The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Reflection for Lent 1, Sunday, March 5, 2017

Based on Genesis 2: 15-17; 3: 1-7 “The tree of knowledge of good and evil”

And Matthew 4: 1-11 “The temptation of Jesus”

Opening Prayer:  May the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we hold in response to our readings from Scripture this day, may all of it be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

What great stories from scripture we have on offer this morning as we set about our Lenten journey to the cross with Jesus, our companion, comforter, friend, guide, intermediary, and divinely commissioned Son of God!

Two great stories about boundary setting and boundary transgressions involving key figures from our texts may have us wondering: Does it get any better than this? 

Though we are still basking in the glory of a very well planned and well received annual congregational meeting last Sunday with our commitment to the current staffing model, closure to our building project contract pending, and with it a concrete and clear strategic plan in place, it is time to turn to the this more somber season in ours church calendar.

Like Adam and Eve in the Genesis story, tempted to imagine themselves as wise as God or like Jesus having been put to the test by Satan in Matthew’s gospel, we, too, might be tempted to think we can just sit back and relax expecting there will be no further stress around the certainty of the future.

But, then we recall, it is the season of Lent, the time in the year when we are called to struggle with our faith and to trust, that, like Jesus, we can expect our identity as beloved followers in the Way to be put to the test. 

As ones who like Adam and Eve, might imagine ourselves longing to be as wise as God, or as clever as serpents or as fear-filled as Jesus must have felt after forty days and nights of being tested in the wilderness.  What, then, are, we as faithful ones to do?

A place to begin might be to consider how our relationships with God through prayer and scripture might be fortified during the season of Lent. 

What, for example, would it be like if we were to make a private and personal commitment to pray for our church family every day between now and Easter?

Or, if that seems a daunting proposal, consider this: What if we were to do a careful scan of our very rich and full News and Notes this week, and choose to pray over the names on our prayer list?  What if we were to make an intentional choice to give up an hour or so every week for the next five to come and see what new understanding we might glean about Jesus’ identity at our forthcoming Lenten Luncheon series?

What if we decided to pre-read the scripture texts one week at a time and came to worship with questions about them?

What if we were intentional about choosing to sign on to light the Christ Candle and the blue global candle of concern for one week (or a few) at Sunday worship this Lenten season?

What if we were to take the Board Chair’s challenge to work on our governance teams around goal setting in relation to our mission statement.

How hard would it really be to find a new way to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?

Last but never least, what might it be like to really engage with the Lenten Appeal for this season that is about to be unveiled this week at fellowship time today?

The season of Lent, a period of forty days and nights that begins with Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday services and that will carry us through to Palm Passion Sunday and Holy Week is a time of repentance, renewal, reconciliation, and risk.  It is a time for responding in intentional ways to all that separates us from God and each other.  Are we up for the challenge? 

Our social media and our technology calls us to be mindful of the vast array of wilderness situations and circumstances people face every day and, we, by proxy,  though drawn in, are also easily tempted to turn a blind eye. 

Just as we have been ministered to by angels unawares in our own wilderness experiences, we are also called to do the same for others.

Our task as followers in the Way of Jesus is not to put God to the test, but, rather, our own selves.

Let us pray:  Holy, gracious, and amazing God, you have given us eyes to see, ears to hear, tongues to speak, minds to think, hearts to feel, and hands and feet to be your body in a broken and ailing world.  Help us during the Lenten journey with Jesus to the cross, to let go of our worries, our inclinations to be complaint, our need to focus on differences rather than similarities, our tendency to mistrust and suspicion, judgment, gossip, bitterness, and self-concern.  And, as we relinquish our fears into your care, encourage us to trust in your abiding and nurturing presence that we might show tenderness, love, and care for one another and be about the building up of the body of Christ.  May we come to risk offering empathy, inspiration, and compassion born out of a deep sense of gratitude at being named, claimed and commissioned as your emissaries, along with Jesus, the Christ.

May it be so.  Amen and amen!