Known by heart
Text study on Matthew 4:1-11 Lectionary text for March 13, 2011
Long ago, I gave up "giving up" for Lent. Don’t get me wrong; I know that fasting and self-denial is a profound spiritual discipline often practiced during Lent. I also know that I did it wrong. My weak attempts at giving up during Lent ended up reduced to a 40-day weight-loss program.
About the same time I gave up giving up for Lent, I was introduced to the idea of taking on during Lent. For example, adding more time for and more depth to Bible reading. This approach fit me better.
However, this year I was tempted to skip Lent altogether. It has felt like Lent ever since October when I was laid off. I wanted to skip over Lent and skip on to the joy of Easter.
But as I studied the text for this lectionary post, the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, I marveled how God’s word offers sustenance for a hungry heart.
Jesus resists temptation remembering the scripture he knows by heart: "One does not live by bread alone" (Deuteronomy 8:3). "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16). "The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve" (Deuteronomy 6:13). This Gospel text demonstrates the difference between "memorized" and "known by heart" when Jesus resists the tempter’s use of Psalm 91:12, "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone."
I closed my eyes to remember the scripture I know by heart, including John 3:16-17 and Psalm 23, which my heart sings as "Shepherd me, O God" by Marty Haugen (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #780).
Then, I opened my eyes to hungrily reread all the texts for the day and the suggested hymns, too. I realized what I needed to add during these 40 days. I need to bring home my Sunday and Wednesday bulletins to study the scripture and hymn texts. I trust this journey will add to what I know by heart.
• How do you observe the season of Lent? Do you add something or fast from something?
• What scripture do you know by heart? How did you come to know it "by heart"?
Sue Edison-Swift is a writer, editor and fundraiser who served in the ELCA churchwide office from 1988-2010. She’s a member of St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Park Ridge, Ill. Find a link to her blog A Hyphenated Life at Lutheran Blogs.