Homily for the first Sunday in Lent (Year C) – Tested for readiness

Updated: Mar 4

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Good morning bus riders!


This past Wednesday we entered the period known as Lent.


Raise your hand if you went to a church that had an Ash Wednesday service and were marked by a priest, with an X on your forehead.


<Look for raised hands.>


The smearing of ashes, mixed with oil, is symbolic of death – “ashes to ashes.” The forty days of Lent are then marked at the beginning by a symbolic use of ashes that project a period of mourning. Lent is said to be a “somber” time that is a “season of grief.”


The reason this air of sadness prevails is because Jesus was tested for forty days.


That is where the seasons of the liturgical year are wrongly presented. The liturgical year is not directly relative to events in Jesus’ life. They are devised to be projections of oneself becoming Jesus reborn, where the life of Jesus becomes a model to follow.


Advent was oneself being pregnant with Jesus within, (being like Mary) after having Spiritually married Yahweh, his Father.


Christmas is when oneself gives birth to Jesus, so Jesus becomes one’s new identity – he becomes the Lord of oneself. Christmas Day symbolizes when true Christians were reborn as a Christ in the name of Jesus.


The Epiphany is when oneself realizes this change is permanent and oneself is forevermore committed to serving Yahweh as His Son reborn. Something happens that tells each of ourselves, “You have become Anointed as a Christ; and angels are ready to help you.”


The after the Epiphany period of time is when oneself tests that divine presence and becomes used to the powers that come. It is the internship that learns to be comfortable with being Jesus.


Lent is not some time to mourn that divine presence within. It is a time to absorb divine knowledge and personally experience the presence of the Spirit, so one’s faith is raised. When it has been raised to a position of great inner strength, then that strength must be put to the test … as an examination that is welcomed.


Easter is much like Christmas, in the sense that we are told to focus on the death of Jesus, followed by his resurrection. This is about the death of our old selves, so each doubly fruitful soul can let the soul of Jesus become one's Lord. The weeks of the Easter season are then a reflection of the forty days the risen Lord Jesus spent training his disciples, preparing them to become Apostles. For ministry to begin, the way of a sinner must be put to rest forevermore.


Pentecost Sunday is like the Epiphany, as that reflects when one graduates from being a follower and goes to work as a minister, leading followers … as Jesus reborn.


The long season after Pentecost then reflects the remainder of the life oneself leads, serving Yahweh as His Son.


Everything about the liturgical calendar is about oneself becoming a reborn Jesus; and, there is nothing somber related to that process.


Of course, the forty days of Lent are reflected in the forty days after Easter, leading to Pentecost. That forty days is relative to the reading today from Deuteronomy.


If Lent is seen as a somber time, then one has to see the forty days the risen Jesus spent training his disciples in the same light of despair; and, nobody sees the seven weeks of the Easter season as dismal.


That means Lent should also be celebrated. It should be a joyful time, when oneself is made the focus … as a new phase that is known to come. It is when one's soul is biting at the bit, ready to have all the preparations be over with, so the good times can fully begin!


The lesson of Jesus being tested in the wilderness is no different than a student in a university being tested at final exams.


That become a somber time … a death march … when one walks in to be tested, knowing oneself has not done the necessary preparation to pass the exam.


Raise your hand if you ever went into a text unprepared and then failed miserably.


<Look for raised hands.>


Back in my twenties, when I was in college, I took a class in anthropology. I enjoyed that class. I had an A grade going into the final exam.


For some reason (most likely youthful procrastination), I decided I would do an ‘all-nighter’ and study for the exam for that class. To stay up all night long, I took caffeine pills. By two A.M. my stomach was so upset by the caffeine that I stopped taking the pills. By three A.M. I decided to take just a short nap.


I woke up at ten, an hour into the two-hour exam period that began at nine; and, I jumped into my car and sped to the school. I burst into the class when there was barely ten minutes left for the exam. I explained to the teacher how I overslept. I begged her to let me be tested. The teacher told me to wait outside in the hall until the exam period was over.


She took mercy upon my stupidity, but there was no way I would get to take the same exam the other students took. There was too much chance I had been lurking outside the classroom, getting all the answers from students finished with their exam. The teacher would not take a chance like that. When the exam was over, she took me to her office and had me sit at a desk there. Then she gave me my exam.


It was totally essay questions; and, none of those questions had anything to do with what we had studied in that class.


