Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the First Sunday in Lent (March 6, 2022)

A Lenten Journey Begins
by the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler

Assigned Texts:

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13

When you first meet somebody or introduce yourself to a new group, how do you introduce yourself? I might do it this way:

  • My name is Chris Giesler
  • I work with the Moravian Board of World Mission
  • I live in Bethlehem, PA
  • I am married to Tina, and we have two children and six grandchildren
  • I was born in Nicaragua and lived there for almost ten years
  • I have a southern accent because I spent the rest of my growing up years in NC
  • I am a life-long Moravian
  • I love to play my guitar and lead singing
  • I don’t like winter very much, especially from the middle of January on

So that is my identity. Today’s Gospel lesson helps us to fill in some of Jesus’ developing sense of just who he is. We don’t know much about how Jesus saw himself growing up other than his experience in the Temple at age 12. But here he is at age 30. How might he have introduced himself? Let’s look at Jesus’ identity in Luke’s Gospel:

  • He is first described as being born in Bethlehem but growing up in Nazareth
  • At his baptism, God’s Spirit descends on him like a dove, and God’s voice further identifies just who Jesus is: “You are my son, my chosen.”
  • Up until this time, if Jesus were to have introduced himself, he would have said, “My name is Jesus, and I’m Mary’s and Joseph’s son from Nazareth. Like my father, I am a carpenter. “
  • But now I have a feeling that after this wilderness experience, he saw himself differently and would say: “I am Jesus, a beloved child of God, and I have a mission. “

For Jesus to define that new mission, to solidify this new identity, he has this wilderness experience. So, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for these 40 days. This retreat was essential for Jesus as he begins his public ministry. This is where Jesus sets his new identity.

  • How would he use the gifts that he either had or was now developing?
  • Would he use those gifts for personal gain, glory, wealth, self-gratification, and power?
  • Or, would he use those to bring humanity into a new relationship with God?

In this experience, Jesus is tempted three times.   First, to satisfy his hunger for food. Next, to use his gifts for a selfish grab for worldly domination and the earthly wealth that would undoubtedly come with it. And finally, he is tempted to test God’s love by jumping from the top of the Temple and being saved from death.

The decisions that Jesus makes regarding these temptations show how different he is from us, who will jump at the first chance when something that looks better comes down the pike. Jesus withstands these temptations through his close relationship with God and his knowledge of God’s word. These things helped Jesus to set his identity and mission for the three-year journey that will take him to the cross.

As preachers and teachers, we must avoid the temptation of preaching being perfect as Jesus is perfect because this can’t be achieved. But here, we see Jesus beginning the process of defining who he is and how he will deal with the temptations that are yet to come for him. In that process, we can learn from his struggle.

It took 40 days for Jesus to set his identity and priorities for ministry; perhaps it just might take us 40 days to figure out how our identities fall short of what God intends for us. We are worried these days about identity theft. All of us are concerned about somebody stealing our social security numbers or our bank account information and using that to steal our money or purchase expensive items for themselves. On a spiritual level, who is stealing our identity? Perhaps this Lenten season is our opportunity to help define just who we are and the places where our identity has drifted away from God’s intent for us. This is a time to determine how our desire for wealth, prestige, appearance, and comfort are getting in the way of seeing ourselves as the beloved children of God that we are and serving others as Jesus has shown us to do.

These are 40 days for us to discover our need for the cross that defines us as children of God and belonging to a graceful community of faith. This is our time to rediscover our true mission to let others know that they are beloved, not just by our words but by our actions.

Many congregations will mark the beginning of Lent with Holy Communion, which serves as a sensory reminder of Jesus’s sacrifice for each of us. Jesus needed these 40 days in the wilderness to point him in the direction of the cross. We need these 40 days to help us truly celebrate the Easter gift and to use that as the springboard to a great sense of mission in the world around us.