To Fulfill All Righteousness

Temptations of Jesus

Lesson: Mark 1:9-13

As we enter this season of Lent, and seek to follow Jesus in these 40 days before Easter, I will be the first to admit that this reading from St. Mark can be a little confusing because it presents some challenging questions. First, we know that Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God, who lived a sinless life, and so why would He need to be baptized in John’s baptism which was a baptism of repentance? Second we know that Jesus is God in the flesh and so why would He be driven into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? And since He was God in the flesh how could the temptations have any real impact upon Him? Thirdly what does all of this have to do with us and what we need to understand about this season of Lent?

To answer those questions I think it is important for us to understand that there are two pictures being painted in this story. The first is the big picture and I call it the big picture because it is larger than us. Jesus refusing to turn the stones into bread is not a proof text for why we need to be on a gluten free diet. Something more important and greater is going on here than that.

But second there is the smaller picture and it is smaller because it is in fact about us. Jesus’ statement that He would not to put the Lord our God to the test is as true for us today as it was for Him.

What is particularly noteworthy is how the big picture impacts the smaller one, how the greater story impacts our story. If I haven’t entirely confused you at this point allow me to press on.

Let’s begin with the big picture and the big picture is that Jesus did what He did to fulfill all righteousness. He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and He was tempted of the devil and He overcame temptation to fulfill all righteousness. But what do we mean by that?

The big picture is that God considered Israel to be His son. When God told Moses to speak to Pharaoh this is what God told Moses to say. “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” (Exodus 4:22,23). But as we know Israel as God’s son became a prodigal son. This is how the prophet Hosea put it. “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away, they kept sacrificing to Baals and burning offerings to idols.” (Hosea 11:1,2).

But just like the father in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son, the Lord did not give up on Israel. Listen to these tender words of a father as Hosea continues. “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk: I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness and with bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them to feed them.” (Hosea 11:3,4).

Again and again through the prophets the LORD called Israel back to Himself and again and again Israel became the prodigal son. So to end this cycle, as St. Paul tells us in Galatians, “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4,5).

Jesus is the faithful Son that Israel could never be and part of His being faithful is to fulfill all righteousness. Israel had failed to repent and return to the Lord and so Jesus accepted John’s baptism of repentance to complete what Israel had failed to do. He did this even though He Himself was without sin.

What about the temptations? St. Mark does not give us a detailed account of Jesus’ temptations but the other gospels do and you may remember them. One was to turn rocks into bread after Jesus had fasted for 40 days. One was to throw Himself off of a height in order to force God to save him. The third temptation was to worship Satan so that Jesus would receive immeasurable power and wealth.

Before we look at them in detail we need to address the question if these temptations were true temptations for Jesus. The short answer to that question is that they were real because while He was God incarnate, He was also fully man. That is what we confess each week in the Creed. Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

We can see that His temptations were real even apart from this time in the wilderness. He displayed anger when He took a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. He displayed frustration in an episode that Mark records in chapter 3. “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him…And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (1-6).

I can see myself going too far and entering into sin in either of those circumstances but Jesus did not. Yet the temptation to go beyond anger and frustration had to be there, for He was truly man. So yes, His temptations were real. They were not bullets bouncing off of Superman’s chest; they were genuine appeals to the flesh that He resisted with the Word of God. The challenges were so great that the angels came and ministered to Him.

It is important to recognize that each time Jesus is tempted He quotes Scripture and it is significant which Scripture it is that He quotes. He quotes from Deuteronomy where we see the unfaithfulness of Israel as a son to keep the covenant that they made with God. Thus what we see is Jesus being faithful where Israel was not.

The first temptation was that of turning stones into bread. This temptation reflects the episode in Deuteronomy where God gave them manna and still they failed to trust Him, always calling out for more. They began to miss the garlic and leeks of Egypt. But Jesus as a faithful Son chose not to live by His appetites but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The second temptation, to throw Himself from the temple height, is to test the Lord. This reflects when Israel tested God by complaining that God had brought them out of Egypt only to have them die of thirst at Massah and Meribah. But Jesus as a faithful Son refuses to put God to the test.

