May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight Oh Lord
my strength and my redeemer.
We’re going on a journey today.
The 40 day journey of Lent:
Which began on Wednesday,
But got shuffled up due to the snow storm.
So we’ll mark the beginning of that journey today.
The journey from death to life:
Beginning with the ashes and dust of death,
And ending in the journey to Easter:
To the resurrection.
Traditionally, the season of Lent is also the journey to baptism:
(Which makes sense in a journey to life.)
In the Early Church:
People were baptized on Easter:
At the Easter vigil.
Lent was a time of preparation for baptism.
Which is part of why: whether we have a baptism or not:
We renew our baptismal covenant on Easter Sunday.
And if all goes according to plan:
We WILL have a baptism on Easter!
One of the questions in our baptismal covenant is:
“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and,
Whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”
This question is particularly relevant today,
On this first Sunday of Lent:
When we hear stories of sin and temptation.
First, we hear the famous story of Adam Eve:
Which describes sin and death entering the created world,
As Eve is tempted by the crafty serpent:
And both Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree.
In the second reading,
Paul describes Jesus as a kind of Second Adam:
Who brings righteousness and abundant grace:
Transforming the trespass and condemnation brought on by the sin of the first
And then the story about Jesus:
After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness:
To be tempted by the devil.
It seems kind of crazy:
That Jesus was “Led by the SPIRIT:
To be tempted by the devil.”
Why would the spirit lead Jesus to the devil?
There must be a lesson there.
A lesson about baptism:
A lesson about sin.
During this season of journeying from death to life.
And maybe that lesson is this:
While Baptism points to new life in resurrection:
Baptism doesn’t make this life any easier.
Even after baptism:
We continue to persevere in resisting evil.
We continue to fall into sin:
And we still have to repent and return to the Lord.
For forty days:
Jesus fasted in the wilderness.
The same amount of days that are in the season of Lent:
And on the Lenten journey from death to life in the resurrection.
In the Bible: forty is always
“The time in between”
It’s not a literal specific number:
It’s a time of waiting before renewal.
Whether it’s forty days or forty years:
The number forty is the time in between: It’s marked in the bible with
The rain of Noah’s flood,
Moses on Mount Sinai,
Israel in the wilderness,
The spies scouting out Canaan,
Israel in the hands of the Philistines,
The taunting by Goliath,
The reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon,
Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the desert wilderness.
And even Jesus’ appearance after Easter before he ascended into heaven.
And now for us:
We too wait in the wilderness,
In our “Time between”
As we move from death to life,
And tell the truth:
About our own sins:
Our own temptations:
About the things we have done:
And the things we have left undone:
As we repent and return to the Lord.
In this time in between:
We tell the truth about the fact that baptism doesn’t make life easier.
It wasn’t easier for Jesus:
And it isn’t easier for us.
Actually, baptism sometimes makes life more challenging:
Because it calls us into a new way of living.
Because it pushes us to tell the truth:
And try again.
Again, and Again, and again.
Constantly striving to be better:
More like Jesus.
One of the ways that we mark and notice Lent as a “time in between”
Is in the absence of “alleluia’s” in the liturgy.
As the season of renewal, repentance and preparation before baptism:
The church takes all references to “alleluia” out of liturgy until Easter.
It feels funny.
But it’s important.
Because it’s a concrete reminder of the time in between:
A concrete reminder of our active journey from death to life.
So while we’ll try our best to refrain from our usual “alleluia’s” in the liturgy:
We’ll also take a minute today to pack up our Alleluias.
You all received a paper on your way in.
And when you come up to receive your ashes in just a few minutes:
I’ll invite you to also drop your paper into this box.
We’ll close the box up, and leave it here throughout our Lenten journey.
And on Easter,
We’ll bring them back out.
Because while we’re packing them up today:
They WILL be back.
Jesus promises abundant life:
Even after death.
And just like baptism:
That doesn’t necessarily make it all easier.
Death isn’t made easier.
But it is a promise that we can cling to.
And remember that Jesus always keeps his promises.
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