The Assigned Scripture Lessons from the Lectionary:
Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
Finding our mission in life is crucial to the Christian lifestyle. Today’s Gospel lesson is all about Jesus seeking to define his new mission and calling in life. Until this time, Jesus would have been employed as a carpenter, most likely a stonemason, since that was the day’s predominant building method.
With that in mind, how do you introduce yourself? For me, I would say:
- I’m Chris Giesler, and I live in Bethlehem, PA
- I work for the Board of World Mission
- I am married to Tina, and we have two children and six grandchildren
- I have a southern accent, and I spent most of my growing up years in NC
- I am a born Moravian
- I love to play my guitar and my French Horn
- I don’t like winter very much, especially in the middle of February. So I am now more than ready for a 50-degree day!
Let’s look at Jesus’ identity
- He is first described here as being from Nazareth
- Then at his baptism, the Spirit descends on him like a dove, and his heavenly father’s voice further identifies him “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
- Up until this time, if Jesus were to have introduced himself, he would have said something like: “My name is Jesus, and I’m Joseph’s son from Nazareth, and like my father, I am a carpenter.”
- But now I have a feeling that he would say something more like: “I am Jesus, a beloved child of God, and I have a new mission.”
But to define that new mission, to solidify this new identity, Jesus needs to spend some time in the wilderness. So, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for these 40 days. Mark’s Gospel gives us the Reader’s Digest version of the experience: he was there for 40 days, temped, was with the wild animals. This is where Jesus sets his new identity. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew give us the details of this experience with Jesus being tempted to take care of himself, assume earthly power, and manipulate God’s will to his.
It took 40 days for Jesus to set the agenda for his ministry, so perhaps it just might take these 40 days of Lent to figure out just what our identity and mission are as well. What is God’s will for our daily lives?
We are worried these days about somebody stealing our Social Security number, our bank account information and using that information to purchase things for themselves. On a deeper, spiritual level, however, who is stealing our identity? Perhaps this Lenten season is our opportunity to help define just who we are and the places where our identity needs a bit more of who Jesus is. This might be a time to determine how wealth, prestige, appearance, and comfort get in the way of us seeing ourselves as the beloved children of God that we are.
These are 40 days to discover or re-discover that we are children of God with a mission to let others know that they are beloved, not by our words but by our actions.
From Moravian mission history, think of the Herrnhut community after their powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit on August 13, 1727. After several years of prayer, worship, and experience in Christian community, they met a slave by the name of Anthony. He came to Herrnhut at Zinzendorf’s invitation to tell of the mistreatment of his family members (and all slaves) on the island of St. Thomas. So taken were several community members that they went to Zinzendorf the next day saying they were ready to go, even if it meant them becoming slaves. It took a while to get everything ready, but in 1732 Leonard Dober (a potter) and David Nitschmann, a carpenter, set out on a new mission to become missionaries to those slaves. Within ten years of that date, dozens of missionaries had been sent worldwide to share the love of God as shone in Jesus Christ. The entire community’s mission changed during this time from being primary inwardly focused to being more concerned with the mistreatment of others. Admittedly, while they held that the slaves were children of God who deserved to know of God’s love for them and that their mistreatment was appalling, many of these missionaries also held the predominant white European prejudice that there was nothing wrong with slavery itself. Zinzendorf himself held that God preordained slavery and that black Africans were born to serve in this capacity. This is a topic for another day; I mention it here lest we think too highly of our historical selves.
The bottom line is that Dober, Nitschmann, and the rest of the Herrnhut community radically changed their focus and mission after meeting Brother Anthony.
What is your true identity? What is your real mission?