The third temptation to worship Satan reflects the time when Israel were afraid that Moses was not going to return from the holy mountain and so they made a golden calf and began to worship it. But Jesus rebukes Satan and declares that He will worship God alone. Again, through these quotes from Deuteronomy, we see that where Israel as a son failed God’s tests, Jesus passes them all. He fulfills all righteousness.

The tests that Israel failed, and the tests that Jesus passed, can be summed up in one word. TRUST. And this is where the big picture impacts the smaller picture. This is where what Jesus did to fulfill all righteousness impacts our lives. His faithfulness as a Son beckons to us as sons and daughters by adoption. His acceptance of the baptism of repentance is the standard for us to accept the waters of baptism. We say ask the baptismal candidate, “Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love (BCP p.302)? In accepting the waters of baptism we declare our trust.

His temptations are also ours. We may not be tempted to turn stones into bread but the world around us is a world driven by its appetites and it calls out to us every day in every way. The temptation is to have these appetites guide us rather than the Word of God. The world even tells us that we “deserve it.” We deserve to be happy even if it means breaking a vow. Luther Ingram sang a song that could be the anthem of past and present generations who have placed emotions over truth. “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Jesus however said we are to live by the truth, by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

We may not be tempted to test God by throwing ourselves off a height, but we do put God to the test when we live lives contrary to the Scriptures and then expect God to clean up the messes that we have made for ourselves. If we are engaged in activities that are destructive to our bodies, do we then come to God and ask Him to heal us so that we can continue in our destructive behavior? Or do we resist that temptation and pray for the grace to change so that we treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit? Temptation wants us to do our own thing and then hope for a quick fix. Jesus said we are not to put God to the test. God’s goal is to conform us to the image of Christ. Can we trust God for such a thing?

We may not be tempted to worship Satan in order to be given the nations of this world but the allure of power and wealth is all around us, especially quick gotten power and wealth. Just after the last Wall Street collapse, one of our parishioners said to me that he could summarize the whole financial mess in one word…GREED.

Greed is one of the universally recognized deadly sins because it makes us lose our entire perspective. I get tickled when the lottery gets up to around $200 million because people will stand in line for hours to get a ticket, but these are the same people who could not be bothered to get out of their car if it was only about $6 million, even if there was no one in line. Greed makes people stupid.

And greed also boils down to a lack of trust. It doubts that the Lord will provide so it always wants more and more is never enough. Hebrews 13 gives us the antidote for this insanity. It says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have…,” and the next line tells us why we can do this. “…for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.” It is trusting that He will never leave us or forsake us that makes us content and helps us avoid the temptations of greed and power. Giving to God what is rightfully His is one way to express that trust.

I asked the question at the beginning of what all of this has to do with our understanding of Lent. I hope at this point that you can see that Jesus’ fulfilling of all righteous and His victory over temptation during those 40 days has a direct impact on our lives. Because He did not sin, He is a perfect High Priest who prays for us in our temptations. Because He was tempted in every way that we are, He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. We are not in this alone.

Yes Lent is a penitential time when we take a deeper look at our lives to conform them more closely to God’s will, but it is not a time for going off alone to lick our wounds. It is not a time for morbid introspection. It is a time to grow closer to Jesus as we symbolically join Him in these 40 days. His victory over Satan and temptation becomes our victory. It is a time to reach out for the grace that makes all things new and that strengthens our trust in Him. In this way we use these 40 days of Lent to prepare ourselves for the glories of Easter. Amen.

“…but the Lord was not in the wind.”

