Thursday, March 13, 2014

First Sunday in Lent: sin, temptation and Lent as spring training


It’s comforting to get to church and find Stephen and Cara already there, Stephen talking to Joe and La Toya encouraging them to move on. And great to see Dion back, helping me out with the chairs. And somehow Jeremy makes it in in time, even after the CD release party last night.

We begin with the creation story in Genesis 2: 15-17 and 3: 1-7. And then Jeremy and I follow up with an a capella version of the old call and response, John the Revelator, and before we’re done, everyone is joining in on the response.
Tell me who's that writin', John the Revelator
Tell me who's that writin', John the Revelator
Tell me who's that writin', John the Revelator
Wrote the book of the seven seals
Who's that writin', John the Revelator
Tell me who's that writin', John the Revelator
Well who's that writin', John the Revelator
Wrote the book of the seven seals
You know God walked down in the cool of the day
And called Adam by his name
And he refused to answer
'Cause he was naked and ashamed....(

Only song I could find with reference to Adam and Eve.
We  do Psalm 32 responsively, then Marsha reads Romans 5:12-19. Arcadia reads the gospel, Matthew 4:1-11 in Spanish and I in English. Then I sing Lonesome Valley, accompanying myself on guitar.

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

You must go and stand your trial,
You have to stand it by yourself,
O, nobody else can stand it for you,
You have to stand it by yourself

And I then take issue with it some. W all have those lonesome valley moments, but the idea is that we don’t have to walk it by ourselves.   We’re supposed to walk side by side in solidarity with each other.

It’s Lent, which at it’s root means slowing down.  Time to slow down and examine our lives. Check out where we are on our journey.  Face ourselves as we are.
And a beginning topic is sin. What is original sin?
Stephen responds, you know the apple story.    
And Dion gives us   the classic theological formulation of our being born into sin and therefore needing a savior to step in and rescue us from our just punishment. (I’ve always had major trouble with that). I had a colleague one time say they’d love to see some original sin. Most of what we see is common, banal and boring.

In both the Jewish and Muslim tradition, this story is not about a fall, but more an explanation about coming to consciousness.
. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
Nakedness being the open and honest awareness of one’s own reality. We are called to honesty about our own failings, our own missing the marks. As Reinhold Niebuhr said, Sin is not necessary but inevitable.  This story is about not hiding, one of the worst things we do to one another because reality is misrepresented. Thu story is about humans exercising moral agency and being responsible for their own lives. (EG, at 13 when a Jewish boy or girl gets bar or bat mitzvahed and becomes responsible for keeping the torah…)
So this season is for us a time to come to awareness.
The Gospel Matthew 4: 1-11, the temptation story of Jesus, is a kind of Lenten manual. We note that it is the spirit who sends him out, almost like God and Satan are in on this together, 40 days like Moses on the mountain last week. Or Noah and the flood. Or years in the wilderness. And as Stephen appropriately notes, spring training, because that is essentially what this is. What Jesus needs to be ready for his mission.
The devil,in Greek, diabolos, in Hebrew,ha Satan,ie,the accuser,like the prosecuting attorney. Not the rebellious fallen angel at war with God.
We note that the temptations are all good things…feeding people, controlling governance, gaining people’s confidence. But accomplishing these goals the easy way. Taking shortcuts. (Noting that Michael Jackson and the lyrics for we are the world, got it wrong…   As God has shown us by turning stone to bread…is actually what the devil tempted Jesus to do, not what he  actually did…and I hear a hmmm from Jeremy….) 

In Oklahoma, the strip clubs always had to have names like the Inferno, or Satan’s den. For sin to be really fun,it had to be truly evil (Although there was  one named the Pearly Gates.) That’s not what we mean by temptation here.

Marsha asks, What’s really the message for us, though? I mean for Jesus what the devil is putting out there, it’s a no brainer…the devil’s like my dad used to say a wart on a gangster’s ass….what’s the message for us?

Even if you have faith, don’t jump from tall buildings, says Jeremy. And lots of heads shake. Don’t go testing….

Cara says she’s thinking of the word resilient, the capacity to own your experience and move on. And we talk much of grace.

Which makes t appropriate to end with singing Amazing Grace.

The session will meet briefly to get those who weren't here Saturday caught up on our agreements.

I watch everyone leave on by one. Some to brunch. Some home. I’m  heading home.

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