Summary: Drawing the opening verses of this passge, we are reminded that through the power of God's Holy Spirit, we can face our temptations head-on, rahter than avoid them which is our first inclination.
Facing Temptations Head-On
Rev. Beth Garrod-Logsdon
Wilmore Presbyterian Church
Well, here we are again – the first Sunday of Lent. The day when the mood and emotions of worship seem to take a downhill slide – the hymns become more melancholy, the readings from scripture become more penitent, and there are no “alleluias!” in our liturgy. Lent… the season of “Woe is me” and “I’m not worthy.”
The joy of Christmas and Epiphany are past. The excitement and elation of Easter are soon to come. And we’re stuck in the middle talking about sacrifice and fasting. Temptations and a call to repentance take center stage as we begin our solemn journey to the cross of Christ our Savior. Even nature (especially this year) seems to mimic our solemn mood - a perpetual state of gray with only glimpses of blue skies and sunshine that remind us of the hope of verdant blossoms lying dormant under the frozen earth.
That pretty much sums up Lent, doesn’t it? Over these coming six weeks we hope to catch glimpses of grace and mercy and the hope and promise of our salvation, as we wade through the muck of our lives. Just as we know spring will come, we know that Easter is on the horizon. But for now, we’re not there yet. For now, we are in the midst of the gray and shadows. And in truth, it is this journey through our frailty, mortality and sinfulness that makes the glory of Easter more profound and joyous.
As the Christian world once again marches collectively toward Calvary, our lives are called to be different than those who are not born of the faith. Since Wednesday facebook statuses have been a litany of what people are giving up for Lent. Conversations have turned to Lenten practices and discipline. And once again many of us are asking “why do we do what we do?”
We know how these six weeks are going to end. We know that just like every other year Christ will enter triumphantly into Jerusalem. We know that Judas will betray him. We know that Peter will deny him. We know that he will be beaten and crucified. We know that in his last breath he will ask for our forgiveness. We know that he will die, be sealed in a tomb. And yet on the third day he will be resurrected.
The story doesn’t change. The truth of the story doesn’t change. The grace and love of the story doesn’t change.
And so I ask you – why do we do this thing called Lent? Why do we put ourselves through this season of examination and introspection? Well, let me ask you this:
Christians since the first century have had the blessing of knowing the whole story of Christ’s life on earth and his resurrection and ascension into heaven. We have the gift of knowing - in the words of Paul Harvey - “the rest of the story.” So, when we enter into the scriptures, when we meet Jesus in the wilderness, when we see him preaching and teaching in Jerusalem, we know the gruesome death that awaits him – and we know the glory of the resurrection. But has this knowledge really change how we live our daily lives? It’s easy for us to “tsk-tsk” the Disciples and their inability to understand what was happening as it happened. But I wonder, do WE really understand the fullness of what Jesus is teaching us?
Barbara Brown Taylor suggests: "When the world did not end as Jesus himself had said it would, his followers stopped expecting so much from God or from themselves. They hung a wooden cross on the wall and settled back into their more or less comfortable routines, remembering their once passionate devotion to God the way they remembered the other enthusiasms of their youth. And for this reason, the early church announced a season of Lent, from the old English word lenten, meaning "spring" -- not only a reference to the season before Easter, but also an invitation to a springtime for the soul. Forty days to cleanse the system and open the eyes to what remains when all comfort is gone. Forty days to remember what it is like to live by the grace of God alone and not by what we can supply for ourselves." (Taylor, Barbara Brown. Settling for Less (Luke 4:1-13). http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=643)
Wow! What a novel idea that turns our contemporary ideas of Lent onto their heads. To think that Lent is not just a season of denying ourselves. But rather Lent is a set of forty days designed for us to remember what it is like to live by the grace of God alone.
So often our idea of Lent is wrapped up in “giving things up,” denying our comforts and reciting litanies of what we CAN’T do, that we forget that what this season is really about is emptying ourselves so that we can be more filled by the Spirit of God and the power of God’s grace.