|Day of Pentecost, Year C||May 19, 2013||The Day of Pentecost, Year C||Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17, (25-27))|
|Seventh Sunday after Easter, Year C||May 12, 2013||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C||Luke 24:44-53; John 17:20-26, Acts 16:16-34|
|Six Sunday after Easter, Year C||May 5, 2013||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 5:1-9|
|Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 28, 2013||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 21, 2013||Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
|Third Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 14, 2013||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21: 1-19|
|Second Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 7, 2013||Second Sunday after Easter, Year C||Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, Luke 24:13-35|
|Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013||March 31, 2013||Easter Day, Year C||Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24I Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12|
|Good Friday, March 29, 2013||March 29, 2013||Good Friday, Year C||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013||March 28, 2013||Maundy Thursday, Year C||Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1,10-17, I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2013||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2013||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Joshua 5:9-12, Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 3, 2013||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Exodus 3:1-15, Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||February 24, 2013||Philippians 3:17-4:1||Sermon, Second Sunday in Lent, Year C|
|➤First Sunday in Lent, Year C||February 17, 2013||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Luke 4:1-13|
First Sunday in Lent, Year C
Sermon Date:February 17, 2013
Scripture: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Luke 4:1-13
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday in Lent, Year C
Luke tells us in today’s gospel reading that Jesus has spent forty days alone in the wilderness. The wilderness provided no shelter, other than rocky outcrops in the dusty terrain. Not only did Jesus lack food, but he also lacked shelter and companionship.
When I lack basic needs in my life– especially love– then fear, mistrust and insecurity come creeping in. I find myself huddling up inside, clinging tightly to the little I feel that I still have, to become a tight bundle of nerves that I can’t even begin to unravel.
And I feel unloved, alone, and without shelter.
Temptation in these times of need looks like a beautiful and fulfilling alternative to the emptiness I have inside.
I’ve had times in my life when I’ve run toward that something or someone to fulfill what is lacking in my life, only to find out when I get there that the something or someone that I thought could provide what I needed turns out to be nothing but a shimmering mirage that disintegrates when I try to hold it, and that I’m in an even worse, more lonely place than I was before I chased that mirage.
The image of Jesus, alone in the wilderness, is a good image to dwell on in these times of need. He, too, must have felt some twinges of mistrust, insecurity and lack of love as he spent forty days in solitude, without food or shelter.
But in spite of what appears to be the case, Jesus is not alone at all. We were told at the beginning of the reading that Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, and that he was full of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is with Jesus, and Jesus is full of trust in God, secure and fearless in God’s love.
And Jesus is not without shelter.
During the cold nights in the wilderness, as Jesus huddled into some rocky outcrop, trying to stay warm, he may have quoted the words of today’s psalm to himself—the same psalm he quotes to respond to the devil during the devil’s temptations.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, abides under the shadow of the almighty. He shall say to the Lord, “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, there shall no evil happen to you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.”
Jesus dwells within God, and God is his mighty fortress that protects Jesus from the assaults of the devil.
In reflecting on the wilderness times in my life, I’m ashamed to admit that my first response to these times of horrible loneliness has been to try to get out of the wilderness using my own power, grasping at what seem to be lovely solutions, until I learn the hard way that my solutions only turnout to be greater problems, and that I am still, in the end, in the wilderness, still without what I need.
Looking back on these wilderness times, I wish I had reflected on Jesus in the wilderness. I wish I had quoted Psalm 91 to myself. I wish I had stopped to think that I, too, could dwell in the shelter of the Most High, that God would be my mighty fortress. I would have saved myself a lot of pain, turmoil and unhappiness.
For me, the big issue raised by today’s lessons is figure out how to remember and to live into the fact that God longs to be my shelter, to give me all that I need, even in and especially in the worst times in my life. How can I remember that God wants to be my shelter when I’m felling unloved or facing illness, or preparing to die? How can I remember that God longs to dwell in me when the little annoyances in life are tempting me to be the wicked shrew that I know I can be?
The portrait of Jesus on the bulletin cover today is very evocative—this man knows that he is in the wilderness.
As I reflect on that portrait of Jesus and on the question of how to remember that God wants to be my shelter, several thoughts come to mind.
First—admit it when I’m in the wilderness. It’s easy to avoid the pain of being in the wilderness by surrounding ourselves with material possessions or even something like constant work—anything to keep the mind away from the fact that deep down inside, I’m miserable.
When I was in a wilderness that lasted for many years, my spiritual director said to me, “What are you running from? “ Even then, I couldn’t admit that I was in a wilderness place in my life—alone, feeling unloved and insecure.
We can also find that we’re in the wilderness in a split second. A prisoner shared the story of going back to jail and when he was taken to his cell, one of the men in the cell was a person who had nearly killed the prisoner in a fight out on the street. Instantly, this prisoner found himself in a wilderness of hate and a deep need for revenge.
Ultimately, the big problem when we find ourselves in a wilderness time is that our relationships with God have gotten out of whack—we’re not dwelling in God.
What to do?
Another picture of Jesus comes to mind. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. Jesus is standing at a door, knocking. If you look at the picture long enough you’ll notice that the door has no doorknob—it cannot be opened from the inside.
The point is that only I can unlock the door of my heart and welcome Jesus in. The only way, ultimately, to stay out of the wilderness or to be able to escape it when we suddenly find ourselves there like the prisoner did, is to create a place for God to be in our lives.
As I said on Ash Wednesday, blessing God is the foundation for all we do in our lives if we want to draw closer to God, if we want to trust God more.
When we bless God, we remind ourselves that God is glorious and holy, the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, and this high and lofty God is the same God who came to live among us, to suffer and to die as one of us, to absorb our sins, so that we might be free, the God who is our refuge and stronghold, who is with us in our troubles.
The more we bless God and give thanks for all that God has provided, even in the bad times in our lives, then our trust in God grows—blessing leads to trusting which leads to more blessing, and this blessing and trusting creates an eternal circle—making a space in our lives for God to come in and dwell in us, which is what God longs to do.
This eternal circular space where God comes to dwell in us is also the space we make visible each Sunday when we gather in a circle around the altar—as Rite I so aptly states—we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.”
So next time I find myself in the wilderness I plan to do four things—first, to admit it—I’m in the wilderness; second, to spend time in prayer, blessing God, thanking God, remembering all of the reasons I have to trust in God; third, intentionally inviting God in; and fourth, being diligent in worship, participating in this eternal circle that is the Church.
I am going to do these things in the hope that I will truly know that God is my dwelling place, my defender, my refuge, and my strength, an ever present help in time of trouble, that God is my mighty fortress that even Satan cannot tear down.