First Sunday in Lent

The Power of The Word

We begin the Season of Lent with the wilderness experience of Jesus before he began his earthly ministry:

After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.'”   ()

One of the things that is key is that Jesus did not get into a dialog with Satan. Rather, he quoted scripture to Satan. Satan is the master at creating doubt and confusion. Notice, however, that Satan has to accept the truth of scripture. He would like to twist the truth, but he cannot refute scripture.

We should not debate Satan or even listen to any of his words. We should not rely on our words to oppose him. We have the power of God’s Word to defeat him. In the Book of Hebrews we read:

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.   (Hebrews :12-13)

God proclaims his Word, but he wants us to learn to do the same. Whenever we do, it has an impact on ourselves as well as others. The psalmist wrote:

I treasure your word in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
    all the ordinances of your mouth.   (Psalm 119:11-13)

How powerful is God’s Word. It is enough to save our souls. Reading from Romans:

The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.   (Romans 10:8-10)

When we confess God’s Word, Jesus confesses us before God the Father. Repeating God’s Word, when we do it from the heart, activates our faith. It is good that we do it out loud:

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.   (Romans 10:17)

We need to get the Word of God into our hearts. Reading from the Book of James:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.   (James 1:21)

We have looked at the protection and salvation of our souls through the power of God’s Word. Let us now understand that we need his Word, daily, for our regeneration and strength.

Let us look at today’s  Old Testament reading when God established the Feast of Firstfruits.

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”    (Deuteronomy 26:1-10)

Firstfruits was a memorial celebration , reminding Israel what God was doing for them. Notice that the people were required to recite their deliverance from Egypt. This recital became a significant part of the celebration. In all future celebrations, the people would recite the events of their deliverance. In this way the Israelites would identify with a past event, by saying that they, too, had been delivered from Egypt. This brought the past into the present, as if they were there with there, along with their ancestors, when the event occurred. They were in a covenant relationship with God where both God and Israel were remembering and renewing the covenant.

Now let us turn to the New Testament and examine another memorial celebration.

When Jesus was entering Jerusalem for the last time, he said this about his death:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”   (John 12:23-24)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  (1 Corinthians 15:20 KJV)

Jesus instituted a memorial celebration we call the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion. He became the firstfruits of the resurrection. and we are to follow him.

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus was reclining with his disciples, after breaking some bread and distributing it to them he said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  (Luke 22:10)

This Greek word anamnesis used in the New Testament is practically untranslatable in English. “Memorial,” “commemoration,” “remembrance” all suggest a recollection of the past, whereas anamnesis amore accurately means making present an object or person from the past.

When we partake of the Holy Communion we are doing more than just remembering what Jesus did for us in the past. We are celebrating as if we were there when it happened. We are participating in the event like the disciples of Jesus, his last supper with them, representing his death and resurrection. Jesus did this once and for all, but we are both remembering and renewing our New Testament Covenant with God. We are bringing its power and the reality of the cross and resurrection into our present time. Each time we celebrate the Holy Communion we are receiving a fresh experience which cleanses us and strengthens our faith.

The power of God’s word works in three powerful ways. We read and proclaim it. We plant it in our hearts and grow spiritually. We remember it and renew it in order to keep it. The Holy Communion is one of the best ways to remember that God is with us and that we are with God.

Amen.

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Filed under Revised Common Lectionary

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