Sing of Lent
I'm the one who told you that Sunday's are in Lent not of Lent so what gives with singing of Lent? Maybe you weren't 4 nights and 4-plus days without heat or water; maybe you weren't shuffling around in a 44deg house; maybe you weren't entombed under 17 layers of blankets; maybe you didn't eat cold ravioli by hurricane lantern light; so you don't feel like singing of Lent. So don't sing; just listen.
First from 1971 I sing, "Bless the Beasts and the Children" with Karen Carpenter and lament that she was "Done too Soon." Sing knowing the song is from a movie based on a book of the same title. Watch/read it if you think environmentalism, anti-hunting, and youth-know-best is a late 20th early 21st century theme. Sing as you contemplate the Holy Spirit's intriguing: "He was with the wild animals." This is therion. This is animal, beast. It's used most in Revelation. 30 of the 46x's it's used in the NT. You know how one 16th century globe has at the edge of known civilization "Here be Dragons"? Well, of Revelation we can say "Here be beasts." There are 4 views of "He was with the wild animals." 2 bad and 2 good. They were a threat to Jesus or they show how alone He was. They are a good: They show the song "Woodstock" has come true. We've finally made it back to the Garden, of Eden that is. Or Jesus is the New Adam (Gieschen, "Research Notes", CTQ 73 (2009), 77).
How do you decide which is right? The Spirit gives you the freedom to choose. Choices given by Scripture can't be as important as "thus saith the Lord" statements. And the text says, "At once [after His Baptism and being declared the Beloved Son of God] the Spirit threw Him out, cast Him out into the wilderness." In addition, Thus saith the Lord, "He was 40 days constantly being tempted under feel the weight of that word under the Satan." I could barely bare being under darkness and cold while assured by my Baptism I am God's own child. How would I have fared being under the Satan cast off and out by my Father? Not well. I would fall very quickly into despair, into unbelief, into accusations against God.
O no you don't. You're running for the next sentence. "And the angels were ministering to Him." See? All along, the angels were ministering to Him doing as Psalm 91 promised: guarding Him in all His ways; lifting Him up in their hands; not even letting Him so much as stumble. Thereby enabling Him to trample the wild animals, the lion and the cobra, under His feet. Nope, you always must consult the parallels. Matthew 4:11 is clear: "Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him." After the temptations, maybe after the beasts if they were bad thing, then came the angels. That's how it was for Jesus. That's not how it is for you. No, you can bless the beasts good, bad, or ugly because Jesus standing firm in temptation where you fall, yet suffering as if He gave in as easily as I do, won the constant ministry of angels. And for Jesus' sake, the beasts must serve you. The ravens might be directed to feed you; a fish might be directed to provide money; a whale might be directed to save you from drowning. So sing of Lent, "Bless the Beasts and the Children."
Even a child such as Mindy McCready? First watch on YouTube "The Life and Death of Mindy McCready." In 1996 she sang "10,000 Angels". Where were the 10,000 angels when she needed them? For that matter, where was the one I needed to restore either power or water? Sing of Lent, sing "10,000 Angels" sing "Lead me not into temptation. Heaven help me be strong." And ponder why in the Great Temptation the angels wait until it's over to show up?
The short answer is that Jesus, Lord of Angels and Archangels, didn't call on them. We heard in the Introit the promise of "He will command His angels concerning You." And in the Psalms, you' is always first and foremost Jesus. And reading ahead in the Passion account, Jesus says to the sword bearing Peter, "Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than 12 legions of angels" (Matt. 26:53). 12 legions is 60,000. Since one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians (Is. 37:36), Jesus had more than enough on-call to handle the mob, the Roman Empire, Satan himself and all his devils too. Yet, He doesn't make the call. I was ready to say uncle after a day of being cold and dark. Jesus endured 40 days and nights of hunger, temptation, and devilry.
Sing of Lent, sing of Jesus doing what we could never do. As a Man, without using His divine powers, without using His divine prerogative of 24/7 on-call angels, He stood firm against every plan and purpose of the Devil, the World, and our Flesh which do not want God's will to be done or His name to be hallowed. And He did this with no more power or resolve than I had available in the dark night sitting in my truck to get warm. Actually, He had less. No cigar, no scotch, no radio. And by standing firm in temptation, He won God's power, protection, and angels for you. I know you think my cold, hungry, unwashed mind and body is leading me to repeat myself. Nope, it's purposeful.
