1st Sunday in Lent

Sermon March 1, 2020 Lent

Lectionary readings:

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;

2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”

3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;

3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Romans 5:12-19

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned-

5:13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

5:14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

5:16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.

5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,

4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;

4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.



I could give you the bible in three words. Creation, devastation, restoration.

I don’t know about y’all but time seems to go faster and faster the older I get. Wasn’t Christmas just last week? We were putting up decorations and we were singing songs and telling stories about the birth of Jesus and now we are embarking on the road to the cross. Today’s texts give us some clues as to what we should be pondering. I love that word – ponder. Do you remember? In Luke 2:19 when the shepherds came to see the baby Jesus and told all that the angels had said to them, people were amazed “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Christmas is busy and noisy with bells and carols and kids. But as we walk into the season of Lent, we slow down and while the birth of Christ causes us to want to draw near, it’s human nature to want to avoid pain and it’s a little more difficult to examine our own sin than to sing Joy To the World. We don’t like being in the wilderness.

Maybe to see where we are, we need to look at where we were. We started in a perfect garden, created in God’s image, stewards over all creation. What that must have been like, walking with God, fully known, every need provided for. No crime, no poverty, no disease, no war. And then, we believed a lie . And no matter the words that the serpent used with Eve, the actual lie was that you can’t trust God. That God is withholding something good and desirable from us. In Eve’s case it was the temptation of the fruit of a tree they had been told not to eat. For us, it could be anything, but it will still come back to not trusting God. Not trusting that His plan is better than anything we can imagine. That His Word is trustworthy and true. Temptation is just an enticement to try to get you to do something that is not Gods’ will.

Adam and Eve do not take up much space in the bible. Their story is dramatic but short and their time in the garden ends. But the consequences of sin are woven throughout the rest of the bible and weigh on us to this day. A short time in creation, a shorter time in devastation, and the rest of the bible is our restoration story.

We started in a garden and ended up in a wilderness. We jump from the ending of Adam and Eve’s story in Genesis in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament and we read the story of the temptation of Jesus in the book of Matthew. In the middle of these readings, Paul takes us deeper into the meaning of how God has a plan to get us back to the garden – restoration.

Two temptation stories but with very different outcomes. One, the end of innocence, the second, the beginning of a ministry that brings salvation.

There is so much in the readings today and no way we can look closely at all of it so I would encourage you to read it again on your own. Read what comes before and after. because temptations come don’t they? 

I heard a young preacher say that if you are reading about Jesus interacting with other people look for three things: the context, the character, and the crazy. What is the context? Mark is writing to a community of Jewish Christians during a period of reconstruction after a revolt. It’s important to him to remind the people that Jesus is connected to but better than, David. Better than Abraham, and better than Moses. When Jesus quotes scripture, they would recognize the words. When they hear forty days, they will remember the rain fell for forty day and forty nights during the great flood. They will remember that Moses was up on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. Moses people that wandered for forty years and Now? Jesus has just been baptized. Who are the characters? Jesus and the enemy. What’s the crazy? In human terms, if we had super powers would we not choose to use them?

As we get older the temptations change and they may slow down as we mature in our faith, but they come. There are always choices and how we face those choices makes all the difference.

In Matthew we read that the same spirit that had just descended on Jesus  led him out into the wilderness. 

Wait…. I think I have seen this before…In Exodus 14, Moses takes the Israelites through the Red Sea. Pharaoh thought they were slaves but they were God’s people – God decides who we are – not the Pharaohs of the world. They were given their identity. And once they had come through the sea did they go immediately into the promised land? No! They wandered for forty years in the? Wilderness!

In John 1:23 it says of John the Baptist” I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” And John baptized with…WATER!

I’m seeing a theme here.

When a baby is conceived, the child grows in the womb surrounded by …water. A doctor may do an ultrasound and often can already tell if the baby is a boy or a girl. They already have an identity. When a baby is born they usually cry….maybe because after all these months of being in a safe warm place, they have been rudely thrust into…the wilderness! The wilderness is life!

Now Jesus is in the wilderness right after being in…the water!

God takes us from the water to the wilderness.

This reading in Matthew starts immediately after Jesus baptism which is a big deal. One clue that it’s a big deal is that when Jesus was baptized, the spirit descended upon Him and the voice of God spoke. This is the one time in the whole of the New Testament that the entire GodHead is present – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus was baptized not for his sins, he was sinless – but to show that He identifies with us (the ones He came to save) in our sin.

Jesus had fasted in the wilderness for forty days. He was probably weak and very hungry. The enemy watched and waited till the right moment. He didn’t offer riches. He suggested Jesus use his powers to feed himself. A basic and very important need. But Jesus had been preparing for forty days. The wilderness isn’’t so much the problem as who is waiting for us there! And this is not the first time hunger was used as a temptation. Remember the people wandering for forty years? Why did they grumble against Moses and Aaron? They said it would have been better for them to have stayed in slavery in Egypt…

Jesus had a plan and maybe there are some tools here, that we can use when we find ourselves in a wilderness of temptation.

Jesus was at the beginning of his ministry. Have you ever started a new thing, dreaming and planning and then just as you begin, all hell (literally) comes after you? The sun had barely had time to dry Jesus’ robe and He found himself in a wilderness, hungry and the enemy dangling the one thing he physically needed in front of him suggesting He take the easy way. Sometimes you have worked on something and you are almost there – your goal is in sight. And things or people fail you. Remember in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake and keep watch while He prayed. Guess who napped?? 

Sometimes it is helpful to know where you are at. Genesis tells us that the serpent was craftier than all the other wild animals. I’ll come back to that but for now just think about how the serpent is crafty – the serpent waited and watched for the perfect moment. 

When are you most susceptible? 

Know where you are – spiritually. Jesus was physically hungry but made a choice and every decision He made was for your benefit and mine, rather than His own. The things we do today, determine the stories our lives will tell tomorrow. How we choose to live is for the next generation and the one after that. 

The serpent used scripture to attack. It is so easy and sometimes so attractive to make scripture say what we want it to say and often how we use scripture probably says more about where we are in our own journey, than what it actually means. I am repeatedly amazed at how a text that I read in the past, now has a completely different meaning for me than when I first read it. But notice that at the baptism of Jesus, the Word came down on Him and when He is tempted, The Word comes out of him. 

The Word of God is our defense but you can’t have something come out of you if you didn’t put it in, in the first place!

We talked about the text in Genesis at Monday Morning Lectionary bible study and I confess, in the past, I never caught it. The serpent was craftier than all the other wild animals – the serpent was created by God so who do you think is the boss here? Jesus said “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.”

Know where your help comes from! 

Wearing ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday and fasting for the forty days of Lent is not required of us. It doesn’t mean we are a part of an exclusive club and know the secret handshake. But maybe it gives us an opportunity to pause, to take a second look. At ourselves and how we fit into this path from creation to devastation and finally to restoration and to remember that as Jesus started His journey to the cross, he did it with all of us in mind. The power of sin entered the world through one man and because of that we all carry that burden but God’s power is greater and He will never allow us to be tempted without giving us an escape. And with Jesus, the power of sin and death will be defeated for ALL of us! THAT IS GOOD NEWS because whoever the son sets free is free indeed!

Maybe Lent is supposed to be a time when we, like Mary, treasure up all these things and ponder them in our hearts. Amen.