Return to site

The First Sunday in Lent - "Into the Wilderness" by Pr. Jim



660 Frances Lane

Ashland, Oregon 97520


The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor


21 February 2021


A warm welcome to all who worship with us this morning, especially those who have joined us as guests and visitors. May this time of prayer and praise make us eager to share in the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love and redemption in Christ as we go into another week of service in his Name. Guests and visitors, please honor us by signing our Guest Book in the entrance hall of the church as you leave this morning’s worship. If you have no church home of your own, we invite you to make Grace the center of your worship, learning, fellowship, and service. Come to worship with us again and often!

AS WE GATHER Strength in the Desert

On Ash Wednesday The Church began its journey toward baptismal immersion in the death and resurrection of our Lord. This year, the Sunday in Lent lead us to focus on five covenants God makes in the Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament) and to use them as lenses through which to view Baptism. First Peter connects the way God saved Noah’s family in the flood with the way God saves us through the water of Baptism. The baptismal covenant is made with us individually, but the new life we are given in Baptism is for the sake of the whole world.


O God our Father, the battle of good and evil rages within and without, and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your Word so that when we fall you will raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


PRE-SERVICE MUSIC Renew Me, O Eternal Light

Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus        


As we gather for worship, we come for strength and courage. We struggle with temptation daily. We need God’s grace to overcome it. Here in the fellowship

of saints, with Word and Sacrament at our center, God’s grace empowers us to stand strong in the deserts of temptation and do battle against any enemy of the kingdom—including our own doubts and weaknesses.

PRELUDE My Faith Has Found a Resting Place—Marty Parks

Tatsiana Asheichyk, Piano



In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Return to me with all your heart,” says the Lord, “with fasting, with weeping and mourning, with broken and contrite hearts.” For the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Christ suffered for our sins, once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God.

Jesus Christ never sinned. But God treated him as a sinner, so the Christ could make us acceptable to God. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy on us and given his only Son to die for us. For his sake and by his authority, I, therefore, forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Forgiven and reconciled by God, let us be reconciled with one another and share the peace of the Lord as we greet each other.


The grace and mercy of God, who in Christ Jesus bears our burdens and saves us from all our sin be with you all.  And also with you.


In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salvation

let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of

The Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray

to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their

worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.

     Lord, have mercy.

Help, save, and defend us, O God. Amen.    


Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin. Renew us in the gift of Baptism. May your holy angels be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

FIRST LESSON Genesis 9:8-17

[Today’s reading is the conclusion to the flood story. Because of human sin, God destroys the earth by flood, saving only Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. Yet divine destruction gives way to divine commitment. As in the first creation, God blesses humanity and establishes a covenant with all creatures.]

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations; I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters will never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh, that on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

PSALM of THE DAY Psalm 32 [Please join in singing the Refrain.]   

REFRAIN: Remember your mercy, O Lord; remember your mercy and love.

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

When I kept silent, your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

And you forgave the guilt of my sin. REFRAIN

You are my hiding place;

You will protect me from trouble.

Many are the woes of the wicked,

but the LORD’S unfailing love surrounds

those who trust in him. REFRAIN

SECOND LESSON 1 Peter 3:18-22

[As God acted through Christ’s suffering and death to bring us to God, so God acts through Baptism to save us from a sinful existence. This spiritual cleansing marks our new life in Christ.]

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which he also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

SPECIAL MUSIC I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say—Lloyd Larson

HOLY GOSPEL Mark 1:9-15

[The Spirit that comes upon Jesus at his baptism sustains him when he is tested by Satan so that he might proclaim the good news of God’s reign.]

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 as in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan; and he was with 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.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.


GRACE CHOIR Jesus, Our Hope—Tom Fettke

SERMON      Into the Wilderness — Pr. Jim Text: The Gospel Lesson

Genesis 22:1-8; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

Into the Wilderness

+ In the Names of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Stephen Sondheim's musical of fractured fairy tales, "Into the Woods" begins with various characters heading into the woods for a number of adventures. They live a variety of fairy tales while there, complete with magic beans and beanstalks, princes and princesses, and happy endings … for a moment. As the play begins the woods are seen as benign, if not actually kind to the characters. But before the play is over, the actors encounter far more mischief than adventure … mischief that becomes actual danger. Many are separated from family and home and safety. Some are separated from life itself. The woods prove dangerous. One is left to wonder … is the risk of the danger in the world "out there" worth the adventure that might be had in the woods?