I made up answers, the best I could, based on what I had learned in the class; and, I turned that in.


When the grades were posted, I had made a low C on that exam. My A grade became a B … all because of my stupidity.


The point of my telling this story is Lent should be a time when one is totally prepared to be tested, with no fears whatsoever.


If one goes into a final exam wearing an X of ashes and oil on one’s forehead, filled with the grief of death, then that is like waking up an hour into the time allotted to be tested; and, then being given a test you haven’t prepared for.


It becomes one of those “be careful what you wish for” experiences, because “you just might get your wish to come true.”


With that said, let’s begin the lessons for today.


The theme for all the readings has nothing to do with death or grieving. That, by itself, should be evidence that Lent is not a time for sadness.


The theme that I see in all the readings is one of commitment that brings confrontation.


That is easy to see in the Gospel reading about Jesus being tested in the wilderness, but it is less clear in the other three readings.


The word “Deuteronomy” actually comes from Greek, as a combining of “deuteros” and “nomos,” which means “second law.”


This can be misleading, as it is the same law, just restated before the Israelites went into the Promised Land, when they were to take possession.


Raise your hand if you have ever taken a college class and the teacher held a special class before an exam, where the sole purpose was to basically go over the exam, so those who heard that lecture could do well on the exam.


<Look for raised hands.>


Well, that is how Deuteronomy should be seen. The reading today is Moses going over the lesson taught in Leviticus 23:9-14. The difference is in the reading today, Moses was giving some background as to why this was a law worth repeating.


Because Jacob was forced by circumstances to move his family into Egypt, the family became committed to Yahweh, as His children, and they grew. When they became too large for the Egyptians to keep welcoming them, they were then forced by circumstances to leave Egypt.


Moses was telling them that history relates to the law of the first fruits. The family of Jacob was like a seed Yahweh planted in Egypt. That seed grew and had to be harvested. Before it would be mature enough to become good fruit, it had to be placed in the care of a priest until ready to be offered to the world.


The Israelites were the unripe first fruits. Moses was the priest who they were set before. Rather than forty days … the time commanded in Leviticus is seven weeks, or fifty days total … the time Moses would hold onto the first fruits before offering them to the world was forty years.


When we read at the end, where Moses told the Israelites, “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that Yahweh eloheka has given to you and to your house,” the confrontation part comes from “the aliens who reside among you.”


Moses told the Israelites (thus us who read it today) “you shall celebrate” – from “semeach,” meaning “be glad, joyful, merry” – “all the bounty that being Yahweh elohim has given to you and your house.”


Imagine how welcoming it is to go to “aliens” of Christianity with a smudge on your forehead and grief on your face, asking that “alien” to join you in “all that bounty” that comes from serving God. Do you think an “alien” that a Christian lives among is going to think, “I have to be a part of this religion, so I can be smudged with grief!” Or, do you think they are going to think, “This person is crazy!”


<Look for stunned looks.>


The reminder Moses gave the Israelites was to always honor the gifts of Yahweh, which are given spiritually. Being one of Yahweh’s elohim – His “angels in the flesh” – is the “bounty” that needs to be given to the world. Teaching others to become Yahweh elohim is the celebration of the festival of Weeks.


The festival of Weeks is on the fiftieth day – the meaning of the Greek word Pentecost.


On Pentecost Sunday, the day after Jesus Ascended from the Mount of Olives, the first fruits of Christianity were deemed ripe and mature to be shared with the world. The priest was Jesus. The first fruits were his Apostles.


While the twelve suddenly began speaking in foreign tongues, bringing about three thousand seekers – all “aliens” pilgrimaging in Jerusalem – to also become the first fruits spiritually, the priests of the Temple of Jerusalem were blessing baskets of fruits, vegetables, and grains that had been set in the Temple fifty days earlier.


The Apostles had to confront those pilgrims, because the twelve were committed to Yahweh, each reborn as His Son.


Can you see how that theme surfaces from this reading in Deuteronomy?


<Look for quizzical faces.>


In David’s Psalm read today, there are six verses that are omitted. In those six verses there are warnings of threats that exist in the world. Those are cut out to lessen the degree of fear and foreboding that is felt, when one is a soul married to Yahweh.


The threats are later described as “the lion and the adder,” who a Yahweh elohim will be expected to confront; but, David sang, “You shall tread upon the lion and adder; you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.”


That needs to have one of those warning shown on television, for shows depicting dangerous actions: “Do not try this at home. These are trained professionals filmed in this show.”


