First, an announcement: Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead 1 hour on Saturday Night when you go to bed. Failure to do so will result in your arriving at church at the end of the service. Thank you for your consideration.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, it is traditional to remember how we have been sinful, selfish, and arrogant in our lives and to ask God’s forgiveness. The imposition of ashes is not a mark of pride that shows others how pious we have been, but a humbling moment as we acknowledge our sinfulness and seek reconciliation with God. The scripture verses, without comment are:
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Psalm 51: 1-17 (why 18 and 19 are left out is a mystery)
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (I will read 6:1-18)
Lent is a season of preparation and reflection as we prepare for the biggest celebration of the Christian year: Easter. It is the remembering of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Lent goes from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). If you count the days of Lent you will end up with 46 not 40. During Lent we don’t count Sundays since every Sunday is a mini-Easter, a celebration of the resurrection. Every year on the first Sunday in Lent we read the Gospel stories of the temptation of Christ. This Sunday is no different. Our readings follow.
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 – The verses in chapter two are from the second account of the creation. Here, the man is placed in the Garden at Eden and told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says that on that day the man will surely die. The verses that are skipped tell the story of God creating all living creatures to be a companion to the man. Since none are found to be the man’s helper, God creates woman. The verses in chapter 3 tell the story of Woman and Man giving in to the temptation offered by the serpent and eating from that tree. The reading, however, doesn’t complete the story and you should read the rest of the chapter. Oh, by the way, Man and Woman do not die at the time they eat the fruit. The first death recorded is the murder of Abel by Cain in chapter 4. I see a connection. Do you?
Psalm 32 – The psalmist rejoices in the forgiveness and steadfast love of the Lord for those who confess their sins.
Romans 5:12-19 – Four of the next five Sundays will have readings from Romans, though not in order. Again, why the Lectionary committee left off the final two verses of the chapter escapes me. I may read them in worship. Here Paul compares Adam (and Eve) to Christ. His argument is summed up in verse 18, “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.” This is another of many verses that seem to indicate salvation for all.
Matthew 4:1-11 – After Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit leads him out into the desert. Matthew seems to indicate that after 40 days of fasting the devil began the temptations. Mark and Luke indicate that the temptations occurred throughout the entire 40 days. The three temptations that Matthew and Luke report concern the temptation of body satiation, religious power, and political power. The devil quotes Scripture, thus showing us that scripture can easily be misused. Jesus also quotes scripture to resist and deny the temptation. The main feature of the temptations is Jesus’ denying or not believing the nature of his existence: “If you are the Son of God . . .” the devil repeats with each temptation. We are all tempted in small and great ways each day. How do we resist those temptations? Knowing the Bible is one step in the right direction.
May these reading guide you in your daily walk with God.