SERMON: First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 Carol A. Black
Heads up! It’s Lent!
There’s a wilderness experience… out there…in the wings. Let’s not miss it!
Our Gospel lesson today tells us vividly about Christ’s temptation, a part of His “wilderness experience.” It seems to emerge as almost a prerequisite for the launching of his formal ministry.
Here is God’s Son Incarnate speaking to us….if we are listening.
Yes, Heads up! It is Lent! And God can speak to focus us in the memory of the “wilderness” of Jesus…..clearly a preparation time for his coming ministry.
And God, if we listen, can speak to us during our
whether it’s for our LENTEN PREPARATION TIME or
preparation for our varied ministries in his world. Let’s admit it; we can use all the help we can get to navigate whatever wilderness may be out there!
So just who plays the roles this Gospel story anyway? Of course, there’s Jesus! He’s fresh from the waters of a Jordan baptism. And why would he want to go on such a wilderness outing, even if it is the Spirit who is leading him off?
Wildernesses may frighten, may they not? A barren place? A desert? A maze-like place that lures yet holds no promise of pleasure!
What of them- these wildernesses that may bewilder and harbor temptation? Forty days and nights are a long, long time to be alone and not to eat. To fast and pray and say to the heavenly Father God of all that one is ready now to meet the test….to let the rest be up to Him!
This is a hungry Jesus now. The Tempter makes his leap to seize the moment.
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread!”
What’s so wrong with that?
A Theology of Personal Glory that would be. This calls for a Theology of the Cross. Yes, the cross. This time of preparation, no doubt spent in prayer and fasting is all to prepare for what’s to come! There is the launching of a formal ministry, but ultimately, it’s all about Jesus and the cross!
He is the bread….
and so instead
He knows to say to this first temptation:“ ‘One does not live by bread alone,
But by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ “
And now, Temptation # TWO….. or is it TEST # TWO?
We know the difference in our hearts without some fancy Greek to show us so with the two differing words…..we know!
God tests….to strengthen….. like the steel that must be tempered on a fiery day
To purify, to burn, to yield before it can be strong!
The Devil tempts to weaken. Big time difference there is here!
The Devil takes Him up…to Temple pinnacle so high, to
stand against the sky, then the Devil mocks again;
“ ‘If you are the Son of God,
Throw yourself down, for it is written
“ ‘He will command is angels concerning you;
And on their hands, they will bear you up,
So that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ “
And once again, that Scriptural reservoir of Christ spills forth:
“ ‘Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
But, of course, the Devil tries again. It’s off to the mountain top this time , a “very high one” , says Matthew.
We know the gist. This time it’s an offering by the Devil to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world that could be seen from there. All. All …..of the world! If only Jesus would bow down and worship him!!!!
Again, it’s the Scripture in which our Lord is steeped that bellows forth, I’d guess…..that gives him strength to counter Tempter’s power.
It’s God’s inspired Word so spoken here by Him who himself is the Word!
It’s the strategy that works, for in such boldness he declares: “Away with you Satan, for it is written, “’Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.’”
And Satan left him. He left him.
And Angels came and ministered to Jesus.
So maybe, just maybe, in all of this, we see how God may set the scope for us in our individual and corporate ministries.
Maybe this story can help us to prepare for service catching some hints, you know, get a sort of “heads up” on how to meet and beat the Devil???
And, in the process maybe we can pick up hints on how to follow, like Christ, both humbly and boldly in service, navigating the wildernesses, letting God shape us in the process.
Lent can be a kind of “spiritual boot camp” says one of my sources. What about our own versions of “forty days and forty nights?” We need disciplined training, time apart, prayer, time with God’s word to prepare within our hearts, and souls and minds…….And famished though we be,
we’ll learn to see the Tempter’s Snare
……… disguised as harmless BREAD or
SAFETY NET or
So where’s the cross in all of this?
That cross that saves me, tired, frazzled by my temptations
Calling out to me to overload,
Or hit the road when what I need is just to stay a while,
Or take into my body what I do not need
Or hardly ever heed, or care enough
For ones whose times are rough?
The bottom line?
By grace alone can testing be resolved or cross embraced.
By grace alone, sin’s face can see me humble, unafraid.
By grace alone God’s Word empowers to smooth a wilderness way.
The promises of our Baptism prepare us for our unique ministries and testing.
It’s out upon the street,
in people that we meet,
in illness and defeat,
in insecure retreat,
in pain and all of life that is not sweet that wilderness may play its role for us. To get down and get our hands dirty anyway, in whatever selfless service we can offer with our gifts is what it’s all about.
The Eucharist, the Meal, celebrated as commanded in remembrance of Him can sustain us …..
just as angels ministered to Him.
Remember, Jesus had that scriptural reservoir from which he drew to both arm and calm.
We can meet our wildernesses- those like my brain tumor detour or your individual trials of which I cannot know, my dear friends of St. Matthew’s or St. Paul’s.
We can let the Spirit lead us even here.
We can pray and say we’re ready for the Tempter.
Let us be so full of God’s good news that it is always there to feed our souls and keep us brave.
And then, perhaps as angels come, we too can pass it on--- this News, this Bread, the All that is of Christ in Lenten times……. and always.