David wrote that in his first two verses, where he sang, “He who dwells in the shelter of elyown, abides under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall say to Yahweh, "You are my refuge and my stronghold, elohay in whom I put my trust."


In my amendments to the text presented on the lectionary site, the word “elyown” is defined as “high,” but it is recognized by scholars of Hebrew to be one of the many references to God. That reference to God is translated as "Most High." The word “elohay” is similarly translated in the same way, as “my God,” even though it is a plural word.


It is most important to see the truth of what David wrote, as he was not saying if you believe in God, then you can boldly go walking on poisonous snakes and in dens with hungry lions. One has to become "most high," as the many elohim who serve Yahweh.


David was singing about the confidence that one has when one’s soul-flesh has become Spiritually elevated to a “high” state of being, where the Spirit of Yahweh within becomes like a “shadow” that “dwells” in one's soul, giving one Spiritual strength. That becomes the presence of Yahweh that “shelters” one’s soul-flesh.


The “trust” that comes forth is the personal experience of Yahweh’s presence, as one of His elohim.


That is faith that had David sing the promise of Yahweh, saying, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor.”


That is the commitment of David to Yahweh and Yahweh to David. It is a “trust” from personal experience that knows all confrontations will come to naught.


The faith that David knew was based on all the tests he had passed because of his commitment to Yahweh: Goliath, Saul, moving the Ark into his city.


David reflected the celebration of the bounty that Yahweh eloheka had given to him and the Israelites he led to become like him.


Can you see that theme here?


<Look for astonished faces.>


Now, in Paul’s letter to the Christian Jews of Rome the English translation is poor. In that regard, I will direct everyone to read the commentary that I posted on my website, about Romans 10:8-13.


The same basic word is written by Paul in these verses, with it written four times. Once the word is translated as “faith” and the three other times it is shown as “belief.” The basic word is “pistis.” The word written three times is a modification of “pistis,” by adding “peíthō” to it, so it becomes "pisteuó." The result means this: “persuading one to have faith.”


Based on what David wrote, the persuasion that leads to true faith is personal experience.


Raise your hands if you believe in quantum physics.


<Look for raised hands.>


Okay, raise your hands if you have faith in quantum physics.


<Look for astonished faces.>


Okay, let me put it this way. Who believes it is possible to walk in a lion’s den or a pit of vipers, without getting mauled or bit?


<Look for questioning faces.>


Who has faith that he or she can be thrown into a lion’s den or a pit of cobras would come out unscathed?


<Look for astonished faces.>


That is the difference between “pistis” meaning “faith” and “pistis” meaning “belief.” One is having trust in someone who tells you something to believe in; and, the other is having been there, done that, and knowing what will happen … EVERY TIME.


When I took that anthropology class, I believed in the subject taught by the teacher; but when it came time for the final exam, my belief (that was based on an A grade) did not give me the faith to simply show up for an exam, well rested but without any preparatory study. Had I had faith in anthropology, I would have known the exam was going to be a breeze.


College students: Do not try to fake faith.


The reading from Romans should be posted as a warning, placed at the entrance to the wilderness. A sign there should says: “Do not go beyond this point, unless ‘you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.’”


Think of it as some kind of test … an exam … that cannot be avoided. The path from the past to the future always goes through the wilderness. So, say you are registered in a calculus class and the final exam is pass or fail … live or die. If you have not studied one iota for that exam, then how much weight does saying, “Jesus will save me” hold?


When we read, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame,” isn’t failing a class a shame?


<Look for astonished faces.>


The truth of what Paul wrote does not say that. It says, “All this persuaded to having faith in on the basis of self not will be put to utter confusion”. In that, the Greek word “autō” translates as “self,” where a “self” is a “soul.”


When Paul wrote about one “persuaded to have faith in your heart,” the word “kardia” is metaphor for the “inner self,” or the “soul.”


That says “having faith in” is Spiritual possession, where one’s soul has married Yahweh, becoming one of His elohim. THAT personal experience in one’s center being knows that God has raised your dead soul to one that is everlasting. So, there will be no shame that comes from reincarnation.


Belief is something that comes from the brain. Faith can only come from the heart and soul.


Still, there are plenty of preachers and ministers in the world that pander to the brains of sinners, telling them, “Believe me when I say” … when all they know is intellectual, from reading words in a book.


