John Wertz–Blacksburg, VA

Warm-up Question

Have you ever lost a book, or your phone or one of your favorite possession?  What did you lose?  How did losing the item make you feel?

Three Days in the Wilderness

On a Wednesday morning in late January, Julie Abrahamsen, a 20 year old Norwegian native, set out for a day of snowboarding in mountains of British Columbia.  Intent upon exploring some of the wilderness areas around her resort, Ms. Abrahamsen decided to leave the marked trails and ski out of bounds.  Initially, Ms. Abrahamsen connected with a group of backpackers, but she quickly became separated from that group and found herself lost and alone in the wilderness.


Since Ms. Abrahamsen had only intended to be gone for a short time, she wasn’t carrying an emergency beacon, she didn’t have any extra dry clothing and she only had a small packet of noodles to eat.  While it would have been easy for Ms. Abrahamsen to panic, she stayed calm and made it her mission to get out alive.  During the day, she hiked through the deep snow looking for signs of civilization.  At night, she found cover under rock overhangs and used fir branches for ground cover.  On her third day in the wilderness, Ms. Abrahamsen tried unsuccessfully to hike through a creek which left her soaking wet.

Meanwhile, Ms. Abrahamsen’s father became concerned when she didn’t call him on Wednesday night.  He reached out to people in the area where she was staying.  By Thursday, local officials and her housemates began to search for her.  After two days of unsuccessful searching, people began to worry that they might not find her alive.

Thankfully, after 72 hours alone in the cold Canadian mountains, Ms. Abrahamsen’s tracks were spotted by a rescue helicopter and she was plucked from the wilderness and returned to safety.

Discussion Questions

  • Whhat do you think was the key to Ms. Abrahamsen’s survival in the wilderness?  Do you think she would have made it home without the help of the rescuers?
  • What do you think Ms. Abrahamsen learned from her experience?  What can we learn from her experience that could help us in the event that we ever get lost?
  • What do you think it felt like to be one of the searchers when she was still missing after two days?  How would you feel if you had been the one to spot her tracks and help bring her home?

First Sunday in Lent

Genesis 9:8-17

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

Can you imagine spending 40 days in the wilderness?  Can you imagine spending 40 days with the wild animals away from the comforts of home?  Can you imagine spending 40 days being tired, hungry and uncomfortable plus facing temptation by Satan?  The 40 days in the wilderness following Jesus’ baptism, couldn’t have been much fun.  It would have been easy for Jesus to get discouraged, scared, or feel run down by the experience.  With the help of God, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and with the assistance of the angels, however, Jesus not only survives his forty days in the wilderness, but he emerges from the wilderness immediately begins to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to the world.

Hopefully, you won’t every be physically lost in the wilderness, but chances are that someday, you will face a wilderness time in your life – a time when you feel alone, uncomfortable or unsure about what to do next.  The wilderness you face might come from a problem with a family member or friend.  It might come from an issue at school or at work.  Your wilderness time might be the result of a poor decision or an illness. Wilderness moments can pop up in an instant and, in some cases, it can feel like you will never find your way out.  Thankfully, as Jesus’ experience reminds us, with God’s help, it is possible make it through the wilderness.

When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find hope in the good news that Jesus has gone to the wilderness before us and overcome the temptation and confusion that wilderness can bring. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find comfort in the knowledge that God will be with us, just as God, through the angels, was with Jesus.   When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find encouragement in the knowledge that when Jesus left the wilderness, he was more fully prepared for the life and ministry that was before him.  Just like Jesus, when we face and overcome difficult times, we can emerge stronger, more confident and more connected to God.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness following his baptism instead of sending Jesus to immediately begin preaching and teaching?
  • What is one lesson you have learned from going through a difficult time?
  • While Jesus is in the wilderness, the Gospel of Mark says that the angels waited on Jesus.  Who helps and supports you when you face difficult times?

Activity Suggestions

  • Work together to make a list of resources that God has given you to help you when you face wilderness times.  Be specific.  Include resources like the names of individuals who can help, cite specific passages from the Bible that offer hope and list local community agencies that can help in times of crisis.
  • Jesus emerged from the wilderness and began proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  Create a series of tweets, Facebook posts or images for Instagram that you or your congregation could use to proclaim the kingdom of God to the world.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, our good shepherd, you are present with us in our times of need.  Help us to know that nothing will ever be able to separate us from your love. Guide us through the wilderness times in our lives and help us to proclaim your Word to a hurting world.  In your name we pray.  Amen.