Preach for St Edward’s 26/2/23 / First Sun in lent / also baptisms
Readings: Matt 4:1-11 & Romans 5:12-19
So this is the first Sunday of Lent.
Who had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday this week?
And who has given up something like chocolate, coffee, or alcohol? Hands up!
So we are in the season of Lent, which as a reminder is a time of reflection, of repentance – of turning away from sin and turning towards God. When we give something up – when we fast from it – the point of fasting is not so much the absence of something, it is what we do with that absence. The idea is that it should remind us to reflect. When we are hungry it might remind us to pray. Or craving chocolate, perhaps we might think about our faith.
A little bit later on we are going to baptise F&E. In the words we say, the parents and Godparents are going to answer various questions, like: do you turn to Christ? Do you repent of sin? These declarations are said on behalf of F&E and are churchy language to say yes we believe in Jesus and we want that for these children too
Now you might be here today and you might not be a person of faith, so Lent might seem a little alien, but but why not take the opportunity in this season to think about what you do believe? Maybe not every day but how about once a week for 6 weeks – just take 5 mins, 10 mins and ask yourself / think about some of those things we are going to say in the baptism – what do I believe in spiritually? Who do I believe in? what do I believe about God? What do I believe bout evil?
It’s not often we take the time to think about some of these things so I encourage you – take the time this Lent!
Some of these themes were picked up in our passages today. The Romans passage essentially, in lots of complicated wording tells us about sin in the world, and how Jesus took the punishment for wrong doing for us all.
In Matthew’s gospel which I just read we heard of Jesus before the crucifixion in fact 3 years before, just about to start his ministry. Right after he was baptised he went into the desert, the wilderness, ‘to be tempted by the devil’ we heard. A well known passage, even those of us who are not church goers might have heard of this concept of Jesus being tempted before?
So until now Jesus has lived as far as we know as human – fully divine also but with that part not on show as it were. But officially his ministry his time of revealing himself as the son of God has not yet begin.
But here at this point he is stepping into the life God has called him to. And before he does he has this final test – final exam – like joining the army and having a final fitness test maybe! And the test is that he as God, God who is all good, is tempted by the devil – a force of evil.
Now I know perhaps we say devil and we conjure up images of a little red monster with horns but as a concept I think it is more helpful to think of a force of evil or wrong doing. And this force is tempting, questioning, trying to confuse or distract – we know that is what the devil does. We see from the very start in the garden of Eden he did that in the form of a snake to Eve. Very carefully twisting the words of God until she herself was confused.
Jesus is at his most vulnerable here. We heard he has fasted – no just chocolate but no food or water for 40 days.
He was famished!
And the devil offers him all these things: food, safety, and all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. Big prizes on offer!
But Jesus resists.
The temptations may be so attractive to him but the thing is he is so secure in his identity – in the core of his being. He knows who he is – he knows what he is being offered is false. Nothing can sway him from the truth.
And his responses are founded in God’s word – all passsges taken from the story of Israel in the wilderness.
Jesus had come through the waters of baptism, like Israel crossing the Red Sea. He faced forty days and nights, the equivalent of Israel’s forty years in the desert. But, where Israel failed again and again, Jesus succeeded. Here at last is a true Israelite, Matthew is saying. He has come to do what God called him to do
(info here from Wright, Tom. Matthew for Everyone)
Now, when we read the bible we need to do 2 things:
Firstly we need to understand the context a little – what and where and so on.(which we have just done). And then from that we need to ask ourselves well what does all this mean for me now in this time and place? And I think the biggest thing we can take away from this passage is how secure is Jesus in who he is. And the question for us is how secure are we in our own identity? Are we secure in who we are? in who God has made us to be – in the core of our being? Because when we are, temptation will be so much easier to face.
Now we might think of temptation being like oh I am going to be tempted to do something awful like steal or have an affair, but the reality is the force of evil is far more subtle – it speaks untruth to us, so that we question ourselves. One of the biggest things we are tempted to do is to believe we are not good enough, we are not the person God has made us to be. A voice trying to sway us from the truth.
But the Bible says we are all made in the image of God, male and female – read in Genesis in the creation story. So if we are made in the image of God we must be inherently good because God is good. And if we have made that commitment to following Jesus then we know we are children of God – the bible says we are adopted as sons and daughters of God. And – adoption in the culture of the day meant that you as the child got to get equal rights and ownership to all that the Father owned.
So when the bible says we get to become children of God it means we get to have everything God has on offer for us. We get that identity – that amazing truth – so no wonder the devil would want to sway us away from that. But if we can be secure in it- what strength it gives us.
You know we sometimes think of the church as a family and today we are celebrating E&F and who they are, we are thanking God for them, and also welcoming them to this church family, as children of God. And that is an offer and welcome that is there for all of us.
If you have never taken the opportunity to say to God, I want to know you more, I want to be the child of God you have made me to be, then when we say those baptism vows and promises in a moment – make them your prayer too. Say them in your heart, and say the Amen making it your own prayer.
So I want to encourage us this Lent – to think about our identify in Christ.
And within that, for all of us we might ask ourselves about our identity:
who has God made you to be?
What talents and gifts has God given you?
What can you celebrate about you?
What opportunity is God giving you to be a child of God?