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Sunday, February 26, 2012 1st Sunday of Lent Pastor Dena Williams Denver, Colorado The Holy Gospel according

to the Community of St. Mark in the 1st Chapter Glory to you, O Lord 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." 1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." Lost His Ass in the Bargain A farmer and his son were driving their mule to a fair in a neighboring town in order to sell him. They had not gone far when they met a bunch of women gathered around a well, talking and laughing. ³Look there,´ cried one of the women, ³did you ever see such fellows, trudging along the road on foot when they could be riding the mule?´ The farmer heard the women, and wanting to please, made his son mount the mule,

while he continued to walk happily by his side. Presently they came upon some old men engaged in serious debate. ³There,´ said one of the men, ³that proves what I was saying. Young people do not respect their elders anymore. See that lazy boy riding the mule while his father has to walk? Get down, young man, and let your father rest his weary legs!´ Upon hearing this, and wanting to please, the old man made his son dismount, and got on the mule himself. They had not gone much farther when they met some women and children, ³Why, you lazy fellow,´ cried several at once, ³how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little boy there can hardly keep pace beside you?´ The farmer, wanting to please the women and children, immediately pulled his son up behind him on the mule. Now, they had almost reached the fair. Some citizens of the town saw them coming. ³Well, my friend,´ asked a citizen, ³does that mule you¶re riding belong to you?´ ³Yes,´ replied the man. ³Well, I surely would not have thought so!´ replied the citizen. ³You and your son have him so loaded down! Why, you two are better able to carry the poor beast than he is to carry the two of you.´ ³Anything to please,´ said the man. So, he and his son got down from the mule. They tied the mule¶s legs together, around a pole, and with the mule hanging upside down, they raised him to their shoulders to carry him over the bridge into the town. This strange sight attracted a huge crowd of people, laughing and pointing and making fun.

The mule, frightened by the noise of the crowd and most uncomfortable from being carried upside down, broke the cords that bound him, tumbled off the pole, and fell into the river below. The man, ashamed, took his son and headed for home, convinced that by endeavoring to please everyone, he had pleased no one, certainly not himself, and lost his . . . mule . . . in the bargain. The people of God begin their journey through forty days of Lent. They are tempted by the devil, tempted to please the people they meet on their journey, the ones who say: ³Ignore the needs of others. Your wants and needs are most important. Don¶t worry about the poor, the lonely, the sick. Ignore those new people in the congregation. What makes you comfortable is most important.´ The people of God are tempted, they are tempted to tend to their own comfort, their own wants and needs, first and foremost. They are tempted to please others. They are tempted, but they remember the story, the real story that Jesus told of his days in the wilderness. They remember how Jesus was tempted, how Jesus, fully human, defied the devil. How Jesus overcame his fully human desire to be comfortable, and powerful, and most important and in control. The people remember how Jesus remembered who he really is, a child of God. The people remember how Jesus remembered that God called him by name,

called him Son of God, how Jesus resisted the temptation to please the devil, to take care of himself first, to conform to the expectations of others at the cost of the rest of humanity. The people remember and as they begin their forty days in the wilderness of Lent, they journey with joy. They remember how the angels came and cared for Jesus. They remember and they know that they are children of God, that they will never be lost or forsaken, even in the wilderness of their lives. In thanksgiving for God¶s love and mercy toward them, the people reach out to share God¶s love at home, in the world, and in their community of faith. The people reach out, invite others to join them on their joyful journey. The people encourage one another to follow Jesus through the wilderness of life, remind one another that there is a Son of God, the Saviour of the world lives, and because he lives we live also. At the end of their journey, The people have no regret. They have not wasted the forty days of their journey in the wilderness, seeking their own comfort, trying to please the devil, trying to please only themselves or everyone else they meet along the road of life. Instead, they remember they are children of God. They remember their call to reach all people with God¶s love. And they have no regrets. They have not lost their . . . mule, or their soul, or their life. And they hear God say,

³You are my sons and daughters, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.´ Amen