Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, First Sunday in Lent, Year C
March 10, 2019
Lessons: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people put their faith in Jesus and call on the name of the Lord for their salvation.
Key Scripture: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:8b-9
It’s easy during Lent to focus on temptations one faces, on giving up small things that are barely an inconvenience, and on insecure pietistical reverence. Lent as a season of the church year appears often to be relegated to something akin to seasonal church merchandising and liturgical window dressing—if it’s even kept at all. Why even bother, one might ask?
Lent as a time or penance and preparation for baptism has been an official part of the church’s calendar since the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE. It probably existed before that in local practice, but even so it’s been part of the “institution” of church for a very long time. Things that have been around for a very long time often need a fresh approach or at least a reminder about why they matter to people.
Our lessons this week provide opportunities for many different approaches: the reading from Deuteronomy talks about bringing one’s first fruits to the Lord, the Psalmist speaks of the Lord’s provision for the people; and the gospel lesson is the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Plenty of good preaching points available there!
What about that lesson from Romans? Might these few verses, placed in context of course, offer us a way forward in these 40 days (plus Sundays) that looks a little different from the typical first Sunday of the season? This passage feels particularly timely for divided and contentious times, too.
We were reminded on Wednesday of our “dusty status” and fleeting stint on this planet, so perhaps a look at the basics is a good way to spend this first “little feast” or first Sunday in Lent. This season is less about comparing temptations and Lenten disciplines and more about returning to a sole focus on God as the One in whom we move and take breath. It’s about realizing that we cannot truly rely on any other source of provision or false idol. Lent strips us bare of our illusions if we open ourselves to the process and possibilities.
Paul’s words to the church at Rome exhort us to remember that our proclamation of faith is not merely word play but rather comes from a deep, lived experience. It’s an experience that transcends mental gymnastics and springs from the heart with words alive and vivid. And, it springs from the heart because that’s where the Christ abides and makes his home in each one of us.
This is the kind of faith that enables us to live generously and welcome others as Christ’s beloved. It tears down walls, obliterates divisions, and is prodigally generous with the good news of salvation. How about this year we strive ever more to be stewards of Lent, turning back to Christ, drinking deeply of the good news, growing in faith, and being willing to share what we love and value without counting the cost?
Put aside the focus on chocolate, diets and deprivation, and even the fasting from technology. Reorient your lives and hearts. Remember whose you are and who you are. Come to the table and feast on Jesus and then go and confess this good news with confidence, open arms, and loving hearts.
Evangelism in Lent? Absolutely! Faith is meant to be shared. The good news is not supposed to be hoarded or silenced—tempting though timidity may be! Find ways to lift up in worship today the good news that God hears and saves all who call on the name of the Lord—with “no distinction.” All are welcome in the Body of Christ. Let this be reflected in your hymns, prayers, and preaching.
“The devil made me do it!” is an old saying to rationalize bad behavior. This week’s gospel lesson is the account of Jesus’ temptation. Of course the Son of God passes the test with flying colors, admonishing Satan at the end with scripture, saying “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Spend some time talking with youth about the temptations they face. How can their faith in Christ and a clear focus on God help them deal with that which would separate them from Jesus?
This week’s focus verse is Genesis 26:11: Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.
Our lesson from Genesis tells us that we bring our very best—our first fruits—to God. We are not to hoard and hang on to the choicest gifts and fruits; we are called to bring these things to God. Invite the children to think about what people in the congregation bring to God. Affirm all answers.
Yes, we bring our offerings of time, talent, and resources—the very best that we have—to God’s house. Here’s some really good news: God doesn’t need or keep these gifts. God keeps on giving. Just like in the story from Genesis that ended with everyone having celebrating the bounty.
Tell the children that this is how God’s economy works. There is enough for everyone, and it’s always a good time to celebrate the many gifts of God. Finish with a simple prayer asking God to give us the gift of sharing our very best.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Lent doesn’t have to be complicated. Sure, we are called to remember our sins and return to God. We’re also called to be good stewards of the gospel. How are you stewarding and sharing both all that God has given you and the good news of Jesus?
Stewardship at Home
Sundays in Lent are not part of the 40 days of fasting, penance, and reflection. They are instead little festivals. These are days to rest, reset, and reflect on God’s goodness. This week ponder how you can prepare to celebrate the Sabbath in ways that are life-giving and that honor all people. Plan ways to make God your refuge and strength, both Sunday and every day.
2016 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2016/02/a-fast-of-first-fruits/
Photos: Robin and LivingOS, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!