First Sunday of Lent
6th March 2022
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 labour 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.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust.”
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
and the Most High your habitation,
10 There shall no evil happen to you, *
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
to keep you in all your ways.
12 They shall bear you in their hands, *
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and adder; *
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.
14 Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honour.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.
“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. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
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.'”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.”
What does it mean to put our trust in God? What effect does it have?
The reading from Deuteronomy tells of the richly rewarded life being enjoyed by those who once been wandering Arameans, who had been subject to slavery and oppression a foreign land, but who had slight help from God. But our knowledge of the Book of Exodus would suggest that the people’s trust was not always 100%, that there were times of wavering and doubt. Certainly the teaching that comes from Jesus whilst in the wilderness, is that trusting in God is not about expecting or demanding material gain.
Today’s psalm from which the opening quote comes, also gives praise to God for the protection and deliverance from evil. It is also the psalm from which the devil quotes as he tries to persuade Jesus to parade God’s power. But trusting God is not about expecting or demanding God to shield us from either danger or our own recklessness.
The passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us God’s concern for us is affected by neither our nationality, nor our background. Rather there is but one Lord whom we should honour and who will save us. The divisions of nationality which the devil claims to control, are a false diversion.
To put our trust in God, is not to expect everything to magically come right in our favour. It is not to expect that what we want will fall into our laps. To trust in God is not to act carelessly or selfishly, and then expect God to pick up the pieces. To trust in God is not to have predetermined the answer, nor is it to force the issue. To trust in God is to want what God wants – what God wants for our neighbours, what God wants for creation, as well as what God wants for us.
How do we know what God wants? Prayer; studying the Bible; studying the book of nature; listening prayerfully with others; paying attention to what builds up the community, to what enhances life, to what allows creation to flourish. To love God with all our being, and to love our neighbours as ourself.
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.”
Where does all this find us today?
How do we reconcile the conflict, the suffering and the destruction we are seeing in Ukraine, with the assertion that God is a refuge, a source of strength and trust? Our hearts ache with concern for the people and whilst we can send aid, we feel helpless. We urgently hope for an end to the hostilities but can so no way of resolution, no quick or easy way of establishing peace. We harbour the fear that this conflict will spill out beyond Ukraine’s borders and that our way of life too will be in peril. How can we pray if we cannot imagine how our prayers can be answered?
Above we noted that trusting in God is likely to be separate from knowing the answer to the problem. Trust is about continuing to hope without knowing. We noted that trusting is not about testing God, nor trying to force a particular solution. But is is about aligning our selves with God, of endeavouring to want what God wants, to act the way God wants. God wants us to love our neighbours. So we should pray for them. We should give consolation to one another, listen to one another, give each other support. We should give practical support. For the wellbeing of Ukrainians practical support in this instance is best provided through financial donations to charities who can provide the aid they need. Later we may be able to offer more direct help when Ukrainian refugees come into our communities.