South Kent Circuit Podcast: Ps 25 v1-10: Mk 1 v9-15
Hello, and may I wish you a Happy Lent!? That’s not something we usually say or hear. Lent is normally a fairly sombre thing, and we talk about giving something up, or taking something on, and some churches talk about “Days of discipline and self-denial”
Well, I feel like we’ve had plenty of that already, a year of that kind of Lent. Just now it can feel like Lent has been going on for a whole year!? It seems a bit too much, to be talking about giving anything else up, given what we have all been going through in different ways over the last year. It’s been a difficult time in many ways, but we have also found ways of keeping going.
So, I’d like to come to today’s readings looking for positive things, looking for the good things which we can miss when we see the wilderness and the temptation
At Jesus’ baptism a voice from heaven says “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well-pleased”. This is a huge affirmation for Jesus as his ministry begins, and it is also an affirmation for us who follow him, that we’re following the right leader: Jesus is the Messiah, and God says so.
It’s the Spirit who “drives” Jesus into the wilderness, and you can’t drive someone along without being right behind them, so we can say that, in a way, God goes with Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus is there, as we know, for forty days, and he’s tempted, and there are wild beasts, but after that it says “and angels waited on him” ! God’s messengers come to him, and wait around to look after him.
Also, we can see that Jesus comes through the wilderness, it doesn’t finish him off at all, in fact he comes back with good news, that the kingdom of God is near, and we can repent, and we can believe the good news. To repent means to turn in God’s direction, and Jesus calls his hearers to do this, giving out an invitation to life, not a condemnation. To believe means to “live-as-if”, to live with hope, and that is his invitation too.
There are other positive things to find in Lent. In most church traditions, Sunday doesn’t count, it’s a day off the “discipline and self-denial”. Sunday is always a celebration of the Resurrection, a reminder that we always have new life to look forward to, and that God’s resurrection life overcomes death
Another thing is that the word “Lent”, is an Old English word for Spring, when we see the “lentening”, the lengthening, of daylight. Spring usually helps us to feel that things are getting better, there are growing signs of new life in nature around us, even if for me there is also a growing pollen allergy!
So, I would say that Lent in no way has to be yet another burden for us in these difficult days: there is plenty that God gives to us through today’s readings to lift us up and to carry us through:
God is with us, as always. In Psalm 25 we are reminded what God is like: God is good and upright, God is mindful of mercy and of steadfast love, God instructs sinners and doesn’t condemn, God leads the humble, and all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.
Because of our baptism, we are joined with Jesus, so in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel, we can hear for ourselves God’s words to Jesus:
God says to us “You are mine” God owns us, we belong with God
We are “beloved”, and this is pure love, unconditional and unrestricted, full and free
God is “well pleased”, God thinks well of us
And “the angels waited on him”. So God sends help to us, and we have all seen messages of God’s goodness as we go through the wilderness of the pandemic, with so many self-sacrificing good people helping the world through this, and maybe there are times when we have been angels to others too, when we ourselves have been messengers of God’s goodness.
Jesus came proclaiming that “The time is fulfilled”. God’s good news is happening now, God’s invites us to follow, and God goes with us into each day ahead.
And our part in this is to “repent and believe the Good News”. To carry on following Jesus, and to believe, to live-as-if, to live with hope, hope in God’s goodness, and God’s company with us, in all that we go through, so, do have a Happy Lent