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CommUnity News
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FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
February 7, 2021
Click here to join our zoom worship service at 10 AM
Jesus shows his power by healing Peter’s mother-in-law, but he also chooses to have his power hidden from others. This year listening to Mark’s gospel, we often will hear about Jesus as hidden in his weakness and crucifixion, but made known as the risen Christ to believers both then and now. The first reading from Isaiah 40 is one of several in the Old Testament that likens the faithful to soaring eagles.
Please remember if you are leading the reading or intercessions they aren't being sent out in advance any longer, but they are available below (and also for everyone if you are unable to make it to worship).
Today's readings AND intercessions can be found here.
The Synod Study Conference was virtual this year. Thanks to Don and Elaine for sharing their mountain pictures with me this week - a little view of Canmore from home!
February 2021 Message for Congregations and Lay and Rostered Leaders from Bishop Larry Kochendorfer

Dear Beloved of God –

The Gospel according to Mark does not begin with angels, a prophetic dream, or a miraculous birth. Instead, the gospel writer hurls us, ready or not, into a lonely and barren wilderness – a desert – where everything either bites or burns or stings.

As Jesus emerges from the baptismal water, the heavens are ripped open, the Spirit descends like a dove and the voice of God proclaims, “You are my Son, the Beloved, in you I am well pleased.” And immediately, Jesus was driven out – hurled out – into the desert to be tormented by wild beasts and tempted by evil. (Mark 1:1-12)

It’s not exactly what you would expect, is it? God was pleased, even well pleased with him. And yet, he was hurled from affirmation and love into a desert-like wilderness of sand and heat and wild beasts and temptation.

Experts say deserts are formed under unique climactic conditions. Maps show that they cover about 25% of the earth’s surface. Globes indicate that they are found only between specific latitudes. That is what the experts say. But we know the truth about the wilderness, don’t we?

The truth is that sometimes – no matter where we live or how far we travel – the wilderness is all we can see. Despite weather reports or average rainfall charts, we find ourselves in the wilderness: blinded, sunburned, dying of thirst.

This desert can feel so familiar that we name every shriveled plant, every venomous snake, every blistering ray, every irritating grain of sand. Sometimes, the wilderness feels a lot like home, a lot like now, and what we’ve experienced this past year.

The single mom, stretched so thin that she almost disappears, knows the desert of exhaustion and guilt. The rejected child, watching silently outside the playground, knows the desert called loneliness. The ill, newly aware of test results and consultations, know the desert of fear and uncertainty. The grieving, now alone, know the desert of unwanted solitude. Parishioners, reeling from scandal, know the desert of a trust betrayed.

The truth is, deserts are not found only in Africa, or in Nevada, or in the Sinai Peninsula. Some of the harshest wildernesses are not marked on any map. They lie just around the corner, or in your living room, in the very heart of your life.

But there is something more about the wilderness – something more that Mark wants us to hear: Jesus has been there first. Here is the Good News of Mark’s opening scenes. No
wilderness is so remote, barren, inhospitable, or filled with danger that Jesus has not walked there first.

And Jesus’ presence here reminds us something else: despite all appearances to the contrary, the
wilderness is filled with life. A handful soil swirling in the hot wind can be filled with hundreds of seeds, waiting for a chance to bloom. That withered plant still has living roots deep underground. That landscape, empty in the harsh light of day, comes to life in the moonlight with reptiles and insects.

Even at its most desolate, the wilderness is ready to bloom at the first sign of life-giving water. Maybe that is why the scriptures speak of the wilderness as a place for discovery and transformation.
And there is more: the angels waited on him. Jesus is not alone. He is cared for in the wilderness, receiving sustenance and nourishment.

And this is our experience too – for in the wilderness of our 40-day Lenten journey, and over this past year – we have also been given sustenance: the Word, the Eucharist, community, family, opportunities for service and action.

This Lent finds many of us traveling through the wilderness, wrestling with demons and tempted by evil. We may feel like we have been thrown out into the wilderness. Some people might look upon this journey and despair.

But we know the truth about the wilderness, don’t we?

In Christ Jesus –
Shalom,
+Bishop Larry Kochendorfer
“The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Copyright © 2021 Unity Lutheran Church, All rights reserved.


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