IT'S ALL ABOUT TO CHANGE - A SERMON ON I PETER 3:18-22 AND MARK 1:9-15 - FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
~Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered
the Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
The First Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2021
I Peter 3:18-22 & Mark 1:9-15 “It’s All About to Change”
It’s a rough entry into ministry for Jesus.
Wet from the water of baptism, the heady words from the Creator, whom Jesus calls Father, still warming his heart, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased”, now Jesus is pushed out by the third Person of the Trinity. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness,” Mark says.
Whatever happened in the temptation, the hunger and heat in the wilderness, Jesus comes out of it saying, “I’ve got good news for you to believe.”
Except there’s a little word that comes before believing: Repent.
That’s Jesus’ signature line, what the Gospels say he began with, and said throughout Galilee.
Metanoia. Turn your mind around. Turn your heart around. Turn your life around. That’s what he means. You can’t keep walking on the path you’re walking if you want to find the good news, Jesus says. Finding good news, believing good news, starts with repentance.
We don’t talk much about repentance with each other. Maybe it sounds too negative. Maybe it’s church-talk that we don’t really know what it means for our life anymore. But it was a cornerstone for Jesus’ preaching, the beginning to everything.
That’s what today is about. It’s a day where we confess our sin and begin a six-week journey with God, a journey of turning our lives around and seeking to live in God’s ways.
In short, we embark on a journey with Jesus through the wilderness, with the understanding that we are going to have be honest about ourselves and our lives.
We sojourn toward a recognition that SIN is the word that best describes what we already know is wrong with our lives, what we know God sees as broken in us.
Today, we remind ourselves of our mortality, we face this truth: that because of sin, none of us is living through this. Sooner or later the words: “Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust” will be said over each of us.
Today we tell the truth: you’re going to die. I’m going to die. We can’t change that.
So, today is about honesty: honesty about our sinfulness. Honesty about our mortality.
As we begin our Lenten journey, we begin with the truth.
And that’s because, as Jesus said, the truth will free us. Free us to live a life worth living in the time we have left.
People who know they are about to die often find freedom to live.
So, if we know we’re going to die, what do we have to lose? How do we want to live? By clinging to possessions, to habits, to sinful ways of being that hurt us and others? By lugging around fears and worries?
Maybe today’s honesty is a gift: now we know we’re on a countdown, we can focus.
That’s what our Lenten discipline helps us learn.
The discipline of Lent is the discipline of a freed life. In which, as disciples we are being shaped into something new and different. It’s believing change happens! Hope happens! Grace happens!
It’s trusting that God can make something new and beautiful from the dust of our lives.
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.