First Sunday of Lent 

26th February 2023

Reflection (readings below)

Consider the contrast between the Garden of Eden and the wilderness. 

The one green and verdant, full of trees that are not only beautiful to the eyes but have fruits that are good to eat. The other a barren place of rock and sand – and who would be able to eat stones? 

The one where the humans fail to trust God. The other where the human places all  his trust in God..

And then consider the similarities. 

In both is the challenge of whether one’s  existence is dependent on God – the snake in the garden, the devil in the wilderness. 

In both God cares for the humans, and provides for them – clothes for the ones of the Garden of Eden, ministering angels for the one in the wilderness.

In both the experience is the start of a new venture – for the ones in the garden of Eden, a calling to live in and cultivate the barren earth; for the one in the wilderness, a calling to live on earth as it is in heaven.

In both the experience reinforces the understanding of the need to trust in God. 

It seems as if it is only when Adam and Eve realise their own nakedness – their absolute exposure – that they realise their true need of God. That is perhaps something we can empathise with. It is often when we are at our wits end, when we hit rock bottom, that we become truly aware of our need for God. For Jesus this trust is implicit in his very being. Perhaps that is what marks him out so clearly as the Son of God. 

We often liken Lent to a journey. A  journey maybe of self discovery – of understanding our weaknesses, our false self-confidence, but perhaps also discovering the gifts we have been given. I am sure Adam realised that one of the gifts he had been given by God was the ability to till and tend the earth and to grow plants that would satisfy their needs.  A journey of discovering our need for God, for discovering the joy and love that we can experience when we make time to come alongside God. A journey in which we discover that we are not solitary travellers on the road, but that there are many fellow pilgrims who will  keep us company,  who can guide  and encourage us, who can console and heal us when our feet are sore and blistered. And of course foremost amongst these is Jesus who has walked this path before.

Where will this path through the wilderness take us? To a world that is green and verdant, full of trees that are not only beautiful to the eyes but have fruits that are good to eat. To a world where all humans place their trust in God. A world where God’s loving care is always felt. A world which is as it is in heaven. 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;
you preserve me from trouble; *
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
I will guide you with my eye.

10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
or else they will not stay near you.”

11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.

12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Romans 5:12-19

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.