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Sunday, March 10, 2011

The First Sunday in Lent
Pastor Dena Williams
Good Shepherd Lutheran
Denver, Colorado

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

Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

The Holy Gospel according to the Community of St. Matthew in the 4th
Glory to you, O Lord

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

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

Life for All

I enjoy the seasons of the church year.

Each season calls us to examine our relationship with God,
with others, and with ourselves in different ways.

The season of Lent began on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.

That’s lent with an “e”, not an “i”.
Not the sort of lint you find in your pocket.

I like Lent.
Oh, I know, it is a time for repentance, sacrifice, reflection.
I have not always liked Lent.
Quite frankly, it can be depressing!
I have learned to like this season, though.
I so enjoy our Wednesday evenings together!
Soup at 6:15 and Saints at 7:00,
Holden Evening Prayer—
these are times of fellowship and worship that bind us together.
Our time is relaxed and allows us to care for one another in special
during this rather solemn season.

This Lent,
I hear God calling us to remember,
even as we repent and reflect,
I hear God calling us to remember that we have life,
that Jesus came that we might have life and that we might have it
more abundantly.
I do not think I will be depressed this Lent.
I will repent and reflect,
but I will hold to the promise that the journey does not end at Calvary,
but on Easter morning.

Walk with me and with your community of faith through Lent.

Repent and reflect with me and with your family and friends.
Together we will keep our eyes on the promise of resurrection.
The work we do on this journey will not seem sad or depressing if we
walk together.
God gave us each other for this very purpose.

Many of us began our journey together last Wednesday night,

Ash Wednesday.
Don’t worry; it’s not too late to come along on the journey,
even if you missed that first opportunity.
We will meet here every Wednesday night,
first at 6:15 to eat together.
then at 7:00 to sing and hear the stories of some special saints.
I found holy cards for each of the saints we will get to know.
This Wednesday, our Saint is, of course . . . St. Patrick!

You do not have to journey alone through Lent.

This community will walk with you.
Only you can make the choice to be in community during this season.
Your choice to walk this journey will change your life.
I promise.
More important, God promises.

If you missed Ash Wednesday worship,

let me catch you up a bit.
If you were here let me remind you of the Word we shared.
We talked about God’s judgment, repentance, the task of priests and
ministers, and . . . we talked about grace.
We were reminded of God’s gift of love to us through Jesus Christ.
We have a hard time believing in grace.
We would rather talk about those things that we think we have to do to
win God’s love or to earn our salvation.

Our reading from the Gospel of Matthew on Ash Wednesday

reminded us of the importance of giving alms, prayer, and fasting.
We will give alms,
we will pray,
we will fast this Lent.
We will do these things,
not in order to earn God’s love
but in joyful thanksgiving for God’s love for us.

We will come to worship,

we will help others,
we will repent and try to live a good life.
We will do these things,
not because we ought or should,
not to try to earn God’s favor.
We will give alms, pray, fast,
worship, help others, try to live a good life
in order to say:
“Thank you, Jesus.”

The Gospel stories we will share on Sundays during Lent

will remind us each week that Jesus came to give life to all people.
Last Sunday, the Sunday of the Transfiguration,
we saw Jesus as his fully divine self.
We found Christ who is NOT like us!
We saw him transfigured on the mountain,
aglow with Godly light.
We heard God proclaim him to be the beloved Son.

This week we find Jesus in the desert.

He has fasted for forty days.
The devil comes to tempt him with food, riches, and power.
We see Jesus, fully human.
Jesus who seems to be quite a bit like us!
There is no light, no voice from heaven.
There is only Jesus,
hungry, tired, struggling.
Jesus, fully human,
faced with temptation.
In the midst of his conversation with the devil,
we see the power of God.
God sustains, strengthens, guards and guides this fully human Jesus.
Jesus resists temptation by the power of God’s love for him.

Our Lenten season is forty days.

That is, it is forty days, not counting Sundays.
For on the Sundays during Lent
we take a break from our focus on repentance and reflection.
Every Sunday,
and especially the Sundays of Lent,
are little Easters.
We celebrate God’s love,
even as we seek forgiveness and mercy.
We feast on the body and blood of our Lord Jesus,
as we remember his loving sacrifice for us.
We remember his resurrection and his promise to come again.
This year during the Sundays of Lent,
we will hear wonderful Gospel stories of how Jesus came
to give life to all.
We will hear how one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification
and life for all.

This year on the Wednesdays of Lent

Saint Patrick and Cecelia, Christopher and Francis, and Mother Theresa
Practiced the presence of God in their lives.

We will explore how we might learn from the saints the practice of
compassion, perseverance, humility, service, obedience.

Consider then, your journey through Lent.

Come on Sundays to celebrate a little Easter with your community.
Come on Wednesdays to focus on the lives of the saints,
to reflect on how you practice God’s presence in your life.
Make this year’s Lent a complete journey,
see all the sites,
visit all the places,
taste the food,
share the feast,
celebrate and reflect.

Do not make the journey alone.

A Story

There was an elderly couple who had been married for 55 years.
They had always worshipped together,
raised their children in the church,
served faithfully.
One winter the wife died.
Soon the pastor noticed that the husband was no longer coming to
He withdrew from the community of faith.
He did not come for church dinners,
dropped out of his Bible study group.
The pastor went to visit him.
She asked why he was no longer coming to church,
no longer participating in the life of the congregation.
He said it just wasn’t the same without his wife.
He thought it would be easier on his own.
He had decided to pray and seek God’s presence in his life by himself.

The pastor asked how this was working out for him.
As she waited for his answer,
a single coal flew out of the fire in the fireplace and landed on the
Together they watched as the coal first glowed brightly
and then burned out,
leaving only a lifeless cinder.
How had being on his own worked out for him?
“About as well as that”, he said, gazing at the lifeless cinder,
“About as well as that.”

We need each other on this journey through Lent.


We need to celebrate together.

We need to repent and reflect together.
There is safety in numbers.
There is comfort in community.
There is heat and warmth and light when God’s people gather
We find God in our relationships with one another.

Choose community.
Choose life.
Come together this Lent with your congregation,
your church community.
Come to the table at the altar on Sunday,
to the table in fellowship on Wednesday.
Come to hear the stories of God’s gift of life for all.
Come to repent and reflect
surrounded by community,
embraced by God’s love.

Your life will be changed.

God promises!