The First Sunday in Lent AD 2021
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."  He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."  So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.  On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.  Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you."  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.  And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"  Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.
 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."  He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."  And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the name of that place, "The Lord will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided."
 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven  and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,  I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,  and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,  and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Alone out in the wilderness. Yes, we just might relate a little bit to that, after one year out in the Covidness, that has separated us from each other, beloved family and friends and the rest of society. Even if you’ve got other people living in your home, or have made that one connection to one other household that you are allowed to make if you live alone, I think we can all relate in some way to the lonely place that we see Jesus driven out into today by the Spirit.
Yes, I think we can get the loneliness, as it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for us to get what it was like to be with the wild animals prowling around in the shadows. Lions and bears? No we may not have those lurking about us, but we do have something deadly stalking in the darkness, and it’s getting scarier all the time, with all these reports about new more contagious variants of the virus. Wild animals, no, but the anxiety and fear that they can cause, yes, we might be able to relate to that, just a little bit.
And Satan? Well, we know he is there all the time, prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But in the midst of the Covidness, there’s no question that he has been close at hand, trying to tempt us away to from faith to fall into the depths of doubt. Who else do you think it is who robs you of your peace? As if God doesn’t really got you and all of this in His hands? Who else do you think it is who makes you believe, that it’s up to you to keep yourself and others safe from the virus? Who else do you think it is who has got you believing and living, as if you’ve got to be your own god in all of this?
Yes, I think we just might relate a little bit with Jesus today, after one year out in the Covidness. Yes, we can relate to Jesus, but the wonderful thing is, that just as we can relate to Him, He can relate to us. You need to know, beloved, in this moment, that Jesus really does know and understand all that you’re going through, your loneliness, your anxiety and fear, your questions and your doubts. He knows and understands it all, because He been right where you are in this moment. Yes, beloved, Jesus gets all that is going on in your heart, mind or soul, whether it’s Covid related or Covid aggravated.
It is no small part of the reason why the Spirit drives Him as man out into the wilderness to be with the wild beasts and to face down Satan. The Spirit of course doesn’t drive the Son of God anywhere, the Son willingly goes wherever the Father wants Him to go. But the Spirit drives Him as a humbled man so that we may see and know that the Son of God has truly become one of us, who knows our weakness, understands our fears, and is tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. The Jesus who stands alone in the wilderness being circled by the wild animals with Satan whispering in His ear gets poor sinners out in the Covidness because He truly has stood in their place.
Yes, He knows how tough it is and understands how hard it can be, because really He has been there, so that He can be here with You in it all right now. No, as lonely as you might feel you are not alone. Christ is with you in it all. As anxious and fearful as you might be, there really is nothing to fear, because He’s with you with His rod and His staff to guard you in all your ways. And as much as Satan may be whispering in your ear He is speaking calmly and firmly beside You, “Be at peace. See the nail marks in my hands, I’ve got you and all of this well in hand. See the spear wound in my side, I’ve overcome death for you, your life and the lives of others are in my hands. See the nail marks in my feet, I’ve trampled Satan and His lies underfoot, I am your Lord and your God and I will save you.”
“That you might believe this all the more and resist the devil firm in your faith I lay my body and blood on the altar for you, so that receiving me you might take your stand against him in me. As I have overcome him in the loneliness of the wilderness with the wild animals I have overcome him on the forsakenness of the cross surrounded by a pack of wild dogs. I have overcome him for you so that you might overcome him in me. The Spirit drove me out into the wilderness to fast alone, so that you might be welcomed here to feast with me and the whole company of heaven. As the almighty Son of God I was so weak there that I needed angels to minister to me, so that angels and archangels could minister to you here.”
Alone out in the wilderness. Yes, that’s where Jesus went for you, beloved, he went out there to fast for all the times that you have overindulged. He went out there to know fear and anxiety for all the times that you have failed to trust and let God be God. He went out there to be tempted by Satan and resist him for all the times that you have given in and believed his lies. He went out there to get right what you get wrong. He went out there to do what you don’t and to be what you are not, so that He could stand in for you before God.
Alone out in the wilderness He did it all right for you. Alone up on the cross He paid for all that you’ve done wrong. He did it all alone, beloved, so that you could be forgiven and be with Him now and forever. Amen.