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Minister: Rev. Raheel Arif

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A Tempting Prospect

Spring is the transition season between winter and summer during which we see days getting longer, temperatures warming (not so often in Scotland) and plants blossoming in time for summer. But in Christian calendar, spring is a time when we have Lent and Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. It is a time when people observe a period of fasting in some places, and think about repentance, moderation, self denial and spiritual discipline. The purpose of the Lent is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

I would like to see what Matthew tells us about the time in Lent by looking at Jesus who was tempted by the devil in wilderness. “Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

For many, the season of Lent is synonymous with one thing: temptation. Specifically, it is associated with overcoming it: giving up some bad habits, perhaps; denying ourselves some luxury; or turning over a new leaf. The rationale for this is the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, during which he was tempted to turn stones into bread, to bow before Satan, and to test God by throwing himself off the highest point of the temple. But what does all this actually mean for us today? Too often it’s understood as a stick with which we should beat ourselves; an example of stern self-discipline that we must somehow follow, and God helps us if we fail to do so. If Jesus could do it, the implication seems to be, then so also should we.

Yet is that really the point here? The temptation Jesus faced was to take the easy path rather than the hard, to fit in with the way of the world instead of walking the way of the cross. It’s the fact that he refused to give in that gives us reason to hope and rejoice despite our faults. He took the road of costly self-sacrifice, the route that led to death in order to bring us life, and he did so not because we deserve it but precisely because we don’t, because he loves us as we are. Lent speaks of the God who longs not to condemn but forgive, not to punish but to bless.

May this spring – the season of Lent, self-denial and self-discipline blossom new life in you and help you to conquer all the temptations in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God bless you all
Rev. Raheel Arif