On this first Sunday of lent we move into the season of examining our foundation of faith. We willingly subject ourselves to a manner of faith scrutiny. That is, we intentionally allow god to probe the depths of our faith. To know whether it is authentic–or is it merely a cultural or family identification.
--to be sure, willingly allowing oneself to be scrutinized is unnerving, it entails being vulnerable, like an animal showing its belly to a potential enemy......to allow god or ‘the devil' to examine your faith is a risky and potentially dangerous business!
Why would a person of faith be so foolish as to place himself or herself in this position??
If you say you have faith, why question it??
If one has been living the Christian life for a month, a year or 80 years, why submit to a time of testing, let alone a time of temptation as Jesus experienced in the wilderness??
In the tradition of the church, or more importantly, in the tradition of the faith, men and women have found that it is important to have seasons of intentional renewal of their faith.
This makes good sense, esp. If one examines the lessons of history. Even recent history points to a need for times of "testing."
Take for example, the recent floundering of the largest financial institutions in the world. Yes, the behemoth banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms were suddenly called into question about what they were physically or financially made up of??.
Did they really have the cash to back up their accounts??? Was their paperwork in order, could they really afford to pay their top executives the salaries and bonuses that were (or are!!) being paid out?? And as the truth began to emerge, it was further asked if the nation, indeed, the world!! could afford it if these institutions
Strange days we are living in!! Unusual situations we find ourselves in. It's unnerving that, in the time of testing, even what has been considered to be the strongest, most reliable, most secure, humanly constructed entities are shown to have fatal flaws, there is the potential for these institutions to crumble from the foundation
on up to the corporate offices!! And regardless if you have personal funds invested with these institutions or not, their down fall, unfortunately, affects us all.
It has been the same for geo-political entities, take for example the roman empire. The roman army was the most advanced invincible fighting machine in history. The roman government controlled a vast territory–the western world of it's day, but in the year 410 A.D. Germanic tribes swept down and sacked Rome! Some said the reason
Rome fell was due to it's embrace of Christianity, under Constantine in 313 A.D., but this is hardly the truth, as the greater part of Rome was non-Christian, in fact, it seems more accurate to say that Rome fell due to its self aggrandizement, it's self interest and overconfidence in itself, a false sense of invincibility caused the
downfall. Certainly sounds like a familiar story to our contemporary situation.
I could go on to name any number of additional examples of the largest of nations and human institutions that have come and gone.......but what is the point?????
The point is, it is a good practice to willingly subject ourselves, on occasion, to the times of testing.
We need to figure out if we are blindly following our own ways, being led by human fallacies, or are we being led by god? Do we allow ourselves to trust in the human way?? or the faith-way of riding on the wings of the unseen way of god???
But of course, our hope and strength are only as strong as our god in whom we find refuge. Our future assurance of goodness and mercy and happiness is only assured by the degree to which our ground of being is based. Is our ground of being based in a bank?? Is it based upon a human political doctrine?? Is it based in nature??
We well know, even the earth, though our physical source of life, is subject to tumultuous changes in its physical characteristics....and it is not always friendly to us as our present cold spell is all too reality based !
The things we know from history and the things we experience today -- all of these things are changing entities, they are finite, only god is infinite!!!
And so we return to the psalmists' understanding that only in god can be found a reliable shelter, only in god (from the poetic imagery), can be found safety from the dangers of life. Whether your present reality is endangerment from a lion or stepping on an adder, or if you are facing the present loss of work, finances, property
or a serious health concern. These are times when our faith will be tested and we will want to find ourselves resting and relying on the one who is eternal and consistent to save us.
This is what Jesus knew to be truth!! The one who could nurture, lead, and keep, the soul both now and in eternity, is the one in whom we want to find ourselves trusting and believing. Only by entering into a time of testing and confrontation will we prove to ourselves our own faith.
Let us pray,
Lord God Almighty, in you I place my trust. In the hour of my trials, may I find my strength in you, the times of testing, may my faith be a source of comfort and strength, that I might triumph over the adversities of life, and should I be overwhelmed, may my consolation be that thou art with me in all things, in you I have
salvation now and forever. Amen
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