First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19, Psalm 32, Matt 4:1-11
My blog during Lent will follow the Sunday readings from the “Lectionary,” which follow a three-year cycle focusing on the life of Jesus in the Gospel reading, with parallel or contrasting readings from the Old Testament, Psalms and Epistles. I invite you to read the Scriptures first, then these reflections and practices. During this season of fasting and penitence, may you be drawn into the presence of God within and prepare for the joy of Easter.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5.
Karl Barth (1886-1968), a Swiss theologian, was one of the most influential thinkers in the twentieth century. Although he was raised in a devout minister’s home, as a PK (pastor’s kid), he was a rebellious child who didn’t like school and was the leader of a neighborhood street gang. Yet, later Barth’s great study and thinking revitalized Protestant theology and he resisted the Third Reich as a leader of the German Confessing Church. In his book Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5, Barth reverses the traditional order of thinking that Adam’s sin or the Fall came first, then the redemption of Christ:
“For Christ who seems to come second, really comes first… and that means, in practice, that to find the true and essential nature of man we have to look not to Adam the fallen man, but to Christ in whom what is fallen has been cancelled and what was original has been restored.“
In recent conversations with friends and family, I have noticed a lot of negative language and thinking about the past, present issues, and future possibilities. We often seem to look at life as “Adam” with guilt over mistakes made, time wasted, or relationships ruined. Barth points out that we should look at life as “Christ”:
It is always the case that when the Christian looks back, he is looking at the forgiveness of sins.” And “For me you are no longer the sinner, but where you are there stands Another. I look at this Other.” Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline.
As the Psalmist point out, we should look at our “blessedness” as those who Jesus has “got covered.” Our debt is cancelled and we have been restored!
Genesis 3 and Matthew 4 are the temptation accounts of Adam and Eve and Jesus respectively. They are led to mistrust God when the serpent says, “Did God actually say…” (Gen 3:2) It’s that little doubt fueled by our humanness and our culture that turns us from trusting our Creator Father God. Misinformation along with the tempting “delight to the eyes,” and forbidden knowledge lead to disobedience and death. The Tempter also tries to misdirect Jesus to question his identity with the taunt: “If you are the Son of God…” (Matt 4:3) Jesus turns to the Word of God and with its power rejects the devil: “Be gone Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matt 4:10)
Practice. As you read these two temptation accounts, put yourself in the story as “Adam” or “Eve.” Allow the contrasts to serve as guides for your Lenten practice:
- Adam and Eve have been given all they need to eat in the garden, yet long for more. Jesus chooses to fast in the wilderness saying “Man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) Prayerfully seek a fast that allows more focus on God’s Word.
- Adam and Eve are easily “scammed” by “schemes.” Jesus memorizes and trusts the Word of God to stand firm against temptation. Memorize verses that will serve to powerfully resist temptation. “I have hid your word in my heart, so that I might not sin against you.” Psalm119:11
- Adam and Eve forgot their identity as God’s beloved, and loose the opportunity to walk with God in the Garden. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.” (Gen 3:8) Jesus is identified by God as “my beloved Son” at his baptism, (Matt 3:17) and answers every temptation of Satan with the authority of his relationship to the Father. Take a walk with God: no noise, no agenda, no shame. Just be.