Monday Matters (February 27, 2023)


The Collect for the first Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.

Manifold temptations

What are temptations that you face? Some years ago around this time of year, in my work with a group of teenagers, I asked them if they ever felt they had been tempted. One young girl spoke up: “I was tempted to give money to the guy begging on the street, but I didn’t.” Not exactly the response I was hoping for. It was one of those moments when I realized I had work to do, and maybe even wondered if I was up to the task.

It may not be that we talk these days much about temptations. The prayer (the collect) we read yesterday in church suggests that they will come. Not a matter of if but when. And they’ll come in force. I appreciate the Rite I language which predicts manifold temptations. I’m wondering what those might be for you as we begin the season of Lent.

Lent begins with the story of Jesus being led to the wilderness (by the Holy Spirit, of all things) to face tests. It’s an indication that the season of Lent assumes that we will have encounters with temptations. It’s a season of challenge, and I think we’re led to a sense of how to navigate such challenges as we read that Jesus went through the same thing.

The temptations Jesus faced were not notorious sins, not outrageous temptations about lust or greed. Jesus’ temptations included a quite reasonable need for food (After 40 days without food, turn stones into bread, a temptation to use God as quick-fix magician or valet). A second temptation had to do with trusting God for protection. (A temptation to take a leap off a skyscraper to see if God catches you, if God is really looking out for you, a test of how strong faith really is, with a hint that God might not be up to the task). A third temptation had to do with worship. (The devil says if you worship me, I’ll give you unlimited power, a temptation about where we give our heart, whether we will really love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, strength).

Jesus makes his way through these tests by making reference to the words of scripture. He knew where to draw strength. That may be one of the reasons why one of the things we’re invited to do in Lent is to read and meditate on God’s holy word. Scripture was clearly a resource to help him through. Have you found that to be the case in your own encounters with temptation?

Here’s another resource, suggested by a hymn that is not in the 1982 hymnal but one that I often find myself mulling over. What a friend we have a Jesus.

I’m taken with the phrase: Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer. I forfeit peace on a daily basis. You?

Later in the hymn we find the phrase: Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer. The story of Jesus in the wilderness tells us that he knows what we’re dealing with. Have you found prayer (however you pray) to be something that helps you in the wildnerness experience?

The premise of the collect we heard yesterday in church is that because Jesus knows our weaknesses, we can find strength to deal with our own temptations. There’s challenge for sure in this season compared to the wilderness. But as we tap into resources like scripture and prayer, along with other spiritual practices that we might take on in this season, we are not only challenged. We are also formed into what God calls us to do and be.

As the season begins, what are the resources at your disposal, that will help you as you encounter manifold temptations? How will you put them to work in your life this week?

-Jay Sidebotham

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