Monday, March 4, 2019

Lent 1C Readings & Commentaries

The account of Jesus’ forty days of trial and temptation in the wilderness is always the Gospel reading on the 1st Sunday in Lent. The Spirit is the director of the action, 

1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 26:1-11
The readings from the Hebrew Scriptures this Lent are a tour through the history of ancient Israel.  This morning’s reading is a creedal summary of the events leading up to the Exodus, meant to be a reminder to Israel of what God had done for them.  The creed at its most basic is “I was nothing…I was delivered…I was given abundance.” Their remembrance was to be made tangible through on offering of “first fruits.”  Secondary generosity is seen as a symptom of amnesia and faithlessness.

26:1 When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5 you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7 we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Our psalm this morning is used by Luke in his description of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:10-11). It may have been an important text from the Hebrew Scriptures among the early followers of Jesus attempting to understand his ministry. The first two verses are an exhortation to trust. What follows are promises of the results of that trust. The promises are comforting, but also unsettling to anyone whose faithfulness has not been rewarded in these ways. Yet just as God has an ideal dream for the creation (which sometimes falls short), so humankind has an ideal dream for God (which sometimes falls short). The dream, nevertheless, lives on, is held deeply, and its fulfillment is expected when the reign of God is complete.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
         abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 He shall say to the Lord,
   “You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
         my God in whom I put my trust.”
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
         and the Most High your habitation,
10 There shall no evil happen to you, *
         neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
         to keep you in all your ways.
12 They shall bear you in their hands, *
         lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and adder; *
         you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.
14 Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; *
         I will protect him, because he knows my Name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
         I am with him in trouble;
         I will rescue him and bring him to honor.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
         and show him my salvation.

2nd Reading:  Romans 10:8b-13
Our second reading today begins with a quote from Deuteronomy (30:14), which Paul uses in his argument (an argument which has been going on for some time in this letter) that it is the righteousness of faith that saves us, not the righteousness received from following the law.  This reading is a concise statement of Paul’s understanding of salvation, including the universality of its scope.  The final quote is Joel 2:32.

8b “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Gospel Reading:  Luke 4:1-13
The account of Jesus’ forty days of trial and temptation in the wilderness is always the Gospel reading on the 1st Sunday in Lent. The Spirit is the director of the action, as it is throughout Luke’s Gospel. The devil figure in the story can in many ways be seen as the “anti-Spirit.” Jesus reaches back to Deuteronomy for each of his retorts (8:3, 10:20, 6:16). The devil uses this morning’s psalm (91:11-12) as well as Deuteronomy (6:13).  There is an appropriate and inappropriate use of Scripture.  Overall, the story wants us to be clear about the reality of evil.  As one commentator says, “In whatever images or concepts the power of evil may be presented, it is the testimony of experience as well as Scripture that there is in the world opposition to love, health, wholeness, and peace” (Fred Craddock, et al., Preaching through the Christian Year C, 1994, p. 140).

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is copyright © 2019, Epiphany Esources, 67 E Main St, Hornell, NY 14843, All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study with this notice. Bulletin inserts are available. Visit our website for more information.

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