Lent #1 ~ March 9

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The Temptation of Christ

The 1st Week of Lent

Psalm 91:1-16Deuteronomy 26:1-11Romans 10:8-13Luke 4:1-13

The first week of Lent is predictable. This is as it should be. Every Ash Wednesday service includes a reading of Psalm 51. Above the Psalm is a superscription that says, “A Psalm of David. After he was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba.” King David messed up royally. His sin was undeniable but this Psalm facilitated his repentance and restoration. Most of us don’t need the dramatic confrontation he had but we do need to repent no less than David did.

The first Sunday of Lent always includes Jesus’ temptation. After fasting for forty days, Jesus goes into the wilderness where the Devil comes at him. He is tempted to feed himself and the world, he is tempted to control the nations, and he is tempted with the worship of everyone in the world. (All things, by the way, that the Devil had no ability to deliver.)

Jesus resolutely responds to these temptations with quotations from Scripture. In spite of this powerful attack, Jesus does not innovate. He leans back into the history of his people, the people of Israel and their encounters with YHWH. Those words are enough, they are more than enough. Jesus withstands the temptations.

Lent is predictable. You will hear Psalm 51, the Temptation of Christ, the story of the woman who anoints Jesus for his burial, and the story of the Triumphal entry. You can count on these. Every year. The power of Scripture does not lie in our capacity to be surprised because the Gospel of God’s goodness can surprise even as we watch it coming.

So, for Lent this year, fast or take up a new practice of prayer or serve someone who cannot serve you back. Change your patterns of giving to the poor. Work in a soup kitchen or simply hold the hands of someone in the hospital or care home. Give more money than normal. Learn how to listen, really listen, to those who have no one to listen to them.

But, don’t be surprised if you are changed. It’s bound to happen.

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.

Paul Hill