Sunday, March 01, 2020

Sermon for 3/1/2020: First Sunday in Lent

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“…In All Your Ways…”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say?” he invited her to doubt that God had her good at heart. This doubt is the heart of sin, and it is a very powerful thing, even though it seems so small. When God led Israel out of Egypt, they doubted the good will of God. They grumbled and complained for water and food. When Moses was up on the mountain with God, the people doubted God’s goodness; they built a golden calf and worshiped it. So He led them into the wilderness to test them. He led them for 40 years, until the generation who doubted had died.
In the same way, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested. He is all of Israel in one person. Where Israel failed in the wilderness, Jesus succeeded. There was no doubt in Jesus when He went into the Jordan River to be baptized. And there was no doubt in Him when He was led up into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. He did not go on His own accord. Even so, He was willing to be led according to the will of His Father. It was time to reveal what kind of Son Jesus would be.
The things Jesus was tempted with are no strangers to you, are they? The devil wants you to try to save yourself. He wants you to serve your own desires. He wants you to worship someone other than the one true God. All these things tempt you to doubt God’s good will for you. By the grace of God, most of you have never known real hunger. We can go only a few hours without food before we’re so anxious that we must have something to eat. This is why we join with Jesus in praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The truth is, “God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.”
And yet, don’t you think God should bless you in the ways you think are best? The devil left out an important part in reciting Psalm 91. The Psalmist wrote, He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” The devil conveniently left out the phrase, “to keep you in all your ways.” That phrase does not refer to the things you desire; they refer to the ways of God, the things He desires. Have you needlessly put yourself in danger only for the thrill of it? Have you gambled shamelessly? Have you done something that, if you got caught, would have caused you shame? These things distract you from the will and the ways of God.
And so we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” You know what Luther says: “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
What god do you worship? Do you allow yourself to be led astray? Are you seduced by fortune and glory? Satan twisted Scripture to serve his own purpose to deceive and to invite doubt in God. When you abuse the Word of God by neglect or malicious intent, you are guilty of despising God. You don’t “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” Holy Scripture as you should; instead you worship your own thoughts and words.
I urge you to remember the words of Ash Wednesday: “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Yes, you are a sinner, but you have the hope of new life through the cross. When you were baptized, you had the righteousness of Christ placed upon you. That deceiver, Satan, wants to steal it from you, just as he tried to do to Jesus. He attacks you both at your weakest points of doubt and in the pride of your strengths. But Christ’s righteousness is stronger; He covers you with it in the blood-washed baptismal robe He places upon you. He strengthens you for the fight with His own body and blood. Are you ready to quit? Does the fight seem hopeless to you? Come to the throne of grace. Return to your baptism. Receive mercy in the body and blood of Christ freely, given for you in your time of need. In these blessings, God will “keep you in all your ways.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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