1st Sunday in Lent Mark1:9-15 February 18, 2018
Gracious God, in rushing Waters and in dry wilderness, in every season and circumstance, we need your sustaining word. By the power of your Holy Spirit, proclaim the good news among us today so that we may repent and believe and see anew how the time is fulfilled and the kingdom has come near; in Jesus Christ your Son, our Savior. Amen
When I was a kid I loved to watch the TV police detective drama, Dragnet. I always liked to see Sgt. Joe Friday begin to get impatient while trying to interview a witness and he would simply say: “Just the facts. Just the facts.” I am reminded of Sgt. Friday each time I read Mark’s gospel, as Mark is something of a “Just the facts” sort of guy when it comes to the story of Jesus. If you were to take a close look at his gospel you might note that he covers the entire, “Jesus temptation in the desert” in just thirty-three (33) words. Count them: “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” Thirty-three words. Just the facts. It took Luke 250 words to cover the same story.
But, in spite of his brevity, or perhaps because of it, Mark gets his story told and told effectively. There is no time to waste on literary ornamentation or theological speculation. One of the reoccurring words in Mark’s gospel is the word, “Immediately”. And it is this sense of urgency that propels Mark’s message.
If I were to speculate, I would suggest that in Mark’s view this message of Good News is of utmost importance and time is of the essence. No time to sit around. No time to dilly-dally or get too comfortable. For Mark and for his initial audience the Messiah has come and you, me, we, everybody has to decide and decide now, what to do about it.
Eugene Peterson, who wrote a modern paraphrased version of the Bible entitled The Message and he ends the reading this way: “Times up! God’s Kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the message. “It’s that line, “Times up” that grabs my attention. It grabs my attention because I have been a slowly recovering procrastinator, and the line hits home.
As a little kid I was constantly late for supper, much to my mother’s chagrin. When I was in college and seminary I pulled all-nighters to write my papers. When I became a parish pastor I initially would wait until Saturday night to write my sermons (and some Sunday mornings). At some point I had something of a “conversion” experience and I discovered that such behavior could and would bite me in the butt and I discovered the need to abandon my procrastination habits. Hence, the word’s “Times up!” still sets a chill down my spine. And I think that’s one of the things that ails me and all of us in the life of the church is that we have very little sense of urgency about the gospel. We have become complacent. We are comfortable just simply going with the flow. After all, it’s been 2000 plus years and Jesus hasn’t come back yet, so why worry?
But really, a better question is what are we waiting for? A sign from heaven? Already had one and his name is Jesus.
What are we waiting for? Clear instructions on what to do? Already got those.
+ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the second is just like it, love your neighbor as yourself.
+ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them all that I have instructed.
+ Care for the sick, feed the hungry, house the homeless, reach out to the lonely and so forth, you get the idea, right?
What are we waiting for? Don’t have enough time? We’ve got all the time we need; until we don’t. We can find time for just about anything and everything under the sun when it is a priority. The good news is we got all the time we need until the final “last call” and then it will be “Times up!”
During this season of Lent, we are invited to give some quality time to consider the facts of our lives. What are our priorities? Who do we serve? Are we loving God and neighbor? What kind of witness are we giving to the world around us? Have we grown complacent? A victim of procrastination? Are we listening to Jesus, or to something or someone else?
This morning Mark sticks to the facts and comes right to the point when he writes: “The right time has come, and the Kingdom of God is near. Turn away from your sin and believe the Good News.”
Pastor Stephen Blenkush
Zion Lutheran Church
Milaca MN 56353
Love like Jesus!