Summary: This sermon kicked off our season of Lent by ushering in 40 days of prayer.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "’He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’" 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: ’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’" 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ’Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’" 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
“40 Days of Prayer”
What do you think of when I say the words Mardi Gras? The mere mention of these two words usually convey thoughts of raucous celebrations, beads flying through the air, ear-to-ear grins plastered on the faces of millions of revelers, and of course floats parading through the streets of New Orleans!
While these associations are accurate, this is only taking into account a small portion of what Mardi Gras stands for and means to millions of people not just in the Bayous and Parishes of Louisiana, but across the world. Mardi Gras, which in French translates to Fat Tuesday, is officially the day before Ash Wednesday, and while you may know it as one of the biggest parties in the country… it is actually filled with a lot of religious significance.
While you may just see a jester in vibrant colors… you may not know that those three main colors of Mardi Gras have religious meaning. The Purple (represents Justice), Green (represents Faith), and Gold (represents Power). And it goes way beyond just aesthetic planning too. Roughly stated… the whole point behind Mardi Gras is that good Christians everywhere will soon be joining Christ on his 40 day walk into the desert. In this morning’s scripture, we read about how Jesus began his ministry. He retreated into the desert for 40 days to pray and fast to prepare for his ministry.
For him, it was a time of contemplation, reflection, and preparation. By observing Lent, many people chose to join Jesus on this journey. While we don’t go off into a desert to fast and pray, it is a time for us to give something up… to sacrifice something… and to deprive ourselves. For us, it is also a time of contemplation, reflection, and preparation… so that we can get into the proper mindset for Easter… and if we are going to have 40 days of depriving ourselves… then we are justified in getting all of the sinning out of the way on Fat Tuesday!
So brothers and sisters… Tuesday night… go out to the pizza place and pig out, stop by the Dairy Queen on your home and order something that costs 5 dollars, have a pile of Snickers bars for your midnight snack… because this Wednesday… is Ash Wednesday… and that is when we are supposed to give all that sort of thing up to suffer for our God.
Wednesday night at 7pm, our journey begins when we will gather together for a worship service known as the imposition of ashes. To find out more about this religious day, the meaning of the ashes, and the religious significance of the day… you are going to have to come on Wednesday because I’m keeping that in my hip pocket for now. But Wednesday officially begins our time of 40 days preparing the way for Easter known as Lent.
As I’ve said… It is a time of putting ourselves into the proper mindset… we NEED Jesus Christ. And we need to remember that we NEED Jesus Christ. It is because of our broken humanity that Jesus suffered and died. His resurrection awaiting us at Easter is the great redemption of mankind and restoration of our relationship with God.
To help put ourselves into the right mindset, we are called to give up something for Lent, and it is a practice that I personally find to be very worthwhile. Depriving ourselves of things we want can help us grasp a very small part of what it was like for Christ to suffer for us. As we “suffer” we are reminded of Christ’s suffering for us. (While it is unfair to fully compare our suffering over giving up TV, or candy, or meat to the suffering of Jesus at his crucifixion, it is still a very excellent way of preparing our minds for the glory awaiting us at Easter.) I highly encourage you to give something up this Lent as a way of preparing for Easter.