The First Sunday in Lent
Petite Riviere, LaHave February 25, AD 2007
2 Corinthians 6:1-10 Matthew 4:1-11
Then was Jesus
led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
When have been
through four days of Lent so far. Have you entered
into the rest that God has promised us yet? that place to which He is
leading us all, that we might go in and out and find pasture? I admit I
haven’t yet had much opportunity but I long for it, and pray that God
might lead us into it this Lent.
It is the Spirit of
God that led the Son of God into the wilderness to be tempted of the
devil. And it is, we believe, the same Spirit of God that has inspired
the Church to call on us all to enter into a time of increased
temptation through fasting and self-denial.
We follow the great
examples throughout the Bible of holy people who through the ages
followed this practice –
the Old Testament we can think of Moses and Elijah, who for forty days
fasted on the mountain, that they might hear clearly the Word of God -
Moses received the Law!; Elijah heard that still small voice and learned
precisely what God would have him do next.
of Daniel, who refused the delicacies of the King of Babylon’s table – meat and
wine – that he might not become confused in the new land to which he had
been brought a prisoner, that he might not forget his God, and he was
endowed with great spiritual gifts - to read dreams, to be a ruler in Babylon;
the New Testament, we can think of John the Baptist, who separating
himself from the world, ate dates and grasshoppers, surely not his
preferred food, that he might know
and fulfill the great purposes that God had for his life - to be the
voice in the wilderness crying, make straight the way of the Lord;
can think of Anna, a prophetess, who was a
widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the
temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day,
and her faithfulness was rewarded with beholding the Christ child
Himself, and her example is remembered to this day.
we have the example of St. Paul who experienced much suffering at the
hands of others, but also chose to suffer in watchings (giving up
sleep to remain in prayer), in fastings, by pureness that he
might not be a cast-away.
morning we have the example of our Lord Himself – the one figure in the
whole history of Scripture who opens up for us what He actually
experienced in that time of fasting so that we might know how to
overcome the temptations we will face.Our Collect this
morning explains why we do this. We pray for the grace to use such
abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever
obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour
and glory. When we fast we become more aware of how we
can become easily enslaved by the flesh, and by grace, we recover the proper
rule of God’s Spirit over our flesh.
Here is what our
Lord shows us about the way through the temptations we can expect:
First, in this battle between the flesh
and the spirit, we
come to know that there is this priority of the Spirit over the flesh –
that we live not by bread alone but by every Word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of God, that it is the spirit that
gives life to the flesh, the flesh is of no avail [John 6]. The
principle of our life, what is behind it all is not matter, but God, who
Second, we also come
to see that there are certain necessities of the flesh which we should
not deny. When the devil tempted Christ to jump from the top of the
temple because surely God's angels would catch him, Jesus replied –
It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord
thy God. There is a point where we can become in our minds too
separated from the necessities of being embodied creatures, and we are to
recall – remember O man that thou art dust. We are to love our
body, take care of it, but love it in God and for God.
It is as the Collect
says – to use such abstinence, that our flesh being subdued to
the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions – not more
abstinence than is
needed to this end, and not less.
Third, our purpose in
being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, having our desires
purified, is not so that we might become more powerful creatures able to
rule over this world for worldly ends. The devil taketh [Jesus] up
into an exceeding high mountain and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the
world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will
I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. God will grant
us self control and power in the Spirit, but it is so that we might
accomplish the purposes that God has set out for us - Thou shalt
worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. It is as
St. Paul says, that we receive not the grace of God in vain or as
today's Collect says, to thy honour and glory.
Our Lenten discipline is to bring us into a place
of freedom and freedom is only truly lived out in the Kingdom of
Do you hear the freedom St. Paul has?
He is able to
minister courageously in all circumstances – in much patience, in
afflictions, in tumults, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments –
not because he is strong, but because he is strong in the Lord.
He doesn’t care
endlessly about what the world thinks, he is so aware of who he is as a
child beloved of God – by honour and dishonour, by evil report and
good report, as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known
– well known to God! And so he is free to do what is the right thing,
no matter what the world might say or how it might seek to resist him.
St. Paul is freed up
to be able to love with all his heart and soul and mind and strength –
his ministry is fulfilled
by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by
love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour
of righteousness…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making
many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Do you see his
freedom? Is this not a kind of freedom that we all desire?
If you haven’t
entered into a Lenten discipline of fasting – it is not too late.
You’ve only missed four days. And if you think your doctor would not approve of you eating
less, I don’t think any doctor would disapprove of you giving up
dessert, or taking away some other delight, while eating the same
amount. Consider shaking yourself up – remember the great saints:
Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Anna, Paul; remember even our Lord fasted.
And if you are
fasting and experiencing increased anxiety today, which is normal, let
us allow our Lord to wash our faces this morning in the Holy Communion
of His Body and Blood that thou appear not
unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy
Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
O LORD, who for
our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: Give us grace to use
such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may
ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy
honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy
Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.