are told that Satan and the wild beasts were not the only ones with Jesus out in the wilderness.  Our text continues, “and the angels waited on him.”  God the Father did not leave Jesus under heavy temptation for forty days without any accompanying spiritual resources.  God provided heavy resources.  And, friends, God has promised the same to us through our baptism.  Whatever threatens to overwhelm us, God pledges us those prevailing spiritual resources.

We know from history that the baptismal font where Martin Luther was baptized disappeared in time from that church and was discovered much later as a doorstep into someone’s home. An inscription on the doorstep identified it.  Once rediscovered, it was restored again as the font in St. Peter’s Church, Eisleben.  Could this be a modern day parable for us?  For it seems to me that whenever we are on the doorstep of some new venture, God’s baptismal promise to us through Christ will provide us with overpowering spiritual resources to confront “the lip of the lion” without flinching.

Now back to the text…We hear that Jesus’ public ministry began after John was arrested.  But what kind of beginning was it?  Mark says, “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.”  Talk about small beginnings!  Galilee was only about 30 miles wide and 45 miles long.  It wasn’t as big as many American counties.  Some referred to Galilee as “backwater country.”  And yet this is where the greatest ministry in history started.  Small beginnings can result in monumental endings.  Don’t knock small beginnings.  Jesus preached “the good news of God.” That is the most powerful thing in the world.  It is the good news of God’s reconciling love in Christ.

Jesus continues by saying, “The time is fulfilled.”  Another translation reads, “The time has come at last.”  God’s great clock has struck. The hour for which all history has awaited since creation has arrived.  The incarnation is about to be revealed in Christ. The old order has passed; the new order has come.

The text continues with a call to repentance.  Jesus demands that we turn 180 degrees from our sins and line up our lives with God’s will.  To repent is not just to be sorry.  It is to be sorry enough to turn away from sinful thoughts and practices.

The final note from this text is significant.  “Believe in the good news.”  This term “gospel” or “good news” appears twice in this one sentence.  For that is what Jesus’ preaching was all about. Note that he didn’t say, “Believe the good news,” but “Believe in the good news.”    In other words, the response to God’s love in Christ is not just an intellectual kind of thing, but rather trusting one’s whole life and destiny to what God has done through Christ, and to nothing else.

And so, dear friends in Christ, whatever venture we begin, from a new day, to a new life, to a new season in ministry with different pastoral leadership, to this new season of Lent, give it the kind of preparation Jesus did and the nature of the content Jesus did.  Lean on your baptismal promises and be reminded of those great spiritual resources.  For that will allow you to repent and believe in the good news.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 517), Thy Holy Wings” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 613), “As Your Spirit in the Desert” (All Creation Sings 923). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word

As Your Spirit in the Desert

 

Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word

As Your Spirit in the Desert

Then pray these intercessions:

On this first Sunday in Lent, let us pray boldly for all in need, responding to each petition with words echoing today’s psalm, “In you we put our trust.”

Relying on you, O God of our salvation, we pray for the church throughout the world, that strengthened by the promises of baptism, we discern your way of truth and justice, and reject the attractive lures of evil. Sustain those Christians who are beset with temptations or hardship.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O righteous God:
In you we put our trust.

Remembering Deaconess Elizabeth Fedde, we pray for all deacons and deaconesses, that they serve those in need with constancy and joy. Empower our congregation’s ministries of care, and provide the funds needed for service.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O generous God:
In you we put our trust.

Grateful for a plenteous creation, we pray that you preserve the wild beasts and keep lands from being flooded by waters. Encourage the work of biologists, conservationists, and science educators, that we all come to appreciate more about the wonders that you create.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O creative God:
In you we put our trust.

Distressed by injustice and violence, we pray for leaders who govern in our nation and around the world, that they strive for equality and concord in all things. Visit the people of Myanmar and Sudan and stem the might of tyrants the world over.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O sovereign God:
In you we put our trust.

Alert to the difficulties of wintertime, we pray for all who are cold, for all the homeless, for refugees awaiting assistance, and for all whose employment requires them to endure brutal weather. Surround them with a community of concern.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O warm-hearted God:
In you we put our trust.

Pained by the suffering of others, we pray for all who are sick, especially those we name here before you: . . .  We pray for all who have contracted COVID-19, for those who are bowed down by trials of any kind, for those who face natural disasters, for those whose suffering is known only to you. Comfort those who feel desolate. Give health and wholeness to all who suffer.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O benevolent God:
In you we put our trust.

Praying also for ourselves, we ask your Spirit to accompany us through each wilderness that we must endure. Hear now the desires of our hearts.

A longer period of silence.

Receive our prayers, O tender and mighty God:
In you we put our trust.

We praise you for the Christians of time past, especially Polycarp and all the martyrs who died in their witness to you. Give us the faith that at the end, your rainbow will bring endless beauty to all things.

A brief silence.

Receive our prayers, O splendid God:
In you we put our trust.

Into your hands, O God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 325), Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 618). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

Then conclude with these prayers:

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Gracious God, who has named and claimed us,
calling us your beloved children,
you know the secrets of our hearts.
When we sin and stray from your paths,
you astound us with your saving grace.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Loving Jesus, living Word,
in you the Kingdom of God has come near;
through you all that was lost has been found.
Help us to boldly follow wherever you may lead,
trusting your promise that we need not fear,
for you are with us.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Holy Spirit, the mystery in which we dwell,
into our scarcity, your abundance flows.
Enliven all communities with your good news.
Guide us to love and serve Jesus,
giving ourselves away for the sake of the world.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

All glory to you, holy God, now and forever.
Amen.

 

Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

 

Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
Amen.

Then speak the Blessing:

Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us now and forever.
 Amen.

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