Not in the wind

Text : 1 Kings 19:9-18; St. Mark 9:2-9

This is a wonderful and very human story about the Prophet wresting with what to do next with his life. He was desperate. He needed a word from the Lord because he did not know where to turn. I’m sure none of you have ever been there before, but just in case you have a friend who has, it might prove helpful to look into this story together.

The background is that Elijah had just come from an incredible victory. You will recall how he takes on the prophets of Baal in a kind of winner takes all contest. They build two altars. One altar to the LORD and one to Baal and the challenge is to see whose God shows up. The prophets of Baal chant and dance and cut themselves and nothing happens. Elijah mocks them. “Shout louder, maybe he is asleep or has gone to relieve himself.” (You have to be pretty confident that you are in the right to make bathroom jokes about another guy’s god).

They continue throughout the day to no avail. Elijah kicks it up a notch and even has a trench dug around the altar to the LORD. Then he has buckets of water poured over the sacrifice. He uses so much water the trenches fill up. When he calls out to God, fire comes from heaven consuming the sacrifice, and even consuming the water in the trenches. The score; YHWH 1, Baal zip. The victory goes to the LORD and the prophets of Baal are slain. Actually it is Elijah who takes them down to the brook Kishon and slaughters them with the sword. That last part we usually leave out of the Sunday school curriculum but that is how it happened.

But as often happens after a great spiritual victory, Elijah goes into a kind of depression. Any pastor or priest will tell you, the Monday after Easter Sunday is not a good day to call. It feels like just as Jesus comes out of the grave that we are climbing in it. I’m sure there are biochemical reasons for this phenomenon. I don’t pretend to understand it but I certainly have experienced it.

In this case Elijah’s depression is augmented by self-pity. “Poor me. I have been zealous to follow God and the knuckleheads in this church either don’t or won’t do what is right. I’m the only one who is truly following God. I’m the only one who hasn’t bent the knee to Baal.”

Elijah is in desperate need of an attitude adjustment and the LORD gives him one but in a way that is entirely unexpected. After his first whine the LORD says that He is going to reveal Himself to Elijah so the prophet gets prepared. Given what he just experienced with the prophets of Baal surely he expected a repeat performance or something that was equally as dramatic.

Have you ever been there? You find yourself in doubt or confused or in a spiritual kerfuffle and you need God to do something? Typically what we seem to hope for is a great and terrible OZ moment. We want fire exploding and smoke billowing and a deep bass voice to speak with awe-inspiring clarity.

I imagine the prophet was looking for a similar thing. He braces himself. A great wind came. It was so strong that it split the mountain and shattered the rocks! But the LORD was not in the wind. That is particularly ironic because in Hebrew the word for “wind” is also the word for “Spirit,” so you would expect the LORD to be there. But He was not.

Next came a great earthquake. Isaiah and Haggai both prophesied that the LORD would shake the heavens and the earth so you would expect God to be there. But He was not.

Next came fire and given what the LORD just did with the prophets of Baal, you know He HAD to be in the fire. But He was not.

What God did next is what got the prophet’s attention. The King James Bible said that what came next was “a still small voice.” But the Hebrew text says what came next was the “voice of silence” or as the RSV translates it, “ a sound of sheer silence.”

Have you ever experienced that? You need a word from the LORD, but all you hear is nothing. You want God to say or do something, anything, and all you get is crickets.

We know that the LORD is a loving Father and so we can be assured that He is not trifling with Elijah or with us, so why the voice of silence? I think we get it for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds us that He is indeed the LORD. He is not a butler who waits on our every need. He is not a therapist who researches the source of our feelings. He is not a new age coach who gives trophies to everyone, including the losers, as to maintain our self-esteem.

