Baptism of Jesus

The season of Lent is upon us. It began last Wednesday … and lasts 40 days (not inc Sundays) until Easter.

Lent is associated with the time Jesus spent alone in the wilderness, after he was baptised by John in the river Jordan.

It’s a time to look honestly at ourselves, to confess our sins, to be aware of our frailty as humans.

But it is also a time for planning what direction our lives will take in the future, a time for surrendering and moving on.

It would be such a shame if all we did was wallow in our sins, and feel sorry for ourselves.

In our gospel reading today we find Jesus surrendering to John for baptism in the waters of the river Jordan. He didn’t have to. The bible tells us that he was without sin, so who really knows why he did. But as he submits to God’s will for him, he hears a voice from heaven saying “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Still he doesn’t remain there basking in his Father’s approval. He moves on…….into the wilderness, where he has time to reflect upon his mission and the road that must ultimately lead to his death.

There he is tempted by the devil, and he surrenders to the very cunning and devious whispers of the devil. He does not remain there worrying about the implications of each temptation. He doesn’t become weighed down and tormented. He resists, and moves on…into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. He surrenders himself to God’s word and preaches to the people, even though he sees John arrested. He does not remain there confused, or deterred, he moves on… from there to his destiny, buffeted by the crowds, threatened by the religious elders, cross-examined by the experts in the law, plagued by those who wanted him to lead them against the Romans.

Still he moved on, even though he was weary and fearful. He moved on surrendering himself in the garden of Gethsemane, and embraced death itself. . . and on to the ultimate act of surrender, the cross.

Our NT lesson describes it like this:-

Christ died for sins once for all the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but…. (He moved on.)…he was made alive by the Spirit.

As long as we are surrendering and moving on, and turning our repentance into positive action, then God will speak those words to us too, “You are my child, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”

A young curate at our church was once trying to sell the idea of ‘ashing’ to our PCC. He thought he had managed to persuade everyone that it was the best way forward for our church, until one senior and rather deaf member of our church protested. “Well I’ve known many changes in the church, and I’ve gone along with them, but no I can’t agree this time. Lashing’s going a bit too far this time!”

“Ashing, Harry, Ashing not lashing,” everyone shouted back to him.

Lent is not a time for us to wear hair shirts, and even beat ourselves, not even to be lashed, and deny ourselves life in all its fullness. It’s about moving on. It’s about surrendering to the challenges of the gospel message today, it’s about living the gospel out in our lives.

So we’ve all made mistakes…

We’ve all been tempted to do wrong….

We’ve all been unloving,

Sadly, many people embrace the gospel with open arms, as long as it does not challenge them too much or make too many demands. But perhaps we need to ask ourselves this Lent, what are the uncomfortable bits of the gospel that are really challenging us at present?

I seem to remember someone once saying that the gospel ought to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable! Therefore we need to die to ourselves by squarely facing up to that which disturbs our still pool of thought……examine it, surrender ourselves to God’s will through prayer… and move on.

It would be so easy for us too, to bask in our Father’s acceptance and do no more, to be intimidated by the devious whispers of Satan, and let it paralyse us. It would be so easy to be overwhelmed in service by anxiety, trauma, stress, to be weighed down and remain down. It would be so easy to run away from our Garden of Gethsemane, or be struck with despair at the crosses we must bear.

But we must move on.

Surrendering is a very hard thing to do,

Last night I decided I wasn’t happy with my sermon, the same sermon I’d accidentally wiped off my computer in the morning, and spent two hours doing. So at 11’ o clock last night I started all over again! It wasn’t easy putting it to one side. It takes courage to face something head on, when you know it’s not right.

Let us pray for courage this Lent to do just that… surrender and move on.

(Words of a well known song by Sheila Walsh:-)

He is all loving,

He is all forgiving,

No matter how far,

Away you are.

He will never leave you,

He is here to receive you,

But you’ve got to say good-bye

To the life you leave behind.

Surrendering.

Give Him all that you are.

Surrendering

To your heavenly Father,

Never letting go,

Just as long as you are,

Surrendering.