I do love the season of Lent.
Today our community gathered around the Word and heard the call to journey into our own wilderness and seek to find God tending to us a people ‘signed with the sign of the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever.’ Jenn Renouf, Student of theology at Huron University College and our Student Minister preached today, she also did all the liturgy prep – prayers, hymns, choosing of collects from test propers, etc. It was all very well done.
Jenn delivered a good sermon that gave us much to think about as we journey together in Lent. The mention of ‘da woods and da bay’ was a great touch too… Jenn is a Newfoundlander – but a West Coaster…. anyway – Here is the audio and text of her preaching today;
I Speak to you in the Name of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As many of you know I am from the Holy land of Newfoundland. The images of the wilderness and the water are life giving, life taking, and life sustaining. They were, and still for some today are, the way of life, the way in which one provides for their family. For me going out da bay or going up in da woods is a peaceful renewing experience. They are places that I associate with family time, and also places in which I find myself so close to God. However, I am familiar with the dangers of the water and the wilderness. I have had the experience of knowing families that have lost loved ones to the dangers of both. What does this have to do with today?
The readings for today have two images: the water of baptism and the wilderness. We have in the first reading from Gen. a reminder of the covenant that God has made with Noah and all the creatures of the earth. What do we need in-order to see the rainbow? Water! This occurred after the great flood. The gospel reading reminds us of the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and how afterwards the spirit drove him to the wilderness. We know that the image of water is a sign of the covenants, firstly the covenant that God has made with us, and secondly the covenant through baptism we have made with God. But what about this wilderness, what is the wilderness? The wilderness. Many of us sometimes feel as if we are in the wilderness. That the obstacles we are facing leave us in a place of abandonment, struggling on our own. It may have been the loss of a job. It may have been a misunderstanding with a friend or family member that causes a rift. It may have been a struggle your child was going through while you could only stand by and observe. It may have been the end of a marriage. It may have been a medical diagnosis. It may have been the death of a loved one. I’m sure that in the moment, each of us would be forgiven for thinking that we were utterly alone. In a vast wilderness, with no sign of seeing, or hope of reaching, the other side. This horrible situation was unfolding in our life, we were powerless to change the course of that event. And we feel utterly alone.
We sometimes forget that we are not alone, we sometimes forget that God is always with us, even in the darkest of moments in our lives. These situations and moments of loneliness can easily be defined as times of wilderness, however, I am going to pose to you another wilderness, one that may not be so easy to see and that is the wilderness of everyday life; a wilderness where the pressures and actions of our world tempt us to distance ourselves from our relationship with God and to forget the covenant that we made at our Baptism.
In Mark’s Gospel we are told that it is Jesus that sees the heavens open up, the dove descending upon him, and hears the voice of God saying You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ He has seen the spirit has entered into him, he has heard the call of the Father, but yet Before Jesus begins his ministry he is sent into the wilderness to pray, where he was among the wild beasts and was tempted by Satan for 40 days.
Here we are in the year 2015 and we have entered into a 40 day journey ourselves. We began our Journey of following Christ through the waters of baptism, where we are signed with the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever, during that time promises were made either for ourselves or on our behalf. In this 40 day Lenten journey, we are called into the wilderness to spend more time with our creator, to spend more time in prayer, reflecting upon those things that separate ourselves from God, that distract us from the work of the Kingdom, that keep us from fulfilling the baptismal covenant that we made.
We struggle sometimes in this wilderness because it forces us into a time of self examination. I know for myself, I struggle with having to look at myself, look at the flaws, the brokenness, the hurt, and the disobedience towards God. Yet, Lent is one of my favourite seasons of the church year, because it helps me enter into that examination, even though I am not comfortable, sometimes even scared of what I may find, if I remember the words from my baptism Jennifer, I sign you with the cross and mark you as Christ’s own forever, I know that I am not alone, and that through this journey within my inner wilderness I am able to build a stronger relationship with God. I said that for me the wilderness, is a place that I find myself close to God. I am away from the business of life, I am away from the distractions of everyday, and I am surrounded by the beautiful creation. This is what Lent calls us to, we are called into a time of reflection, time away from the distractions of life and into a concentrated time of prayer. Even though the beauty of this inner wilderness is sometime harder to see then the beauty of nature, there is a beauty in the self-examination as we learn more about ourselves, our way of life, and we spend time in prayer growing close to our creator, redeemer and sustainer.
At the end of this Journey of Lent, we will gather together and celebrate the renewal of our baptismal vows, we recommit ourselves to following Christ and the work of God’s Kingdom. We are able to do this as we have taken the time to face the obstacles in our lives that have pulled us away from Christ, so that we are able to fully give all that we are to Christ. Just as Jesus entered into the wilderness before he started his ministry, we too must enter into the wilderness and face those wild beasts and temptations that hold us back from our relationship with Christ. My prayer for each of us is that we are able to find the strength in our faith to enter into our own wilderness, and that we as a community can also enter into the wilderness of St. Aidan’s and reflect upon what temptations, and wild beast maybe holding back this congregation from fully being engaged in the ministries in which God has called us to. Amen