As I write this, the kitchen table is shaking. If our table is shaking, I worry that the church’s beautiful stained-glass windows, desperately in need of repair, are also shaking. The parsonage is attached to the church and shares the same foundation. Seven feet away all hell is breaking loose. Several blocks of businesses that have served this neighborhood are being knocked down by giant backhoes and inflated real estate prices to make way for towering apartments.
The Hebrews’ stories brought their lives into balance. Moses believed that remembering where they’d been, how they’d come into the land God promised, and what God had done for them would keep them faithful. So he said that in offering the first fruits of harvest, “You shall make this response before the LORD your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.’” Their story was a confession of faith, a community story that cast their thanksgiving into a framework that provided boundary and purpose to their lives together. It was a creed. Tell it again and again, Moses urged.
Recently some huge billboards along British Columbia’s major roadways showed black-and-white photos of car wrecks—gashed and mangled metal, clouds of steam and smoke—all illumined under the luridness of fire, flares, searchlights and siren lights. The caption beneath the ads was as stark and grim as the photos: “Speed is killing us. Slow down and live.”
Lent is the time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from death. So why do we begin by thinking about temptations? Because the temptations belong not just to Jesus, but to us as well. Temptations arise in every area of life, even for the most faithful, as we approach the events of Easter Sunday.
In 1932 my father met my mother by means of one of the great pick-up lines of their era. After a "young people's" social at their Lutheran church, he followed her along the park on the near north side of St. Louis to the streetcar stop. When he caught up to her, he said with the savoir-faire of a Lutheran Cary Grant, "Say, do you go to movies during Lent?"