Devotional Message: The 1st Sunday in Lent (3/10/2019)

Lessons

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
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.

Text for This Sunday

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where 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. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ”

  5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And 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. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written,
 ‘Worship the Lord your God,
  and serve only him.’ ”

  9Then 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, 10for it is written,
 ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
  to protect you,’
11 and
 ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
  so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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

Message: Forty Days

This week, with Ash Wednesday [March 6th] and the First Sunday in Lent [March 10th], we begin a new season in the liturgical church calendar: the season of Lent. In some ways, Lent is a puzzling season. It is traditionally understood as 40 days, not including Sundays. On Sundays we gather as God’s people and receive the Eucharist — the promise of our eternal inheritance in Christ. But on Wednesdays we gather to confess our brokenness, to pray for forgiveness, and to await the coming of Maundy Thursday when we hear the words, “In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sin.”

Lent was, historically, a time of preparing initiates for membership in the church. Those who wished to become part of the Christian community would spend these forty days fasting, and studying, and praying, and participating in acts of charity — all with an eye to being welcomed into the church through baptism at the Great Easter Vigil on the night before Easter. The vigil took place late at night so the Eucharist which brings the service to a close would be the first such celebration in the season of Easter; a powerful conclusion to a season of introspection, reflection, preparation and spiritual growth.

The word “Lent” is believed to have originated in Germany: “langitinaz” meant “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day.” This led to the Old English “lencten” for springtime or spring, which became “lenten” in Middle English. Our season of Lent is the invitation for us to enter into a longing for the springtime of faith, when all that is old and decaying gives way to all that is fresh and new and life-giving.

On the first Sunday of this season, we travel back in time to the very beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Immediately following his baptism he is whisked away to his own time of preparation — his own forty days. Famished and vulnerable, he is assaulted by temptations that come from the hand of the devil himself: “Use your power to satisfy your own physical, human cravings.” “Allow your commitment to God to be displaced by a quest for power and glory.” “Check and see if God’s promise to protect you is genuine.” Like Noah through forty days and nights in the ark, or Israel through forty years in the desert, or Moses through forty days on the mountain, or early Christians through forty days of preparation for baptism, Jesus spends this time readying himself for what is to come.

As do we. With eager hearts we pray that the forty days of Lent will prepare us anew to celebrate the season of Easter with God’s people. We pray for it to be a time when God might stretch us and challenge us and refine us and prepare us. We pray that it might make us ready to sing with all of God’s people come Easter Sunday: “Christ is risen, alleluia!”

A good Lent to you all. May these days of preparation draw you into the grace and mercy of God, and prepare you to celebrate this Easter with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why does the Holy Spirit lead Jesus away from everything he knows, and into the wilderness for forty days?

  2. What is particularly tempting about the temptations the devil employs against him?

  3. What does it mean that the devil will return to Jesus at “an opportune time?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What will I do to fully engage in the season of Lent this year?

  2. What hopes do I have for how God can lead me to a deeper place of faith this season?

  3. Who might I ask to join with me, as I make myself ready for the coming of Easter?