United Presbyterian Church  2360 Longwood Ave., Reedsport, OR 97467  (541) 271-3214
Sunday Service: 10:30: Choir Warm-up 10:15 — Office Hours: 9:00-2:00 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Pastor's Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30-4:00Saturdays: 9:00-12:00
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 Disclaimer: The sermon below is what was prepared and sat on the pulpit; it may not be what was heard.  

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Pastor Buck during Joys and Concerns

Sermon based on: Mark 1:9-15

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

12. 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.

Sermon for Sunday, Feb 18, 2018 

 

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  The word, Lent comes from two Anglo-Saxon words, lencten, which means “spring,” and lenctentid, which has two meanings, Springtide and March, because most of Lent occurs during the month of March.

There has been some sort of Lenten celebration since the beginning. St. Irenaeus (IreNEUS), C. 130-203, wrote to Pope St. Victor I, commenting on the celebration of Easter and the different practices between the East (Orthodox) and the West, (Catholic) churches. 

He said, “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers,” meaning the apostles. (Eusebius, History of the Church, V.24).

The Lenten season is about two things: repentance and atonement. If your parents ever made you stand in the corner, it was to atone for something you did. Lenten atonement is done by willingly giving up something we really like during Lent.  As a Catholic, the two I recall most people giving up was sweets and cigarettes.

I know that many people gave up something for Lent primarily because they were pressured into it by the priest, especially parochial kids, “What are giving up for Lent?”  As a result of this pressure, many who gave up something, were often racked with guilt, because, they became closet chocolate eaters or smokers.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Don’t tell Father.”

I suspect God would rather we either be true in our repentance efforts, or not even try.

Lately there has been some backlash on the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t want to believe that God leads us into temptation, i.e., “lead us not into temptation.” However, this is exactly what happened to Jesus; immediately after being baptized He was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.” And immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.”

If you remember last week we learned the difference between the two forms of Greek time—Kairos time and Chronos time. The word immediately tells us this was Kairos time.  It was imperative that He be driven out NOW!  It’s of the essence! But, why now?

Because two things happen during baptism. (1.) the Holy Spirit enters into you, and (2.) you are now enabled to withstand tempting. Interestingly, the Greek word, “peirazo,” which is translated as TEMPT, also means, TESTING.  

Believe it! We’re all tested. And the testing comes in the form of temptation.  After all, how else can you build strong character without overcoming temptation. And the temptations will always hit us where we’re most vulnerable; our weakest point.  Possibly due to our ignorance of what lies ahead, we may not like it, but it is necessary training. We’re not tested out of meanness, but out of necessity. We must be able to withstand the rigors of eternity.

We tend to be an older congregation. We think we’ve seen it all.  Nuts! We ain’t seen squat! We have no idea why we were created, but I suspect it wasn’t so we could sit on our laurels from now until the end of eternity...which, by the way, is a long time.  We have no idea what will happen whenwe cross over. Think of life as a school with lesson after lesson coming our way. 

When I was in the navy I took an eight-month long telecommunications school. Military schools were eight hours long on the same subject day after day. The lessons were thrown at us fast and furious and much faster than many people could absorb. The navy’s thinking was, “You throw so much mud against a wall, some of it’s going to stick.”

The question should be, is a lifetime of schooling enough to prepare us for eternity?

Believe it, you, me, everyone who is willing and God-knowing, is being prepared for a life beyond anything that we can possibly know or even imagine. The more temptations we overcome, the more prepared we are.

In the Thursday night study group last week someone brought up the idea that in heaven we will have to go to take classes. I truly don’t know, but I would imagine so, because what we’re going to experience there is far different than anything we’ve ever imagined. This is preschool.

In this morning’s reading God said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Last week Jesus was on the mountain with Peter, James and John. They heard Him say almost the same thing, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

On earth we have three ways of listening and learning about God. The first is knowing your Gospels. Once those words have penetrated, the next step is listening prayer. The final is experiential learning, mostly by learning to overcome temptation. Once we’re past that, there is one final step: being compassionate. We don’t just sit back on our laurels. The work never ends.

Many fail these lessons, which is why Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

The temptations that are the most vile are the ones that don’t appear bad. In fact, they often seem fun. In Mark’s paucity of words, he neglected to tell us what the temptations were.  One of which was hunger.  You can almost hear Satan say, “Hey man, you’ve had it rough. You must be starving.  Surely your Father doesn’t want you to go hungry.  Turn these stone into something to eat.”

But that would have been cheating.  Cheating is a no, no.  He chose not to take the easy way.

The next temptation was when He was taken to the highest pinnacle and told throw himself off because, as it is written, “The angels shall not let you dash your foot against a stone.”  For me this wouldn’t be much of a temptation…too much like bungie jumping, which is something else I’m not going to do, even if it is (supposedly) safe.

The third was to bow down and worship Satan. In exchange Satan would give Him all the Kingdoms of the world. Wealth and power beyond imagination. For a mere mortal, that would be hard to turn down. Especially when we believe that “God doesn’t want us to be poor.”

The lure of wealth is the one that enslaves and entraps so much of the world today—the lure of the almighty dollar; how many have exchanged their eternal soul for the almighty dollar? Sadly, even Christians who believe they have been saved by virtue of their baptism, have become embroiled in the satanic lure of the world, which is primarily the big three:

SEX; WEALTH; POWER.

Life doesn’t get easy just because we’ve been baptized. When we undergo baptism, we make a commitment to God. In return, God commits to us. That does not mean that life gets easy.  It does, however, mean that we’ve been empowered to overcome whatever temptations come our way.  Even when we fail, God is still committed to us. So, don’t give up, but keep trying.

Baptism is just the beginning of our training, not the end-all.

Our problem is in viewing life from our own limited perspective. But there is a much bigger plan that you are being trained for.  And it’s worth all the rigors of life. Praise God. Amen