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Believing Our Confessions

March 1, 2020; 1st Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:15-17; Matthew 4:1-11

I think I was in fifth grade. It was recess time in the gym and two girls in my class were being mean to me. They were laughing and pointing at me from a little distance away and it hurt my feelings and made me angry. When recess was over, we went into the locker room to change our shoes and I watched as one of those mean girls started picking on someone younger than them. And it’s like a switch got flicked in my head. A voice inside told me it was time to put her in her place and because I was furious, I not only listened to that voice, I agreed with it! I took my shoes and swung around, walloping her on the face with them…hard. But as soon as my shoes hit her face, the enormity of my actions overwhelmed me and I could see very clearly the terrible thing I had just done. I had hit my classmate. I had hurt her. I had been mean. It all happened so quickly it caught everyone off guard. Very few kids actually saw what happened and would never have imagined that the shy girl they knew would have hauled off and smacked anyone. I started sobbing loudly and soon had a whole group of girls gathered around me trying to make me feel better while the person I had hurt stood in stunned silence as quiet tears trickled down her cheeks.

Unfortunately, I can call to mind far too many times when sin has tapped me on the shoulder and whispered tempting words in my ear. And too many times when I have listened. This is just one of the memories that came to mind when I reread this well-worn story from Genesis. Think about those moments when you want to do something that deep down inside you know you shouldn’t. But there is this voice of temptation, kind of like an ear worm that won’t go away. And when that voice offers a rationalization for the wrong thing you really want to do or say, “You know if you eat that fruit your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God, knowing good from evil.” In that moment, you conveniently forget to question the source. You listen to the voice and act. Sometimes when you succumb to temptation, in that very moment you are overwhelmed with the enormity of what you have done, with the repercussions your actions will set off. Your eyes are indeed opened and shame makes you want to cover yourself, maybe even makes you want to disappear.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time for real honesty. A time for God to show us some of those hidden places we don’t like to look at too often. A time for us to ask Jesus to please show us a safe hiding place in the midst of temptation. A time to take an unflinching look at the condition of our heart and get down on our knees and pray for forgiveness and grace. You see, we often tend to do a much better job at seeing how our neighbors and friends fall short. We nurse our righteous indignation. Occasionally, we even allow someone else’s shortcoming help us feel a little better about ourselves. “I know I blew it, but at least I haven’t messed up as bad as…” It’s way easier to focus our energies on someone else’s sins. But Lent is a season, to take a long hard look at ourselves. I believe we all struggle with right and wrong. We all fall short on a pretty regular basis. Sometimes the sin is more fleeting and ordinary – impatience, a bad mood, a thoughtless word, an unkind laugh. Sometimes sin is more deeply rooted – addiction, unfaithfulness, unresolved anger or bitterness, pride, an unforgiving spirit, festering unworthiness, willful ignorance.

Our gospel text for today is about the temptation of Christ. One of the really comforting things I take from this text is that Christ was tempted. Jesus had been fasting for for