21 February 2010

The First Sunday in Lent - Invocabit

The First Sunday in Lent

(RCL) Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
    Introit: He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days. -- (Ps. 90. 1). He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High: shall abide under the protection of the God of Heaven.

    Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted of Satan; Make speed to help thy servants who are assaulted by manifold temptations; and, as thou knowest their several infirmities, let each one find thee mighty to save; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    Gospel: Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

    And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

    But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’

    Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

    And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

    Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written:
    ‘ He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and, ‘ In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’

    And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’

    Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

Ash Wednesday calls upon our humanity. It reminds us that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. It reminds us of our own fragility. Today’s scriptures call to mind that same tenuous grasp we hold on life. They lay out the many ways we are called to respond to and from our humanity this Lenten season.

In the reading from Deuteronomy we are called to live with thankfulness. Though our hands have toiled the earth to bring forth fruits, it is the Lord who owns the land and has blessed us to inhabit it. We are called to be good stewards and to give back out of what we have been given.

In the psalm, we are called to trust in God’s mercy, to take refuge in the Lord. The fragility that we experience in our lives does not need to stir up fear and anxiety in us. We are freed by faith to take refuge, to trust, to be held safe in the arms of grace.

And finally Paul calls us to an incredible, empowering humility. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,” all who confess faith in Jesus Christ are opened to the possibility of life redeemed and reconciled to God. We are not saved by works or by merit, but simply and wholly by that grace that comes from orienting our lives toward Christ.

What will this Lenten season be for you, where you are, on your Christian journey toward Jerusalem? What of thankfulness, trust, and humility will you seek to help you as you progress toward new life in Christ Jesus?

"The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart"

Jesus didn’t strike out into the wilderness with a stack of scriptural commentaries, a pack of Nicorette, and an elliptical machine. “Driven out” by the Spirit, we might assume he left in a bit of a hurry: his wallet, cell phone, and keys still on the nightstand. His journey into the wilderness was a test in a way. And like most tests, he couldn’t use his notes.

He was naked, stripped down to simply his self. Faced with the incredible temptations of his human frailty, he was offered the easiest defense against that frailty: the ability to control – to create food where there is none, to rule with power, to defy his physical nature. But instead, Jesus stood firm in his humanity, clothed only with thankfulness, trust, and humility. Thankful for the nourishment that is not food, trusting in the God that does not need testing, and humble enough to obey the law given him by his ancestors and inspired by God, Jesus resisted temptation and in doing that prepared himself to begin his ministry.

For many people in our society, there is no greater fear than being naked in front of others. We are confronted by so many unrealistic and unnatural bodies in the media that the realness of our own bodies becomes frightening and shaming. Our lack of control, of youth, of power become reasons for hiding. And not just literally. We hide behind work, behind family, behind productivity and profitability. We hide behind our fears, and we hide behind our scars. It is natural in a world that is struggling to accommodate so many people that each of us as individuals can quickly become invisible. And when we become invisible, it’s easy to run into us, like furniture in a darkened room. So we hide.

This Lent challenge yourself, not to be more of who you feel the world is calling you to be: the easy and unrealistic thinner, fitter, smarter, and faster. Perhaps not even who your community or your family are calling you to be. I challenge you to be naked, to confront yourself with whom your God is calling you to be: frail, insignificant, humble, thankful, trusting, human.

What does human look like? It can be hard to see ourselves in a natural, liberating light. But this Lent, look. As Jesus looked upon himself and found in his frailty the strength and will to trust, thank, and bow. Perhaps that is as far as you will get this Lent, to look upon yourself. Perhaps that is as far as you need to get. Seeing ourselves, we begin to see those around us.

There is a triumphant entry, a table full of friends, a cross and a tomb waiting for every one of us. But for now, in the meantime, in this Lent time, simply look, and know that the Word is so very near to you, “on your lips and in your heart,” each one of us carrying Christ to each other.

— Jason Sierra is the Associate for Young Adult and Campus Ministries at the Seattle Office of the Episcopal Church Center. He holds a BA in American Studies from Stanford University and is a visual artist.