Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lent 1A Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Our first reading begins with the portion of the second creation story (2:4-25) in which ’adam (“the man”), having been given the gift of the garden, is commanded not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. The remainder of chapter 2 describes the creation of a partner for ’adam. Chapter 3 tells the story of what is commonly known as “the fall.” For ancient Israel, this was the source story for why we do not live in a perfect world, and the nature of humankind’s relationship with God, falling short of God’s will, and living in fear of God. The larger question in play in this story (and, subsequently, throughout the Scriptures) is:  How can we live in creation on God’s terms, and not simply in our own autonomy?

2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32
Psalm 32 is known as one of the penitential psalms by Christians, but there is little of penitence found here. The theme is God’s propensity for forgiveness, which is as miraculous as the creation itself. For humankind, the emphasis is on truth-telling. St. Paul will use verses 1-2 in Romans (4:7-8) to emphasize divine mercy as the cause of forgiveness, not any human quality or response.

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
       and whose sin is put away!
2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
       and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
       because of my groaning all day long.
4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
       my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
       and did not conceal my guilt.
6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
       Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in
                            time of trouble; *
       when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
8 You are my hiding-place;
    you preserve me from trouble; *
       you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you
                            should go; *
       I will guide you with my eye.
10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
       who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
       or else they will not stay near you.”
11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
       but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
       shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

2nd Reading:  Romans 5:12-19
This passage is in the middle of a long argument that began in the first chapter of Romans with the assertion that the gospel is that “The one who is righteous will live [and be saved] by faith” (1:16-17) and will end with the extraordinary statement, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). In chapter 3 Paul had made the case that all people are sinners, fallen short of God’s glory (3:22-23). Chapter 4 is a midrash on the story of Abraham, emphasizing his faith that was “reckoned to him as righteousness.” In chapter 5 Paul moves on to Adam. The argument in this passage is complex, but is basically this:  If Adam is the man after whom all sin, then Christ is his opposite, the man through whom all live. Grace has dominion for the followers of Christ.

5:12 Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 4:1-11
Our Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, following his baptism. The 40 days is surely meant to remind us of the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness. The temptation is to perform miracles, all of which would result in potentially good things (food, proof that Jesus is God’s Son and cannot suffer harm, and political control). Jesus will have none of it. Through his baptism and the forty days that precede the temptation he has discerned the shape of his ministry, and it is not what the devil is offering him. Notice the quoting of Scripture can be done for good or for ill. The devil quotes from Psalm 91 (v. 6), Jesus from Deuteronomy:  8:3 (v. 4), 6:16 (v.7), and 6:13 (v. 10).

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

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