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In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who'd initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares."
Ever have one of those days, weeks, months.. years when you know exactly how Chippie feels?… Sucked in, washed up, and blown over… Those times when you don’t have much to sing about.. and really the best thing you can think to do.. the only thing you want to do.. is sit and stare… at some point we all experience this…
What brings on such an experience? They come from two main reasons. One is from outside of ourselves and the second is of our own doings. The ones outside of ourselves are related to those curve balls that life seems to throw our way. A sickness… getting laid off from work… slipping on the ice.. things that are very much out of our control…. That second type of experience.. the one of our own doings generally ends with the statement, “What the heck was thinkin’?” We do something that we know we shouldn’t.. We break a law or abuse a trust.
Think of it this way… In our Gospel reading today.. we are told about Jesus going off into the wilderness. Mark’s gospel is not specific in listing the details of Jesus’ temptations by the devil, but we know from Luke’s Gospel that on one occasion “the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.”… Now we know that Jesus was able to rebuke the devil… but there are times in our lives when, by no fault of our own, the world will come along and push us off that highest point… and there are other times when the devil tempts us, by saying jump.. and we – in our brilliance – respond, “Ok?”… In either case.. we can end up with that Chippie experience of being sucked in, washed up and blown over.
And it is in the trough of that experience.. at its lowest point.. that the devil presents his greatest deception… and although it comes in a whisper.. it seems to resonate in our heads like a clap of thunder… “God doesn’t love me... God doesn’t love me.” … If we allow that deception to sink in.. begin to actually believe it.. we can become angry at God – don’t pretend that you haven’t because at some point we all do to one degree or another – One of my favorite movies.. Bruce Almighty… Bruce has heard the devil’s deception, he has believed it, and so he boldly declares, “God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass, and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but he'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm.”…. Sometimes we are not as overt as Bruce in our complaints against God, but have you ever heard someone say, “When I get to Heaven, I going to ask God about this.”.. same emotion of anger.. just more closely guarded.
The key to overcoming these feelings of anger is to recognize that the voice which says “God doesn’t love me” is not the voice of God… It is from the great deceiver. To overcome such a deception we must remember the words that Our Father did speak… and they are the exact same words that he spoke to Jesus … "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."… that word beloved means one who is greatly loved.. one who is dear to the heart. And not only did the Father speak those words to Jesus.. but he speaks them to you as well… it is to you that the Father says, “You are my child.. my beloved.. you are one who is greatly loved and dear to my heart.. with you I am well pleased.”
For those of you in our study of the Ragamuffin Gospel.. you’ll probably remember this from the first video clip I showed you… It was Brennan Manning speaking to a congregation… He said, “In the 48 years since I was first ambushed by Jesus, in a little chapel in the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania, and in literally thousands of hours of prayers, meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced that on Judgment Day the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question,
“Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?”
And Brennan goes on to say that at this moment, Jesus comes to your seat and says… “I have a word for you…. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now, I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship…
.. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.”
Throughout my ministry I have been firmly convinced of one thing… that is.. if I can help you to see and to understand that single drop of blood on Jesus’ forehead.. the one trickling down like a tear from where one of the thorns of his crown has pierced his most sacred brow… I am convinced.. that if I can help you see and understand that one drop of blood.. then you will know God.. and you will know His love.
I dare you to trust that God loves you… I dare you to believe that in that single shed drop of Jesus’ blood you were forever joined to Our Father.. and that you will forever be His beloved.
Let us pray… God, Our Father, You have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right. Help us to live in Your presence. The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when Jesus, your Son, became man like us. We want to obey His commandment of love and bring Your peace and joy to others. Keep before us the wisdom and love You have made known in Your Son. Help us to be like Him in word and deed. Amen.