Sunday, March 10, 2019

All The Good

March 10, 2019 –– 1st Sunday of Lent
Deuteronomy 26:4–10 / Psalm 91 / Romans 10:8–13 / Luke 4:1–13
All The Good

How did you get here today?

You might describe your vehicle and the exact route from your home to the church.

You might think through all the steps you took to dress and get ready for church today. (I am always amazed at parents who get here on time with several small children!).

We could expand our perspective to include the many and various influences which motivate us to be in church. Some of us are fortunate enough to have had faithful parents who nurtured us in the Faith, and our presence in church is a continuous flow from childhood. Some have been raised in the church and then took a conspicuous detour, but now the connection has been restored. Some were raised in what be called a “neutral” environment––not religious, but not antagonistic––and along the way “faith happened.” Still others have come from broken, abusive, and hostile backgrounds, but the love of Jesus broke through and now church is “home.”

Regardless of how we came to be here, belonging to Christ and his Church is a grace story of God’s goodness. And to begin to comprehend the extent of that, we have to go far beyond our personal stories. What God is doing in each of us individually is just a small part of what God is doing and has been doing for thousands of years of human history.

One facet is in our first reading: my father was a wandering Aramean…. Long before you and I were a projected thought (other than in the eternal mind of God), the Lord was calling and building a people who distinctively belonged to him. Hundreds––thousands––of years ago God was doing something special in the life of a man who we know as Abraham, and what God was doing in Abraham would have long-term effect stretching all the way to today into your life and mine.

Yet the stories of God’s people include some awful things. The first reading recalls affliction and toil and oppression. That is why God’s grace and goodness are so incredible. The story of God’s goodness is light breaking into darkness and hope rising out of oppression and death. Over and over there is a reality expressed by the Psalm’s antiphon: Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble. This is affirmed in something Jesus told his first disciples: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John16:33).

We see one way that Jesus overcame the world in today’s Gospel. In his Temptation Jesus faced the most basic human desires which can be twisted in a way that puts our desires above God and blocks his grace. Jesus would not bow to the traps of power, pride, and even physical hunger. As the book of Hebrews says: tempted in all points as we are, but without sin. Even in our temptations we see that in Jesus we have a Savior. Lent is all about learning to trust a loving Father.  That’s what Jesus did in the desert in his own personal “Lent.”

So, how did you get here today? The undergirding and overwhelming answer is that the goodness of the Lord has brought you to this place. It is not merely the fact of your physical presence in church (although that is good). It is Goodness that provides comfortable homes and ample food and clothing. It is Goodness that we have convenient vehicles to take us where we go.

Even more, the disposition of your heart that moved you to be here today is God’s goodness at work. Goodness is the awareness you have of God when you are moved to pray and serve and give. Goodness is the awareness of God that comes when you are tempted and know you need to turn away. Goodness is even the awareness of God that is there when you have disobeyed and you sense that inner voice to turn and put things right. Wherever we go, we’re the child of a wandering Aramean who learned to trust God.

This is because we can go anywhere in life except outside of God’s embrace. At its core, Christian Faith is embracing the reality that God is here and he has done everything for us to make things right through his Son’s entrance into our world. Did you pay attention to the second reading?

What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in  your mouth and in your heart––that is, the word of faith that we preach––for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The message that was birthed at Christmas continues into the struggles of Lent: God is with us. As we leave this place today, God is with us. As we go into the coming week with all of its demands––even stresses and fears, God is with us. Wherever we go, God is with us.

And because God is with us, we are immersed in goodness. Sometimes it is so obvious. Sometimes we have to look for it. But we are here today because of God’s goodness, and that Goodness with follow us into a future that is beyond our imagination.

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