Wednesday, February 21st, Midweek Worship

Please join us for the supper and midweek worship service today, February 21st. Supper is at 6 pm and worship is at 7 pm. The focus of the day is: “Listen, God is calling you to faith.”


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.” – Mark 1.14b-15

Overview by Rev. Erika R Uthe

Ash Wednesday started our Lenten journey with a call to repentance – to be reconciled to God. Jesus builds the call in today’s gospel: repent and believe in the good news. I think to unpack that command we need to take it in parts: first, believe; second, in the good news.

Over the next several weeks we get to explore various salvation covenants and promises that God made with God’s people. In the Genesis reading today, I am drawn to Noah’s faith – not in the 9th chapter, but back in chapter 6 when God told him to build the ark. Noah didn’t even know what he needed to be saved from and yet he trusted God and got to work. It was a clear act of faith in a mode of salvation that had not yet happened. I am struck by Noah’s faith particularly this year because it has become so obvious for the church that while we know things need to change, we don’t know how to change, or what we need to do to get there.

Yet Noah’s faith and God’s covenant reveal to us an important part of God’s saving actions in our world: God’s salvation is always contextual. Noah and his family didn’t need a sturdy home to protect them from the wild animals, because they weren’t going to be eaten. Noah didn’t need bread and oil, for he had plenty of food. God’s salvation came as exactly what Noah needed in that moment. Our theme verse for Lent, ‘Behold, I am about to do a new thing, do you not perceive it?’ seems to beg the question, ‘but HOW can we perceive something that hasn’t ever happened?!’ Herein lies the difficulty of living out the first part of Jesus’ command: believe. It is also where, I think, it becomes helpful to think about the 2nd half of Jesus’ command: in the good news.

While salvation is contextual, it always leads to life, and such is the nature of the good news. The good news is that God has saved the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation can look many different ways: a warm hug after a rough day, bread in hungry hands, shelter in devastation, peace amid turmoil, and the promise of resurrection life at a loved one’s funeral. We in the church are certainly looking for salvation. There is a leader shortage, there are extracurricular activities that compete for time and energy, there are building repairs and dwindling funds, etc., etc. And so we pray! God, how can we get people to prioritize Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights? How can we find a pastor who will lead us? How will we be able to maintain this building so it is here for funerals and weddings and Christmases?

The thing is that these prayers for salvation are looking back and expecting more of the same, but the world is headed toward a raging flood, and it takes a metaphorical ark, not young families, charismatic pastors, and beautiful buildings to ride it out. God is already doing something new, can we not perceive it?! The thing is, if we are hanging on to the things of old, we will miss out on the ways God is saving us right here and now. Rachel Held Evans, in Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, said, “Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about.”

We are resurrection people and Jesus has called us to repent and believe in the good news! This command from Jesus came straight on the heels of his 40 days in the wilderness, which came straight on the heels of his own baptism and affirmation from God. There is something about being in the wilderness that makes it easier to hear God’s voice, I think. As Ash Wednesday utilized all the senses to help us remember, wilderness likewise has a way of putting our senses on high alert. In the wilderness, there is a readiness for the unexpected, a willingness to be surprised. On the other hand, in the wilderness, there is an uneasy questioning – what is around the next corner? As the church faces its current wilderness – a particularly uneasy questioning of what comes next for us – we remember to be alert, to listen for the echoes of God’s proclamation: you are my beloved child, and to be alert for the dangers of Satan’s temptations.

It takes a mighty act of faith to trust that if we let go of our ideas about what needs to happen to ‘bring the church back’ God will do something new. It takes a mighty act of faith to keep going, to let the old die away, and know that whatever comes next will be God’s way of bringing the world to salvation. It takes faith to look around for the arks today, and to believe that God just might be working in something that seems crazy, or unorthodox. It is as if our church is perfectly poised to adopt the Ventures Prayer:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 317)

Not only is God’s hand leading us, and love supporting us, we also have the echoes of God’s voice in the wilderness: you are my beloved child. God’s voice declaring us beloved, calling us to repentance, and belief in the good news sustains us in the wilderness until the fullness of death and resurrection becomes our reality. Maybe, just maybe, there is a blossoming oasis around this wilderness corner, do we have eyes to perceive it?