Lent 1 Year C

February 17, 2013 

        I am sure that many of you are familiar with the George Lucas – Steven Spielberg series of popular movies starring Harrison Ford as the adventuresome archaeologist  Indiana Jones.  Recall if you will that the third in that series of films is called “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”  The basic story is about Jones and his father, Dr. Henry Jones, being conscripted into service to assist in the location of the Holy Grail – the legendary cup of Christ from the last supper with his disciples on Maundy Thursday.

The legend, as I understand it, is that the grail had been lost for centuries and was believed to be in some clandestine location under the careful guard of a medieval knight.  But the real legend was that anyone who drank from the cup would live forever – a proverbial fountain of youth, if you will.

As is the case with many popular films, there are lots of great “one liners” in “The Last Crusade” but there was one that came to mind for me when I was reading the lessons from scripture that we’ve just heard this morning.  The scene is set in a cavernous tomb of sorts where it is believed that the grail might be found. And Indiana and his father resist providing further assistance to “the bad guys” whose motives in seeking the grail are less than pure.

At this point, the leader of the villains resorts to violence.  He shoots Dr. Jones, badly wounding him, in an effort to force Indiana to locate the grail, in the hope that its retrieval might save his father’s life.  This villain then warns the reluctant Indiana “it’s time to ask yourself what you believe”!

For me at least, that violent admonition to Indiana to ask himself what he believes brings some clarity to what it is that these three lessons we’ve just heard have to teach us here on this first Sunday in Lent.

Let’s take just a minute to recall where we are as we come here to worship this morning.  This season of Lent began just four days ago on Ash Wednesday.  If you were able to be here for our Ash Wednesday service, you will recall the invitation to observe a holy Lent.  As part of that invitation, each of us is called to observe Lent by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self- denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

Well, it seems to me that part of what it is that we are asked to do this and every Lent is to ask ourselves what we believe.  And I think these three pieces of scripture that we’ve heard this morning help us do just that.

The common thread of these readings seems to be confessional.  And by that, I don’t mean confessional is the sense of acknowledging one’s sins against God and one’s neighbor.  What I do mean by confessional is that these readings all have in common a confession of faith.  So, let’s talk about each of them for a moment.

The reading from Deuteronomy speaks of the people of Israel coming into God’s presence to worship.  And in so doing they give thanks to God for the gifts he has given them.  They recall the Exodus event and declare that it was God alone that saved them – and delivered them out of their bondage – and into the promised land of milk and honey.  And they celebrate the bounty that God has so graciously given to them.  So, this Old Testament lesson is a confession of the people of Israel of their dependence on God and an acknowledgement that it is God and God alone that saves them.  This is what they believe.

The Lukan account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is likewise a confession of sorts, although it might not seem so at first blush.  But the confession is not to be found in the fact that Satan tempts Jesus or even in the suggestion or implication that Jesus might actually be tempted.  The confession is found in how Jesus responds to temptation.  Satan says, if you are the Son of God, turn this stone to bread and satisfy your hunger.  Satan says, worship me and all of this will be yours.  And Satan says, throw yourself from the pinnacle of the temple to show me you are the Son of God.

And how does Jesus respond?  He says, man does not live by bread alone.  But what he is really saying is that it is God that feeds us and God that saves us.  And then Jesus says, worship God and serve only Him.  And by this Jesus is telling us to give God the Glory and recognize our dependence upon him.  And finally Jesus says, don’t put God to the test.  In a word, don’t impose your judgment for that of God, for He and He alone is sovereign.  So, Jesus makes a confession that it is God that saves us, that we are dependent upon Him and that He and He alone is God.  This we believe.

And finally, this part of Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome is a clear post-resurrection confession of faith.  “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”   “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all . . . .”  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

And so, Paul makes this confession.  It matters not who you are, where you are from, what color your skin is or whatever it is that might distinguish you from anyone else.  If you truly call on the name of Jesus as the Word made flesh and believe that God raised him from the dead to redeem the world, then you shall – you shall be saved.

And so, as we observe this holy Lent, let us all accept the invitation to self-examination and ask ourselves, what is it that we believe.  May each of us be prayerful and penitent and spend time in meditation on God’s holy Word during these forty days.  And at the great celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, may we all answer say what we believe when we declare for all the world to hear that “the Lord is risen indeed!”