Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sermon: 1st Lent (March 1)

With today’s possible snow, I had thought about what to preach on and whether anybody would be here to hear it. Thank you for being here! And as I thought about it, a little voice inside said, oh, no one will be there. Just use an old sermon, they’ll never know. Temptation crept in. Don’t work on a sermon no one will hear it, take the easy way out. You deserve it, go do something else.

It is so easy to justify the easy way out, especially when it seems like no harm will be done. We are all tempted. Every day. Maybe it happens like this…

So you’re in charge. You’ve given instructions, you’ve explained the goals, you’ve assigned responsibilities. But some of your coworkers are not holding up their end. As you are seething, you hear that voice inside: These incompetents are going to make you look bad. Call them in and fire the lot of them. Move on without them. They’re not worth caring about.

Or you’ve worked hard on a project. You’ve put in a lot of time behind the scenes doing the research, making the contacts, taking care of all the details. As you apply the finishing touches, you hear that voice: You know, when it comes time to take the bows, you’re going to be pushed right off the stage. Never mind trying to make it work for everyone — raise your profile. Make sure everybody knows who’s the star here. And if you have to shove a few people out of the way, fine.

Or you realize that things are not going well for many people around you. You feel for the plight of the struggling and poor, you‘re outraged by the injustice being perpetuated against the innocent, you’re frustrated by the prevailing That’s just the way it is attitude. As you’re trying to figure out what you can do, you hear that voice: Hey, relax. They aren’t your problem. Survival of the fittest, and all that. They made a mess of things and now they’re paying for it. There’s nothing you can do. Besides, you’re fine. You’ve got yours. It’s the way of the world, Don Quixote — you’re only tilting at windmills. Keep your head down, your mouth shut and your own little kingdom intact . . .
[Suggested by Harvey Cox in When Jesus Came to Harvard. – reproduced by Connections]

It’s hard for us at times to visualize Satan with Jesus — but we have all heard Satan’s voice urging us to take the easy way out, to knock down whoever gets in our way, to make sure we get ours regardless of the cost to others.

“Come, said Satan, come away, I’ll soon see if you’ll obey! You can turn those stones to bread…” These words from a William Blake poem, has Satan talking to Jesus but it could just as well be to us. For we live in that wilderness. The temptations that Satan confronts Jesus with are also temptations that Satan uses on us to tempt, to have us betray ourselves for some easy, immediate need, making stones our bread.

As Jesus struggles with the choices Satan lays before him, may we, in our own Lenten wilderness experience, take on that voice and understand clearly the way of God in our decisions. For Jesus time in the wilderness was a time of preparation. To prepare for his ministry, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus says.

For just as Satan still stands today ready to tempt us away from where God would have us go, we have the tools in our Lenten arsenal to help us stay the course. Lent is a time for us to once again prepare not only for Easter but for the rest of our lives. The practices we take on, the self examinations we do and the self denial that becomes part of who we are, help us not only progress toward Easter through the cross but for the days after as well.

Our perseverance this Lent, is in our work towards making our decisions in line with God. For it will not do to come to Easter without making our hearts ready for Satan will tempt us to take the easy way out, but God will help us.

'Whether we gaze with longing into the garden or with fear and trembling into the desert of this we can be sure - God walked there first! And when we who have sinned and despoiled the garden are challenged now to face the desert, we do not face it alone; Jesus has gone there before us to struggle with every demon that has ever plagued a human heart. Face the desert we must if we would reach the garden, but Jesus has gone there before.' - James Healy - Amen.

No comments: