The First Sunday in Lent; Year C (2/14/2016)

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.

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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.

Tempted; Tested; Prepared

“…for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” This phrase, from the opening sentence of Sunday’s Gospel lesson, is an indicator of where this story will take us. For forty days Jesus is in the wilderness. Led by the Spirit. Tempted by the devil. Fasting the entire time. Famished by the end.

Both “forty” and “wilderness” are strong Biblical themes. One recalls the forty days and forty nights Noah and his family spent in the ark before a new chapter in the world’s history began; the time Moses spent on the mountain, receiving the Ten Commandments from God; the years Israel wandered in the wilderness, making their way from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. In each of these instances the period of forty is a time of testing; a time of preparation; a time of making ready for what is to come. And indeed, this is the case in the public ministry of Jesus. St. Luke reports on Jesus’ birth, and tells a story about his family in Jerusalem when he was twelve years ago. But then nothing, for nearly twenty years, until he is baptized by John in the River Jordan. Then, the Spirit leads him into the wilderness, and immediately upon returning his public ministry begins. He is ready. The time is right. The heart of this story is about to begin.

It is also significant that during this time of preparation Jesus is “tempted by the devil.” Often times commentators have suggested that this means the devil is seeking to convince Jesus to turn away from his calling, and give up on what God has in store for him. Yet St. Luke uses the verb πειράζω (peirazo) — a word that is used often in the Gospels to describe those who are trying to discredit Jesus in front of his followers. My Greek-English lexicon offers this as one definition for πειράζω: “to obtain information to be used against a person by trying to cause someone to make a mistake—‘to try to trap, to attempt to catch in a mistake.’ ” This is not so much a story that illustrates Jesus’ capacity to resist temptation, with the implication that he will help us do the same. It is more so the proclamation that Jesus cannot be defeated by all the forces of evil. At the start of this story, the ending is present: this is one who comes to the world with power, and who has the capacity to fulfill the promises he makes.

And so we too, now, begin our forty days. Forty days of reflecting on our sin and our need for a Savior. Forty days of stretching and deepening our faith and our trust in God. Forty days of drawing near to the word of God, so that when the day of Easter arrives, and God’s people celebrate the resurrection, we can hold fast to the mystery of faith with our whole hearts. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. In the wilderness, Jesus proves that the has every right to promise us the gift of God’s Kingdom. In faith we give him thanks, and give ourselves to him.

So welcome to Lent. May God bless these days. May the Holy Spirit inspire our faith. And may the Risen Christ be with us and among us, now and always.

A good Lent to you all!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness prepare him for his public ministry?
  2. What is the nature of the opposition he experiences from the devil?
  3. How does Jesus’ faithfulness in the wilderness assure us of who he is?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How will I become more aware of my need for forgiveness during these forty days?
  2. What spiritual practices will I embrace to help me draw near to the promise of Christ?
  3. What are my personal hopes for growth during Lent this year?