Lent 1, March 10, 2019

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Title:Lent 1, March 10, 2019

 Lent 1, March 10, 2019 (full size gallery)

Lent 1 was cloudy with an earlier rain spell. We had 30 people but with much of the choir absent. The Rev. Ron Okrasinski helped Catherine with much of the service since she is still feeling the effects of the flu.

We began our series on First Corinthians at 10am Christian Ed which will lead to a role play. Today it was a video on the importance of Corinth in Paul’s time. Pictures of the ancient town provided a wonderful introduction with a knowledgeable tour guide.

The sermon provided 3 parts of a “disciple’s study guide” for Lent.

“So disciples, in this season of Lent, pray and listen.

“You will hear the Spirit’s invitation to enter the wilderness. Go, because it is in the wilderness that God will shape you into the disciple that God means for you to be.

“Open your Bibles. Read slowly, drink deeply and learn about God’s love for you spelled out from even before the beginning of creation.
And most important of all, be intentional about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Loving God alone and completely frees us to love all people and all things as God would have us do.

Today’s readings offer strength and hope in the face of temptation and evil. Deuteronomy recalls God’s great deliverance and encourages Israel to depend solely on God. Paul declares that salvation comes to those who call on Jesus as Lord. In today’s gospel, Jesus trusts solely in God and thus defeats the temptations presented by the devil.

The Old Testament from Deuteronomy 26:1-11 describes the liturgy for the offering of the Israelites’ first fruits. The reading occurs in the context of Moses’ address to the people before they enter the promised land. They are to recall regularly and ritually their dependence upon God for the land and for its harvest.

Verses 5-10 have been described as a narrative creed expressing the Israelites’ understanding of God’s action in their history. Remembering such a creed is not just reminiscing, but makes it an effectual part of their lives (just as the exodus is relived in the Passover ritual). The nomadic past of the Israelites is incorporated into their agricultural present and future. Their present identity is inseparable from their experiences of God’s presence, which have shaped them. The focus is on God’s deliverance of and provision for the people throughout history.

Priests take first fruit from the land “that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us” “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.”

In the Epistle from Romans 10:8b-13, Paul compares the right relationship to God (“righteousness”) that comes through a strict adherence to the Mosaic law to that which comes by faith. In contrast to the futile adherence to this law, the righteousness that comes by faith is entirely attainable. It requires no superhuman effort such as ascending into heaven or descending into the abyss. Such feats have already been accomplished by God in Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection.

People need to accept the “word of faith” (v. 8) proclaimed by the apostle and then express their belief both through inner conviction and outer profession. These signs of faith are rooted in the work of God, affirming that Jesus is divine and that Jesus now lives.

The first of these professions of faith, “Jesus is Lord,” was particularly central for the early Church in areas where the people believed in “many gods and many lords” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). It is the earliest and simplest creed of the Church.

The first week of Lent in the Gospel features Jesus temptations from the devil. Following his baptism and confirmation of his vocation as God’s beloved, Jesus is led into the wilderness

Lutheran minister/professor David Lose frames this passage in terms of identify theft. “And not simply the devil’s failed attempt to steal Jesus’ identity but all the attempts to rob us of ours.”

“In each case, the devil seeks to undermine Jesus’ confidence in both God and himself. He seeks, that is, to erode Jesus’ confidence that he is enough, that he is secure, that he is worthy of God’s love. And in the face of these temptations, Jesus quotes the sacred story of Israel in order to assert that he is a part of that story and therefore reaffirm his identity as a child of God. Rooted in the Scriptures, that is, Jesus is reminded not only that he has enough and is enough but that he is of infinite worth in the eyes of God.

“Bread, power, and safety. But it just as well might have been youth, beauty, and wealth. Or confidence, fame, and security. On one level, we experience specific temptations very concretely, but on another they are all the same, as they seek to shift our allegiance, trust, and confidence away from God and toward some substitute that promises a more secure identity.”

Jesus fasts for 40 days, as did Moses and Elijah. As the representative of Israel, he relives the testing of the people of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. All his replies come from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:13; 6:16). Where the people of Israel failed in giving complete loyalty and obedience to God, Jesus succeeds. The victory won here anticipates the consummation of his triumph in Jerusalem over the realm of evil. Jesus thus becomes a model for all Christians in times of trial, for he has endured every temptation.

Luke frames Jesus’ three temptations within two parallel kingdoms. But it soon becomes clear that one uses counterfeit currency.

The devil’s suggestion that Jesus make bread from stone would be a cheap trick to meet his own need, unlike all the other miracles performed on behalf of another. In rejecting the idea, he submits to the limitations of the human condition. Furthermore, as Luke Johnson points out in The Gospel of Luke, he did so in the wilderness where no one could observe and where his inner dispositions were laid bare by hunger.

In the second temptation, Jesus demonstrates clearly that the world is God’s. Not for a minute does he believe that Satan has ultimate power. When we are tempted to despair, convinced that we have blown it for the last time, his words come ringing back: despite the appearance that evil reigns, we owe homage to God alone, whose answer to our prayers may seem like denial, but may be only delay.

The devil’s final attempt is not entirely illogical. Faith does require a blind leap, and later Jesus would hang from a high cross on Calvary, crying out, “Into your hands…” The difference is that Jesus chose the crucifix over the temple roof, the path of peace and the way of simple service over the flash and glitz.

The last line is a final indication of Jesus’ humanity: after “every test, [the devil] departed from him until an opportune time.” It starts again for him as it does for us. We are constantly in process, never arriving. Just when we think we’ve conquered that demon, put to rest that particular addiction, it surfaces in another form. Around the next dim corner, whom should we meet but our old enemy, that obnoxious habit we thought we’d vanquished? Yet our confidence is renewed by Jesus’ victory. He won the fundamental battle of the heart through acceptance of human limitations.