Evangelectionary for Sunday March 5th: First of Lent

The lectionary passages for reflection.

The First Sunday in Lent, 3/9/14, Matthew 4:1-11 (RCL, Year A)

Theme:

Repent to live more justly.  A fresh way in repentance – repent or change and grow to be more loving and just in every part of daily life; especially in deciding how to cast your votes and in raising children.

Message:

Jesus has just been baptized.  Led by the Spirit, he goes into the wilderness to work out how he will live from now on.  He is tempted to fall short of his baptism, his call to live the kingdom of God.  We hear of three temptations – powerful in themselves but short of the fullness of his call to mission in his baptism.

In a world where many starve to end hunger by turning even the stones into bread.

In a world where crowds are awed by people doing the impossible – falling from a great height without injury.

In world where so many use power to get their way to push people to obey God without helping them to make the inner change that will insure they continue when the pressure is removed.

He rejects the world’s ways to choose God’s way of patient teaching, of coping with opposition by reason and candor, of coping with apathy by a calling to costly new ways.

When he announced Jesus’ coming, John the Baptist had it right.  John called the people to change their ways – to be ready to be baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” We do well to meditate on repentance.  Jesus will announce the Kingdom saying, “. . . repent, and believe the good news.”

Our way in obeying God’s reign has many aspects.  One surely is repentance – an honest look at ourselves and our way of living to discern new ways that lead to life and wholeness.  We need to know how to repent and to change our ways.

To repent comes from a Greek word that means to change your mind – to change your ways – to reform – to reshape your way of living.  Change to a new way of living is always part of living the Good News.  Three days and we will be into Lent – a period heavy on repentance.  Repentance and a way to understand it in this 21st century is what I want to center our thinking on in this sermon time.  My theme: repent to live more justly.

*     *     *

Let’s take our cue from Celtic spirituality.  Celtic spirituality centers on the goodness of life and us.  Sin, the shortfall from living as we should is real, but don’t dwell on it too long.  Confess what you’ve done wrong, but don’t dwell on it.  Move on to a new way of living – of being more caring and more fair.

Let’s move away from so much of western, Puritan-like spirituality that seems to be obsessed with guilt.  Life is basically good.  Be more loving and more just.  That is what God wants.  And God will help you to live that way.

This is no cheap grace.  This is no “happy church” message.  Don’t miss the hook in it.  Don’t miss what God wants – being more loving and just wherever we are – at home, at work, or deciding who to vote for.  That’s the hook – what God wants, not what we want.  The repentance God wants is change and growth – no groveling in guilt but change and growth.

God wants us to take our faith into daily life – take our faith out of the church onto the street – the streets we walk wherever we are.  Take what we find in church into daily life.

In church, we hear “Love your neighbor.”  Take that into the world.   Love a crowd.  How do we love a crowd?  Love a crowd by practicing justice.  A fresh definition of justice – biblical but fresh – to be just is to seek equal opportunity to the good things in life for everyone.  Equal access to whatever helps people to become all they are created to be – minimum are food, clothing, and shelter; then come education, health care, meaningful work, deep friendship.

We so easily overlook being just whenever we think of how to live as Christians.  Repent wherever issues of justice are at stake.   Repent in those places to live more justly.

*     *     *

You can even do it in church!  Ed was bothered about unjust public policies.  A presidential election was ahead.  He wondered how many of those beside him in church would even bother to vote.  Of those who would bother, he wondered if they would take their Christian ethics into deciding who to vote for.  He had his own convictions.  He would not insist others vote as he would.  He just wanted them to decide who to vote for on the basis of who could do the most to keep the nation just.  No party had the whole truth.

Then it was a happy day for Ed when he heard that the Sunday before Election Day at church would be devoted to ways to take your faith into the voting booth.  Here is what his church did.

The week before the election for President, church bulletins announced the priest would lead a forum on “My Faith and My Vote” the next Sunday.  There would be a special parish meeting after worship.  After an introduction, two talks would be given – one by a supporter of the Republican candidate and one by as supporter of the Democratic candidate.  Each would speak for only two minutes.  Each spoke to the same two questions.

1.  How does the Christian faith influence the way I go about deciding who to vote for?

2.  What are the reasons my faith points me toward voting for the candidate I will vote for?

The floor would then be open to all – each was given two minutes.  After 20 minutes, all would discuss a third question.

3.  After the election, what can this church do  and what can I do to help to heal any divisions in this nation and in our town?  This discussion would be limited to 20 minutes also.

Well, it worked!  It went only 5 minutes over time and all left as friends – a lot to talk about but still friends.

This church’s members had changed from silence about their values and how they voted.  And they had grown in listening to others with the same values but a different way to apply them.  It was a time of repentance – of change and growth – of repentance to live more justly.

*     *     *

Now we seldom put justice and home life together – we seldom put justice and raising our children together.  Here is a story about a family learning to do just that.  The issue is will we leave our children alone to find their own way to faith or will we teach them our faith expecting they will find their own way to faith as adults.  The issue is one of justice.  Which way is more just – leave them alone or give them a start.

 

A survey of children entering kindergarten found out only half of them:

– recognized their own name when they heard it ; or

– could be articulate – could express – what they were feeling or thinking; or

– could count to five.

However, 81% could recognize the Coca-Cola sign and 69% could recognize the double arches of MacDonald’s.

 

Many had already been converted by advertising and the culture to consumerism.  Could they have recognized the manger and the Good Shepherd as easily?  That’s the issue of justice.  It’s not fair to leave our children exposed to conversion to consumerism.

 

I have two parents whose children can recognize the manger and the Good Shepherd.  Theirs is a rich story of both God-talk and nurture – of  living more justly.  All of them – boys, 5 and 7, and a 9-month old daughter – are in church and its classes Sunday by Sunday.  At home at bed time, the children ask their mother to sing “Amazing Grace” and ask God’s blessing on each other and anyone they name.  Reading comes from the bookshelf which includes Bible stories.  Further, they hold a family meeting about every two weeks on Saturday mornings for about 15-20 minutes.  To start, each tells of something appreciated about each of the others.  Then come any problems within the family – recently, it was over seats in the family car.  And, this detail, I find delightful.  If they don’t come to the meeting, they miss their allowance for that week.  These parents live in reality!

 

These parents were living the truth of the survey I quoted.  If they did not teach Christian faith and values, the culture would convert their children into consumers.  The idea that no teaching leaves children free to choose their faith as adults is a costly mistake.  It is both costly and unjust.  No, they would not be free.  Their children would have already been converted to the culture – the language and symbols – of consumerism – a religion all its own.

 

These parents had changed from the pattern of so many who do not bother to teach a faith at home to their children.  These parents were growing in repentance by living more justly.  They are more just with their children by giving them a faith to live from.

 

*     *     *

Repent, yes.

 

Change and grow.

 

Take your faith out the door.

 

Take it to how you decide whom to vote for.

 

 

 

Music:

He who would valiant be

Where cross the crowded ways of life

Forty days and forty nights

Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult

Rise up, ye saints of God

Lead on, O King eternal

 

 

Prayers:

For repentance

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be

tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted

by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of

each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through

Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

For strength to cope with consumerism

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be

tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted

by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of

each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through

Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

For Times of Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,

in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront

one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work

together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus

Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For the Care of Children

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the

joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient

wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love

whatever is just and true and good, following the example of

our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

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