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Sermon Illustrations for Lent 1 (2019)

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Think about these words Moses spoke to the people before they entered the Promised Land. When it was time to offer their first fruits to God, Moses instructed the people to include this confession: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien….”

Those farmers who brought their offerings could say that their ancestors were wandering Arameans, who’d been down in Egypt and set free, hadn’t actually been a part of those years of wandering themselves. They did not know about it from personal experience. These words of Moses are really instructions to future generations. The farmers were told to say these things so what happened in holy history did not become part of the past. Those future farmers made themselves part of the story by stating that they — and we — continue to be part of God’s story. We are not the originators of history. We did not invent history. Creation did not start with our generation. We’re part of a larger story, and God is the one who brought us forth from slavery into freedom.
Frank R.


Deuteronomy 26:1-11
I came across this poem which I thought poignantly describes how many people give to the Lord. It was listed as anonymous on all the sources I could find.

Leftovers are such humble things, we would not serve to a guest,
And yet we serve them to our Lord Who deserves the very best.
We give to Him leftover time, stray minutes here and there.
Leftover cash we give to Him, such few coins as we can spare.
We give our youth unto the world, to hatred, lust and strife;
Then in declining years we give to him the remnant of our life.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of the Israelites giving God the first fruits and the best of the flock. We see that here in this passage in Deuteronomy. We serve the same God, still worthy of the first and best of our time, efforts, and resources. To give him leftover or misdirected time and energy isn’t giving him the best he deserves.
Bill T.


Romans 10:8b-13
Americans feel more and more isolated. A 2016 Harris Poll found that 72% of us say we are lonely. A 2017 Stanford University found that the average American has just one close confidante. When you confess your faith together as this lesson exhorts, though, the loneliness and isolation began to fade. Confession of sin creates a sense of equality, of fellowship with those who confess their sin and faith side-by-side. Famed 20th-century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made that point:

If my sinfulness appear to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all... How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own? (Life Together)

When we have this attitude toward other Christians, Bonhoeffer says, then “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” (A Testament of Hope, p.342) Ancient Christian theologian Ignatius of Antioch put it well: “For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1, p.55) Evil and loneliness have no chance when Christ is called among us. As Martin Luther once put it:

Believing in Him [Christ] is the thing. It is useful and gives the power that we have from this; that neither hell nor the devil can take us and all others who believe on Him captive nor can they do us harm. (Robert Kolb and James Nestingen, ed., Sources and Contexts of the Book of Concord, p.249)
Mark E.


Romans 10:8-13
In a wedding ceremony you also have to do both: You have to believe with your heart and say with your mouth that you love your new mate.

Some politicians speak with their mouth that what they say is true. They better believe they are telling the truth if they don’t want to lose their position or go to jail.

If we confess with of our mouth that we believe in our Lord, it better also  be the belief in our heart.

Every Sunday in church all the members speak their faith with their mouth. And only those  who speak those words know if the true faith is in their heart.

Our church and our pastor can help us.

I have had members in every church I served ask me how they can know that their faith is in their heart  or are they just following everyone else in the church and following the “faith of our fathers”.

Those are questions we must ask ourselves. We may have to ask God’s Holy Spirit to plant true  faith in our heart. Only God can really do that and make us feel it.

It took even me a while to make sure.
Bob O.

* * *

Romans 10:8b-13
Once again Paul reminds us that all who call on the Lord will be saved — Jew or Greek, the same Lord is Lord of all. But there is another message in this text — a message that is appropriate for the contemplative season of Lent: “For one believes with the heart… and confesses with the mouth.” For many Lent is a time of confession and reflection, a time to reconnect with our spiritual lives in a new way. Perhaps this is also a time to think about opening our hearts to the nudges and calls from God to act in the world on God’s behalf and to confess the wonder of God’s grace and love to those around you.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Luke 4:1-13
Temptation, by its very nature, can be seductive and inviting. I read about a cave in southern Mexico lies the Cueva de Villa Luz, or Cave of the Lighted House. The path that leads to the cave passes through a veritable paradise of tropical birds and lush rain forest. Underwater the cave is fed by twenty underground springs, beautiful watercourses which teem with tiny fish. The cave itself is home to spectacular rock formations and beautiful ponds. The environment is inviting and alluring. However, for the one who accepts the invitation, the reward is death. The Cueva de Villa Luz is filled with poisonous gases. Though visually stunning, breathing in the air will be fatal.

This is the nature of temptation. It presents itself as something inviting, attractive, lifegiving, but, it’s poisonous and toxic. Jesus knew firsthand about the appeal of temptation. In the text for today Satan comes at him three times to offer him a plan without pain, opportunity without obstacle and a kingdom without a cross. The offer, on the surface, might have seemed appealing. Jesus knew better, though. He rejected Satan’s offers and, in doing so, gave us an example. May we resist the lure of dangerous temptation as well.
Bill T.


Luke 4:1-13
The word for the high spot on the Temple translated as “pinnacle” where Jesus is taken during the Temptation is literally “little wing” — not wing as in a side room or corridor, but as in flap, flap, how’d I get so high up here? According to Josephus this spot on the southern facing outer court looked down on a deep ravine, and the people who looked out from there could get giddy! This is also the spot where we are told that James, the brother of Jesus, was taken decades later and cast down from before his stoning. The reference for that is Eusebius who lived centuries later, so this may not be as accurate.
Frank R.
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