The Most Rev. Mark Haverland, Metropolitan, Anglican Catholic Church
Saint Matthew iv, verse 11 - Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The story of Christ's fasting in the wilderness before the outset of his public ministry is told to us by the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Saint Matthew's version, which we read today, changes Saint Mark's in several ways, two which I would like to point out here. First, Matthew explicitly tells us that our Lord 'fasted', whereas Mark merely tells us that he was tempted in the wilderness. Secondly, Matthew alone tells us that Jesus was in the wilderness 'forty days and forty nights'. Both the fact of his fast and the reference to forty days and forty nights connect this fact to two basic stories from the Old Testament. In Exodus xxxiv.28 we are told that Moses was on Mount Sinai 'with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.' There we see the fast, forty days and forty nights, and a location in the wilderness. Likewise in I Kings xix.8 we find that at a critical moment in Israel's history the great prophet Elijah began a fast of 'forty days and forty nights' and went then unto 'the mount of God' where he met God in a still small voice and was given instructions for his own future and that of his nation. Again there we see the wilderness, fasting, and forty days and forty nights.
Matthew, you see, is taking the basic story from Saint Mark and is shaping it to show us how our Lord is beginning again the story of Israel. The same idea will appear again often in the gospels, as when at his Transfiguration our Lord is seen upon the mountain top speaking with Moses and Elijah, the representatives of the Law and the Prophets. Matthew shows that our Lord came to renew the basic themes of Israel's history so as to complete and perfect that which in the first version so often ended in failure and defeat.
But before we personally come to the great victory, which we hear in the story of Easter, we first must wander through the fast of the forty days of Lent, as Israel wandered in the temptations of the wilderness for forty years and as Moses and Elijah and Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. We continue to live the story of the Bible, now through the Church's year and sacraments and disciplines. It is therefore most appropriate that today, on the first Sunday in Lent, we read the story of our Lord's fasting and temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of our Lenten fast.
Three temptations in Matthew's account hearken back to the original Exodus. The first temptation relates most directly to the situation of Christ's fast: we are told, 'he was hungry' (iv:2). Satan asks Christ to make bread from stones, and so implies that our Lord should distrust the God who provided his people manna in the wilderness and who brought forth for them water from a stone. This temptation plays on the frequent occasions in the Exodus when Israel sinned in a desire for food and in a lack of trust that God would provide it. In response to the renewal of this old temptation, our Lord asserts that to obedience to God and God's word is more important than even physical necessities, and he does so by quoting Moses himself: '[M]an does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.' (Deut. vii.3) Furthermore Christ is not a showman who works wonders for his own benefit. He works miracles for the sake of others, not for himself. Today he will not make himself food. Later he will not come down from the cross (xxvii.40). Please notice that our Lord does not say that bread does not matter. In fact 'not...by bread alone' implies that bread is indeed needed. The temptation lies not in the desire to eat but rather in our tendency to distrust the Father who has promised his love and who long ago sent bread from heaven for his people. Distrust of God is sin.
The second temptation, to jump off the temple, is a temptation to violate the laws of nature established by God, merely so as to test, tempt, and prove God by forcing his hand. Satan tempts by using the words of Scripture in Psalm xci (in LXX). Jesus responds with Deuteronomy vi.16: 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord they God.' If the first temptation was an attempt to confuse priorities by putting food before trust in God, this is an attempt to do things in our time rather than in God's time. Jesus eventually will allow himself to be sacrificed and to die at the hands of others. And eventually angels will minister to him both at the end of his fast (11) and after his resurrection (xxviii.2-7). But events must unfold in God's time, not because we choose to force them in our time. God's answer to prayer is often, 'Wait!' And we so often are as impatient as we are distrustful.
The third temptation is an invitation to idolatry in imitation of Israel's worship of the golden calf during the Exodus. In return for worship, Satan offers worldly domination: 'the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them' (v. 8). Some take this offer to mean that worldly power is Satan's to bestow as he pleases. But Satan is the father of lies, so it is in fact not clear that the world is as entirely in his gift as he implies. In any case, Christ rejects the temptation to idolatry with more words from the Exodus: 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' (Deut. vi.13) By asserting the sole divinity of God, our Lord banishes Satan. If God is truly our God, then all other things will fall into their proper place, including the satisfaction of hunger and the ministering angels (verse 11) which Satan deceptively offered in the wrong way and at the wrong time. If we seek first the reign of God, then all those other things will be added unto us. If we seek not the reign of God in our hearts, then everything else will go wrong. Badly wrong.
We tend to view Lent as an interruption in our lives, and in a sense it is since Easter is the most fundamental fact for Christians. Joy and victory in the end will be everything. But the end is not yet, and Lent is the way to Easter, and the shortcuts we would like to try only lead further into the wilderness. It is by slow and steady pilgrimage through Lent and life that we come to our proper end. It is by dealing well with the temptations of the devil that God becomes our answer and our crown. At the end of his fast the devil left our Lord and angels came and ministered to him. The ministering angels with their comforts are waiting for us as well. Let us keep a good and devout Lent with our eyes fixed on the joys of Easter and heaven.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
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Tonight (and every Friday during Lent except for Good Friday), 7:00 PM, Stations of the Cross followed by light Lenten Supper
Saturday, February 25, 8:30 AM, Men's Group in the undercroft with breakfast by Chef Claude Crump and Bible Study with Bob Boyd. Food, fellowship and Bible study with other men of the parish.
Sunday Services, 7:45 AM, 9:00 AM, & 11:15 AM (for online participation for the services go to: https://www.facebook.com/saintsofscotland/ )
Sunday School, 10:30 AM
Wednesday at Noon – Holy Communion and anointing for healing
Monday, March 27, 7:30 PM, Vestry Meeting, undercroft
Please help this month with a food donation if you are able. Christ House is very thankful for the food we provide to them each month. Please also buy low sugar cereals (and not the kid's types that have lots of sugar). Current needs include the following:
• canned meats (chicken, corned beef, spam)
• peanut butter
• canned vegetables (corn, green beans - (regular and low sodium)
• individual fruit cups (low sugar)
• canned fruit (low sugar)
• cereal (low sugar)
• pasta (regular and gluten-free)
• instant potatoes
• Macaroni & cheese kits
• Coffee, cooking oil, flour, sugar
Just Updated List of Needs for MaRIH Center (crisis pregnancy center)
MaRIH Center with its all volunteer staff has been providing help to mothers-to-be and mothers in need. If you can provide some of the items that are needed, please do so. (You can leave the donations where the food for the food bank is collected on the pew in the undercorft.)
Baby wipes* (an ongoing great need)
Diapers (sizes 1*, 2, 3*, 4, 5*, & 6*)
Diaper rash ointment*
Winter & Spring/Summer clothing for 0-3 months and 2T*
(Bold and * are a critical need.)
Sleep Sacks: Girls 0-6 mos.
Socks: Boy/Girl 2T
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