February 16, 2013

Give Us the Grace To Discipline Ourselves

(Common Lectionary Teaching notes for Lent 2, Year C, 2013 by Rev. John Gishler)

 The Readings (Deut. 26.1-11; Ps. 91; Rom. 10.8b-13 and Luke 4.1-13) are chosen to help us in self-examination during Lent as we prepare our hearts, not us our minds, for Easter. What we are looking at is things we do or fail to do that tend to separate us from a deep love relationship with God.

1. Deuteronomy reminds us that we are in a Covenant relationship
The First Fruits offering is a test of love and loyalty to God. If we fail to keep our part of the Covenant the Covenant is broken. This means we are no longer under the spiritual and material protection of God. Our actions show what is really in our hearts
·         How we spend our leisure time is an indication of our priorities
·         How we spend our money is an indication of our values
·         How we treat other people shows what is going on in our hearts
·         The challenge is that our minds deceive us – we can always think up a way to justify our questionable actions
·         Even more scary is the fact that our minds have a built in self-defence mechanism that can lead to self-deception
·         Good News is that the Holy Spirit will guide us in self-examination and help us overcome our blindness!

2. Jesus models self-discipline when tempted by Satan
Fasting and prayer is the most effective way to move quickly into a deep personal relationship with Jesus. This works because it enables us to really focus on our need for a personal experience of the divine. Our heart is stretched and disciplined as we say no to all the normal distractions of life. One approach to self-examination is to ask not if, but in what small ways we are distracted by our emotional needs for material things, power and control and spiritual authority:

·         In what ways am I distracted by Materialism?
Jesus was trying to overcome His desire for food so Satan tempted Him to use His powers to turn a stone into bread. Jesus had to make a choice. If He did turn the stone into bread He would satisfy His hunger (temporarily) – but loose His human identity and be unable to die for the sins of humans. This was a really serious temptation. It could have ended the ministry of Jesus before it even began. Jesus models self-discipline by quoting Deut. 8.3  where Moses explains the reason for the manna in the desert “...to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.” The teaching on bread of course is not just about food – bread is the symbol for everything material that humans crave for physical and emotional comfort. It is not surprising that we live in a time when many people do not attend church and are seriously overweight.

·         In what ways am I distracted by my need for power and control?
Jesus was offered power and control over all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship Satan. This was probably the ultimate loyalty test. We are all tempted by fears and insecurities that tempt us to try and gain power and control over our lives. This striving for power and control is what separates us from God and from each other – we are serving self, not God. Jesus realizes that this is contrary to loyalty to God and again quotes Scripture - Deut. 6.13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only..” Our relationship to God involves exclusive loyalty and dependence. We are servants.

·         In what ways am I distracted by my need for spiritual authority?
Stepping of the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem would lead to recognition as Messiah and           avoiding  crucifixion.  But it would also, as in all temptations, prevent Jesus from reaching His destiny. 
 We all need to examine our lives for emotional and spiritual desires that distract us from our relationship with Jesus.

3. Jesus teaches us to depend on the Word of God
Satan knows the Bible better than we do, so we have to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us in interpreting Scripture. The Good News is that:

·         Romans 10.8 reminds us “the Word is near you” – in the heart
·         Are saved if we believe in our hearts that Jesus rose from the dead
·         Faith in Jesus death for us ‘justifies us  - makes us spiritually whole
·         If we are spiritually whole, the Holy Spirit can come and live in us
·         Holy Spirit will guide us in self-examination to highlight where we have been distracted and prepare for Confession
Good News is that Jesus has given us the grace to discipline ourselves through self-examination, repentance, confession and accepting absolution


  1. Did you know that Lent is a pagan ritual that
    relates to the weeping for Tammuz that occurs
    in the book of Ezekial when the Lord God reveals the evils (abominations) that are happening in the temple of Jerusalem.?
    a sister in Christ.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Many Christian practices probably have pagan roots if you look far enough back. I do not think this is a problem if they help people participate in the life of Jesus Christ. Repentance is an essential part of the Christian message.