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Worship Preview 2.18.24 Lent 1

This Weekend: 10:30am – “The Lenten Journey and the Long View”


Scriptures – Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22 and Mark 1:9-15.


I’ve been sick lately. A variety of ailments have sapped my energy, had me visiting with doctors far more often than I’m used to, and made me reevaluate priorities, recognize limitations and make hard choices. In a way, I’ve been on a Lenten journey before Lent.

It is so clear to me that I need to root out the viruses and bacteria causing the problems – if only our sins and the ways we give into temptation were so easily treated! We want a quick fix, instead we need to take the long view. 


After jumping ahead to the Transfiguration story in Mark 9 last week, the lectionary for the first Sunday in Lent returns us to Mark Chapter 1 this week with Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation. Lent was originally a time of preparation for baptism. Through baptism, we join in the work of Jesus. For Jesus, baptism led directly to his wilderness mission and later public ministry – including temptation and conflict with power. Authentic Christian witness will share these dynamics. Jesus’ call to repent and believe is a call to turn from sin, but more than that, Jesus calls us to turn towards God. It’s not about legalistically watching each other for missteps, it’s about relationship with our creator.


The Scriptures this week are focused on exploring that baptismal call and wilderness journey. Matthew and Luke tell detailed stories about Jesus’ time in the wilderness, where Mark gives it one verse: “he was tempted Satan and he was with the wild beasts and angels waited on him.”  It is so sparse, reading Mark, we find we have to do some work and be willing to enter a bit of wilderness ourselves to make sense of it.


One way we might do that is by considering the story of Noah’s Ark, but only after tuning out the literalists and then using our sacred imagination. It’s not about finding proof in a few scraps of wood somewhere; it’s about taking the ride. The ark serves as a sign of God’s care, even in the midst of judgment. In the story, the flood comes because of the corruption of the world. God laments creating humanity, the corruption and evil is so widespread, it’s time to fix it by starting over – this really isn’t a friendly kid’s story – and yet Noah and his family find favor. A remnant is chosen.


But after the flood, in the words of theologian Julia Seymore: “God finds the price of destruction is too great for a creator to pay. The pain of loss is not worth the break in relationship. So, God makes plans, plans for generations, plans for hope and a future. There will still be judgement, but there will also be mercy. There will not be massive destruction that comes from the hand of God as judgment. God takes the long view.”  


Which brings us back to Jesus, the Word become flesh, and temptation. God joins with us in this journey of life, showing us the way. Baptism is a participation in Jesus’ journey – through death into resurrection. 1 Peter says “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Evoking the story of Noah’s Ark, it goes on to say this witness is made even to those “who in former times did not obey.” God’s grace and mercy transcend our understanding - and our timelines. Back in Genesis 1, notice that God’s covenant of “never again” is made not only with human beings, but also “all the earth’s creatures”. Here is warrant to care for all of creation, for such caring is part of our baptismal vocation. As we move towards Easter, we engage in learning about God revealed in Christ. We join with the singer of this week’s Psalm: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”


We invite you to join our Lenten journey, bringing your questions, assurances, and hopes to worship this week. You can learn more about what to expect here at First United Methodist at our website: or our see our Facebook page for the latest updates.


Upcoming Events: 

Wednesday, February 21, 5:30–6:30pm: Feeding Families in His Name – this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. A reminder: Please do not block nearby driveways while waiting. Thank you. If you would like to support this ministry, you can make donations online at


Friday, February 23rd – Friendship Soup Luncheon. Freewill donation to raise funds for our annual Appalachian Service Project mission trip. 11:30 – 1pm in our Fellowship Hall.


Mark Your Calendars! Faith’s Journey Returns! Saturday, March 23rd at 6pm. Join us the Saturday before Holy Week for another great evening of Absolute Country, Definitely Gospel with Faith’s Journey! Branson’s 2021 Gospel Show and Group of the Year will be here for another freewill offering show! If you were here last year, you’ll want to hear them again, and if you missed it here is your chance to see them! Invite your friends and neighbors!




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