The First Sunday in Lent; Year C (2/21/2010)

Lent -- Through Death to Life

Lessons: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 (11) Romans 10:8b-13 St. Luke 4:1-13

Prayer of the Day O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.  Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ”  5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”  9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”  12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

St. Luke 4:1-13 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent: forty days (not including Sundays) of preparing hearts and minds for the arrival of the Easter season. As the last of the carnival attendees (and, this year, Superbowl fans) are winding things down in New Orleans, the church is entering into this season of introspection, examination, evaluation, and preparation. It is an unusual thing that the church does this time each year. In this culture, which is increasingly built on thrills & entertainment, and focused on youth & health, time spent discerning the brokenness and pain of life is a bit out of the norm. Yet that is precisely what Lent offers to us: the opportunity to discover the ways in which our lives show signs of our humanness and our frailty, and to invite the transforming power of the Gospel to heal our wounds and renew our living.

Some make the claim that the season of Lent is an artifact of a no longer meaningful past. They claim that lent is forty days of drudgery, designed to do little more than make us feel badly about ourselves. They say: “It is a dour time — a depressing time — and should be done away with for the good of the church.” But this sadly misunderstands Lent. To be sure, Lent can be hard work. It is not easy to look our weaknesses and our failures square in the eye. But ultimately, as challenging as that kind of work can be, it can also be a life-giving gift. Because only by owning our brokenness and our frailty can we receive the gifts of forgiveness and renewal that God offers us. Only by admitting our need for the Savior can we experience the true joy that comes from knowing what God has done on our behalf. Lent is designed to be the winter of our soul that leads into the springtime of God’s grace.

For centuries, the church has invited us into the disciplines of Lent. A time of more regular prayer and devotion and meditation: studying the Scriptures and listening to God at home or at the office. A time of charity and benevolence: discerning the situations where we can make a difference, and doing so. A time of expanded participation in worship: gathering as a community during the middle of each week, to encourage one another in the journey. (At Saint Peter you can do that every Wednesday at 7:00 pm.) A time of fasting, abstaining from food or other pleasures: drawing us nearer to our hunger for God.

Far from being drudgery, Lent can be a life-giving season. A season that invites us into the presence of God, and allows that presence to shape us and mold us. I hope you will think about how you can participate in this year’s Lent in a way that is life changing for you. And as you experience both your own need, and God’s great desire to meet it, you’ll come to understand why Lent is one of the great treasures of the church.

A good Lent to you all. May God touch you profoundly with the message of our faith during these next forty days.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does Jesus’ model teach us about fighting temptation?
  2. What was his greatest resource in resisting the efforts of the devil?
  3. What do you suppose he would ask us to do, to prepare ourselves to resist temptation?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has Lent been a resource for spiritual growth in my life?
  2. What special disciplines will I add to my daily routine to help me more deeply enter into the Lenten journey towards Easter?
  3. How do I imagine God changing me and shaping me into a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ?