Curiosity, Perseverance, Water and Wilderness- New Life in this Barren Land

First Sunday in Lent 2021 Year B

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Ya’ll this sermon is going to be out of this world.

Yes, I am going there, we are going to Mars.

First, since it is the season of Lent, I (like our liturgy) will confess first that I did not really know about Thursday’s excitement until it was announced at a clergy gathering I was participating in…..apologies and gratitude for all those who have been counting down the days and sharing this excitement.

With a last name of Moon, you would think that I would pay a bit more attention to NASA updates. But now you know my secret….I love mysteries more than the milky way.

And unbeknownst to me, my name was actually one of those sent to Mars.

Thanks to my little brother.

All of this information landed upon me at about 7pm on Thursday

(I told you I am grateful for all of you and your sharing of the good news, AFTER THE LANDING …so I could catch up.)

And as I read more about the Landing I loved what I read.

First, with all of Mars it’s about “follow the water”

Second, the names of the rovers are Curiosity and Perseverance (it’s like they took a note from the Old Testament, name these children after what they are the fruits of!!!)

Third, the names of the two cameras on the arm of the Rover are SHERLOC and Watson (Mystery and Mars-I was hooked!)

And finally- the purpose for this mission is “Looking for signs of life in a barren land.”

Talk about hope from a 129.52million away mile perspective!

This past week’s landing stopped me in my tracks,

As I realized…..this is what Lent is about, this is what our life of faith is about.

Looking for signs of life in a barren land.

The gift of curiosity and perseverance will help unlock the mystery and further us on this understanding of life that we have and how much we don’t understand. (and this statement could be for NASA or for us!)

This past Wednesday we began the season of Lent.

For some Lent is a barren time, with memories of restrictions and things you can’t do.

In reality, Lent is a time where we simplify things, we seek with curiosity to know God more closely.

The imagery of Psalm 51 resonated deeply with me this year-

Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.  

I feel like I need refreshment from the phases of angst, fear and waiting of the last 11months.

The season of Lent can be a time of barrenness and removal of distractions, but the purpose is to find new life within us and refresh our spirit, ultimately restoring and strengthening our relationship with God.

The first Sunday of Lent, we always have the story of Jesus going to the wilderness immediately after his baptism.

In the Gospel of Mark that entire event occurs in one verse (and that would be way to short a gospel reading for us so today) so we get a refresher of Jesus’ baptism, his name being called out, the spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness with wild beasts and angels and then John is arrested all the while relentlessly proclaiming a message of repentance. (John is reliable).

Mark is the gospel writer for you if you just want to keep moving and keep the action going.

Today though, we are going to pause there in the middle…… dig a little deeper and linger with curiosity about that wilderness time.

Mark, with his sparseness of words, invites you to wonder, rather than describing the wilderness experience he lets you accompany Jesus and wonder what that was like. Mark doesn’t tell you the temptations, the hunger, what the angels fed him and when.

We get to wonder about what Jesus ate and did during this time for ourselves.

The images of the wilderness, for me are the deserts of Arizona- beautiful – but you don’t want to be caught out in the desert without water, without shelter, nor alone. Having lived briefly in Arizona when I was young, I have a healthy fear and respect for Havalina pigs, coyotes, and droughts.

The desert, though, within the bible and our fathers and mothers of the church, was a space for contemplation.

With a healthy respect for God’s creation, people would go to the desert to listen more deeply to God.

In Genesis- there is barren land after the flood which we hear about today with Noah.

In Exodus, Moses, is tending sheep in the wilderness when the new call within the burning bush appears.

After crossing the Red Sea, there is the wilderness for the Israelites for 40 years. In this wilderness the Israelites left a system that oppressed them and entered into a space where their sole existence was upon God for even the food that they ate each day. New Life.

Jacob wrestles with God alone by the river before reuniting with his brother.

Jesus goes to the wilderness as his first action after his baptism in the river Jordan and is both tempted AND tended.

Within his ministry Jesus returns to these places of Solitude to be still and be close to God in prayer and reflection.

Water and Wilderness.

Follow the water

Listen with curiosity.

And with perseverance (and practice) we will grow in faith.

We live in a pandemic time of barrenness.

It has seemed like a wilderness at times- things taken away.

A very Long Lent of it’s own sort.

And in this barrenness we have seen new life.

Individually you have realized what you have needed to let go of and what you need to continue.

AS a church we have had empty pews and enhanced our online capabilities and used our curiosity to dig deeper, our perseverance to reach out to people, and stay connected.

And much like all of the teams who created the rovers and gadgets aplenty to create last Thursday’s landing, we are all richer for all of you coming together with perseverance.

We can look at our past 11months and see the fear and anxiety

We can also look at the past 11months and the next 30plus days of Lent with the gift of new life and opportunity.

It took perseverance for Noah to stay on that boat with all those animals and all his in-laws. It also took curiosity to send out that raven and then dove.

Noah had to have HOPE that the time on the ark would end and trust in God that God would not abandon them on that boat.

Jesus’ baptism reminds us that we too are called by name, beloved children of God (even if you didn’t send your name to Mars) and are propelled into the wilderness time, as part of our faith journey.

Our choice is to lean upon God in these times of pandemic and of transition, to seek the new life that can be born from these moments and know that all that we do is a balance of curiosity and perseverance as a community.

This season of Lent is a time to follow the water.

Listen deeply, take time to be still, Do the spiritual inventory with renewal works for your own checking in and taking stock.

Be curious, see these times of in between as times for seeking out the new life that is to come.

And with perseverance we will continue to hear God’s Call to each of us a beloved Children of God.

Follow the waters of Baptism to see the new life that God is calling you into.

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