READING: Mark 1:9-12
SERMON : "In The Wilderness"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Today's Sermon is designed also for Scouting Sunday - and
requires a prop - a "Survival Knife" - with compass on top
of the hollow handle (screw top lid), and fishing line and
hook, and matches inside. Such knifes are fairly
inexpensive and can be found at Scouting Supplies Stores
and in many sporting stores.
Today's scripture reading from the Gospel According to Mark tells
the story of how Jesus was driven by the Holy Spirit of God into
the wilderness - where we are told Jesus was with the wild beasts
- and how he was tempted there - and the angels waited on him.
And I got to thinking about this -
and about the lessons that Scouting teach
and I thought I would talk briefly today about surviving in the
All of us - at one time or another end up in the wilderness -
We all go through difficult times - times in which our survival
skills are tested; times in which we either prove ourselves able
to make it - or we do not.
The wilderness experience is an important experience in our lives
- whether it is the wilderness of the Spirit - to which God
drives us all -
- or the wilderness of lakes and forests, of deserts and of
streams - to which Lord Baden Powell recommended all young
people be exposed.
Learning to get by in the wilderness forges our character
It teaches us lessons that can be applied in every area of our
Today I brought along a wilderness tool which I would like to
show to you. It is compact - and with it - and a few other small
items one can survive and prosper.
It is a special kind of knife.
What do you first notice about the knife .......
The first thing I notice is that is has on its handle a compass.
None of us can long survive in the wilderness if we do not
know where we are and where we are going.
Anyone who has been out in the woods realizes just how easy
it is to end up going around in circles - how easy it is in
fact to get lost.
It is very important to have some way of finding out where
you are - and the best tool is a compass - because it always
tells you which way is which - be it north, south, east or
When it is dark and confusing, when you can't see ahead or
find any familiar landmarks, the compass will still guide
When others try to tell you that you should turn to the left
or to the right, or even completely around, you can tell
whether or not they are correct - by checking your compass.
The compass is a great tool - one that has saved the lives of
thousands and thousands of sailors and guided home to safety
millions of other travellers, sojourners, and sportsmen.
In the spiritual wilderness to which God leads us all - we too
have a compass, a means of knowing what direction in which we
should walk. Like the compass on the knife - it can save our
lives when we use it . That compass is the Word of God.
Jesus used that word while he was in the wilderness - with it
he resisted temptation - he recalled what was right - and
refused the lures of the devil - who wanted him to turn aside
from his path.
The Second thing about this knife that is most interesting - what
makes it a useful survival tool in the wilderness is not so
apparent at the beginning. You have to get inside the knife to
discover what it is! Here - I'll show you.... In it we find
some wire and matches. Inside also you often find fishing line
What is so important about these items???
Yes - by them you can keep warm. With them you can feed
yourself - for in the wilderness there is always something to
be found to eat - if you look hard enough. Deserts teem with
life - but you have to watch carefully for it - and forests
have streams and ponds and all manner of edible things.
If you have the tools - you can cut up wood - you can catch
fish - you can build fires - and survive in the most awful
kinds of places.
Every Scout is taught how to pack for a trip into the
wilderness. Because they are going out into an area without
houses and roads they have to pack items that are easy to
carry and extremely useful. Nintendo games and Televisions
do absolutely no good out there. You can't carry with you
pizza or bags of chips - because they take up too much room -
and they don't last long enough. Instead you carry things
like these and live off the land - you live off what God
provides. You do this because you practice these things
while you are still safe at home - you prepare yourself ahead
of time .
Jesus was prepared for the wilderness that God sent him into. He
had his survival kit of useful tools - ones that were light and
able to help him - able to last. His primary tool was prayer.
Prayer is something that you find inside yourself. It is hidden
deep in your heart. To be useful you must take it out of your
heart and use it.
With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was
able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him
- to help him in the wilderness. With it Jesus was able to
resist giving in to the Devil.
When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important
to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in
the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are
good to eat and which are poisonous.
Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was
driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the
tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself. He
knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the
things that God wanted him to find.
Finally - the knife with all its tools inside it, with its
compass and its blade, perform a very important function in
surviving in the wilderness - but it is a function that you
cannot see or touch. Can anyone guess what it is?
The knife and all its tools helps to give the person in the
One of the most dangerous things a Scout or anyone else in
the wilderness can encounter is fear. If you don't feel
prepared to survive - if you think you are lost and don't
have any way of finding out which way to go, if you believe
that you are going to starve or freeze to death - you get
scared - and that fear can kill you faster than anything
else. You need confidence to survive when the going gets
Jesus - had the Word of God - and He had prayer as his tools for
surviving in the wilderness. He had used these tools before - in
fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with
him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness. So
Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence -
or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed
him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as
the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has
come near. Repent and believe in the good news."
My friends - the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has
As we begin this season of Lent - I ask you all - ARE YOU
PREPARED? Do you have your survival knife - all sharpened up?
Are your comfortable with the tools that God has given you?
Do you know how to use them? Are you practised?
God does send each of us, as he sent Jesus - into the wilderness.
There our character is tested and purified. There we discover if
we are able to survive - or if our claim to faith is bogus.
God is forgiving. God will have mercy upon us if we indeed
repent -and believe. That is why Jesus came.
But the forgiveness that God grants is not a forgiveness that
will protect us if we mock Him,
it will not wash us clean if we think that we can say I
believe and then live like those in the world do - seeking
pleasure - and profit and privilege, while avoiding our
duties towards Him and towards our brothers and sisters
God's forgiveness demands of us the willingness to sacrifice for
his name s sake - it demands that we do justice, and love
kindness and walk humbly with him.
So as we celebrate this the First Sunday in Lent in I call you to
take very seriously the fact that we will all have wilderness
experiences in our life - and that we need to be ready for them.
I also call you as did Jesus to repent - and to believe in the
good news - God is near - and God wants to help us and through us
- God wants to help all the world. Amen.
Let us join together now in prayer - and in the words of King
David ask God's forgiveness for our sins - and in the words of
Jesus - praise our God an ask His help for this day.
Let us Pray...
LENTEN PRAYER OF CONFESSION (based on Psalm 51)
L: Have mercy upon us, O God, according to your loving
kindness. In your great compassion blot out our
P: Wash me through and through from my wickedness and
cleanse me from my sins, for I know my
transgressions, and my sins are ever before me.
L: Against you only have we sinned and done what is evil
in your sight. So you are justified when you speak
and upright in all your judgements.
P: Purge me from my sins, and I shall be pure. Wash me,
and I shall be clean indeed.
L: Hide your face from our sins and blot out all our
iniquities. Create in us a clean heart and renew in
us a right spirit, O Lord.
............... (silent prayer) ..............
L: Give to me the joy of your saving help again, and
sustain me with your bountiful spirit.
P: Open our lips, O God, and our mouths shall declare
L: We ask these things through the grace of Jesus Christ,
who taught us to come before you saying...
P: Our Father, who art in heaven....
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, - Spirit Networks, 1997 - 2006
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.