Sermon for the first Sunday in Lent 2019: part of the series 'Dancing in the desert: exploring faith in the wilderness'
Deuteronomy 26. 1-11
Romans 10. 8b-13
St Luke 4. 1-13
The Gospel reading today relates the desert experience to end all desert experiences. As we hear: 'Christ was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness, where, for forty days he was tempted by the devil'.
We may have different images of a desert: endless sand dunes, constantly shifting; flat and featureless, stretching for miles; the blistering heat, or the freezing cold at night, perhaps.
But the desert into which our Lord entered was stony and rocky and full of temptation. Maybe that is closer to the deserts of our lives.
Exodus 33:12- 23; Rev 21:1-7 and Mk 6:45-51.
The typical miracle in Mark is to do with healing, often combined with casting out unclean spirits, making the blind see, the deaf hear, and so on. Very good things to do. Nowadays we understand far more about illness and medicine---so these miracles aren’t quite as supernatural for our consciousness. In the gospel, faith (your own or someone else’s) is a condition to be healed, or there is some other theological overlay. Nevertheless it’s all in line with a universal human want and something we’ve got quite good at ourselves.
Exodus 17. 1-7
A reading from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life – William Law (1686-1761)
William Law was born in Kings Cliff in 1686 educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and after ordination as Deacon, he became a Fellow of the College in 1711. When George I came to the throne in 1714, William declined to take the Oath of Allegiance – being a member of the non-Juror party who believed that the anointed but deposed, James II and his heirs should occupy the throne. He lost his Fellowship but was made a priest in 1728 and published several influential books. He returned to his home town of King’s Cliffe, Northamptonshire in 1740 where he led a life of devotion, simplicity and caring for the poor.
In the non-biblical reading from his book ‘A Serious Call to a devout and Holy Life’, William refers to ‘the Common Good’. This is a phrase we more readily associate with Catholic Social Teaching rather than with Protestant England in the 18th century.
But I think it is represented in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions because the Common Good is central to what it means to commit ourselves to one another – the theme of this sermon and next Wednesday’s Lent Group.
Overview: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (Ps 24:1) How to Save the World - in 12 minutes…
Is our Commitment to the World simply a matter of recycling bottles, saving the rain forests and bathing with a friend? Of international agitation with Amnesty, Oxfam or Save the Children? Is it nearer to home with Barnardos, Food Banks or Payday Lending? All are laudable.
From Genesis’s “Fill the earth and subdue it” to Revelation’s consumption of the earth in a ball of fire, Christians are called into a specific stewardship of God’s creation.
First Reading | Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7 The Holy Gospel | St Matthew 4. 1-11
Look at our Bible readings today: the story of the fall and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. How do we know about either? There were no observers of either event; can you imagine Adam and Eve telling Cain and Abel the story of their downfall? Or Jesus confiding in the disciples what happened to him out there in the wilderness? So what do we have? A just so story which explains why we live in a less that perfect world, and a story which, while it may very well contain an element of truth presents us with the unedifying spectacle of Jesus and Satan quoting scripture at each other.
Presented with such unpromising material can we do other than question our commitment to scripture?
If I only had one sermon to preach: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again (Canon Jim Rosenthal)Read Now
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I am not going to let Father Peter outdo me in his succinct description of the one sermon he would like to preach. You may remember his words last week, if he had one sermon to preach it would be very brief and would be "God is love". Well, mine is this: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". To me, when we proclaim the mystery of faith in these or similar words, the entire reason for our own joy and our own gathering together comes into focus for me: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Should I say "amen" and sit down, well no, I had better not, especially if I want to be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on 30th June. More is expected and I will now, in the next few minutes, attempt that by offering you my version of what the one sermon I would like to preach, if I only had one sermon to preach, this would be it, I think.
Isaiah 42. 1-9; Romans 10. 8b-13; Luke 4 1-13
"Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary, but it should not involve endless self-preoccupation. You should also dwell on the glad remembrance of the loving kindness of God". Bernard of Clairvaux
Lent is the time when we think of Jesus in the Wilderness and that story is the Gospel reading we have just heard. But the wilderness also belongs to us. It is always lurking somewhere, as part of our experience, and there are times when it can seem pretty near the whole of it. Most people's wilderness is inside them, not outside. Our wilderness is an inner isolation. It's an absence of contact. It's a sense of being alone, sometimes boringly alone, or saddeningly alone, or terrifyingly alone.
Jeremiah 31. 31-34; 2 Thessalonians 1. 1-5; St John 12. 20-33
Laudabo Nomen Domini
Our Lenten series this year at St Matthew’s has been on the theme Mirroring God’s Love’, and over the past weeks we have been looking at ways in which we are called to reflect the love of God as individuals - as Christians - and as members together of the Body of Christ, the Church. We started by looking at the person of Jesus Christ, who is in himself the image of the unseen God, and have gone on to look at how we are called to reflect the love of God to each other, at the margins, and to the world.