First Sunday in Lent
Readings – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
A few weeks ago I was leaving Weis Market without a cart and was carrying multiple bags of groceries in each hand when an old friend came toward me. He wanted to chat, and we did for a short time. It was difficult to chat, burdened down by the bags of groceries.
A reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew (11:28-30). Jesus said:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden in light.
The tradition of Lent invites us to put down our burdens, our grocery bags, of sin. Yes, sin produces those burdens we carry. Sin is simply, yet profoundly, defined as putting “I” at the center of everything. Sin is missing the mark and acting like we are the center of the universe.
In our first reading, a long-ago storyteller and theologian had Eve wanting to be like God, so she took the fruit and ate. Adam, standing right next to her, also wanted to do the same, so he took and ate as well. They wanted to do more than their partnership with God to “till [the Garden of Eden] and keep it”.
To put our burdens down is to put God back at the center of our lives, and to till and to keep our current gardens, to care for where we find ourselves. While it is a year-long discipline, the season of Lent heightens our focus on putting aside our self-centeredness, and on putting down our burdens.
As we do so, we are able to regain that Garden of Eden experience of serving God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and partnering with God in the tilling and the keeping of our home, this planet earth.
I will conclude with another reading of Matthew 11:28-30, this time from Eugene Peterson’s, The Message. Jesus said:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Let’s put our burdens down. Let’s center our lives on God.
And all will be well. All will be well!