Today’s scriptures pose the same question we heard last Sunday:
will we serve God
or will we serve money?
This time it’s phrased in terms of obedience.
We hear lots of commentary about this Genesis creation story
that focuses on the subservience of women to men,
or the dogma of original sin,
or the idea that humans
are the be-all and end-all of God’s creation.
It’s important to remember
that these beginning chapters of Genesis are not history.
They are story, myth in the true sense of the word.
Sister Mary McGlone reminds us
that the Genesis myths have been preserved
not to record historical or scientific events
but to communicate timeless truths.
Among other things, McGlone says,
the creation myth tells us
about human rebellion against God’s reign,
our susceptibility to selfishness
that leads to lies and hate and killing,
and the rupture in right relationship
of humans to God and creation.
Scripture scholar Reginald Fuller
sees the theological insight in this Genesis myth
as pointing to human responsibility for evil in the world.
The teaching of this Genesis passage
is repeated in other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.
One of the well-known passages
is where Joshua challenges the Israelites
to choose whether or not they will follow God.
Joshua tells them to choose who they will serve
and makes his own pledge, saying,
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The book of Joshua was compiled
about 500 to 600 years before Christ,
the same period that produced the compilation of Genesis.
The question of who we serve, of who we follow,
is the basic question of faith.
Every one of us has to answer that question for ourselves.
Paul’s letter to the Romans,
even though it takes a literal approach to the Genesis myth,
also centers on obedience to God as crucial to faith.
The Gospel story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert
continues the idea of obedience to God.
Scripture scholars call Matthew’s temptation passage a legend,
a story based on what Jesus’ followers imagined he did
when he was alone in the desert.
Matthew and Luke both adapt this story from earlier writings,
a dramatization of the internal struggles
that come from grappling with the basic question of faith:
who will you serve?
Scholars find it plausible, but not certain,
that Jesus actually went on a vision quest in the desert
or that he fasted for an extended period
and went hungry as a result.
We can be certain, though, that he would have spent time
in thought and prayer about the meaning of life and God,
and that his teaching is the fruit of his pondering,
wherever and however he did it.
Just as in the Genesis story,
the truth of the temptation story does not lie in its historicity.
The truth is in Jesus’ example of saying no to the idolatry of power,
no to the spiritual laziness that asks for miracles
and refuses to take responsibility,
no to a life dedicated to serving only himself.
The truth lies in the choice between the good and evil.
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis describes it as the choice
between the reign of God and the places
where everything comes under the laws of competition,
where the powerful feed on the powerless.
Today, on this first Sunday of Lent,
we begin the traditional process
of checking up on our spiritual selves.
We look for the things that tempt us to serve that which is not God,
and biggest one for us in the first world in the 21st century
is the temptation to put our time and energy
into money, power, and stuff.
Who do we serve?
We can find out by keeping watch
on what we are really doing
as we go about our daily life.
We can learn more about ourselves and our motivations
and how we can turn them into actions
that bring about the reign of God,
here and now.
That is the challenge of our journey through Lent.
Let’s get going.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006