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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


5th March 2006

Fr David Shepherd

Lent I

We’ve been watching the latest film version of ‘Pride & Prejudice’. It’s beautiful filmed but it races through the story, so much so that you wonder if the director assumed that filmgoers would know the story. Certainly it would be hard to follow if you hadn’t read the book or watched the 1995 BBC version, which is far superior to the latest film.

I was reminded of all this when I read today’s Gospel. Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels and he gives a racy account of the life of Christ. You need the other gospels to fill in the details. That’s particularly true of Mark’s version of the Temptations; he simply tells us that Jesus was ‘tempted by Satan’. That said there is actually much for us to think about as we read today’s gospel.

  1. Knowing ourselves to be the beloved children of God. Mark tells how Jesus came from his home in Nazareth to be baptised by John in the Jordan. He left the familiar and journeyed to the Jordan, joining the crowds in the muddy waters around John. That crowd and those waters represent Jesus’ becoming one with sinful humanity. As he identified with us there came a moment of recognition and confirmation. As do we in baptism, he received the Holy Spirit, and he heard a voice saying ‘You are my Son, the Beloved.’ Through our faith in Jesus we can hear those words as addressed to us. We are beloved sons or daughters of God and he is pleased with us. Knowing that for ourselves we receive God’s healing in our lives. That knowledge is transforming.
  2. It is the Spirit who drives us into the wilderness. Notice next Mark’s use of the word ‘immediately’. It reveals his urgency. Immediately the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness. His Baptism was a moment of commissioning and sending but Jesus was not permitted to glory in the moment. Rather he was sent into the wilderness to wrestle with the implications of his mission. For a biblical and symbolic forty days he was with the wild beasts in the desert, with Satan and angels, wrestling with good and evil. If and when we find ourselves in a spiritual desert wrestling with good and evil it can be comforting to reflect that it may be the spirit who has driven us there to be with Christ. In his strength we too can resist temptation.
  3. Good news. Only then did Jesus begin his ministry, proclaiming the fullness of time, the nearness of the kingdom, and the need to repent and to believe. That Gospel comes once again to us; each day we can respond in penitence and faith. We too are called to proclaim the same message.

Mark’s story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness can seem akin to a fast moving film. If we look more closely we can see that each verse, each word, is packed with meaning. At the beginning of Lent we can pray that by God’s grace we may know ourselves to be his beloved children with whom he is well pleased. If we find ourselves in a wilderness we can ask what God wishes to reveal to us there. We can ask that in God’s time, not ours; we may receive the good news of Jesus Christ.

Amen

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