He is God Almighty. He does things in His time and in His way. Especially when we are deep in self-pity and we think we need Mr. Rogers, what we actually need is General Patten and the silence gets us ready for the General’s arrival. Again, God Almighty does not work on our agenda or on our timetable. Silence reminds us Who He is and who we are. I think that is the message Peter got at the Transfiguration when he didn’t know what to do and so he started to run his mouth and the LORD, in a loving way, told him to shut up. “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”

Second, silence captures our attention and changes our perspective. Elijah was making it all about him. It was a “poor me” time. I imagine he wanted the LORD to come along and agree with him and tell him what a fine fellow he was. Note at this point he was still in the cave. But the sound of silence got his attention. He got up and wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (He wrapped his face in his mantle because he knew that a man couldn’t look at God and live). The silence brought him out of himself and out of the cave and prepared to hear the word of the Lord. It actually prepared him to receive a word he did not necessarily want to hear. Instead of receiving the LORD’s pity and a pat on the back, he was told to get over himself and to get back to work. “Go back to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king over Aram.”

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I have been there and I have that T-shirt. When the Episcopal Church began to circle the drain and other parts of the Church were breaking with Holy Tradition, like ordaining women to the episcopacy, it looked to me like the Anglican Communion was about to explode. It was easy for me to go into the “I-am-the-only-one-who-has-not-bent-the-knee-to-Baal” mode. With that self-pity came great discouragement and to get out of the discouragement I would look for some kind of miraculous sign. Perhaps not wind and earthquakes and fire but perhaps a revival in our church or some kind of new calling for myself to pursue or at least Lord let me win the lottery so I can buy my own island and go live on it! Crickets.

But over the years what I have experienced is that silence is followed by a command to go back to work. I have heard the word of the Lord through Beth or through a spiritual director, through Holy Scripture or through a bishop’s admonition, was that my calling is not to be successful, it is to be faithful. I needed to get over myself and get back to work.

This message of finding God in the silence and being called to be faithful is one that I believe we desperately need to hear today. I came across a quote that I posted on Facebook because I believe it to be so true. “My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him.”

This quote goes deeper than just addressing style of worship because it is certainly possible to be a fan of liturgy without being a follower of Jesus. Not trying to judge others, but I’m pretty sure I have seen it.

At the same time it is a cautionary note to much of the American church that seeks feelings over faithfulness and temporary highs over truth. It is a cautionary note to those who are continually looking for God in the bold and the miraculous rather than in the quietness and trust, which the Bible says is our strength (Is 30:15).

When I was reading about God not being in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, I thought back to YouTube episodes that I have seen of a televangelist taking off his jacket and waving it over the crowd and scores of people falling down. Is that what is to pass for the Christian faith?

I thought of sermons that I have heard which claimed that we could make demands of God because of His promises. Demands! And of course the demands had a lot more to do with attaining personal health and wealth than with extending the kingdom of God.

I thought of a lot of so called “worship” that I experienced that was more about manipulating people’s emotions than it was ascribing to God the glory due His Name. Google “worst worship song ever” and scores of examples will pop up. It would be funny if the stakes were not so high. Jesus did not die, rise from the dead and ascend to the Father to give us parlor games and emotional highs. God’s confrontation of Ezekiel to get over himself and to get back to work is the Word of the Lord to us today.

There are two pieces of good news that serve as the rest of the story. The first is that the Lord tells Elijah that He will leave 7,000 in Israel who have not bent the knee to Baal nor kissed him. This was in response to Elijah’s claim to be the only one left.

Not only does this again tell Elijah to get over himself but it also affirms that the LORD is in charge of the church and so we don’t need to be engaged in a lot of hand wringing. The Internet is full of predictions about the demise of Christianity and while we should be concerned about growth and create better ways to spread the good news of God in Christ, we need to remember whose Church it is. Jesus said, “I will build MY Church and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it.” I will take His word over the nattering nabobs of negativism. We can say about the Church what Mark Twain said of himself. “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

The other good piece of news, that tells the rest of the story, is that Elijah did what the Lord commanded him to do. He got over himself and he went back to work. He anointed the kings that he was told to anoint. He went on to perform miraculous signs. He personally raised up another prophet, Elisha and he went on to be the prophet of prophets. He is so venerated that the Jews today await his return. A cup of wine is poured for him at Passover meals in case he would return. But of course we know that he did return already because he returned at the Transfiguration as testimony of the divinity of Christ.

