Lent 1

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A August 27, 2017 Proper 16, Year A 2017 Isaiah 51:1-6, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A August 13, 2017 Proper 14, Year A, 2017 I Kings 19:9-18, Psalm 85:8-13, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A July 9, 2017 Proper 9, 2017 Year A Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:25-30
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A July 2, 2017 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8 Romans 6:12-23; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A June 18, 2017 Second Sunday after Pentecost Exodus 9:2-8a; Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:23
Trinity Sunday, First Sunday after Pentecost , Year A June 11, 2017 Trinity Sunday, Year A Genesis 1:1-2, 2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
Day of Pentecost, Year A June 4, 2017 The Day of Pentecost, Year A Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 7:37-39
Easter 7, Year A May 28, 2017 Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A John 17:1-11; 1 Peter 4;12-14; 5:6-11; Acts 1:6-14
Easter 6, Year A May 21, 2017 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21
Easter 5, Year A May 14, 2017 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A John 14:1-14
Easter 2, Year A April 23, 2017 Easter 2, Year A Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday, Year A April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday, Year A Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday, Year A April 14, 2017 Good Friday, Year A John 18:11, 9:28-30
Maundy Thursday, Year A April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday, Year A John 13:1-7, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, Year A April 9, 2017 Palm Sunday, Year A Matthew 26:36-46

 

Lent 1

Sermon Date:March 5, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday in Lent, Year A


“"Christ in the Wilderness" – Ivan Kramskoi, (1872)

PDF version


Lent is the season that the church gives us to help us shape our lives based on the fact that we are God’s beloved children. 

The scriptures appointed for today immediately raise the following question. 

How do we Christians make decisions and faithful choices?

Today’s gospel reading has some helpful information about what we can do to make faithful, life giving decisions.

Jesus has just been baptized.  The heavens are opened to him, and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.   And a voice from heaven said, “This my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

“Then,” the gospel tells us, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” 

So here’s the first thing.  Jesus goes out into the wilderness knowing who he is– that he is the Beloved Son of God!

Knowing that we, too, are beloved children of God gives us the context, as Bishop Ted likes to say over and over, “of knowing who we are and Whose we are” when we must make decisions.

We are marked as God’s own beloved children at our baptisms. 

The Book of Common Prayer provides a great list in the baptismal service of how to make decisions based on our identities as God’s beloved children.

You can find this list on page 302 in The Book of Common Prayer.

Decision making as God’s beloved children means that we will try our best to:

Renounce Satan.

Renounce the evil powers of the world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

Renounce sinful desires that draw you from the love of God.

Turn to Jesus Christ.

Put your whole trust in his grace and love.

Promise to follow and obey him as your Lord. 

Now—back to the gospel–  When Jesus gets to the wilderness, he fasts for forty days and forty nights, meaning that he fasted for a long time.

By fasting, he is giving his complete and undivided attention to God.

The fact that Jesus gave his complete and undivided attention to God for a this length of time in the barren surroundings of the wilderness  can encourage us to spend time each day in the sort of prayer that is totally devoted to being with God, no matter what our circumstances are.  In the gospel,  Jesus had just spent a prolonged amount of time fasting and prayerfully being in God’s presence.  Then, when the devil showed up, Jesus had sharp clarity and lucidness and could see all the implications of the choices that the devil was asking him to make.  Jesus could see beneath the surface of the temptations to the true meanings of the choices that the devil laid out for him because he had spent undistracted time in prayer.    Faithful, daily prayer also gives us clarity that we might otherwise lack when we make decisions. 

Another interesting thing about this story is that when Jesus is famished, that’s when the tempter shows up.

This part of the story reminds us that when we are in need, or trouble, or a time of transition, the devil takes advantage of these times because we are particularly vulnerable.  These times in our lives, when our faith is challenged, are times to be on guard against the devil. 

When the devil tempts Jesus, Jesus has an answer from scripture each time to use in his answer to the devil.

Because he knew his scripture, Jesus had the whole history of his people the Israelites, and their relationship with God to draw on when he had to answer to the devil himself.  And this knowledge of scripture helped him tremendously and gave him the words he needed from scripture to respond to Satan.

