Mark 1:12-15—1st Sun. in Lent-b


THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

At our Lord’s baptism we stood in the waters of the Jordan and witnessed the gracious God who hears his peoples cry for mercy. We watched the heaven’s split open, and heard him announce, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk. 1:11) We spent the following weeks hearing from the Lord what it means that God declared Jesus to be the Son-we have witnessed miracles, healings and exorcisms. Then last Sunday on Transfiguration, we stood on the mountain with Peter, James and John Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him”.

“Hear Him,” for He knows what is best for you. “Hear Him,” for He is the one who is driven to save you from your sins.

Only the Messiah could-restore our sinful nature, and recreate the world as God’s good creation. It would not happen easily. It would be violent-Satan would attack God’s Son-and He would suffer and be killed in the most gruesome manner. Our Epiphany readings revealed to us who this Messiah is. Mark records the miracles and deeds of Christ to help establish his power and authority. Now in Lent, we again turn to the inspired holy writers to witness what this Messiah would have to do to complete the Father’s plan of salvation. We have ringside seats for the battle between Jesus and the Devil, between Good and the Forces of Evil.

This battle was not to be fought like we would have it fought. It is not fought with staff and banner held high, with the words of a strong hymn in our throats. NO! Instead of a triumphant forceful march out of the Jordan immediately after God’s announcement at Jesus’ baptism, He was driven into the wilderness to suffer temptation at the hands of Satan for forty days. He was driven by the Spirit to do this. Jesus baptism is one of suffering and of death because in the waters He stands as one of us, and He stands for us taking our sin upon him. What we deserved, He received. Continue reading

Solemn Feast: Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. During the 40 days of Lent, God’s baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and alms giving. “The readings for the Sundays in Lent lead us in examining our life to discover attitudes, practices, and habits that are incongruous with the new life into which we have been born in the Holy Spirit. Lent is a time of penitence, of putting out of our lives all that remains of the old life or has crept in once more. It is a time of special prayer, for without the help of the Holy Spirit nothing will be accomplished in us.

“In speaking of Lent it is difficult to avoid the word “fasting,” which is misunderstood and regarded with disfavor by many. Yet it cannot be ignored or disregarded, for both the historic Epistle (Joel 2:12-19) and the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21) for Ash Wednesday speak of it, and Luther’s Small Catechism brings us face to face with the term (Sacrament of the Altar: Who receives this sacrament worthily?). Surely it is to be preferred to “keeping Lent.” For practical purposes fasting may be defined as the avoidance of anything that could interfere with, distract from, or disturb in the preparations for the new life with the risen Christ. This may call for a restriction in diet as excessive eating or drinking may cause dullness and apathy which are far from conducive to a searching self-examination and to resolute spiritual life. On the other hand, should the one who has determined to fast in such a way confine his dietary limitations to Lent and return to his old habits when at Easter he rises with Christ to a new life?

“A number of questions arise also regarding the fad of “keeping Lent.” Does such “keeper” of Lent smoke so heavily,” drink so heavily, consume excessive amounts of recreation, or work such lengthy hours, “that his or her indulgence interferes with the preparations for the new life in Christ? If so, is he or she to resume his or her excess when at Easter the new life begins? The same applies to” any of the excessive habits or our lives. “Whatever is done, or not done, in observance of Lent has value and purpose only if it serves to prepare and train for the newness of life, for the new life to be entered at Easter with the risen Christ.

“Lent is a time in which God’s people prepare with joy for the paschal feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people’s zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fullness of grace that belongs to the children of God” (The Sermon and the Propers:Volume II, 45-46),

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, it is with humble and contrite hearts that we enter this day the holy season of Lent to meditate on Your bitter suffering and death that you, the innocent Lamb of God, endured for us. With deep sorrow we confess that also our sins, which justly anger God and call for our punishment. were the cause of Your suffering and dying. God chose to spare us by laying upon you the iniquity of us all.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Be gracious to us.
Spare us, good Lord. Amen.

The Time of Easter — Lent


THE TIME OF EASTER

Easter celebrates the chief event in the life of Christ. It was the earliest and major celebration among early Christians. Given that Easter is both a movable date and also a principal celebration of the Church Year, the date of Easter determines much of the rest of the Church Year. Generally speaking, Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. The date of Easter will influence the date of Ash Wednesday, the fortieth day (not counting Sundays) before Easter; the date of the Transfiguration, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday; and the number of Sundays in Epiphany and after Pentecost.

Lent

The resurrection of Jesus is our great salvation. To prepare to celebrate the feast of the Resurrection (Easter), the Church sets aside a period of preparation. In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea recorded the first reference to the specific number of days for Lent: forty. This forty-day preparation was first prescribed for baptismal candidates and became known as Lent (from the Old English word for “spring”). During this period, the candidates were examined in preparation for Baptism at the Easter (or Paschal) Vigil. Later, these forty days were associated with Jesus’ forty days in the desert prior to His temptation. The forty day period is is symbolic of other periods of 40 in Scripture: the forty years Moses and the children of Israel were detained from entering the Promised Land, Elijah’s forty days spent in the wilderness, Noah had rain for forty days and forty nights, the Israelites wondered forty years to the promised land, and Jonah gave the city of Nineveh forty days to repent. Continue reading