First Sunday in Lent
“Out of this World”
St. Matthew 4.1-11; Genesis 3.1-21; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
10 March 2019
Seminarian Simeon Cornwell, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Procrastination can often paralyze a person. In such a state, anxiety tends to increase, only making matters worse. Yet one often finds that when the task is begun, anxiety levels begin to decrease.
The Apostle Paul knows this sickness of our sinful nature well. He knows that if he were to say, “Tomorrow is the day of salvation or the favorable time”, many would continue to live in their sinful ways. They would put off repentance.
And so, for the Corinthian’s good, the Apostle leaves no room for putting things off.
Now is the day of salvation. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Not when this or that happens first. Now.
The Corinthians had already been called out of darkness. They had been justified. But the problem was that they were trying to hold onto things that were harmful.
Things that threatened to separate them from Christ. To pull them back into slavery. Into darkness. Things that led them to doubt the Gospel.
St. Paul begins to question them shortly after our reading for today when he says, “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
He knows well the saying of Christ that one cannot serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other or vice versa. There is no “best of both worlds” in Christianity.
So he adds urgency to his words, “Now is the day of salvation.” He does not want them to continue holding onto these sins. After all, they don’t know when they will be called out of this life. It may be today. It may be tomorrow.
It is fitting that we begin the first Sunday in Lent with this reading. For Lent, being a time of self-reflection and repentance, has begun. The Lord is calling us out of our old way of life. Out of this world.
Not meaning that we leave this world or that we hide away under a rock. Rather, that we examine our lives to see what threatens to pull us away from Christ.
So, Lent having begun, we must ask ourselves this question: Do I put my trust in someone or something over and above God? For whatever our heart clings to or trusts in, that is our God.
It doesn’t have to be something that you physically possess. For example, one can put their hope in winning the lottery, thinking that once that happens, everything in their life will be perfect.
If it is something we possess, perhaps our Lord is calling us to give it up or spend time away from it, that we might not forget that our hope is in Him and not in this temporal life.
An easy way of determining who your God is, is to think of the things in life that you hold dear and imagine that they were to suddenly disappear.
Would you be indignant toward God? Would you whine and complain? Or would you, with Job, confess, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”? (Job 1:21)
To be called out of this world, namely the vain cares and pleasures which it has to offer, is not an easy thing. In fact, it can be quite painful.
The ancient Church knew this well, having a period of catechesis lasting years. And this, because those joining the Church needed to be called out of the world. Out of their former life. Some of the things they held dear needed to be given up.
But just as there is pain when one removes a band aid, such removal is important for healing. And here we can take comfort and encouragement.
For the Lord does not call us out of this world because He likes to tell us what to do.
He does so because sin is harmful to us. Because only He can and does provide for all our needs of body and soul. Because if we cling to these things, this ultimately means separation from Him. Just think of our Old Testament reading for today.
Once Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered into the world. They were expelled from God’s presence. And with sin came pain and suffering.
Now there would be agony in childbirth. In order for life to come, pain and suffering needed to be endured. Now Eve would constantly try to usurp the headship of Adam, causing constant friction and competition, and with it, much stress and heartache.
The work of dominion over God’s creation and taking care of it, in which Adam once found nothing but delight and pleasure, would now bring pain. The earth would not cooperate as it once had. Thorns and thistles, sweat and agony would now be man’s lot. But from such pain and suffering would come life; the fruit of the ground.
With all suffering comes good. Think of how God used the greatest suffering, that of His Son on the cross, so that all this would one day be reversed.
Had God wanted this expulsion from Eden, from His presence, to be the end for man, He would not have promised this Seed.
Had God wanted pain and suffering to be the end of the story He would never have given such a promise to man. And He certainly wouldn’t have carried through with it. Especially given man’s constant rebellion and sin.
But He did. He followed through with His plan despite our sin.
He gave His Son, His greatest and most treasured possession, over to death in order to lead us back to Eden. That we might not be separated from Him.
It is Satan who seeks your destruction. Not the Lord. It is Satan who wants you to hang onto these sins, wanting you to think that your life consists in them. It is Satan who wants you to remain in this world with its cares and pleasures.
But our Lord knows better, as He made abundantly clear in our Gospel text. Shaming those vain cares and pleasures. He knows that our life is not found in these things, but rather in Him. That trusting in Him we don’t have to fear whether or not He will provide for us.
Because He has provided for us both in body and soul by giving us His Word to comfort us. And by giving His body and blood to nourish and sustain us.
Therefore, with the goodness and loving-kindness of our Lord in mind, let us examine ourselves in the mirror of God’s pure Word. And meditating upon it, let us lay aside the sins which cling so closely.
Let us give them up to Christ, who by His suffering and death has atoned for them. And who by His Resurrection brought never-ending life for all.
And as we fight against these temptations and struggles, always keep in mind our Lord’s victory over them. And His ultimate crushing of Satan’s head beneath our feet.
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.