In Sandro Botticelli’s The Temptation of Christ, Satan transports Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and told Jesus He should throw Himself down as God promised Him no harm. Photo from Wikipedia

God's Word on Sunday: Be thankful for God’s loving care

  • February 27, 2022

First Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 6 (Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13)

What is the proper attitude for the beginning of the Lenten journey? The reflex response would be “repentance” but we might ask if there is a response that is deeper and more helpful.

Our relationship with God calls for gratitude. This includes a joyful recognition of all that God has done for us and the myriad ways in which we have been blessed. Often, we have short memories in this regard — it is too easy to treat blessings as our due and the good things we have been given as just the way things are. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Israelites reminded themselves constantly of God’s providential care and acts of kindness on their behalf. God called them from nothing and molded them into a people and nation. When they were enslaved in Egypt, God liberated them with terrifying deeds of power and led them out. Eventually, God guided them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Left out of that Israelite profession of faith is the rocky and bumpy road of that journey to freedom. They were often unfaithful to God and rebelled; they lapsed into idolatry; they challenged and provoked God continually. They suffered accordingly, but no matter — God did not give up on them. In the end, they received all that was promised and more. They did not earn or deserve these blessings — they were given to them because God had chosen and loved them.

What does this mean for us? Quite simply, we need to be more aware of just how much of a gift and blessing everything is, from the breath that we just drew, to family, friends, moments of great joy and the consolation and strength that we have been given during times of pain, distress and tragedy. Perhaps it would help during this Lenten season — or any season— to offer a litany of thanks to God for blessings received at the start and finish of the day and before our worship in church.

Paul announced that salvation was open to all regardless of their origins, identity or life status. The way to become a member of God’s family was simple — proclaim Jesus as Lord from the heart and from the lips. Praying from the heart is clear enough, but why was it important to proclaim Jesus openly? This has special significance in its original first-century context: to do so would likely have had unpleasant consequences. For some, it would have been preferable and easier to fly under the radar and say nothing. Today our expression of faith is held in check by fear of ridicule, rejection or personal attack.

Jesus faced an overwhelming challenge as He was put to the test by the devil. And make no mistake — it was a genuine test, not a charade as some would have it. The devil was probing for a chink in Jesus’ armour, someplace where he could get a foothold. He began all of his tests with, “If you are the son of God…” in an attempt to either instill doubt or pride. The temptations were predictable and are the sort that in a lesser fashion we all face. The first was the fear for survival, based on the lack of material support. The devil insinuated that God was not enough; Jesus needed to take matters into His own hands. But Jesus did not take the bait and insisted that doing the will of God was sustenance enough.

The lure of power over others was the next temptation and it was a potent one indeed. Jesus could have all the kingdoms of the world, but with one catch: He would have to transfer His allegiance to the devil. Obviously, Jesus refused, insisting that only God was worthy of worship.

He was then prodded to throw Himself down from the temple pinnacle to prove God’s care and love. But God’s love needed no proof for Jesus, and He would not put God to the test. Jesus was triumphant and the devil departed but would show his face again later. Jesus was certain that God was trustworthy, the source of all good and unwavering in His loving and providential care.

This inner certitude enabled Jesus to face down all of the challenges sent His way. The anchor of our own deep and personal relationship with God will empower us to do the same.