Today marks the first Sunday of Lent.
On this day we remember the call that we first heard on Ash Wednesday to return to God, to ask God for forgiveness where we need forgiveness, to forgive where we need to forgive, and to find ways to renew our spiritual life.
In our Gospel reading for today we hear the well-known story of the temptation of Christ.
This reading from Luke speaks about Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness while being tempted by the devil. Being full of the Holy Spirit Jesus is able to resist all of the temptations.
Jesus is able to provide a way for us too to avoid the temptations that we face in life – go to God in prayer, go to the Word of God in the Bible, and go to Jesus.
Lent is a time to return to the Bible, it is a time to revisit our prayer life, and most importantly Lent is a time to come back to God knowing that no matter where we are in our relationship with God, it is always possible to go deeper both in the relationship and in our understanding of God’s ways.
During this time our midweek Lenten services provide an opportunity for us to dig deeper into the meaning and purpose of Lent as we anticipate the great three days before Easter Sunday.
Now is the time to lengthen our days which is the meaning of Lent and to expand our sense of time and to enter the full experience of these forty days.
Now is the time to slow down and to pay attention to how we live and how we interact with one another.
Now is the time to practice mindfulness and to simply observe what is going on in our lives and to take note of what God is doing in the world.
Now is the time to listen, to be aware, and to search for the living God.
The connection of our Lord’s forty day fast and time of prayer in the wilderness was an idea that was attached to the season of Lent.
But it was only added… and this is a really important point here after this special time was already established by the church as a preparation period for candidates for baptism.
So this period of time was originally a time of catechesis, of learning the faith, as preparation for baptism which would then take place at the Easter Vigil service.
It was only much later in Christian history where this time period would become a time for all Christians for repentance, for prayer, and for fasting.
So originally this time was meant to be a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter and of celebrating a person’s new life in Christ through baptism.
It was a time to remember that in Jesus the kingdom of God has come near that we are to return to God, and we are to believe in the good news.
During that time a candidate for baptism sought instruction in the faith while looking forward to God’s future where God will redeem and restore all of God’s creation.
Overtime the church has seen it beneficial to still see this time of Lent as a time of learning the faith and in celebrating baptisms, which we joyfully did this morning, but the church has added this extra piece of taking on spiritual disciplines.
Following Jesus sometimes requires sacrifice and discipline.
Following Jesus requires of us to take up our cross with Jesus.
Faith is about having direction, purpose, and in making a commitment.
It is also about fulfilling our promises to God. Just as God makes promises to us, we make promises to God, that we will be faithful to God as God is faithful to us. This is not works righteousness but rather a joyful response to God.
With joy we take on the disciplines of Lent in response to our love for God.
As time went on in church history Lent took on some different meanings.
Today Lent is a time period where all people are invited to participate in seasons of Lent and all people are invited to examine their faith lives.
Today the church teaches that just as God makes promises to us we too make promises to God and we enter into a mutual, holy covenant with God.
Now while the Lenten season has changed some-what over the years the season still preserves its central focus which is to hold up the great importance of looking to God
– in confident trust that God will work in and through our lives and that God has in fact, called us to live our faith in acts of service and love.
This past Wednesday we gathered for our traditional Ash Wednesday service.
Ash Wednesday is that very holy day within the church year where we attend our own funeral.
The liturgy on that day reminds us of our mortality.
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The service becomes one of those rare occasions where we speak of death before it comes.
On that day we also remember that we are held captive to sin.
But on that day and on this day we remember together that Easter Sunday is coming.
Even during this solemn season of Lent the good news of Easter is at hand.
Even in the midst of our own personal struggles and suffering God is present.
We boldly name together that not even death or our sin can separate us from God and from those we love.
Now we wait with patience and we practice the disciplines of Lent as we look forward to the promise that is ours in Jesus.
Once again during this season of Lent we look to discover what it means to live in relationship with God and how we might faithfully serve one another.
We look to receive God’s grace and mercy that is free for us at the table of bread and wine.
During this Lenten season come to the table of Holy Communion as often as you can.
Remember that each and every time you receive the elements of bread and wine you are entering into the great covenant that God has made with you in Christ.