First Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika

“The Journey”

Romans 5:12-19 & Matthew 4:1-11

I grew up in a household in Keauhou mauka on Hawaiʻi island that included family members who were Catholic and Protestant. My cousins attended St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Honalo about five miles from where we lived.

Whatever thoughts I had of Catholicism as a teenager and later as an adult were shaped by my early childhood years. I remember how fascinated I was with the nuns when they stopped by our home to pick up my cousins and drive them to and from church. I was all of six years of age.

Back then the nuns dressed in their black and white habits. They were a bit of a mystery to me. While I do not mean to sound disrespectful I always thought they looked like penguins, albeit human-sized penguins.

I recall one opportunity I had to attend St. Paul’s. Although I do not remember what happened during the worship service, I remember the refreshments that were provided afterwards and concluded that they had the best egg salad sandwiches and hot chocolate ever. What can I say? It is a childhood memory.

I also remember being told each year in the weeks prior to Easter we were not to eat any red meat on Fridays. It was explained that by giving up something during the season of Lent, we would come to understand more fully the sacrifice Jesus made in giving up his life for us.

The prohibition against eating red meat on Fridays was not much of a sacrifice as far as I was concerned even if our side of the family was Protestant. We grew up on fish so not eating meat on Friday meant no spam, no Vienna sausage, no Portuguese sausage.

The Season of Lent began last Wednesday. It lasts for a period of forty days, not including Sundays, and parallels the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness following his baptism. Lent is about much more than giving up red meat on Fridays and much more than my childhood memories of nuns, egg salad sandwiches and hot chocolate.

“During this season . . . we travel with Jesus on a journey. We start in the wilderness – away from the things that normally comfort and sustain us – and continue in the steps of Jesus’ ministry and through to the last days of his life.

We are invited to examine our spiritual lives and identify those parts of ourselves that need improvement. Where are we falling short? What relationships need attention? How do we dig deeper into our relationship with God? What parts of our lives have become too much about us and not enough about God?” (Seasons of the Spirit, SeasonsFUSION, Lent-Easter 2014, Wood Lake Publishing, Inc., 2013, page 12)

Our human tendency is seek for security and safety, prestige and power. Lent is a time for us to seek for something much, much more. It is in the wilderness that we will come face to face with the temptation to accomplish, acquire and ascend. It is in the wilderness that we will come to understand the significance of a total and complete dependence - not on money, possessions or power - but on God for everything we need.

Entering and participating in Lent requires that we empty ourselves of our own desires and temptations and put our complete faith and trust in God. It is not an easy journey.

As part of his spiritual journey, Jesus goes into the wilderness where he is tested. It is during this time that he chooses who he will be and whose he will be with his responses to what is placed before him. The choices we make about who we will be and whose we will be in our own lives are no different.

The temptations of material things, security and safety, power and prestige are not new to us. The lesson for us is recognizing that Jesus came through each temptation through his total reliance on God. Like him, we can trust in God’s Word and saving power.

Lent is a time when we are called to focus on our relationship with God. Our journey won’t be measured in success but by how empty we become of the temptations of the world, by how much we are able to make room for God in our lives.

What enabled Jesus to resist the temptations he experienced in the wilderness is what he offers to us all: identity with God.” What that means is that what we do or don’t do, what we feel like and what we look like are not ultimate measures of who we are and whose we are.

Identity with God is what matters. It means knowing that we are loved and accepted by God, despite all we have done to others, despite all we have done to ourselves.

The journey will not be easy. But we never ever walk alone. (Seasons of the Spirit, SeasonsFUSION, Lent-Easter, 2014, Wood Lake Publishing Inc., 2013, page 9)

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