Sermon for Lent 1 Year B 2015
Deacon Jane Mills
The act of ‘giving things up for Lent’ has become part of our culture, with many people using the opportunity to ‘take a break’ from something that may be detrimental, such as too much chocolate or alcohol! It is at this time of year that people begin thinking about spring cleaning, as the days brighten outside we often want our homes to reflect that. Lent itself can be seen as an opportunity for us, as Christians, to ‘spring clean’ our lives too. It can be a time to look inward and discover the destructive habits we may have, those traits that are detrimental to our own health or to our relationships, and to get our lives and priorities back into perspective so that we may focus on those things God would want us to. There is so much we have to be thankful for, in our own gifts and in our lives, there can be so much we simply take for granted and we need to reflect and relearn the value of who we are and what we have.
Todays readings are full of promise, in Genesis we join Noah after the flood waters have subsided. God has cleansed his creation from all its corruption and is starting again with one family, yet the horror of all that loss seems to have changed many things and God declares that “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." And goes on to establish a new covenant, signified by the rainbow, between God and “all life on the earth." Then in 1 Peter the water of the flood is compared to that of baptism, that sacrament considered to be one which cleans our souls. It is through the act of baptism that we can express our trust in Jesus, and in what he has achieved for us. A wonderful gift in its own right which can release us from inner conflict and give us the reassurance of forgiveness.
Then we heard the Gospel account of the start of Jesus’ ministry, his baptism, after which he was compelled to go into the wilderness and prepare for all that lies ahead. The version in Mark, brief though it is, manages in a few words to assert that Jesus is both God and human. The ‘sundering’ of heaven declares him as God, then the turmoil and temptation of the wilderness declare his very humanity. Many of us may be able to associate with that inner turmoil as we seek to find the correct path for our own lives.
The beginning of Lent is a good opportunity for us, as a church, to ask Jesus, in his humanity and divinity, to help us look at what we have. Too often we risk focussing on the negatives, ‘we used to have more children’ or ‘we are all getting so old’, rather than celebrating what we do have and valuing the people we do serve. We are truly blessed by the many people who are willing to give of their time and skills for the benefit of this church and community. All gifts are of equal value, no work that is done amongst us is insignificant - from maintaining our property to opening the church to visitors, from leadership to visiting the sick and praying for one another- all are integral to the life of this Church.
We also, at times, need to be reminded that our church is so much more that what happens in a certain room at a certain time, every person who walks through our doors should be as important to us as our ministers, leadership teams and staff; after all they are all equally important to God!
So it is that today that we celebrate all that happens in the life of our churches, and in doing so we recognise, and give thanks for, the work that is done by so many dedicated people. We also make a new commitment to recognising and using our own gifts, as we seek a renewed spirit of thanksgiving for all the good gifts and blessings we receive from God.