Readings and comments for the First Sunday in Lent, March 1st

Sunday is the First Sunday in Lent. In all three synoptic Gospels we read Jesus’ Temptations in with Wilderness. The Collect of the Day draws us to this story, turning us toward the Father’s assistance when we are tempted, so we do not sin, or miss the mark of experiencing God’s will, not to punish us for failing, but so we can do what is best for us. Stop and consider what you find to be temptations in your life. As Fr. Richard Leonard says, temptation is not sin. Being guided in our decisions and choices by a voice other than God’s will lead us to missing “the mark.” Think and pray about the temptations you encounter. They are not uncommon to anyone. And Jesus certainly experienced them – not just in the wilderness throughout his life. The wilderness, I believe, strengthened Jesus and gives us the example of life in God’s kingdom — the choices, failures and learning — as we choose to “listen” to the Lord, and act on what we hear.

The Old Testament Lesson is familiar, the “Fall.” Adam and Eve “blow it.” This is a given for being human. It’s sin – disobedience to God. Listening to voices other than God’s. We are the “keepers” of creation – entrusted as stewards by God. “All things come of thee, O Lord” – yet how often people thing “it’s mine, for me alone.” How we continue to live “East of Eden,” in the way we abuse creation, taking God’s gifts for granted. The sad part is we have choices, and make some bad ones. God lets us. Another lesson in this primal story is God’s response to our failing. Eyes opened, our “mother and father” try to hide from God. They eat forbidden fruit, and their eyes are opened, as God said. The wisdom they learn is — “we make bad choices.” Unlike Jesus in the wilderness, we lead ourselves into the valley of the shadow of death — a separation from God. Yet the longing we have for something more is also a gift from God, that can turn us toward a better way. It is God’s gift, and God does not leave us to ourselves – which we attempt on our own. Living separated from God is to be dead while simultaneously breathing, but not “living”. As you read focus not on Adam and Eve, and who’s at fault — or how we got into this mess, but how God responds to us all in the midst of the life you are given. How do you use your gift – for self, others, for your glory, for God’s?

The Response from Psalm 32 is a wonderful psalm/prayer as we enter the Lenten journey. Read it, and think about the image of God that drives out fear and draws us into that state of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration given us in Christ.

In Romans Paul uses the Garden of Eden story. While he refers to the first Adam who leads us into sin, we are not left there. The second Adam, Jesus, leads us out. Reflect and pray with Paul’s words on how God does not leave us where we go, but has come in Christ to find us, and draw us into divine love – always waiting for us to return.

The Temptation Stories in Matthew — Satan, the Devil’s voice, tempting Jesus to take his life and choices into his hands. They are reasonable and certainly have merit. Think about Jesus, and how he made time for prayer — to be in God’s presence. I suspect by being formed in prayer, he could discern God’s voice clearly – from the “tempting” voice in his head. Perhaps that’s why in Lent we are called to create more space and time in our lives for God’s presence. For us we “discipline” our minds and hearts. Otherwise, we our good intentions lack good choices, and actions. What do you hide from God — as Adam and Eve attempted? What would help you feel lighter if the burden was lifted? Do we forget God already knows. We are the ones who live, stressed with the darkness we carry. And the Lord is always waiting to draw us more fully into who we’re created to be – to grow into. You are God’s beloved. Jesus has come to tell us so. Now, in Lent, we make time to learn, practice, and in doing so, be re-formed in who we are — by God’s love, first. When we get that right, everything else falls into place.

Invite someone to join you for worship Sunday as we continue the journey of a holy Lent, many of us began at church this past Wednesday evening. These are not heavy, burdensome days. They are days to re-enter the waters of renewal, healing and wholeness. As we do this, Easter will shine brighter. Joy and gratitude shall rise deep from within – a “resurrection” moment.
Blessings, love, and grace for Lent, Fr. Steve

First Sunday in Lent
March 1, 2020 – Year A
The Collect

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

The Response
Psalm 32
Beati quorum
1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!
2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.
4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.
6 I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
8 You are my hiding-place;
you preserve me from trouble; *
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
I will guide you with my eye.
10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
or else they will not stay near you.”
11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

The Epistle
Romans 5:12-19
As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The Gospel
Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
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