Treasured Temptations

This is the first Sunday in Lent. The first Sunday of our journey to Jerusalem. A time for reflection and contemplation about what it means to be the people of God.

In worship over the next 6 Sundays we are going to explore the theme of brokenness and reconciliation: Each of us is created a precious vessel of God’s love. Each of us has experienced hurt in some way, bringing a sense of brokenness. To move toward healing is to offer the gift of life and wholeness (or wholi-ness), not only for ourselves but also for others. We come to see each person as a Holy Vessel and as we come to desire that wholeness for all of creation. This comes from the more Eastern way of understanding “penance” –more about healing what has been hurt. From this perspective, the journey to Easter is more about learning and preparing to “live the Easter life,” living as if death has no hold on us. (Marcia McFee)

We can be beautiful… despite the hurts we have given and received…Despite the anger we have expressed or suppressed. Despite the sorrow and grief we have caused or experienced. In fact, these experiences, can lead to greater wholeness and holiness.

Look at the broken glass in the vase… piece by piece they may not have much value or beauty, but put together, with a lit candle, they are a wonderful symbol of beauty out of brokenness.

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Are you familiar with kintsugi? Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which breaks and repairs are treated as part of the object’s history. Broken ceramics are carefully mended by artisans with a lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.
The repairs are visible — yet somehow beautiful. Read more here. 

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In the same way, we can be mended, with time and intention, crack and broken places in ourselves, our relationships and our world can be mended. And Lent is the perfect time to undertake such a journey!

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish Old AND New Testament scholar had this to say about Lent as she draws the connection between the Days of Awe in the Jewish year and Lent.
“We think about what we’ve done in the past and what we should be doing in the future. We take time to repent. We take time to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing in the world and how we can do it better. The month that’s the run-up to Rosh Hashanah is also a time of introspection. You make amends — because you can’t put yourself in a right relationship with God if you’re not in a right relationship with people in your life. It’s kind of like a theological do-over. And I find that remarkably healthy. Both in Lent on the Christian calendar and in parts of the Jewish calendar, the community does this together. So you’re not alone in the difficulties of assessing what you’ve done. You’re not alone in trying to figure out how to do life better.” (Amy-Jill Levine) You can read the entire interview HERE

In the early church Lent was a time of preparation… those who wanted to be baptized on Easter Sunday entered into their final 40 days of learning and testing, and it may have included fasting to symbolize the 40 days that Jesus spent being tested in the desert.

Although this 40 day period of preparation was originally intended for those preparing for baptism, in time many church members voluntarily undertook for their own self-discipline this 40 days of penitence and fasting, reflecting on their baptismal vows and at Easter joining with the catechumens in renewing their baptismal promises. (Whole People of God 2007)

Today Lent offers us the same opportunity for reflection and renewal, for brokenness and reconciliation… for testing and temptation…

Some of you are quickly calculating and saying to yourselves… hey, wait a minute, if there are six weeks of Lent that is already 42 days and Lent started on Ash Wednesday so that is a few more, what’s with this number 40! And you will be right! The 40 days of Lent are counted without the Sundays… unlike the season of Advent before Christmas, in Lent, we do not count the Sundays.

I am not sure if it is because the early church leaders knew that six weeks of unrelenting fasting and testing would be too much for people, or whether it is part of our Hebrew heritage to keep the Sabbath holy and worship God. Not necessarily with solemn faces and hearts, but with joyous hearts as we focus on preparing to be disciples of Christ. Listen to Jesus experience of being tested in the wilderness as written in Luke 4:

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 4:3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

4:4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”
4:5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 4:6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 4:7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 4:10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 4:11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The reading from Luke occurs right after Jesus’ baptism… a high moment in his life… where he was full of the Holy Spirit… And just after that high point, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days… It’s not the kind of thing that we usually envision the Holy Spirit doing is it… We usually picture the Holy Spirit as empowering and encouraging us… not sending us out into the wilderness to wrestle with the devil…

Picture yourself in the wilderness…How do you feel… are you cold… are you hot… do you have shelter of any sort… Are there animals in this wilderness… This is what Jesus experienced… Jesus was human… just like us he knew hunger and thirst and pain and sorrow… Perhaps hunger bothered him the first few days… but after about a week he didn’t notice it anymore… He is totally focused on deepening his relationship with God… To honouring the voice heard at his baptism… The voice that told him he was a beloved child of God…That same voice that is said to us at our baptism… that we are beloved children of God.

Jesus was preparing to begin his public ministry… But… before heading out into the world to preach his message of love and justice he needed to know what kind of person he was… And in order to do that, he had to wrestle with his own temptations to do good by doing bad…

The things the devil tempted him with were not bad in themselves… turning stones into bread could feed a hungry world… Authority over cities and nations could give him the power to effect positive change… trusting in God’s protection… But all of that would come at a price… if only he would renounce his God and worship Satan…
And Jesus, wise as he was, knew that anything gained through methods like this would be tainted and ultimately doomed…

The wilderness held great wisdom for Jesus and it can hold great wisdom for us… but only if we are willing to enter it. He emerged from the 40 days ready to try and create a more beautiful world… to fill in the cracks with the shimmering treasure of love and acceptance and community.

I am closing with these beautiful words written by Donna Knutson:

Oh Most Holy God

Find me
As I find You.

Hear me
As I hear You

Whether wanderer or breath of life
We are meant to be united.

Set these feet on a path of possibility
Light a candle in the hearts of the world.

Remove our lack of,
can’t do,
I’ll try later,
So we sing Glory, Glory to Your Name.

In this world of visible wonder,
May we always sing the song
Which names us as Yours.

May we walk a hundred miles in Lent
To touch the inner lands of grace and peace.
May there be visions of brave new worlds
And communities that stand for hope and harmony.

Speak, in the waves,
In the washing by the seas,
To the listening of our hearts.

May we quiet
Wherever we are,
And be reminded of Your Hallelujah

Amen.

Luke 4:1-13, March 10, 2019, Lent 1 – ECM

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