ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Hear what the Spirit says: “The faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. (And God says) “I will instruct you and teach in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye.”

Have you ever felt lonely, weak, and experiencing times of trial? Always remember, even then, you’re not alone.

Today we read that Adam and Eve, and even Jesus, have shared that experience.

First, we see in Genesis that the Lord took Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. And told them: “You may eat freely 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 surely die.” And in the next part of this story it tells about how Adam and Eve yielded to temptation, and were barred from Eden, a symbol of paradise. In other words, they blew it. Ever done that? I have.

 

Anyway, back to the story: They were barred from the perfect land, BUT, they were not left alone. Later on in the story in Genesis, past todays reading, we hear that God did not turn his back on them, but provided a means for them to survive. He loved them, he forgave them, and helped them pick up the pieces, and keep going.

 

In our reading today the psalmist says “happy are he whose transgressions are forgiven. And whose sin is put away. Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt…”.

Lent is a time to quiet our hearts and minds in humility before God and to realize that we ‘came come from dust, and to dust we shall return’.  That statement is not intended to be read as a judgment on our sin – it’s just the way things are, it’s the natural cycle of life, a reality that we all share. Adam and Eve, Jesus, you, me – we all share the reality that our time on this earth is short. We all experience loneliness, weakness and temptation.

Have you ever felt lonely, weak, and experiencing times of trial? Always remember, even then, you’re not alone.

Because Adam and Eve, Jesus, you and me also share the blessing of God’s promise we read in today’s psalm: “The faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. “I will instruct you and teach in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye.”

Our Gospel reading today tells us that after Jesus was baptized, he 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. So we see that Jesus was alone, and weak and that is when he was tempted.

Have you ever felt lonely, weak, and experiencing times of trial? Always remember, even then, you’re not alone.

Remember, we read last week that Moses went up to the mountain to pray in Exodus, he fasted for forty days. We also know that between Lent and Easter there are forty days. So, forty days has a spiritual significance. The number 40 in this context is associated with extended times of trial, searching, temptations and spiritual struggle.

I believe there are two really encouraging things about today’s gospel. One is that it shows that Jesus understands the deep conflicts that come in times of trial; the demons of our soul from within and without, that rise up to pull us down, the enemies of our soul that try to destroy our peace of mind, that peace that the Spirit wants to bring to us.  The other really encouraging thing is that the Spirit will come to us in times of trial, like he did for Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit will be with us there, whether we feel it or not. There’s no indication in the reading of this story that Jesus was ‘feeling the presence of the Spirit’ during this time. On the contrary, it sounds like he was feeling lonely, weak and under tremendous stress. How many of you have experienced times of tremendous stress?

Have you ever felt lonely, weak, and experiencing times of trial? Always remember, even then, you’re not alone.

Not only is God with you, but we, members of your church family, also experience, have experienced or will experience these same types of trials and temptations. The story continues. Jesus, we are told, did not give into temptation. Well, we all know that is not our story. But, let me tell you what you already know about yourself and all of us in this parish community – everyone stumbles. Duh… None of us are as strong as we would like to think we are.  And of course, we fail in the areas of our lives where we’re weak. No surprise there.It kind of reminds me of the little boy on the dam in Holland. He notices a hole in the dam and puts his finger in it so it won’t leak, then he notices another one and sticks another finger into that one. After a while he realizes that there are just too many holes to fix. He can’t do it himself. He’s overwhelmed. It’s going to take more than his two hands to fix this problem.

That’s how it is when we realize that we are weak, and the do-it-yourself fixer thing just isn’t working. We need help.

The Bible says that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That’s why we have routine confession times in our liturgies, and that’s why we have confession in our Sunday services. We confess our trespasses and ask for pardon, for forgiveness.

We ask for God’s help because we can’t make it on our own efforts. And, we receive it, again and again. Because, no matter how full of the Spirit we feel today, we’re all a little like that dam – we leak. And so we turn back to the Spirit, and to our brothers and sisters, again and again. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s a continual process. We have been saved. We are being saved and we shall be saved.

Hear what the Spirit says: “The faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. (And God says) “I will instruct you and teach in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye.”

Have you ever felt lonely, weak, and experiencing times of trial? Always remember, even then, you’re not alone.

Amen.

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