Knowing scripture is of infinite importance to us when we are making decisions and choices.  Scripture tells us who God is, and who we are in relationship to God.  Throughout scripture, we get the stories of those who were faithful regarding their choices and decision making and those who weren’t and what happened to them all based on the choices they made.    The overall message of the Bible is that God is a God of merciful judgment, and that God wants and desires a relationship with us, that when we’re honest with ourselves and with God, as today’s Psalm puts it, we can acknowledge our sins and be up front about our guilt, and confess that we really aren’t perfect and that we do make mistakes, with the confidence that God will freely forgive us.  God’s grace abounds.  This knowledge gives us the desire to make the best possible decisions based on the information we have at the time, knowing that even if we end up making a wrong decision, God’s grace in our lives means that “mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.”

In their commentary on Matthew,  Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri explain what’s involved in the three temptations  that the devil throws at Jesus. 

In the first temptation, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  This temptation is about more than eating to satisfy the intense hunger that Jesus must have been feeling after the long period of fasting.  This temptation is about Jesus “using his divine might for strictly personal benefit….to turn him away from his mission of serving others by a life of heroic sacrifice and instead to serve himself.”

This temptation reminds us when we have choices or decisions to make to ask ourselves how the decision will affect those around us. Is the decision to take care of a need or desire I have for my own immediate satisfaction going to have negative implications for others?

In the second temptation, Jesus has to decide whether or not to challenge the trustworthiness of God when he’s tempted by the devil to take Psalm 91 literally and manipulate God into saving him even if he does something as foolhardy as jumping from the pinnacle of the temple.

And so we can ask ourselves about whether or not the choice or  the decision that we are going to make is  going to put God to the test.  Is my choice ultimately about manipulating God and putting God to the test versus having faith in God? 

And last, Jesus must decide whether to choose the devil over God to gain earthly power and to inaugurate his messianic reign on earth.  Here, Jesus must decide if the end result of his having all the kingdoms of the world will be justified by the means with which he can easily have it all right now—by giving his allegiance to Satan. 

In any choice we make, one question that we should always ask is whether or not the end result of what we decide justifies the means by which we get there.    This is a complex and ethically tricky question.  Often, we don’t bother to ask it.  But this question is of crucial importance when we are trying to make choices based on our faith and trust in God.  The easiest and quickest choice may not be the best choice.  In fact, it could be the worst choice! 

Jesus decided against all three of these temptations and sent the devil away.

“And then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.”

The ending of this story reminds us that God will take care of us.  Jesus sent Satan away and the angels came and waited on him.  Once we set the temptations in our lives aside by not giving in to them, suddenly we become aware of all the ways in which God is already with us, and not only that, but is waiting on us, caring for us, and blessing us.    

So here’s my list for decision making based on today’s gospel.  You can take the list home with you—I included it in the bulletin as a list with the title—Christian Decision Making. 

Remember who you are:

A beloved child of God who makes every effort to spend uninterrupted time with God through prayer each day, and who is diligent about studying scripture and learning from it the ways God would have us to go.

When a decision must be made, remember that at our baptisms, we make the following promises, and that as Christians, we will try to keep these promises: 

Renounce Satan.

Renounce the evil powers of the world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

Renounce sinful desires that draw you from the love of God, and whenever you fall into sin, repent. 

Turn to Jesus Christ.

Put your whole trust in his grace and love.

Promise to follow and obey him as your Lord. 

Ask these questions about the decision or choice that must be made:

Is the decision to take care of a need or desire I have for my own satisfaction going to have negative implications for others?

Is the choice I am about to make putting God to the test or manipulating God?  How does my faith in God play into the choice I am getting ready to make?

Does the end justify the means, based on all of the above?

Once the decision is made: 

Trust that God is already with you, waiting on you, caring for you and blessing you. 

Amen.

Resources: 

The Book of Common Prayer

Mitch, Curtis, and Edward Sri.  The Gospel of Matthew.  Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2010. 

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