Third Sunday in Lent (February 28, 2016)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 | New Living Translation
10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.9 We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
If You Think You Are Standing Firm…
Be careful that you don’t fall.
This might sound like a proverb…a wise saying…but here in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, we have this warning. As we think about the journey to the cross that we are calling Lent, we need to think about repentance. It seems that each of our passages over the past few weeks have mentioned this idea of repentance.
Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul is telling the story of the Israelites during the Exodus and wilderness wanderings. Paul recounts the story and how the Israelites have received the blessings of God – they had God’s protection – remember the Red Sea crossing. God led them personally with a cloud by day and a fire by night. He gave them water – provided them manna. They had everything they needed…God would make sure of that….and….yet…I even don’t like typing this, because we are the same way…and yet they didn’t realize God’s provisions in the wilderness – at least most of them didn’t. Instead of recognizing God’s blessing and provision and shelter, they grumbled, complained, did evil things, were idolaters (remember the Golden Calf?), indulged in revelry, committed sexual immorality…and the list goes on. God was not pleased and many of them died.
Perhaps in this season – as we journey to the cross – we should examine our lives – especially those of us who claim to live for Christ. We have been given this warning – take heed lest you fall. Right after this powerful warning, Paul gives encouragement…Christ is the answer…God is faithful…God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. This echoes the words found in Hebrews 4:14-15, “14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.”
Sometimes it is easy to feel a bit smug in our Christian lives – sometimes we get prideful about the way we are living – after all – I’m not living like those sinners, would be our typical reply. Be careful when you think you are standing firm…Paul’s words echo in my thoughts tonight. Think about two words – sin and pride – do you notice something? Both words have an “I” in the middle. During the fourth century, the “desert fathers,” began this idea of the seven deadly sins. You may of heard of them before and they include pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. The seven deadly sins are called “capital” because they are the origins of other vices. I once heard it discussed that even these seven sins could be collapsed onto one – the first, pride. It really seems to me that pride is at the root of most sin. After all, Satan fell from heaven because of pride. Satan used the temptation of pride to deceive Adam and Eve. He even used that tactic on Jesus. I find the times that I sin are the times when my pride has gotten in the way. It’s when we feel prideful – we better be careful…be careful that you don’t fall.
That’s why I love the season of Lent. It allows us to examine our life…to set aside the things that are not like Christ…to ask the Holy Spirit to come in and cleanse us…to help us not to fall…because God is faithful…because God made a way through Christ – his incarnation – his death on the cross – his resurrection. Through this Christ has made a way and has broken the curse of sin, death, and the grave. Christ can help us when we are tempted – He can provide a way…
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God of wilderness and water,
your Son was baptized and tempted as we are.
Guide us through this season,
that we may not avoid struggle,
but open ourselves to blessing,
through the cleansing depths of repentance
and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.