As we continue our journey through Lent, we consider the role of suffering in our faith. In this scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus predicts both his suffering and death at the hands of those who oppose him and his resurrection on the third day. He then encourages his followers to "take up their cross and follow me". How do we face the reality of our own suffering, and what cross are we called to bear in following Christ?
On this 1st Sunday of Lent, we hear how Jesus is tempted in the wilderness following his baptism. Another way to translate this text is "tested" rather than "tempted". How does this change our thinking about this story? How are we tested in life and how do we respond faithfully?
On this last Sunday before the start of Lent (Ash Wednesday), we focus on love. The First Letter of John states that "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (1 John 4:16) Jesus Christ embodies God's love for us, and we in turn embody the same when we love our neighbors.
We continue to follow the public ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Today's scripture tells of Jesus' healing of Simon's mother-in-law, as well as healing and casting out of demons from the crowds that followed him. Throughout his ministry, Jesus always shows mercy towards those who are suffering. thus teaching us to do the same.
Today's story from the Gospel of Mark is the first of Jesus' healings. While Jesus is teaching the Hebrew scriptures in the synagogue, a man with an "unclean spirit" confronts him. "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?", he cries out. Jesus silences the spirit and exorcises it, to the amazement of those present. How is Jesus authoritative in our lives? To what new teachings of his do we submit ourselves?
Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James and John, all fishermen from the same village, to follow him. Jesus calls them to new work -- to fish for people. Jesus calls us too. We are called to fish for people by sharing our faith and serving in mission. UMW fishes for people by serving women and children all over the world. Where is Jesus calling you to serve?
Today's story from the Gospel of John describes Jesus calling two of his disciples. First, Jesus commands Philip to "follow me". Then Philip shares the news with Nathanael that they have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?", Nathanael replies. When Jesus meets Nathanael and tells him he already knows him, Nathanael believes and becomes a follower. Jesus calls each of us to follow him as well. How do we recognize that call? Is that call different from what we were expecting? We explore what it means to hear and respond to God's call through Jesus.
On this Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. We remember Jesus' own baptism by John in the Jordan River, marking the beginning of his public ministry. We also reflect upon the Sacrament of Baptism and its meaning in our own lives. Baptism is a symbol of new birth in Jesus Christ and initiates us as members of Christ body, the universal Church. Therefore, we will remember our own baptism and reaffirm our faith as we begin a new year.
On this Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. Epiphany is officially January 6th, marking the culmination of the Christmas season. It celebrates the coming of the three wise men who brought gifts to the Christ child. Symbolically, it represents the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles and therefore the entire world. We begin the New Year with hope as Christ guides us into the future.
We herald the birth of the savior with our joyous worship and see out a dangerous year as we join together in the hope of what is to come.