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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Feb. 21, 2021 | First Sunday in Lent

    Again and Again, God Meets Us
    Mark 1:9–15

     T ODAY IS the first Sunday in Lent. Lent is a season when we think about what we can do to be better people and follow Jesus.

    Sometimes we even give something up for these six weeks. Perhaps we will see they really are not important and give them up longer. Sometimes we start doing something new during Lent that will help us to follow Jesus more closely.

    Maybe we will find that something valuable enough to continue after Lent has ended.

    Starting something new can be scary or hard, but we don’t do it alone. When we think about what we can do to be better people and follow Jesus, God is with us!

    † † †

    “GOD MEETS YOU where you are.” We hear that expression over and over again. We speak those words again and again. Those are supportive words. Those are comforting words. Those are challenging words.

    In a nutshell, “God meets you where you are” means two things.

    ■ First, God was there with Jesus from the beginning. God was there when Jesus was baptized. God was there when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted. God was there when Jesus started his ministry proclaiming the good news that God’s kingdom is near. God is with us too, no matter where we are in our lives.

    That’s good news.

    God doesn’t expect us to be perfect before we can approach God or before God approaches us. Your spiritual house doesn’t have to be perfectly in order for God to enter. God doesn’t wait for us to be perfect and get it all right, but meets us right where we are. In our stumbling and bumbling.

    Jesus meets the woman at the well, ostracized and outcast. Jesus meets Zacchaeus right where he is. Greedy, hated, working for an oppressive government. After denying Jesus, Peter is filled with guilt and doubt and self-loathing. The risen Jesus meets the forlorn Peter on the edge of the sea.

    It is good news that Jesus meets us where we are in all our messiness.

    Jesus meets us in our need now too. Whether we are doing the dishes, caring for kids, working from home, or wondering how we’ll make ends meet. He sees our pain and our struggles and our weaknesses. Jesus sees it all and stands beside us. He calls us by name and comforts us. You don’t have to go to great lengths to meet with Jesus, because He’s already there with you.

    ■ Second, God meets you in ways that you can understand and appreciate. For some of us it is music that makes us aware of God’s presence. For others we might meet God by being inspired by a book we’re reading.

    I debated using the devotional books related to our worship theme of “Again and Again.” I hesitated because of the drawings in the booklet. Look at this print and see yourself and put yourself in it. Or the poetry. I don’t really get into that. That’s not a way that Jesus meets me.

    But what I had to affirm is for some of you, the visuals and the poetry are exactly what you need to be aware of God’s presence. I’ve committed during Lent to intentionally reflect on those creative ways of experiencing God. Who knows, it might possibly open for me a new avenue to meet God. God meets you as you are, where you are, and in ways that you can understand.

    It may sound obvious. But “God meets you where you are” can also be threatening. Because for some people that phrase implies: If God meets us where we are, is there any need for change? Doesn’t it mean anything goes?

    † † †

    GOD LOVES YOU as and where you are. God meets you where you are, but God doesn’t want you to stay there. He wants you to go further.

    The woman at the well meets Jesus, then goes as proclaims his authority and power. Jesus met Zacchaeus where he was but in meeting Jesus Zacchaeus repented and gave up his greed. Jesus met Peter in his guilt and shame. Peter pledged his love to Jesus.

    So there is always a tension. God comes to us where we are. Then God invites us to a new place. There is a healthy spiritual tension between who we are now (the person whom God created) and whom God calls us to be (the person God intends for us to become).

    † † †

    WE BELIEVE IN A GOD who is everywhere and right here, bigger than the sky and in the smallest details, all at once and in every moment. We believe that God meets us where we are:

    ■ in heartbreak and high hopes
    ■ around crowded tables and in quiet homes
    ■ in joy and in suffering
    ■ in loneliness and in connection
    ■ in sanctuaries and in living rooms
    ■ in marches and in waiting rooms.

    † † †

    WE BELIEVE THAT NOTHING we do or leave undone can distance us from God’s love.

    God is forever drawing us close and pulling us in. Again and again, God meets us where we are and invites us into wholeness.

    Thanks be to God for a love like that.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «God doesn’t wait for us to be perfect and get it all right, but meets us right where we are. In our stumbling and bumbling.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    Mark 1:9–15
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    The baptism and testing of Jesus
    9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

    12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

    Jesus announces the good news
    14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.



    a.  Mark 1:13  The Greek for tempted can also mean tested.

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    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367


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