March 9, 2014

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 Matthew 4:1-11 “Avoiding Distraction; Living into God’s Purpose” As we began the forty-day journey of Lent this week, we may have decided to take on a Lenten discipline. Some of you may have decided to give something up, like coffee, or chocolate, or video games, or taking the elevator (as my sister once did). Some of you may have decided to take something on, like praying or reading scripture every day, or attending worship or bible study every week, or giving more of your time, talent, or money to do some good in the world. You may be thinking today about how you are going to avoid the temptation to break your Lenten discipline. How are you going to make yourself get up earlier in the morning to spend time with God in prayer each day? How are you going to stop yourself from giving in, and buying and eating the Easter chocolate that is already in the stores? How are you going to stay firm in your commitment to pray, worship, and give more to God with all the many other demands on your time and attention? Although temptation and sin are the usual ways of describing this dilemma, I wonder if “distraction” is a better word for what so often goes wrong in our attempts to follow Jesus more closely during Lent and throughout the year. If you’re anything like me, distraction can get in the way of getting a lot of things done. For … Read more »

March 13, 2011

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 Psalm 32 Luke 15:11-32 The liturgical season of Lent is typically a time set aside for penitence. On Ash Wednesday, a group of us gathered here at the church, just as Christians gathered around the world, and we were invited to enter a period of self-examination, repentance, prayer, and fasting. Indeed, we are called to use these forty days (between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) as a time of particular reflection on our sins, the ways that we separate ourselves from God and from one another. Thus, it is easy to characterize Lent as the sombre, solemn period of the church year. The fact that Psalm 32 is set for the first Sunday of Lent in our lectionary suggests that there seems to be more to this season than solemnity. The title given to this psalm in the NRSV translation says a lot. It’s titled, “The Joy of Forgiveness.” The psalmist offers a “before” and an “after” picture of his experience of confessing his sins to God. Here’s what things were like BEFORE he made his confession. He laments: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” But then he acknowledges his sins to God: “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” he says. And AFTER the confession, he comes to know God’s forgiveness, an experience of relief and … Read more »