Remember how I said all the Psalms must be read as spoken by, to, or about Jesus? Well, Psalm 91 is if-then Gospel which is no Gospel to sinners such as you. It says, "If you make the Most High your dwellingthen no harm will befall you." "'Because He loves me,' says the Lord, I will rescue Him;" "I will protect Him, for He acknowledges My name." Have you made the Most High your dwelling? I didn't, couldn't when the freezing rain began again as I was sitting in the truck. Even fortified by cigar and scotch all I could wish for was a warm dwelling. Do you always acknowledge His name? Every time you say, luckily', fortunately', or by chance' you're acknowledging the goddess Fortuna, Luck, Fate, or Randomness not the True God. Oh but surely you do love the Lord, so you can count on being rescued. Hah! Love is the easiest thing to pretend. I love little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks and heat, and light, and running water, but the Lord? Meh.
Ash Wednesday night, we were in the car warming up and listening to Catholic radio. You need to listen to AM 970. If that doesn't lead you to thank God you're a Confessional Lutheran or even a Reformed Protestant, you're not paying attention. They strained the minutiae of if it was just meat or meat by-products that had to be avoided during Lent. Could Holy Water be dispensed by means of Purell devices. Should a woman who followed the counsel of a nun who became a shaman who became a Lesbian confess doing so in her mandatory once a year confession? The Gospel of Jesus' innocent blood, meaning He kept the law perfectly, and His guilty death for your sins frees you from this. You don't have to plumb the depths of your life or heart to see if you've made the Most High your dwelling place, if you really love the Lord, if you really do acknowledge His name all the time so as to have His promised angelic protection. For Jesus' sake you most certainly do all this.
Sing of Lent. Go to the 1966 One Hit Wonder "Time Has Come Today." For 11 minutes it declares "Time" or "Time Has Come Today". The 2nd paragraph of our text is Mark's summary of the entire first year of Jesus' ministry. All that you read in John 1-5 is summarized here. Although I wish Jesus had said as the Chambers Brothers sang, "The time has come" what He actually said was, "Right now and forever has been fulfilled the season." You 60's rock folks can hear the Zombies singing rhythmically and distinctively in 1968, "It's the time of the season". You can even hear the breathy "ahhh" vocal that lyric sites don't know how to reproduce. My point is that Jesus isn't proclaiming the time is up for something to happen but a period of time, a season is now. For the Zombies it was the "time of the season when love runs high." Nice thought if you're mired in the mud of this body and blood made of dust. But there is something better than this. There is something that even when body and blood are satisfied with heat, light, food, and love, you still want. C. S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world" (Mere Christianity, III, 10, Hope').
When I lack heat, light, food, love that's all I want, but when I have them all, I'm still not satisfied. Jesus, 2000 years ago, declared that the season had come not for love but for the Kingdom of God, and He didn't declare it near but here. The Greek idea isn't that the kingdom is a little way off, but that it is so close that the hearers may enter into it that very moment. Today is the season where what Jesus did in life and in death, fills up the Baptismal font, the Absolver's mouth, and the Chalice with more than enough grace to wash away sinners, to blow away sinners, to body and blood sinners into the very kingdom of God right now.
So let's sing of Lent. Let's sing of going over the events that lead to our being able to enter the kingdom of God today. How should we start? Listening to Catholic radio on Ash Wednesday they talked about Catholic priests applying ashes with either "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return" as we do. Or, others say, "Repent, and believe the Gospel" which is how our text ends. They went back and forth as to the merits of each phrase. The freeing Confessional Lutheran answer would be you don't have to say anything; you don't even have to apply ashes. But if we're talking about singing of Lent, I'm going with the passive remember rather than the active repent and believe. In remembering that I'm dust I'm returning to Psalm 103 and the comforting fact that "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust." In the dark and cold, I didn't turn to stone. I turned to dust, so I sing of Lent which shows me the Lord who can't forget that. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
First Sunday in Lent (20210221); Mark 1:12-15