To tell anyone not to fear going into the lion’s den or snake pit because, “If you believe in Jesus you will be saved,” is speaking from personal experience with Satan.


You will notice that universities do not have to worry about ‘prayer meetings’ taking place in the hallways to classes where calculus exams are taking place. There is no preaching to wayward students done there, saying, “If you believe in Jesus you will pass this exam.”


Paul was not writing about using Jesus to get ahead in this world. He was beaten to death, but returned to human life; so, he could continue serving Yahweh, as His Son reborn.


If Paul was in the business of preaching belief in Jesus, the soul of Jesus would have never approached him, giving Saul the personal experience of Yahweh’s Spirit.


This means the commitment in today's Romans reading is to being persuaded to have faith in Yahweh, knowing Him as one of His elohim.


The confrontation comes via those whose angers are raised by beliefs that are erroneous and based on false assumptions … coming from one's intellect, rather than one's spiritual insight.


Thus, David knew those confrontations as “the snare of the fowler,” “the deadly pestilence,” “the terror of the night,” “the arrow that flies by day,” “the pestilence that stalks in darkness” and “the destruction that wastes at noonday.” [All come from the omitted verses.]


The world is a dangerous place to be when one is all alone. Taking a college exam when one has not studied is one of the many dangers of worldly existence.


The salvation of the soul is all that matters; and Paul was saying that demands a personal relationship with Yahweh, having taken on His name [either Israel or Jesus]. When that faith has become one’s “shelter” and “refuge,” then one can “call upon that presence to be saved.”


In this light, my enjoyment of an anthropology class can be seen as a similar enjoyment of some branch of Christianity and all the dogma taught by a minister. I can believe all the things I hear taught in class … the Sunday sermons heard … but if I do not do homework and preparations away from that school of thought, then I am left without true faith.


In that sense, death (when the soul is released for the final exam) is where one finds the test of the difference between faith and belief. When only A grades get eternal life, getting a low C on the things one knew nothing about means a fair judgment that is reincarnation.


San you see this difference between faith and belief?


<Look for stunned faces.>


When we come to the Gospel reading from Luke, I have to tell you that I saw this in a new light this past week. I wrote over four thousand words in a commentary that goes deeply into what Luke wrote. I believe it is worth the read; and, I cannot go into everything at this time. Just know it is posted on the blog to my website.


What I will say now eludes to that which I said back when the third Sunday of Epiphany was recognized. There, the verses that follow these today are telling of Jesus beginning his ministry, followed by his rejection in Nazareth.


At that time I said the wording used by Luke implied that the soul of Jesus was what was tested; and, it was the “return” of that soul to the body after this period of testing.


I said then that Jesus could have carried on a normal life, doing normal things, while his soul was separate from him … like an out of body experience. Do you remember that?


<Look for questioning faces that have a hard time remembering yesterday, much less more than a month before.>


Jesus went through spiritual testing, not physical testing. The warning not to try going without food for forty days needs not apply. The somber mood surrounding Lent is people thinking [an exercise of a brain], “How am I going to last forty days without … fill in the blank: chocolate, cigarettes, sex, alcohol, whatever?"


What about all the sins you don't have to give up … allowing the Church let you think a little sacrifice is plenty enough?


The somber meaning applied to Lent reflects on a Church allowing sin to exist, under the grieving pretense that says, "We cannot quit sin; so, we'll just suspend one sin for forty days."


Th smudge marks the brains of sinners: Here lies the blockage to total commitment to Yahweh. Here walks the living dead that bows down before a big brain.


The true meaning of Lent is not sacrifice. It is (as Moses said) a time to celebrate the bounty. That “abundance” is Spiritual.


It is a time to show one’s faith that comes from the heart, not the brain.


In terms of a school test, a Spiritual test comes when one knows everything there is to know. When one is that prepared, then one looks forward to being tested.


Back when the readings were from the second Sunday after the Epiphany, where the Gospel was from John, telling of the wedding in Cana, he wrote that Jesus told Mary, “My time has not yet come.”


Mary put Jesus to the test: “Make some wine appear!”


This reading from Luke is about when it was Jesus’ time having come. It was time to be tested strongly. He had to have the mettle of his Spirit proved.


Jesus was prepared for his time coming. Yahweh gave him a 'syllabus' that told him when the midterm exam would be taken, before beginning ministry. Jesus was born ready to be tested; but the timing of everything (the chronology of history and the symbolic meaning that was part of Yahweh's plan) was out of Jesus' control.


