1st Sunday in Lent

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary:
Gen 2:15-17,3:1-7
Rom 5:12-19
Matthew 4: 1-11
Catholic lectionary:
Gen 2:7-9,3:1-7

GENESIS 2:15-17; 3:1-7

It is good to begin in the garden, or is it? The garden is that place where the necessities of life for all creatures including humans are nurtured, cultivated, and enjoyed. It is a place of tremendous physicality; humans live and die depending on natural processes and access to agricultural bounty. We all must eat to both thrive and survive, or else we die. And we all die in due course and others take our place in the community of earth and in the company of friend and stranger alike. What we discover here is the role of limits, of what we take from the earth and how we take it and use it. Both the man and the woman take from a forbidden place, and suffer the consequences – a loss of innocence, a complication to an otherwise idyllic life. The serpent can be understood as an ultimate (climate) sceptic, a rebel voice constantly refusing the authority of a Creator God who simply says, “live within your means.” Strident voices are sometimes prophetic; at other times they are simply disobedient and wrong. And the consequences, for both persons and creation are tragic.


While the psalmist reflects on past sins and transgressions in an introspective way, he “groans” and feels the heavy hand of the Lord on him, our text broadens in speaking of natural disasters including both heat and drought: “Moisture was dried up in the heat of summer,” and flooding: “When the great waters overflow.” Within the experiences of nature many of us face calamity, and in our present time ask real questions of real events: How can floods ravage Zimbabwe and Mozambique, while fires continue to ravage the Australian continent and Southern Pacific Ocean waters rise extraordinarily. Let us not be “like horse or mule, which have no understanding.” Let us do our homework and discern how we continue to abuse the world God has given us for careful stewardship. Let us live according to the wisdom God shares with us, not only in scripture, but also in the science which continues to clarify the danger of ignoring sustainable limits.

ROMANS 5:12-19

If the Genesis text describes the consequences of bad decisions, Paul in his Epistle to the Romans has us move beyond sin and its consequences to the gift of God’s Grace. Paul’s message is indeed Good News, that all are welcome to receive God’s gift, Gentile and Jew alike. The truth is that those who receive the gift of righteousness will exercise dominion in life, a phrase which may recall dominion over creation (Gen 1:26), both which describe a responsible way of living, in Christ, which suggests amongst other responsibilities, sustainable ecological living. We have a choice, to live to and for ourselves, or with Dietrich Bonhoeffer to refuse to receive grace superficially or cheaply: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.”

MATTHEW 4:1-11

It is hard to imagine a better place to begin our Lenten journey together than in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke follow a common source (Q) elaborating on Mark’s terse description. The wilderness is a Spirit-directed place of encounter, where a particular God-human conversation is possible. The wilderness is an extra-ordinary life place, where survival requires special dedication, preparation, and resilience. One becomes especially aware of our relationship with and dependence upon creation and our relationship with it when food and water are in short supply if not totally absent. We are physical beings, yet our relationship is with God, and God within creation. Richard Rohr cites St. Bonaventure “As a human being Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stones he shares existence, with plants he shares life, with animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence.”


First, let’s begin in the garden. Where are your favourite gardens? Why do you love these spaces? Is Good News to be found in a garden?

The former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Rev. Robert Willis loved gardens, their construction, history, their physical beauty. He placed his Garden Congregation ministry in his own deanery garden throughout the English COVID lockdown.

As a photographer I enjoy creating garden images. If any of you are artists working in any medium, how do you express the beauty of gardens?

A desert is not a garden, or is it? The community in which I lived at one time, Kamloops, BC, Canada is often described as “brown–with trains.” The phrase is not meant to be flattering, but it is a true description. How do you describe the place where you live and work and have your being?

If Jesus experienced what Indigenous North Americans would call a vision quest, and Australians call a walkabout, each a place where physical, emotional, and spiritual realities are brought to the fore, what happens when you enter a garden, a desert, a forest, a seashore, or any other distinctive local environment? (Even in mentioning these Indigenous practices I acknowledge the danger of uninformed cultural appropriation and my own inadequacy in understanding and experience.)

How might the traditional Lenten disciplines connect with your own natural experiences.

  • self-examination, penitence, prayer,
  • fasting, and almsgiving,
  • reading and meditating on the word of God

What can the land teach you, encourage you, delight you? What does God say to you through God’s Creation?


DISCOVER–the Anglican Communion Forest Initiative and consider planting trees, anywhere, everywhere, in your community, country or your own home ground. Sign up for updates. Increase your awareness of trees in and around the places you work and recreate.

READ—about land, possibly Walter Bruggeman’s Land: Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith.

SING–Inch by inch (The Garden Song)—Sing alone and sing in community, all ages together and with life’s little ones, your elders, and on street corners.

CREATE—Garden art as you are able. Support the work of local artists.

PRAY—always, in gardens, deserts, and in places available to you. With St. Francis, if necessary, use words.

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The Very Rev. Ken Gray

Born and raised in Victoria BC, Canada; music, ministry, photography and activism have all characterized the busy life of this recently retired Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, British Columbia. He served as secretary of the ACEN from 2005-2018. He is currently assembling and writing a book titled Partnership as Mission which will chronicle missional activity in the Anglican Church of Canada from 1985 to the present. A number of authors will also comment on mission today, including Ecojustice advocacy in the present time of climate crisis

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