Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sermon for 1st Sunday in Lent

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.”

I talked about the wilderness on Ash Wednesday, the wilderness of Lent that we are now in the midst of…

What I didn’t talk about on Ash Wednesday in regards to the wilderness, is that it is a place of temptation as we so clearly see with Jesus’ encounter with the Devil.

For in the wilderness, when our defenses are low, when we strive to walk through the desolate, deserted, lifeless places, it is the devil who comes to tempt us with seemingly energetic stuff to fill our lives.

As Simone Weil said, “All sins are attempts to fill voids.” That is what the devil does, for the devil’s temptations are to help fill that void, and those temptations do not look evil or wrong at first glance…

As Jesus lived in the wilderness for 40 days, he ate nothing, he was alone, and he was famished…for food and company.

And the devil came…if you are the son of God…

The devil knows who Jesus is, and Jesus knows he is the beloved, but it is a test, with Jesus at his weakest.
Fix your hunger, Jesus. Use your power. Turn these stones into bread.

“One does not live by bread alone.” Says Jesus.

He could have it done that on day one, use the power, but it is about faith and Jesus refuses to give in.

Then the devil led him to place where he could view all the nations of the world.

Worship me, all this is yours to rule. You would be king. Think of the power, prestige, you’d have it all!

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Says Jesus.

He is not interested in the power to rule, Jesus would tell us that he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many…

Then the devil led him to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem…

Look it here, right here, go ahead and jump, it says in the bible, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"

Its all in there. Just do it!

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus answered him.

Even with the devil using scripture, Jesus doesn’t fall into the trap, he does not need to show he is the beloved, he knows it.

When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Even Jesus knew the devil would be back to tempt him again…

As we stand at the beginning of our Lenten journey, I am reminded of the words of James Healey:

“Whether we gaze with longing into the garden or with fear and trembling into the wilderness [desert], of this we can be sure - God walked there first....Face the wilderness [desert] we must if we would reach the garden, but Jesus has gone there before us.”

To get to the garden, to get to Gethsemane, to Calvary and to Easter, we travel through the wilderness, a place Jesus has gone before us. For it is there that temptations will spring up, trying to fill the voids in our lives.

And those temptations: what fills the void: gambling, shopping, alcohol, sex, wealth, work, pleasure, there is so much out there when taken to the extreme, can destroy our lives, as sin becomes so pervasive.

And if we think we have our own personal temptations under wraps, there still is the temptation to forget about the lives of others and miss the hurt and pain that is going on in our world (slavery, genocide, poverty, AIDS, war) and solely focus on ourselves, and we fall into the same trap set by the devil.

Its all about me, me, me.

“One does not live by bread alone.” Says Jesus.

The stone Jesus refused to turn into bread for himself, can remind us in the midst of our temptations that God is the rock of our salvation, for we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

The word is given to us in the life and ministry of Jesus, the words shared through scripture, and the words given to us by the Holy Spirit.

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Says Jesus.

Lent is the perfect time to scrutinize our time & our consciousness to weed out those false gods to whom we give so much time and allegiance, so we can truly worship God and serve God.

Lent is our time together to plumb the depths of our souls to find that pearl of great price, the real meaning to our lives. Our self-examination and repentance are the ways to free ourselves of the temptations that have already befallen us, and through study, prayer, fasting, and self-denial to avoid the temptations that will come before us in our wilderness journey.

As we live on Earth, our island home, we need to take time in our busy lives to pause, and take stock of who we are, where we are headed, and what provisions we have to travel with. It is through this work that we can see the temptations that lie all about us in the wilderness and not put ourselves into a position where we can't avoid the temptation.

And so often we set off on good intentions in lent without providing ourselves with enough resources to help ourselves as we are tempted in the wilderness. Its easy to fill time with meaningless junk rather than what gives life. For the easy thing to do when tempted is to give in.

Jesus did not promise us the easy way. Jesus did promise that the Spirit would be there to guide and strengthen us on our journey. It is time we asked for that Spirit to help us in our journey of faith, and take on practices to aid us in our work to renew our life.

We can decide to do nothing this Lent, to not work on our lives. That temptation is always before us along with all the other temptations of our lives. And the devil stands waiting for an opportune time. Or we can follow Jesus lead, and open ourselves to God and God’s Spirit to do those things that will bring us into closer relationship with God and with God’s love to minister to the world.

Let us pray:

O God of the desert pilgrims, we who are wearied by monotonous days in the sun, who are battered by the monstrous whirling winds, with temptations all around us, surprise us yet in this wilderness with a monstrance of power, a revelation of love, an oasis of refreshment, a taste of the harvest, a moment of grace. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

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