Sermon for First Sunday of Lent – Year A

Genesis 2.15-17; 3.1-7
Matthew 4.1-11

I remember once when I was very young, still in primary school, I had fallen out with a friend.  As I told my mum and dad about it I used a very rude word, which I won’t repeat here, to describe this other child.  I knew the word meant something bad but I didn’t understand just how bad it was.  Sharp intakes of breath and a pretty severe telling off made it clear to me that I wasn’t to use that word again!  Now that I knew this word was really really bad I became responsible for choosing whether or not to use it in a way that I was not responsible before.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Or to put it another way, at some point in the process of our evolution human beings became aware of a moral dimension to life.  We began to understand that according to some sort of higher power or belief system some of our words and actions are right and good while others are wrong and bad.

That’s a very simplistic way of putting it but I think you’ll understand what I’m getting at.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine was preaching on the theme of creation and she began by saying, “We are all made of stardust”.  Immediately those of us of a certain age were remembering a song of the sixties:

“We are stardust, we are golden,
and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

But do we really want to return to the garden of Eden, to a time before our innocence was lost?

A Jewish writer once asked the question “Did Adam and Eve fall or were they pushed?”  His point. I think, was that men and women were created in the image of God.  In fact, we are still being created into a fuller and fuller image of God.  And at some point in our creation we grew more like God in that we became aware of the existence of good and evil, right and wrong and we had to accept a responsibility for our words and actions that we didn’t have before.

So where are we now, on this first Sunday of Lent with six long weeks ahead of us before Easter Sunday when we can say and sing “Alleluia” again.

We didn’t hear the whole story of Adam and Eve this morning.  But, if you remember, later on they hear God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hide because they’re ashamed of their nakedness and frightened because of their disobedience.

Maybe at the beginning of Lent we can become aware of who we are, what we’ve said and done and how far away we are from being the people God wants us to be.

Maybe we can be still and hear the sound of God walking around the edges of our lives, looking for ways to reach our hearts, wanting to spend time talking or just being with us.

We might want to hide from God like Adam and Eve did.  Shame and fear might prevent us from stepping out from behind the bushes to meet God out in the open and with honesty.

Insecurities and hurts may make us dread God’s judgement as we have come to expect criticism or disrespect from others.

But what if we have the courage and honesty to do what Adam and Eve couldn’t do?

What if we dare to come out of hiding and stand spiritually naked before God, acknowledging our faults and our weaknesses and asking him to forgive us?

What if we dare to show him the emptiness in our lives, our hidden wounds and angry scars and ask him to heal us?

What if we share with him our hopes and dreams, our longings and our need for better, more loving lives and ask for courage and wisdom, guidance and protection as we reach towards a better future?

If we can do all these things I think we’d be offering ourselves to God so that during Lent he can do a bit of spiritual spring cleaning in our lives.

If we allow him to, God will forgive us for all those things we’re ashamed of and he will take away our burdens of guilt.  He will bring healing into the broken parts of our lives and he will equip us for the future even though at the moment we don’t know what the future holds for us.

Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness working out what it meant to be God’s Beloved Son living in the world.  And in the end the choice Jesus made is the choice we are called to make every day of our lives:  The choice to

“Worship the Lord our God, and serve only Him”

Perhaps our 40 days of Lent will also be about working out what it means for us to worship the Lord our God and serve only him in this our generation.

Who knows where such exploration will take us but we may find that when Easter Day dawns we will be spiritually a bit more shiny, our faith a bit more mature, our minds a bit more focussed and our hearts a bit more loving as we continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

And finally a few practical suggestions about a spiritual spring clean:

  • Each day we could read one of the hymns[1] we’ve sung this morning to reflect on all that we offer to God, all we ask of him and all that he offers us in his gracious love and compassion.
  • We could spend five or ten minutes each day just being still before God, allowing him to see us and be with us just as we are at that moment, trusting in his infinite love for us.
  • And we can pray:

Holy and ever-living God,
by your power we are created
and by your love we are redeemed;
guide and strengthen us by your Spirit,
that we may give ourselves to your service
and live these days of Lent
loving you and one another,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

(Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book)

[1] Creating God, we bring our song of praise; Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us; Breathe on me breath of God; God of Grace and God of Glory