Lent One: Year A 2017

Sermon Title: LENT ONE: YEAR A 2017
Date: 5th March 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: Lent One
Lectionary Reading: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-21, Matthew 4:1-11

The film ‘Hidden Figures’ is a powerful, heart-warming, very human story.  Based on the true story of very intelligent, coloured women in the 1960’s, who worked with NASA’s space programme to put the first man into space, but were discriminated against because of their colour. As one said and I paraphrase: “I have degrees, I want to be an engineer, but I can’t change the colour of my skin to be accepted.” She wanted to go to a White High School to get one more ‘piece of paper’ to be approved as an engineer.

The three women held their own. Inspirational! They were polite (probably because of their ‘lower position’ over the years), but they had self-respect, confidence and it shone through!

In one incident, a white woman in charge of the ‘coloured typing pool of women’ continued to decline one of the women the position of Supervisor, even though she has been doing that role and doing it very well. The woman in charge had every excuse to hide behind the fact she didn’t see past her colour.  In one conversation, the white woman said to the coloured woman “I really don’t have anything against you” and she said this sincerely.  The coloured woman, also kindly and sincerely replied “I know you think that”.

The story of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, is basically about separation from God and each other. They ‘both’ didn’t trust God and so the seed of mistrust was sown by the rather chatty, crafty serpent.  Please don’t go to the old way of blaming the woman or believing this story really happened.

“The Bible is not a collection of facts. It is a collection of stories, poems, songs, prayers, and remembrances.[it’s a library]. It invites us to dwell over its details, revel in its beauty, and reflect on its difficult questions.” [i]

It doesn’t take much for both Adam and Eve to begin to mistrust God, and please note that Adam was there with Eve, so one can wonder why he didn’t speak up! All this shows is that there is something in us humans that resonated with a hermeneutic of suspicion that the serpent planted by offering an option of interpreting what God had said.

And the seduction was to do with being self-sufficient, not needing to have their wants and needs met through their relationship with God, but by thinking they can do it alone… separated from God, separated from one another.

We now go into the wilderness with Jesus, where he is tempted by the devil.  He was there for 40 days and 40 nights. The wilderness, in scripture represents a place of preparation, a place of waiting for God’s next move, a place of learning to trust God.

Just to name a few places where the number 40 has been used.

It was 40 days and nights that Noah was in the ark.

It was 40 days and nights Moses fasted on Mount Sinai.

It was 40 days and night Elijah fasted in the desert before receiving a new commission from God.

It was 40 years the Israelites wandered the wilderness in preparation to enter the Promised Land.

And here we are (Christians around the world) in this season of Lent for 40 days and nights.

The temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, was to see if he trusted God. Jesus has just been baptised, according to St Matthew and Mark. Luke has the ancestors of Jesus in between the baptism and the temptations. Each gospel writer wants to get across to us readers, an important message about Jesus.

Jesus did not succumb to the temptations. The devil is trying to put seeds of doubt into Jesus’ mind by saying ‘If you are the Son of God’. No, says Jesus. God said I was… I believe and trust this.

But not only is the ‘if’ there, but there follows three temptations to prove his sonship, to test God’s faithfulness and to have authority over all the kingdoms.  Jesus remained firm in his resolve to put his faith in God and his future on God’s trustworthiness. Thus, he remains in relationship with God even though we know, that his life journey was not easy, and he really struggled at times.

Let me go back to the film ‘Hidden Figures’.  The reality back then as it is now is that we are separated from each other often through ignorance, through prejudice, through ‘I don’t care attitude’, through I’m better than ‘them’, whoever ‘they’ are.  We have been told not whole truths about people, and so we know longer trust.

This is a sad reality for humankind and yet when we hear and see human beings reaching out to other human beings, no matter their colour, race, sexuality, that we see and believe we can do better.

As Christians, we have been at times rocked by our own 2000yr old history, by the scandals in the church, by the growing (it seems) of atheists amongst people of all ages.  Where is God? Is God not faithful? Are we not adopted children of God?… beloved children of God!

Then, how is it that many Christians don’t believe this anymore in their heart of hearts. How it that many think, maybe the atheists is right… there is no God.

But what is there then.

When I don’t leave enough time to be with God..whether that’s sitting in church and lighting a candle, or going for a walk or reading good spiritual books, I feel lost.  I am restless and find it hard to look beyond myself.

Other people I have spoken with may have bought a new car, or new computer or new clothes and shoes, but a hole inside is not filled.

Blaise Pascal once described this condition of humanity as having a “God-shaped hole”. There is no filling of that gap, no permanent erasing that hole, except in and through our relationship with God. Or, as Augustine said, we humans are always restless until we find our rest in God.
This first Sunday of Lent is one to remind us of our relationship with God and with one another.

We have begun our 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness of Lent.

May we all find time to not just say our prayers and give God a list of requests, but to really engage with God in going deeper..the secrets of your heart… the testing times that are happening, questions, confusions…

Read the bible. Prepare yourself for next Sunday’s readings. Where are you in the story? What is the story saying to you.

My hope and prayer is that we all will find a renewed sense of trust in God so that our relationship with God will be strengthened and also with one another as we seek to live in peace and with courage.

The Lord be with you.

[i] Commentary on Genesis 2:15-17;3:1-7  by Cameron B.R. Howard. –