Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
In any human endeavor, strategy is all. We could be talking about an army platoon about to attack behind enemy lines; or a restaurant worker crew seeking a pay raise; or dutiful sons and daughters needing their aging father to surrender his car keys. Here at Lent’s outset, the same holds true for our choosing of a sustainable voluntary penance of some kind that will last the full six weeks of the season.
God Himself had a strategy behind His grand plan to redeem humankind from its entrapment by sin. Motivated by love, this plan evolved into what we now call “Salvation History.” It is on full display and open for study in both the Old and New Testaments. Somehow it is our story also, one about failure and triumph in this ultimate matter of sin versus holiness. Devil versus the Divine.
The story opens with God’s people in bondage to the Egyptian slave masters for long years of backbreaking labor, always subject to the whims of nervous, tyrant pharaohs, fearful of losing control. The seemingly endless drudgery perdures for centuries, along with Israel’s persistent prayer for relief until the time arrives for God to send a Deliverer. His name was Moses, one of their own adopted temporarily by an Egyptian princess. Moses ultimately confronts the pharaoh and his cohorts. He demands his people’s freedom. God Himself “seals the deal,” if you will, not only by leading His people in freedom but also by making a covenant between Himself and them.
There are inevitable lapses on Israel’s part, even featuring a dalliance by the people into pagan ways of life. But finally matters turn back to a somewhat shaky re-commitment on the people’s part, fraught with failures needing prophets to fix.
Finally, in due course, the Holy Redeemer Himself arrives in person to make all the corrections needed by His doing right what Israel had done wrong, even to the point of His experiencing the three great temptations in life – power, wealth and fame – and fully resisting satan, which the Chosen People had not.
We are privileged to observe God’s strategy with the help of history, both oral and written. We know it works to promote a healthy spirituality within us; that it is both tried and true as the way to holiness of life and our personal triumph over the trials of life. We just watch Jesus, in all that He says and does.
So right now is the time for us to strategize, in order to make Lent 2022 spiritually profitable, by choosing at least one element of personal reform if not more. This is how we reach the promised land of heaven. We know in our depths that satan has won over us in the way we have lived since last Easter. We know the weak spots in our defense. We know what needs to be done. With confidence in the outcome, gleaned from Christ’s resurrection, we begin our personal march to Calvary knowing that He is no “fool on the hill” of Calvary. He is Love incarnate, and “most sure on all His ways.”
I meanwhile happened upon this one simple strategy among many that makes perfect sense, along with a dash of good humor: “When you flee your temptation, leave no forwarding address.”
God love you and give you His peace.
Reading I: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10: The offering of the first fruits of the land required by Moses came with the recital of the great events of Israel’s history, which find their fulfillment in Christ.
Reading II: Romans 10: 8-13; We confess faith in Jesus because God raised Him from the dead. There is no distinction made between Jew and Greek. Jesus is Lord of all.
The Gospel: Luke 4: 1-13:The temptation scene makes it quite clear that Jesus is fully human. He begins His work in full obedience to His Father. He will not yield to any temptation to abandon that mission. In this instance He relives, so to speak, the desert experience of Israel. But unlike her, He stays loyal to God.