Sunday sermon 26 February 2012 – Jump right in, lose your skin…

1 Peter 3:18-22

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

18 For 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 made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom[a] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[b] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Peter 3:19 Or alive in the spirit, 19 through which
  2. 1 Peter 3:21 Or response

Mark 1:9-15

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

The Calling of the First Disciples

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

MESSAGE

So Jesus – virtually wet from the Jordan – is thrust into the dryness of the dessert for his big OE.

Overseas experience? That makes no sense. An OE is about fun and games. All the more reason to question why we let our young people travel. Too many temptations.

So what’s with the wilderness. Was it like another country?  It was certainly a time of temptation. A huge spiritual battle.

OUR BAPTISM

Our baptism is very different of course. It’s about sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s about identifying with the one who identified with us in every way – emptying himself and becoming a man – and even being baptised by John – a baptism for repentance and sin which he never needed.

He does the right thing.

And there is this astounding scene again – portrayed in Mark direct and concise way:

0 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Heaven torn open. Voices of affirmation. Boy did he need that. And of course the not-yet-dry Jesus becomes toast in the barren desert:

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

There.  Done. No details from Mark. We are dependent on Matthew and Luke for the specifics.

This is another world – not overseas but over the river – dry by contrast to the cool waters of his baptism – and deeply spiritual and dangerous – Satan, wild animals and angels.

It is another world. We live in that world too.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH TEMPTATION?

Do you even recognise it?

It all seems easy when there is the devil-image with a pitchfork – in our minds we have pictures of a manifestation of evil – the devil standing there challenging Jesus.

Or the little red devil on one shoulder and a tinker-bell kind of sweetie-pie angel on the other – the stuff you used to see in cartoons.

It’s much more subtle of course.

Evil creeps into our very fabric so that we think that what we do and say and think is okay – when in fact it is behaviour that should be buried in baptism – nailed to the cross – or thrown into the depths of the sea.

When our kids were little they sang songs at school – we had our local bible in schools kind of thing through Scripture Union.

One of the songs was this:

“Deep and wide, deep and wide there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Jump right in, lose your sin, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide!”

One of our kids used to sing  “Jump right in, lose your skin!”

We need to jump right in alright – not just into the fountain of the Holy Spirit which the song seems to suggest – but into the waters of Baptism. I read this in one of the Lent meditations I am using this year – it’s a reflection on Jesus’ baptism:

“Perhaps Jesus knew how important it was to stand alongside the people in their sinful condition and to share with them in their response to God’s love. First, by physically lowering himself into the waters of the Jordan, but also by showing them the need to surrender to God. Perhaps that incidental moment in which the baptised person goes under the water and disappears for a few seconds from the face of the earth is crucially important. Are we willing to disappear? To not be? Are we willing to submerge our own agenda and desires, even for a moment, to God? (David Rhodes, Lenten Adventure p 4).

LENT

We started our journey on Ash Wednesday focussing on the need for repentance and refocussing on God’s will for our lives. The scriptures then reminded us that fasting and prayer are normal. “When you fast” says Jesus, not if. “When you pray”.

The reading today reminds us that our battle – with spiritual disciplines (how bad we are at these things) – is a battle with the enemy himself.

The 40 days of Lent – the 40 days in the dry wilderness – the 40 years God’s people wandered through desert – all speak of the need for tough commitment, courage, and challenge. Lot’s of prayer and agonising. And constant testing.

Jesus got through the worst. He would have been very clear after that what his mission was. And that’s what he did with energy and commitment – he preached a message of repentance and good news.

Repentance and good news. There is a part of repentance in which we should be in sack cloth and ashes – as they did in bible times – mourning our sins.

Repentance means more than just feeling bad. It is a change of mind (in the New Testament language) and a turning, a change of direction in the Old Testament Hebrew.

We turn TOWARDS our destiny and the new thing that God will do!

And in doing so we should consider our baptism again. Peter writes this of the waters of the flood at the time of Noah’s ark:

and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.  (21-22)

The questions we have to consider are simple:

1. Are we willing to submerge everything that is not of God under the waters of our baptism?

To quote David Rhodes again: “Are we willing to submerge our own agenda and desires, even for a moment, to God?”

Paul writes in Romans 6:  “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (verse 3).

2. Are we winning or losing in our wilderness temptation experiences?

And can we even tell where the voices are coming from? We need to be more tuned in and discerning – remember that Paul says of Satan in a discussion about false apostles:

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

One of the joys of our way of doing things (and it is biblical) is that we can discern together when it comes to big decisions and issues. And we have the power of prayer to pray for victory in the battle.

3. Are we losing our sin? Or our skin?

Paul writes in a most profound passage in 2 Corinthians5:17:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

If we are losing our sin – we are dealing with the deepest stuff – our secret mess. If we are losing our skin – maybe we are just dealing with the superficial. It’s too easy to be smiley Sunday Christians – when there is painful stuff on the inside that needs the touch of God.

Lent is a great time to really deal with these things! 🙂

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on February 25, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ian and Liz Stewart

    To God be the Glory –
    Blessing to you all
    Luv Ian, Liz, Deanne and Sarah Stewart – Oz – across the ditch.

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