Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sermon: February 21 (1st Lent)

I don’t play golf but I do occasionally watch it and at 11 AM Friday Morning, I was watching with lots of others, probably one of the best golfers ever, say:
“I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.” (Tiger Woods)
These words spoken by Tiger Woods in his 14 minute speech before friends & family and a camera, were part of a speech about his infidelity, his process to restore what he has broken, and his hope that others will one day believe in him again. I thought he was genuine, humble albeit in a very controlled atmosphere and he is making the right steps to repent for what he has done, taking time out from golf to make sure he gets the help he needs.
As one observer noted, “Most of us would probably prefer to live our mortality and penitence in quiet obscurity. Repentance is hard enough without the whole world watching your every move.” (Andrew Gems)
He is not the first athlete to offer a public apology, I think of Michael Vick and Alex Rodriguez, & he will not be the last, but often their transgressions off the field are often forgiven if not forgotten by fans with on the field success. I am not saying that’s right but it is what we often do in this society. Accountability only goes so far with the public and for Tiger his accountability lies with his wife and his family, as he knows. I am glad to see Tiger also returning to his faith that he grew up with to help him…
“I owe it to my family to become a better person…I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age.”
Indeed, it is our faith that helps us get back on the right track when sin causes us to lose our way. Those temptations can befall a Buddhist like Tiger or Christians like us. We are all tempted, for Sin is always right there. As Simone Weil said, “All sins are attempts to fill voids.”

And that is what the devil does, for the devil’s temptations are to there to help fill a void we feel, and those temptations do not look evil or wrong at first glance but they are in fact lies. As St. Augustine said, “All sin is a kind of lying.”

As we heard in the Gospel, 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, trying to fill a void…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 begin our Lenten journey, we know that to get to the joyous Easter we have to go through the Garden of Gethsemane and to Calvary, we travel through the wilderness, where temptations spring up, trying to fill the voids in our lives. But we know God is with us. As James Healey put it:
“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.”
And face those temptations we must: gambling, shopping, alcohol, sex, wealth, work, pleasure, there is so much out there when taken to the extreme, can destroy our lives and others. 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, and it is given to us so the void isn’t filled with sin but with God.

“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, to plumb the depths of our souls to find that pearl of great price, the real meaning to our lives, so we can truly worship and serve God. It will not be easy but we were not promised the easy way as that old poem puts it:

God did not promise, skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain.
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain:

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

But God hath promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love.

God has promised to be with us always and even as we travel through our own wildernesses, through times and places of sin and temptation, God goes with us as God has gone there before. As Martin Luther said, “The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation.” On our Lenten journey, may we recognize the sin in our lives, repent from it and pray that God continues to lead us away from such temptations in our lives. Amen.

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