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“…you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground…
…and you shall put it into a basket and go to the place
that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.”
Deuteronomy 26.2

It does, at first sight, seem quite odd that the season of Lent…
 – a season of giving up and doing without…
 – should begin with a reading about a big basket of goodies…

The offering of a basket of ‘first fruits’, began as a Canaanite harvest festival…
 – a thanksgiving for the grain and grape harvests…
 – but which, when adopted by the Israelites, acquired an added new twist…

As part of the ritual of offering that basket of ‘goodies’…
 – the person making the offering was required to PAUSE…
  – and to REMEMBER…
 – and to recite a little bit out of their oral history…                                  Dt.26.5
  – “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor;
  he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number…”
 
 – to PAUSE and to REMEMBER a time when there were no ‘goodies’…
  – when life was not so easy…
  – when life involved affliction, toil and sorrow…

It can be easy, when times are good, to forget the times before…
 – times that may not have been so good…
 – times we would like to forget…
 – times that are now long gone and behind us…

It was important to the Israelite that they should PAUSE and REMEMBER…

In Lent we do the opposite…
 – we deliberately ‘do without’, in order to…
  – well, in order to do what…?

 – what are we doing, when we give things up in Lent…?
 – and why are we doing it…

 – to make ourselves feel bad, perhaps…?
 – to make ourselves uncomfortable…?
 – to raise our awareness of our own bounty…
 – to remember the poverty / disadvantage of others…?

Well, I suppose it is all of that…
 – but it is, above all, an opportunity to PAUSE and to REMEMBER…

The temptation of Jesus is not just a story of the victory of virtue over badness…
  – of good over evil…
 – it is designed to pull us up short…
 – to make us PAUSE and REMEMBER…
  – to pause and remember some of the fundamentals of Christian living that   so easily get lost in our rich, bountiful, and abundant world we now live in…
  – despite the recession…!

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“One does not live by bread alone”                 Lk.4.4

We are not to be driven solely by our physical needs and desires…

Money and goods are not the measure of our authenticity as human beings…

Life is more about seeking the depths within…
 – than it is about acquiring material things…
  – or attaining celebrity status…

We are SPIRITUAL, as well as physical beings…
 – and we neglect that inner being at our peril…

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”                                          Lk.4.8

Much of the good things that we have are GIVEN…
 – through chance, through genetics, through the generosity of others…
 – none of us are entirely self-made…

Recognition of the grace of God in our lives…
  – the ‘givenness’ of much of what we are and have…
 – and the way we respond to that in ‘service’ to each other…
  – simple humanity towards each other…
 – is a first step upon our journey to becoming who we truly are…
  – children of God…

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”                                                  Lk.4.12

Satan tempts Jesus with invulnerability…
 – throw yourself down, God will save you…!
 – that will prove to everyone that HE IS who he says he is…

But Jesus knows that VULNERABILITY, not INvulnerability, is the key…
 – that living by frail faith…
 – that living with uncertainty…
 – that living the ‘gifted’ life of faith, hope and love…
  – is worth more that any proof, or certainty…
  – and opens up a deeper relationship with God
   than we could ever ‘make’ for ourselves…

And so we pause and remember…
 – that DEPTH and GRACE and VULNERABILITY are where we find our true selves…
 – and where we reap our richest bounty…

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