In Scripture the wilderness also comes with mixed reviews. At times, the wilderness is a place unfit for habitation … something that must be crossed … something that must be endured. At other times, desolation makes the wilderness the proving ground for God's people … where they gather around His presence … learn how to live as God's community … and discover their calling as light to the Gentiles. Elijah flees to the wilderness when his life is in endangered by Queen Jezebel … and hopes … perhaps expects … to die there. Instead, he encounters God's presence in the form of God's absence and hears God's voice speak out of the sheer silence.

The wilderness is not safe. Anyone who has spent time alone … perhaps lost or turned around in a forest … a desert … or even a parking lot … knows that the mind begins to play tricks … only to become quickly unhinged and panicky. The strong are often tested to their limits and beyond. Like some of you, I’ve had my own wilderness experiences in life. Wilderness experiences never leave us unchanged. Moses discovered that. He led Israel as a nation to discover it. Elijah and many of the prophets knew it firsthand. Today … in our Gospel text … Jesus discovers the same thing.

We are tempted to call today's lesson "The Temptation of Jesus" and certainly it is. But it’s more than that. Jesus is tested in the wilderness, for sure, and Mark omits details of that test which Matthew and Luke include. Yet there’s plenty more here than meets the eye. Mark tells us that Jesus encounters Satan here. Mark’s account begins with a baptism and ends with a Gospel proclamation … and it’s not by accident. For if we only look at the temptation we lose sight of a big bold statement that Mark is making about Jesus.

With Israel's exodus from Egypt in mind, today’s gospel lesson shares some of the same elements. Israel crosses through the waters of the sea, just as Jesus crosses through the waters of the Jordan. At Sinai, Israel receives the voice of God and become God's children. Jesus hears the voice of God proclaiming him to be God's son. The people of Israel are tested for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus is tested for 40 days in the wilderness. The people of Israel become living signs of God's love for humanity, bearing God's presence with them as they go. Jesus becomes the one who is God's living presence among humanity. To my mind, these connections aren’t coincidental.

Mark seems to tell us that God is doing something here in Jesus to fulfill the calling of Israel, but in a way that Israel never could. Israel failed when they were tempted. Israel failed in their calling to be a light to the nations … to be the bearers of God's living presence to all the nations. Jesus takes up those vocations and more. God is repeating, but not exactly repeating the pattern.

In the old story, Israel is transformed by their encounter with the wilderness. They are tempted, but they also encounter God. In this story, it is the wilderness itself that is transformed. After Jesus meets temptation and endures it with faith … the wilderness becomes for Him a place where the angels minister to Him … where the wild beasts are tamed and coexist with Jesus again. Where Jesus ushers in the reign of God … God's future promised to all … breaks in and transforms it.

All of this has profound meaning for us as we face life … and ultimately as we face death. Life can’t be experienced in the safety of four walls … with the dangers and terrors of the world walled out. That kind of response not only shows a lack of faith in God … it also diminishes our ability to be fully human. God sends us into the wilderness … just as surely as He sent Israel … just as surely as the Spirit drove Jesus there. Our baptism doesn't make us immune from the dangers of the wilderness. It’s not some kind of magic that somehow keeps us safe. In fact, our baptism compels us into the void … sending us out into the very dirt and grime of the world. For if we see our baptism as a refuge, perhaps we are seeing the wrong thing. It is a passage into the danger of life, for sure, but it’s not a passage that leaves us alone and on our own.

In today’s Gospel we discover that God is in the wilderness. We discover that Jesus has been on this path ahead of us. We discover that the wilderness … while still dangerous and still a place of temptation … is also a place of God's calling and God's presence … a place where God's future breaks in upon us.

We discover that this wilderness place is not the destination on our journey, but a place where we learn to be emptied by God, so that we may be filled anew by Him. It’s a place through which we travel and learn that there’s no place so desolate and empty that God is not there … in it … through it … and beyond it.

