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March 5, 2017 sermon. Lent 1

Who are We? Whose are We?

This year, we’re going to do something a little bit different during Lent. This season is a gift which invites us to take some time to reflect on what it means to us to be Christian people. We get to undertake the spiritual discipline of reflection.
A prayer written by 13th century Bishop Richard of Chichester captures this sense well (you may know it from the musical Godspell): “Day by day, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly; to love thee more dearly; to follow thee more nearly, day by day.”
These are the questions of Lent: What does it mean for us to see God more clearly? What does it mean for us to love God more dearly? What does it mean for us to follow Jesus more nearly?
This year, I have invited 4 people from our congregation to tell you about their faith. To use completely un–Anglican language, they will give their testimony about what it means to them to be Christian people. My hope is that as they share their trust in God, we all may be prompted by God’s spirit to reflect more deeply about our own faith, our own trust, own life as we live it in the grace of God’s presence.
This morning, I invite Joyce Aasland to tell us about her faith journey.
Thank you, Joyce.
I also want to reflect briefly on our readings.
In both the gospel and the reading from Genesis, we have stories of temptation.
Immediately after his baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness where he is tempted to deny who he was. At his baptism, the voice from the cloud announced, “This is my Son, my beloved, my cherished boy.” Now, in the wilderness, the tempter whispers, “If you are really the Son of God …”
At its heart, this story is about Jesus being tempted to forget who he is and to whom he belongs.
The same thing happens in Genesis. The whole story of creation is about God’s grace coming to birth. And now, the human couple are tempted to forget about God’s grace and goodness in their lives. They are being tempted to forget that God’s love is enough. They are being tempted to forget who they are.
The difference between the two stories is that the human couple does forget. Jesus does not. When Jesus quotes Scripture, it’s a way of grounding himself in God’s trustworthiness. Jesus chooses to trust God who has promised to care for him and for us.
We are so often tempted to forget our deepest identity as God’s people. Most of the temptations in this world don’t come as apples hanging from a tree, or a tempter whispering in our ears. They come as subtle messages that seek to undermine our identity and tempt us to forget whose we are. So many commercials suggest we are inadequate. So many headlines suggest that there is not enough to go around. And so many politicians – of all parties – contend that we have a great deal to fear.
In Lent, we remember again that our lives are rooted in baptism. God calls our name and whispers to our souls that we are loved and cherished daughters and sons of the living God. God tells us that we are so totally enough. We are God’s work of art. There is plenty to go around. We do not need to live in fear.
Beginning today in Lent, let me suggest some questions to reflect upon:
What tempts us to turn away from God?
What can help you renew your trust in God?
What does it mean to you to be a Christian person?
Lent is a gift to us, giving us space to reflect on our life in God.
Thanks be to God.

Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
March 5, 2017 (1st Sunday in Lent)
Genesis 2: 15–17, 3: 1–7
Romans 5: 12–19
Matthew 4: 1–11