There is also a Dialogue Sketch on Mark 1:9-15 here
What is done in church should not just be for the enjoyment of those who attend, but should glorify God by building up believers and communicating the gospel to others. It’s a principle you find in 1 Corinthians 14, but a first look at this morning’s readings might not seem to be encouraging from the point of view of an outsider:
- Mark 1:9-15: Jesus goes to the desert, fasting and temptation
- 1 Peter 3:18-22: is about Christ’s suffering and death
- Genesis 9:8-17: tells of God destroying many in a catastrophic flood
Such negative thoughts are hard, and might suggest doing something else, but that would be a sad mistake. Take 1 Peter 3:18-22, Christ suffered, but “the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” This is not miserable, negative suffering. It is part of a battle to set us free. The God that Peter knows is a God who is ready to pay a great price, himself, for our redemption. He tells this to a group of people who obviously are not having an easy life – and it is good news for them, as it is for us.
The God he speaks of is the same God who in Genesis makes a promise – a covenant – to Noah. A promise which is to Noah’s advantage, for his security and reassurance. A promise which he has kept faithfully.
Yes, its the season of Lent. We think of Jesus going into the wilderness, not because he was the sort of person who could not enjoy himself, or who enjoyed suffering, but to get his ministry on the right track – to avoid mistakes and distractions. If we review our own disciplines and rules of life, it is not for their own sake (as if they had an importance of their own), but to ask if our lives, our service of God, our ministry, is on the right track, avoiding mistakes and distractions. Perhaps we need to do something more to prevent our life being self-centred?
This is a message of hope – something in short supply, and valuable as most scarce commodities are. You won’t be thanked for hate, but hope is properly precious. (There is a Lent Study by CTBI, using prisoners’ stories of hope – see the website.) Our hope is not in human nature, nor the beauty of creation, or the possibility of education.
Our hope is in God, who cares for us enough to plan our rescue, and to follow the plan through. That is not just for you (though it is – and that’s important) but for all. If an outsider should join my group, or just get to know me, they should find a focus on God, and hope in his love and saving action.
– and that is the reason for us to train ourselves
to advertise and proclaim good news.