Lent 1 - Supplement to the Reflections
Hi, I’m Pastor Goodman and this is the Assistant to the Dean’s List.
We are taking a walk through our daily Reflections here at Higher Things, to help guide you as you reflect upon the gifts of Law and Gospel this Lenten season.
We are in the first week of Lent, beginning with the first Sunday in Lent, which is called “Invocabit.” It’s a fancy Latin word, from the first part of the Introit for each Sunday. (That’s how we get all these fancy Latin names for the Sundays in Lent. It’s just the first bit of the Introit...in Latin.)
So “Invocabit”, “When he calls to me, I will answer him.” It’s a handy little thing to know these Latin definitions if, for no other reason, when you know a little bit of Latin vocabulary, people tend to think that you’re smarter than you actually are. But...when you mispronounce the Latin vocabulary, it tends to correct their opinions of you.
We are less than a week, now, into the Lenten season, so let’s keep talking about how your fasting is going. Already.
Our Sunday Reflection has Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil for 40 days. And...it’s not just that He’s doing better than me, it’s not just that He can resist where I have -- less than a week in -- already failed. See, temptation is not just about passing...or failing.
Pastor Fenker, the actual Dean of Theology, he points out this day that temptation is really about wanting something different than God gives. So, temptation is not just that I want to do the things that God doesn’t want me to do and I am unable to resist it. It’s about the very nature that is in my heart that wants to do things that God doesn’t give me to do! It’s not just about having standards and falling to live up to them, it’s about wanting different standards.
This is where Jesus succeeds and I fail. Not just that He can endure His Lenten fasting while it really only shows me my sin. It’s that Jesus only wants the things of God in the first place!
So as He is tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights, we see not only that, yes, can He fulfill the Law and I can’t. But He fulfills it for me. He wants the things of God: He wants salvation given to sinners who cannot earn it themselves. And in doing so, He actually addresses our temptation at its core.
See, temptation, as Pastor Fenker points out, is about wanting something different than God gives. Here, God actually gives us something to love. He gives us the Gospel. Love of the Law only really comes through love of the Savior who fulfilled it. Because, well, Old Adam in us always claws against God’s Law, because it kills us. So God, in His mercy, He gives us the Gospel. He tells us, “You are safe from the Law.” Jesus fulfills it for you.
Now when we look at the Law, we can do so in the very same love, because we can recognize that the Law comes from the same loving God as does the Gospel. He addresses our temptation, not just by doing what we can’t do...but by giving us something that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can love: the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation.
He carries this idea forward. As we take upon February 24’s Reflection, which was the feast of St. Matthias. Pastor Fenker points out, we become what we worship. It’s a brilliant little insight he has there.
It’s not just that, like, if you’re really really into football all of a sudden you’ll turn from a respectable human being into running around bare-chested with half your face painted and weird hat on your head, yelling weird stuff because you really like the game. It’s more! It’s actually down to the, again, very character.
Our reading this day has Judas, who is worshipping a false god. Judas’ god was silver and gold. Pastor Fenker reminds us, this is a dead god. And as the 115th Psalm would say, “Those who make idols become like them.” Judas had a dead god. And Judas died.
We have a different God. We have a dead-and-alive God. And so, we become like that too. See, we now are dead to sin, alive in Jesus. We are not simply striving to look like a god of power in this world, but a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness. A God of “for you-ness”. We have a God who does all of these things, that we would not be afraid to look like death, because we know that ours is a God who rises after it, who conquers it.
Matthias was a witness to this resurrection and to the truth that Jesus is a friend of sinners and wants to save them. Not just Peter and the eleven, but even Judas who would rather love a different god. Even Judas, our Lord would die for him. Even while he would rather have a different god.
For while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. This is how we address our temptation. It is by always reflecting upon the mercies of Christ. That, as we recognize our sin, as we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, as we fail to want the things that God gives us to want...we can reflect upon the fact that God loves us. That God gives His life for us, and that here...here we have something to love.
Catch Pastor Goodman on Fridays in Lent for a special devotional supplement to the Higher Things daily Reflections.
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