Now, I want to point out the numbering of forty days. The gathering of the first fruits, which is a counting of fifty days, begins with the Passover, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. After ten days they reached Mount Sinai.


Forty days is then the length of time Moses was in the cloud that surrounded the top of that mountain. After forty days he came down with the Law.


The first fruits of the Exodus was the test of the Law. The confrontation says, "Commit and marry Yahweh or be cast away."


The Israelites chose to be committed to Yahweh. So, after forty years the Israelites were set before their priest Moses, they were mature and ripe, ready to enter the Promised Land.


After Jesus resurrected and rejoined with his disciples, he spent forty days with them, Ascending the day before Pentecost – the Fiftieth Day in the counting ordered in Leviticus.


The ten days that it took Jesus to reach that 'mountain' was the eight days of the Passover festival and two days of 'orientation' that registered the disciples in his school of divine marriage to Yahweh.


This makes the number forty be relative to the testing process: Moses tested the Israelites’ mettle while on the mountain; he tested their mettle while in the wilderness forty years; Jesus tested the mettle of his disciples for forty days. That was three years after Jesus had his mettle tested for the same amount of time.


It was important for me to see how verse two says, “forty days he was tempted by the devil.” In verse three Luke wrote, “He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.”


Everything that is written beyond that point says the forty days had passed; so, this is where everything added needs to be seen as subsequent to the test.


It was like my being told by my anthropology teacher to wait in the hall, outside the class, before she took me to her office and gave me a test I had not studied for.


Here is where the test of Jesus cannot be seen as physical, but Spiritual. He had consumed no spiritual food to nourish him for forty days. Therefore, his “hunger” was for insight coming to him from the Father.


Satan knew that desire, as Satan thirsts for the desires of souls. He knew that Jesus wanted spiritual food to be fed to him.


That is when “the devil” began a series of insults. The first challenged that Jesus was the “Son of God.” Here, it is important to know that only close relatives had any concept of that divinity; but Satan could read the soul of Jesus like a book.


Second, the devil showed Jesus his realm, which was the earth. He tempted Jesus with being the heir of that world, as a son of Satan.


Third, the devil challenged Jesus by suggesting he could make him the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem forever.


All of these confrontations of Jesus tested his commitment to Yahweh; but they were made because Satan knew Jesus hungered for spiritual food.


When Satan suggested Jesus command a stone to become a loaf of bread, that was metaphor for Jesus writing his own Commandments in stone, where the spiritual food etched into it would be whatever Jesus wanted. Satan taunted, "Make your own spiritual food to consume."


Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, which says: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh.”


Jesus’ hunger for spiritual food was fed with that bite from Scripture … from Mosaic Law.


When Satan took Jesus inside a mountain, which was the realm Yahweh had cast him into, the devil was “high” there. In an instant he fed Jesus’ mind with images of him ruling the upper world of the earth. All Jesus had to do was worship Satan, turning away from Yahweh.


When Jesus responded, “Worship Yahweh eloheka, and serve only him,” that quoted Deuteronomy 6:13. Yet another bite of spiritual food from Mosaic Law filled Jesus.


When Satan projected Jesus as the leader of the Temple in Jerusalem, he told him to join him as one cast down. He then quoted David – the King of Israel in Jerusalem – pulling out two verses David had written, which we read today in Psalm 91 (verses eleven and twelve).


Satan himself fed spiritual food to Jesus; but the wording was like an NRSV translation … very misleading, thus false.


When Jesus then responded to Satan by saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test,” that quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, so Jesus’s hunger was satiated by Mosaic Law. Jesus fed his hunger by being reminded of his marriage vows to Yahweh.


On top of that, what Jesus said to Satan reminded the devil why he had been banished from heaven, cast into the earth. He had tested a command by Yahweh and was suffering the consequences. Therefore, Satan left Jesus, not wanting to receive further punishment from Yahweh.


I see the bus rounding the corner, so I will end here.


Think about the theme for today, which is commitment always brings out tests, in the form of confrontations. Not all confrontations are hostile. Some are rather inviting. They lure with honey; but the result is always the same – entrapment.


Think about your commitment to Yahweh. Think about all the excuses you have used to stay separate.


I look forward to seeing everyone again next Sunday. Until then, don’t take any wooden nickels AND smile! It’s Lent. A time to celebrate!


Amen

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