First Sunday in Lent, Year A: Matthew 4:1-11: Dwell on What Is True

You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

After Jesus is baptized, he is led by the Spirit into the desert, or sometimes it’s called the wilderness. There he fasts and prays for 40 days and nights. (This is perhaps an unscientific idea, but the idea is he is living a pure and ascetic life and it mirrors the 40 years the ancient Israelites spent in the desert).

While there he is tempted by the devil. He is hungry and the devil tempts him saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.”

Jesus tells him man doesn’t live on bread alone but by every word of God.

Then the devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and puts him in a high place on the edge of the Temple area, telling Jesus to jump off and angels would help him. The devil even quotes scripture at him. (This is not the only time–there are plenty of times in history when scripture is turned to evil purposes, and don’t forget it). Jesus tells him that scripture said, “You must not test the Lord your God.”

Then the devil takes Jesus to the top of a mountain and shows him the kingdoms of the world in all their glory. He tells him that if Jesus bows down to worship him, he will give him the world.

Jesus tells him to get lost, “You must worship the Lord your God. Serve only him!’” 

Then the devil takes off and angels come help Jesus

So begins our season of Lent–our own 40 days of testing and quiet contemplation. I give things up for Lent, usually things that distract or make my life less quiet and beautiful. But I also try to add things in their place, which is I believe part of what makes Lent my favorite part of the church year. I love this opportunity for change, for growth, for reconciliation, for quiet meditation, prayer, and study. The things I give up leave room in my life for more spirituality and more movement toward Christ. Take time to dwell on the wonderful and the spiritual.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8, NRSV

Lent 5, Year A: John 11:1-45 : Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

Jesus Raising Lazarus

Jesus Raising Lazarus – iStock.com/traveler1116

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.

This week’s Gospel lesson is a pretty famous one. Before Jesus rose from the dead, he brought another man back from the dead, his dear friend named Lazarus.

The first part of the story is a little puzzling. Jesus receives a message from Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, telling him his beloved friend is ill. Jesus hears it and said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Continue reading

Lent 4, Year A: John 9:1-41: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

Jesus heals a man born blind (John 9), published 1877

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind – Source: iStock.com/ZU_09

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.

This week’s gospel lesson is about Jesus healing a blind man. The story starts out with Jesus out walking with his disciples. They saw the blind man and the followers asked Jesus why the man was born blind. There was a common belief at that time (and with some religious people today) that any illness or disability was punishment for sin. They asked if he was born blind because of his own sin or that of his parents. (Seems puzzling to me—how could he have sinned before he was even born?)

Jesus said it wasn’t sin. He said he was born blind to show what great things God can do. Then he said, “While it is daytime, we must continue doing the work of the one who sent me. The night is coming, and no one can work at night. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Continue reading

Lent 3, Year A: John 4: 5-42: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – iStock.com/Ruskpp

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.

This week’s gospel lesson is another time Jesus is speaking to just one person, though it leads to him teaching to a whole town.

An important aspect of this story is that Jesus and his disciples are in Samaria (you may remember it from the story of the Good Samaritan). There are very few Samaritans left, fewer than 800 according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans). They have a religion apparently very similar to Judaism, but different enough that they could not agree and would not accept each other at all at the time of this story. From what I have read, nowadays they are seen as a sect of Judaism rather than a group of unacceptable heretics. But at the time of this story, they were very much outsiders to the other Jewish people and the two groups did not get along well. That’s why the parable of the Good Samaritan would have been shocking at the time—that the one who was good was an unacceptable Samaritan. Continue reading

Lent 2, Year A: John 3: 1-17: Jesus and Nicodemus

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus – Source: iStock.com/Ruskpp

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.

The gospel lesson this week is a little different. Instead of Jesus teaching crowds of people or his disciples, he is talking to just one man. The man is named Nicodemus, and he’s an important man among the Jewish people. He comes to see Jesus at night—I have read that this is because he didn’t want to be seen consulting Jesus openly so he comes by cover of darkness. I don’t think that’s explicitly stated, but it could be true. So he comes to Jesus to find out more about him. He says, “Teacher, we know that you are a teacher sent from God. No one can do these miraculous signs that you do unless they have God’s help.”

Jesus tells him, “Everyone must be born again. Anyone who is not born again cannot be in God’s kingdom.” Continue reading