Mother Vivian Shelby – The First Sunday in Lent, February 26, 2023
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
It is Lent! Can you believe it? It is Lent. And today, we have a story that shows the true character of the son of God, without a doubt. So after Jesus’ baptism, in the gospel of Matthew, he is lead immediately out to the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. It says, “to be tested.” At the end of those 40 days and 40 nights he had fasted and prayed. And the gospel says he was famished. I can’t even imagine how famished he was. And then the devil comes. The devil, satan, the tempter. I find it interesting, and crafty that the tempter waited until the end of his fast. Didn’t tempt him while he was in the wilderness. But actually tempted him when physically, the human heart of Jesus was spent. And so the tempter is hoping that he will be able to trick Jesus into giving away his power.
So, Jesus is hungry. His body is hungry for food. So the devil says, “Make these stones turn into bread. And then you can eat, right now.” And Jesus says, “No. I can live on the word of God.” And he quotes Deuteronomy. So he’s quoting Scripture to the tempter.
So then the devil take him to the pinnacle and says, “Look, if you are the son of God, prove it. Jump off this building, and Scripture says the angels will come and save you.” Jesus says, “No. We are not to test God.”
So then the tempter takes him and shows him the glory of all the kingdoms in the world and says, “Just worship me and I will give you all these.” And Jesus knows he’s won the battle and he says, “Get away from me, satan. Go away. Because that is not what the Scriptures say.”
And he does beat the test. And the tempter goes away. Now, he is physically spent. And spiritually spent, from a human perspective. And the angels do swoop down and lift him up. And care for him.
So what can we take from this? These are the hard questions during Lent.
What is it that tempts us? What are the things in this world that tempt us to make bad choices? What are those things? So, I’m asking you this Lent to be introspective, and examine yourself. What are those things? What are those things that we use to make us feel better when we’ve made a bad choice or maybe they’re a bad choice all on their own. Overeating. Undereating. Eating the wrong thing for your health. Drinking too much alcohol. Smoking. Taking pills to make us feel better. So this Lent think about those times when you’re the most stressed. What is it that’s stressing you out? Family drama? Job issues? Health issues? Grief? Anger? Pride? It’s different for each one of us. But we all know where we are right now. How healthy are we being, in our mind, our body, and our spirit?
Now, the Gospels are always teaching us. Teaching us how to be more like Christ. Better Christian. So the story today tells us, “How does Jesus defeat the tempter in this gospel?” With Scripture. The only responses Jesus gives to the tempter are straight Scripture. And it’s so powerful that if you notice at the second temptation, the tempter decides to use it on him. And says, “Well, as it is written, ‘The angels will come and you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” So, the temperature tries to use Scripture against Jesus. And he loses. So, Jesus passed the test because he could show the tempter who he was in his heart, in his soul. And that he was solid and true and powerful, as the son of God, using Scripture. How many of us good Episcopalians, leaving here, if we got tested by someone could respond with Scripture? Depends on what the question was for me, and I’m a priest!
So I invite you this Lent to dive into Scripture. It is the living breathing word of God that speaks to each one of us. Individually, differently, depending on your situation. I’ve studied the Scriptures and each time I read it, a specific part, it can say something completely different to me because of where I am in my life.
Now, here at Trinity we offer many, many opportunities to study Scripture. But it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, from the comfort of your own home you can study the Psalms. I’m teaching a class in between services, it starts around 9:15, but you can show up whenever you can, about praying the Psalms. Somebody grab a prayer book right now in the pew and open it page 585. That is Psalm 1. I did not know this until someone showed me in seminary. Under Psalm 1 what does it say? No, there are words before that. It says Psalm 1 and then it says something else. First day, Morning. And then at Psalm 6 it says, first day, evening. Our very own prayer book has the Psalms split so that you can read them in 30 days. If you read a couple in the morning and a couple at night, every day. So I invited my class, and the 8 o’clock service and I invite you, to read them. Read them and see what strikes you. How God is talking to you through the Psalms. And you will read all 150 by Easter. We need to have these Scriptures in our bones. So that when we are at our lowest point. When we are famished physically, spiritually, mentally, that we can recall a piece of Scripture that will keep us from making a bad choice and comfort us in our suffering. God knows how hard it is. Intimately so, because of what Jesus went through.
So I invite you to join me. Because it will give you something to help lift you up in bad times. And a way to praise God in good times. The other thing you could do this Lent, as Father Bill has mentioned, Father Bill and I are both available for The Rite of Reconciliation. To absolve you from any sin that you have that you feel that you can’t let go of it. Because God wants you to release it and accept forgiveness for it so you can move forward with your life. We’re also available for counseling. If there is something you are struggling with, and I know this is a beautiful Church community, and everybody is so kind. I have already experienced that. But my experience as a priest is there is a really good likelihood that there’s somebody sitting here right now that deep down, thinks they are unlovable because of something they have done. And it’s not true. It is not true.
Like I said two weeks ago, our baptismal covenant says “and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” Not “if” we fall into sin. But “when” because we’re human and it’s going to happen. All you have to do is ask for God’s forgiveness, make amends, turn your heart around, and try again tomorrow. But if you are struggling with that, you have plenty of brothers and sisters here you can speak with. If you’re lucky enough to have a therapist, you can speak to a therapist. And like I said, Father Bill and I are available.
So today, do not recycle your bulletins. Don’t do it. Take them home. Take them home and study the Scriptures. Study the Psalm. Better yet, cut out the Collect of the day which begs for God to help us. Cut it out and tape it where you’re going to see it first thing in the morning. Might be the bathroom. Might be the coffee maker. Or in the mirror in your bathroom. Or on the door as you leave. Some place where you are going to see it and you are going to read it every day this week to help lift you up and strengthen you. Jesus came to help us. Because he knows it’s hard. He came to help us. Let him. Amen.