Grace Heimerdinger-Baake, Pearl City, IL

Warm-up Question

Have you ever had to stand against the norm to honor and respect your values? How did you handle the temptation to conform to the norm? 

Stand Firm

Students of all races at Collingswood High School in South Jersey recently protested two straight days over allegations of racism in their school. During the peaceful demonstration, students protested racial profiling, lack of inclusivity, and how their Black classmates are disproportionately disciplined. 

In a recorded statement student Abygail St. Louis shares her frustration and why it has come to protesting for equal rights for her and her classmates. She says she would rather be in the classroom. 

The superintendent of the district expressed concern over the students’ allegations and applauded the organization of a peaceful protest to share their concerns. In conversations with the students, Superintendent Fred McDowell shared that “in order for us to find a path forward, students have to be at the table” to do the work and find the solutions. 

Discussion Questions

  • The students at Collingswood High School protested two straight days before steps were made to address the allegations of racism. Are we truly listening to the members of our communities who go against the norm and speak up?
  • If you were a student at Collingwood High School, would you have been tempted to joined the protest or stayed in class? Why?
  • The activist who helped the students organize posted on his Facebook page, “They can’t stop up. Let’s show then we not gonna be silent anymore.” In addition to racism, what other social justice issues are we being silent about? 

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:15-17

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, he is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. While in the wilderness, Jesus is isolated from his friends and family, fasting for forty days and nights.  Talk about a challenge of faith! During his time in the wilderness, Jesus is approached three times by a figure who temps him to stray from God’s path. 

Jesus is hungry. The tempter attempts to convince Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Jesus stands true to the scripture and responds, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).’” 

The tempter tries again with something a little bit more difficult. He suggests that Jesus prove that he is the Son of God by jumping off a cliff.  The devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12, implying that surely God will protect Jesus by sending the angels to catch him. Jesus replies, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).’” 

Finally, the tempter takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. All Jesus has to do, the tempter says, is bow down to the devil, and he will rule all the kingdoms. Jesus rejects this path, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (Deuteronomy 6:13).’” 

Perhaps the key take away from this passage is how Jesus resists temptations. In all three instances, Jesus’ answers Satan with scripture. Alone and hungry, Jesus clings to the Word of God for support and guidance.

Both the gospel lesson and the story of the students at Collingswood High School give us a glimpse of what is possible when we stand firm in our convictions.  We can speak out against the injustice our neighbors face in communities throughout the world. The walk of faith and the fight for justice are never easy, but Jesus is with us as we confront difficulties and opposition. 

Discussion Questions

  • Jesus relied on Scripture to stand true during his time in the wilderness.  What Biblical passages do you rely on for support and guidance during difficult times? 
  • What is the easiest part about being a Christian in your life?  What is the hardest part?

Activity Suggestion

  • Create a collection of verses focused on strength, consolation, and guidance. Write each verse on a Post-It and place them on the bulletin board or wall in your space. People may take a Post-It to refer to whenever they need strength to face a challenging situation. 

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for your guidance and how your Word offers us direction. We thank you for Jesus, who offers us inspiration when we face temptation. And we thank you for your love, which calls us to action. Help us to stand true and do hard things. Amen.