The challenge from this story of Elijah for each of us is to ask how our story will end. Will we have the kind of Christian life where we continually look for God in the wind and the earthquake in the fire or will we meet God in the silence and get back to work?

Last week Fr. Chris told us what our work is to be. It is to see the needs around us, to speak, that is to tell our story, and then to serve as Jesus did. This work of seeing, speaking and serving, could describe Elijah’s ministry, and is the “gracious evangelism” that we suggest is one of the four hallmarks of a healthy church. The other three hallmarks being radical love, joyful discipleship and sacramental living. But a church can only be as healthy as its individual members.

As we enter this week into the silence of a Holy Lent may God reveal Himself to us as Jesus revealed Himself to the three disciples and as God revealed Himself to the prophet. May we find God in the silence and may this revelation of God guide us love and good deeds, to see and to speak and to serve. Amen.

In God We Trust?

In God We Trust

Lesson – Mark 1:14-20

Fr. Chris made a statement in last week’s Bible Class that stayed with me all week and became the lens through which I read and meditated on this week’s Gospel. He said that even though the Scriptures are clear that we are to trust in the Lord, if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that it is more difficult to do than it sounds. Then when I read in this Gospel Jesus’ call for us to repent, I thought back to Fr. Chris’ statement and realized that one of the things of which I need to repent is my failure to trust. I do not think I am alone here and I want to suggest to you that our failure to trust is the result of both mistrust and distrust. Allow me to explain.

When I say mistrust I am not thinking of failure to trust as much as I am thinking of misplaced trust or trusting in the wrong things. The Bible warns of this. Psalm 20 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall but we will rise and stand upright.” It’s not that there was anything inherently wrong with chariots and horses. In fact they were even the means by which God gave them victory over their enemies. But Israel’s trust was to be in God and not in the might of their military.

On D Day June 6, 1944 President Roosevelt got on the radio and asked the nation to join him in prayer. This is some of what he prayed.

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom…
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts…
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.

This prayer should be a model for us. If we think that we will defeat radical Islam by the power of our military alone, if we are not in prayer, then we are trusting in horses and chariots. The Scriptures tell us that our warfare is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers. Thus the Church needs to be in the kind of constant prayer that the President spoke of because the kind of principalities and powers that are behind radical Islam are not defeated by bombs and bullets alone.

Scripture gives us another warning about misplaced trust. Proverbs 3 says, “Trust on the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” One of the ways that people lean on their own understanding is through their rejection of any and all authority including Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church. When they do this then they become the arbiter of truth. They make themselves the sole authority. The result of that is an Oprah-like religion where you paste together all the things that you like and reject all the things that you don’t and God Almighty begins to look like a kindly Mr. Rogers, who exchanges His robe of holiness for a comfortable sweater and even the blasphemer is welcome in his neighborhood.

If you are truly seeking the truth, then you need to know that you will not find that kind of “god” in the red letters of the New Testament. That is not who Jesus preached nor manifested to the world.

The Holy Scriptures are not man’s reflections about God from which we can pick and choose. They are God’s self-revelation and we read, learn, mark and inwardly digest them so that we can know God as He truly is. Trusting Him therefore includes trusting His Word and letting it, rather than our own understanding, be our guide.

A third area of misplaced trust, that is warned against all through the Scriptures, is when we place our trust in riches. Proverbs 11 says “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want….Whoever trusts in riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” Jesus’ warning is even more sober. He said “Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.”

Just as with horses and chariots, there is nothing innately wrong with money. You will hear people misquote the Bible all the time by saying “money is the root of all evil.” But that, of course, is not what the Bible says. Money is not the root of all evil. Money can be a great source of blessing when properly stewarded. It is the love of money that is the problem. It is not money but trusting in money that makes it difficult to enter the kingdom. Our trust is to be in God. Why even our money tells us so!

