Ministering Angels

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon on February 26, 20102, the First Sunday in Lent.  The gospel reading for the day is Mark 1:9-15.  The theme for the stewardship temple talk is “Radical Hospitality.”


Children’s Message


Your Children’s Bulletin today has a page called “Biblical 40s.”  The number 40 is found lots of times in the Bible.  Let’s see if you and I can remember some of those times…

(Genesis 7:1-4)  God sent ________ for 40 __________ and 40 ___________.

(Exodus 16:334-35)  Moses and the Israelites ate _______________ for 40 _____________.

(Jonah 3:1-5)  Jonah warned people in __________ “40 _________ more and you shall be overthrown!”

(Deuteronomy 9:9)  Moses remained on the  ___________ for 40 ________ and 40 _________.

((Mark 1:12-13) Jesus was in the _________________ for 40 _________________________.


Dear God, thank you for helping Jesus in the wilderness.  Thank you for sending angels to help him.  Please send angels to help us too.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.


Dear Friends in Christ,


The Gospel of Mark is not full of details.  In just 7 lines, Mark covers the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, John’s arrest, and the key verse of the entire gospel.  It is no wonder that early Christians wanted more details and so the gospels of Matthew and Luke and John were written to supply more information.


But for today, please, let’s just stick with Mark, and see what we might learn…


In verse 9 we read that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John.  Earlier in verse 5 we’re told that people confessed their sins and then were baptized.  A key question in the early church was this: what sins did Jesus confess if he was sinless?  We’re not told by any of the gospel writers that Jesus confessed sin, but instead, something happened at the baptism that did not happen to anyone else.  Here is what Mark wrote in verses 10 and 11: As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw heaven opening and the Spirit coming down upon him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son.  I am pleased with you.”


The Orthodox Churches read something in those verses that goes beyond what Roman Catholics and Protestants traditionally read.  They read that this is the official beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his anointing, his call from God.  Others think this happened with his birth.  Interestingly, Mark does not have a birth story, but Matthew and Luke do.


Then what happens in Mark?  At once the Spirit made him go into the desert, where he stayed forty days, being tempted by Satan.  Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him.  The other gospels contain so many details about the wilderness experience that are not included in Mark.  There is nothing about the three temptations or about Jesus quoting scripture or about Jesus not eating anything.


The picture on the front of our bulletin tells the story.  There is a wild animal there and the rocks perhaps signify the desert.  Jesus is sitting on the ground and looks like he is weak and needs help.  We have two angels (see the wings) and they are there with food and something to drink.


The idea of Jesus needing help and God sending ministering angels is a different perspective, isn’t it?  Don’t we usually think of Jesus as all-powerful and a loner, a divine being poised for battle with the forces of evil?  Here we see the humanity of Jesus with all his vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  Here we see God’s Son, divesting himself of divine powers, in order to completely identify himself with us. 


The angels represent something special.  They represent how God works in this world.  By sending heavenly angels and by inspiring us mortals on earth, to be God’s helpers for those in need.  Every time you and I pull into the driveway of this church, we pass a sign that has a 4-word key phrase for all ELCA Lutherans.  What is the phrase?  God’s Work  Our Hands.


In a few minutes, you are going to be hearing a Temple Talk by Spike and Donna Roberts on the theme of “Radical Hospitality.”  I don’t want to steal their thunder, but I am delighted to point out how God worked his radical hospitality today in the story of those angels who ministered to Jesus. 


One of my favorite hospitality stories in scripture is the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man.  This man had been paralyzed from birth and when he and his friends heard that Jesus was in their town, they wanted desperately for Jesus to do a healing.  Four of his friends carried him to the house and could not get in because of the crowds.  Lesser friends would have given up.  But these friends go up on the roof, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered the man on his cot, to the floor in front of Jesus.  And Jesus did heal him, but not before commending these friends.  To me, that’s God inspiring people to go the extra mile.


One last story about a not so good way to show hospitality.  This is a true story and it took place in a Lutheran Church in Florida.  This was winter time in Florida and so there were lots of snow birds.  Hundreds of people came to worship and the church was proud of the fact that they had to have volunteer parking lot attendants with bright orange vests.  One family that I know visited the church and was directed to a parking spot reserved for visitors.  An attendant with a smiling face heartily greeted them and pointed them toward the door to the Sanctuary. The church was quite full but they managed to slip into a back pew and were waiting for the opening hymn.  At the last minute a man and his wife rushed in and stopped abruptly at their pew.  The woman said to her husband, “Harold, it’s happened again.  These people are sitting in our pew!”  One of the visitors, who told me this story, added something else.  Do you know who the husband was?  He was the parking lot attendant who had first directed him to the doors of the sanctuary!


Dear Friends in Christ, may God inspire you and me to think of others first and not ourselves.