March 5, 2017 Sermon
Starting the Journey with Trust
Another year has passed and the Season of Lent is here again. Lent and Easter are the most important seasons in the Christian Year, even more important than Christmas, because our religion is based on the resurrection of Jesus. Lent is a journey; a faith journey and opportunity to strengthen our relationship with God.
We start this journey in the wilderness. I already mentioned that the glorious and joyous scene of Jesus’ baptism and this temptation scene that follows are connected. Also, the transfiguration story and the crucifixion story are connected. They are designed to remind us that joy and glory, and dedication and sacrifice are two sides of the same coin. This temptation scene is a foretaste of Jesus’ future glory and victory over evil, as the glorious baptism scene was a foretaste of the life of trial and sacrifice that he would have to lead. By placing this temptation story before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the author of Matthew’s gospel intended to point out that Jesus’ whole ministry on earth will be about fighting the evil force, reaching its peak in crucifixion and resurrection. In fact, there are striking similarities between the temptation scene and the crucifixion scene, as there are similarities between the transfiguration scene and the crucifixion scene, as we learned last Sunday. The story of Jesus beating the temptations in the desert is designed to foreshadow the ultimate victory that will manifest through the resurrection.
As we have read in the Book of Genesis, the first humans faced a temptation and failed. They had everything they needed, yet gave into temptation for the one thing they were not to have. In the Christian thoughts, starting from the Apostle Paul, Jesus has been compared and connected to the first man Adam. Jesus is called the Second Adam because where the first human who was to represent the human race broke some kind of covenant with God because he disobeyed God’s law. Where the first human failed, Jesus succeeded. He resisted all the temptations, and even when he was put to death in the end, he came back resurrected and claimed God’s victory over evil.
The strength to resist temptations comes from our trust in God. The first humans couldn’t trust that God gave them everything they needed. They felt insecure about missing out on having something more; that’s why they couldn’t resist the temptation. When Jesus resisted the temptations, he was armed with God’s words, teachings from the Scripture. He trusted in God and God’s teachings, and knew that he didn’t have to listen to the Tempter. He felt secure just by trusting God.
We also face temptations in our lives. We face temptations to be greedy and selfish, or indulge in the pleasure of judging others or gossiping. During Lent, we will face temptations to break our Lenten resolution. At the beginning of this Season, let us place our trust in God and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words, and actions. As we try to give up something for Lent, as we try to improve our relationship with God, let us trust God’s spirit, our travelling companion. Lent is a time to participate in Jesus’ suffering as well as mending our relationship with God. How do we participate in his suffering? We don’t have to whip ourselves like some fanatic Christians during the medieval times. The best way to participate in his suffering is to participate in the sufferings of our neighbours, since the teachings of Jesus was all about loving and serving one another. How about this as our Lenten resolution? Whatever we give up or not give up during Lent, we will commit to taking care of our suffering neighbors, locally or globally. We will give up being self-centered and individualistic to think of our suffering neighbors, as we also think of the suffering of Jesus. Now I invite Arne to share a reflection. Let us think of how we may be able to participate in our neighbours’ suffering this Lent and afterwards.
Rev. Sunny Kim