It was a first step for Lance. That is how one of his former teammates put it after hearing that Lance Armstrong had finally admitted to the doping that so many said he had done.
Seeing him with Oprah, it was sad to see such a star athlete fall, one who had done so much for others through Livestrong, his advocacy work to fight cancer, admit that he cheated by using performance enhancing drugs. And after the cheating began to surface, how he tried to control everything and not let the deception get out.
“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes) We can see that in what Lance has done, but we know its also true for us, that those temptations do not look evil or wrong at first glance but they are in fact lies. “Everyone is doing it” is a lie and a bad excuse.
We see that in how Lance doped, how it got others to do it, tried to cover it all up and continually tried to keep the deception up for so many years by silencing them. The temptation became the normal because it helped fill a void.“The worst part about sin is not that we give into temptations, but we gradually adjust to the temptations and begin to see them as normal.” (Prof. Max Stackhouse)
As Simone Weil said, “All sins are attempts to fill voids.” And Lance will have to work to figure out the voids that he tried to fill. For that is what the devil does to all of humanity, for the devil’s temptations are to there to help fill a void we feel and he tempts you and me in so many ways with lies and deceit.
As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness, to the desert, a place without people or much of anything. For 40 days he fasted there 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.'" It’s 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 cross & Calvary, we travel through the wilderness, where temptations spring up, trying to fill the voids in our lives.
For we have all found ourselves wandering lost and directionless in the wilderness. We have all had to make our way through a lonely, dangerous desert.…because in those desert and wilderness experiences we can discover the Spirit of God in our lives. The same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert accompanies us in our wilderness experiences of fear, despair, confusion and grief. This Lent, the Spirit calls our souls into the deserts of our hearts to discern what God calls us to make of the time we have been given, to re-center our lives with new hope and renewed vision as we continue our journey to the Easter promise. (Jay Cormier)
It may have looked like a hospital waiting room or the sheets of a cheap motel bed after you got kicked out of your house, or maybe it looked like the parking lot where you couldn’t find your car on the day you lost your job. You found yourself lost in a wilderness place you could not find your way out of.
Or the desert may have been a time: the life-altering decision you felt unprepared and incapable of making, the endless calls and interviews for the job that eluded you, the nights of waiting up for the son or daughter who was not coming home.
Wildernesses are the places where we feel lost and helpless; deserts are situations we don’t know how to handle. Temptations abound for us, in these helpless times to fill the voids of fear, to try and control it all in very unhealthy ways.
The wilderness changes us; the desert frees us to trust, to hope, to move. The journey begins with allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in those moments. . . And then, we somehow find a way through that unfamiliar terrain; we manage to cross that emptiness and barrenness. We discover something inside of us that enables us to make our way safely; we see routes open to us that we had not seen before.
[Adapted from a sermon by the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor.]
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 as we hear Jesus’ call to follow him. Amen.