That’s important for us to remember on this First Sunday in Lent, for at the end of our lives we will encounter the most difficult and dangerous wilderness of all … that of death. Our baptism sends us into this wilderness too. We remembered that very thing when we were marked for our Lenten journey with ashes last Wednesday. Those ashes … tracing the cross of our baptism are signs of death, of our inevitable destiny. But even in death, we are not abandoned. Even in death, God is there. So, no matter how frightening … no matter how difficult our baptismal journey into the wilderness might be … we go out with courage mixed into the mix of fear and uncertainty that is life. We know only one thing for certain. God is there … calling us … walking with us. God's reign is there in the present and in our future … even when we cannot see it. And God's Spirit … which compelled Jesus into the desolation … now pushes us over the edge as well. On our own, it would be enough to unhinge the best of us. But we are not alone. Where God is, the wilderness is transformed … and by God's grace, so are we.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life + everlasting. Amen.


Seeking the grace, mercy, and love of Almighty God let us pray for The Church, for those in need, and for all of creation.

+ A Brief Silence +

Holy and steadfast God, keep your word near to us, planting it in our hearts and communities. Make it blossom into proclamation for all people to receive. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for the earth, that all fertile lands be tended with care, that crops be success-fully planted and that the coming growing season may yield an abundant harvest and all the bounty we need to feed this hungry world. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Stir up courage among your people to shine the light of your truth into world relation-ships hindered by mistrust or misunderstanding. Bring freedom and stability to all nations. Move and guide our president and congress to move beyond partisan agendas and resolve the issues before them with collegiality for the common good of our nation and people. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hold tightly those who grow weary in the struggle with health concerns and healing. Guide all who provide medical care to your servants especially Shari, together with those we name in our hearts that they may receive hope, healing, and the mercies rendered by us as God’s people as we pray for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With loving and tender care, embrace all who are lonely or homebound, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, Elma Stavros, and those we name in our hearts that they may be assured of your presence in our compassion, prayers, and love for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Teach us the stories of our faith by heart. Deepen our faith and understanding. As you accompanied our ancestors in their uncertainty, so guide us confidently into the future. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Continue to guide our Call Committee by the power of your Holy Spirit as it moves forward in seeking to identify the pastoral candidate you have chosen to serve as your under-shepherd among us. Keep us ever mindful that it is your Spirit who leads and guides us and will in due time make known our new pastor—yet unknown to us, but known and loved by you. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

When we struggle and are tested, redeem us by the endurance of Christ. Give us steadfast faith to strive for your glory until we witness its fullness. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With thanksgiving, we remember those who have gone before us with the sign of faith, especially Jackie Challacombe who received the crown of life on January 17th and now rests in God’s arms. Inspire us by the example of Jackie and the saints and bring us at last with them into the eternal light of your presence. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Grant these prayers, merciful God, and all that we need, as we eagerly await the Easter feast; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen


God of our salvation, we offer you these gifts as signs of our time and labor. Receive the offering of our lives, and feed us with your grace, that, even in the midst of death, all creation might feast on your unending life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Holy God, our living Water and our merciful Guide,

together with rivers and seas, wells and springs

we bless and magnify you.

You led your people Israel through the desert,

and provided them water from the rock.

We praise you for Christ, our Rock, and our Water,

who joined us in our desert, pouring out

his life for the world.


In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:

Take and eat; this is my + body which is given

for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

And gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my + blood

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness

of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.

Remembering, therefore, his life, death, and resurrection, we await your salvation for this thirsty world. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Pour out your Spirit upon this holy food and on all who are gathered for this feast; wash away our sin, that we may be revived for our journey by the love of Christ. Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.

Through him all glory and honor are yours, Almighty Father, with the Holy

Spirit, in your holy Church, both now and forever. Amen.

Now in the words of our Lord, we are bold to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven;

hallowed be Thy Name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses .

as we forgive those

who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil;

For thine is the kingdom

and the power and the glory

forever and ever. Amen.




Distribution Song

What a Friend We Have in Jesus


God of our pilgrimage, in this meal you nourished us with the gifts of faith and hope. Sustain us on our journey that, refreshed by your grace, we may reach the promised land, the Easter Feast of victory in Jesus Christ. Amen.


SONG I Want Jesus to Walk with Me



+ With Great Joy … Tell Everyone What He Has Done! +



Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

               Thanks be to God!