the one about Lent...
March 2, 2020, 8:00 AM

Sermon from March 1, 2020

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, here we are. The first Sunday of Lent. This season where we acknowledge that we fall short; that we don’t live up to what we want our life of faith to be like. We began this season just a few days ago on Ash Wednesday where we confessed our sins – both those sins we do collectively and the sin we live out individually.

We asked for forgiveness. We began the life of re-turning towards God. Throughout Lent we strive knowing that because God already loves us, we don’t have to live this life separated from God. We don’t have to sin in those big and small ways.

And truthfully, that’s the hard part. The re-turning. The re-shaping. The re-forming. Learning a new thing. Getting a new routine. Living life differently so that you can live life fully and faithfully. Why? Because the temptation to not do that is easy. That voice that draws us a way sounds so good, so doable, so natural.

Now, I know I talk about working out a little bit, but I’m pretty sure not to the amount some of y’all might believe. But, I’ve learned something about this whole workout thing that reminds me of what we do during the season of Lent.

It’s hard. It hurts. It makes you sore. You realize at times how much effort it takes to do the things you’d like. There’s a healthy dose of apprehension and even fear that goes along with doing this new thing. It’s hard because it’s easy to fall back into the old ways. It’s simple to not push ourselves. When we endeavor on these new adventures, we feel like we get pummeled. Especially when we start comparing ourselves to those around us who seem to have it all together. Where it seems effortless for them to do the thing that you’ve been struggling at.

It makes you want to give up.

Sorry, I’m supposed to be talking about working out. Not diving into Lent.

Trying to make your life different, more full and complete. Realizing that you’ve slacked off a lot over the years and you’re nowhere near where you thought you were. It stinks when you get to that realization.

And, when you start out you just hurt everywhere. You hurt in places you didn’t know were capable of being sore. The simple things – like lifting your hand up to wave seem excruciating. You second guess how you act and look because you don’t want people to know you’re struggling to keep up.

Again, I feel like I’m talking more about Lent, than about exercise… Sorry.

Where when you’re at your lowest, you feel weak because of all that you’ve been trying to do, and it is in those moments when temptation strikes. The yearning to slip back into those old ways, the easy exit to the one who promises to ‘make things all good’ with a simple wave a hand. Words that sugarcoat, that butter-up, that try to make everything so simple.

Just. Do. This. Instead

You know, whether you’re talking about taking on new a exercise or realizing that you’re diving into the season of Lent, there’s a lot of crossover. There’s a lot of areas where you can find similarities in how they are approached.

And, it brings me some comfort that I feel that Jesus went through the same thing. It’s interesting that when we hear and read about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we think that the tempter was speaking and whispering in Jesus’ ears the entire time. That as he fasted and wandered, that as he progressed through each day, the tempter was there trying to sway him, set him back, and thwart his endeavors.

Though, when we read it, we discover that there wasn’t someone enticing him in the midst of his fast and his time in the wilderness. All of that tempting occurred after his fast was complete. After he’d wandered the wilderness. When he was at his lowest and weakest – that’s when Satan showed up.

Right at the moment that we feel that we can’t go on, right when we feel we’ve finished what we’ve set out to do. When we’re worn down, when we’re exhausted, that’s when temptation seeps in. That’s when the whispers and the sly tongue of the deceiver makes us question, and doubt, and long for something easier.

As we enter into this season of fasting, we’ll strive to break free from those things that have a fierce hold on us. Lots of people might give up something to eat or drink that they see as an indulgence in their life. And that’s fine, but I also like to think that God calls us to something more in our fast.

Where in those sacrifices, we see readily where we fall short, how much further we have to go. Where taking small steps seems excruciating. It’s hard.

Things like seeing the value in the work others do when it’s really hard when they annoy you, or you disagree with them, or they belong to a certain group you’ve heard about. Where the temptation is to ignore them, subvert them, undermine them, ridicule them.

Where you try to break free from the information cycles that we are comfortable being a part of and endeavor to branch out to hear other voices, opinions, and thoughts. Not always to be convinced, but to have a fuller picture of what’s going on. Where the temptation is to only listen to those things that I agree with or present things in a way that make me feel comfortable, superior, powerful.

Where you struggle to find worth in yourself, when you’ve doubted and questioned who you are for so long. That temptation that says you can’t live up to those others and you never will.

Not slipping into the easy habit of telling and sharing stories that greatly hurt, misrepresent, or lie about those who live differently, love differently, or worship differently than ourselves. Where the temptation is if I speak back, if I utter a word against that my friends and colleagues will think I’m weak. I’m a loser. They won’t want to be around me.

We approach Lent seeking to turn from that sin and re-turn back towards our God of love and grace. And as we do that it can wear us down and wear us out. It can be exhausting using so much energy to change how sin has shaped us and re-turn back to what our God has created us for.

It is in those moments when we’re at the end of our journey of repentance where the deceiver whispers into our ears – it isn’t enough. It isn’t worth it. You’re not worth it. I can give you all that you want, and you don’t have to change.

Yet, as we continually proclaim, God is with us. We are worthy enough. We are enough. We are enough to love. We are enough to be loved.

We are able to change, to be more loving, to be more welcoming because we know and have faith that God already loves us. The deceiver’s lies can’t break through that trust. Because in the end, it isn’t us that that love is dependent upon. It is God’s love for us that holds us strong.

Jesus in the midst of his temptation clings to scripture and it’s promise that God is with him. That he needs nothing more than God’s hope, love, and promise. Jesus is able to withstand what the deceiver offers.

I don’t know if we’d be able to stand firm like Jesus. I think if someone offered me powers, and kingdoms, and wealth; I’d probably take it. I’m willing to bet y’all would too.

But, it isn’t up to just us to withstand temptation. We don’t do it alone. Our God’s love for us is so strong that Jesus is there with us. Our Lord is clinging to us with hope, grace, forgiveness, and love.

That is what I hope we remember as we dive into this first week of Lent. It isn’t just us doing the withstanding against temptation. We rely on our God’s love which has grabbed onto us, which we lean into, which we trust and hope to help guide us through so that we can fully live into what God has created us for.

To love. To hope. To live. To grant mercy. To forgive. To see. To proclaim.

Lent reminds us that God is with us. That it is with God that were able to withstand the soreness, the tireless nights, the sweats, the aches, the pains of turning away from what sin has shaped us into and returning to what God has created us for.

God is with you in this. Amen.

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