All Saints Parish Newsletter
The readings at the Eucharist on the First Sunday in Lent this year begin with what sounds like instructions for a harvest festival. The passage from Deuteronomy looks forward to the life of the people of Israel in the Promised Land after their liberation from bondage in Egypt in the Exodus and their wilderness wanderings.
But they are not to forget those formative experiences, so the prayer which those who bring the first fruits of their harvest to offer to God recalls the mighty acts of God which have brought them to this place. Words are given to the people.
The Church’s equivalent of this is the remembrance in creed and Eucharistic prayer of the acts of God in creating and redeeming us.
The Israelites moved from being a nomadic people to being a settled agricultural community. Most of us have no first fruits to offer in the sense of things we have grown. So instead we bring money. We bring too the gifts of bread and wine which represent the work of agriculture and industry and commerce on which our city-dwelling lives depend. (The escalating horsemeat scandal is a reminder of the complex network on which we depend for the means of life.) We offer gifts to God, from whom we received them, so that they might become food for our souls as they are for our bodies.
We are also given words; the words of Scripture and liturgy.
St. Paul quotes Deuteronomy in the Epistle: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”
Jesus, in the Temptation story in Luke’s Gospel, quotes the same book three times, to rebuff the Devil’s temptations to abuse his power.
But the devil too can quote Scripture, so we must beware. Before ordination, I had to pass an exam called “Use of the Bible.” It was jokingly known as “Abuse of the Bible.” We can abuse scripture when we use it to condemn others, rather than allowing it to transform ourselves.
The verses from Deuteronomy which Jesus quotes are apply to us in our Christian lives. We are to make life more than the satisfaction of physical needs; we are to worship and serve God alone; and we are not to put God to the test.