How do we know when we are trusting in money rather than God? One way is when we hoard it for ourselves and act as if God is incapable of meeting our needs. Another way is when we place the making of money to be the priority of our lives and fail to seek first the kingdom of God.

When God gave manna to the children of Israel to eat while they were in the wilderness, He told them to collect just what they needed for the day. If they tried to hoard it, it turned to worms. But on the day before the Sabbath they were to collect for two days and it would remain good. When they obeyed Him and did not hoard it and when they obeyed Him and did not work on the Sabbath to collect it, they were demonstrating their trust in God to provide. We need to follow their pattern. We are to trust in God and not in our riches.

I also see a need to repent of distrust. That too is a real challenge because most of us learned to distrust pretty early in life. It may have been a parent or a sibling or a close friend but most of us know what it feels like to be stabbed in the back. So, to paraphrase an epistle, “If I can’t trust my brother who I can see, how can I trust a God who I cannot see.”

That is again why we must read, learn, mark and inwardly digest Holy Scripture because it is through God’s self-revelation that we learn that He is not like our parents or our siblings or even like our close friends. It is through Scripture that we learn of His character and attributes and the more we learn of them the more clearly we see how He is deserving of all of our trust. A number of times He is referred to as a Rock because we are to see Him as unmovable and unchanging in His love and mercy and grace towards us.

But contrary to much teaching today, the Scripture does not promise that if we put our trust in this Rock that we will be shielded from all harm. Joseph, David and Job were men of exceptional trust but they all knew both weal and woe. Job especially stands out both for his relentless suffering and his tenacity in saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” We don’t trust Him so that everything will be perfect, we trust Him because He is perfect…perfect in His love towards us.

Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel is not just a call to repent, to turn away; it is a call to turn toward. Turn toward what? It is a call to repent and turn toward the Gospel. He says “Repent and believe in the good news.” What is the good news? It is that if I admit that I am a sinner and ask Jesus into my heart then I get to go to heaven when I die. Is that right? No, that is not right! The good news is His declaration right before His call to repent. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near.”

Jesus as our coming King has inaugurated the kingdom of God. What the prophets spoke about is here and it is now and it will come one day in its fullness. The good news is that because the kingdom is here and now we can start living in that kingdom here and now. We can be in this world but not of this world.

While the culture acts out some Darwinian nightmare of dog eat dog and only the strong survive, we can live in a kingdom where we feed the poor and visit the sick and discover that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

While society idolizes Miley Cirus for her self-serving outrageousness we live in a kingdom where we honor women like Mother Theresa for her selfless humility.

In a world that worships the rich and powerful, we live in a kingdom where we worship the One who washes the feet of His disciples. Because Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom of God we are now ambassadors of that kingdom and we are to pray and work until His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. This is not something we will accomplish through our own efforts but it is what He will accomplish when He comes in glory and makes all things new. Our most immediate task is to repent of our lack of trust and to believe in and live in this kingdom.

I taught myself a lesson on the benefits of repenting and believing last week. I was driving to a meeting in Brentwood and while I kind of knew where I was going, still I was not certain. So I opened a navigation app in my Ipad. As I was approaching Brentwood I passed where I thought that I should turn but I heard nothing from the voice of my navigation app so I kept driving. I didn’t want to get lost and be late for my appointment and my anxiety started to build as I kept driving and not hearing any directions. I then started a debate in my head. I realized that I can either stay full of anxiety or I can relax, trust the app and enjoy the ride. I decided to do the latter and when I did it hit me what a parallel that was to my spiritual life. I can either go through life filled with anxiety and trying to take control or I can trust God’s navigation and enjoy the ride. By God’s grace I will do a lot more of the latter as I repent and believe the good news. I want to challenge you to join me in this and let’s enjoy the ride together. Amen.