Lent 1 March 1, 2020 – Sermon

Lent 1 March 1, 2020 Psalm 32, Genesis 2;15-17, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11 Tempted… Tested… Loved. ************************************************************ The devil tests Jesus, saying first – “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” – then “If you are the Son of God”… jump from the top of the temple, let God’s angels catch you. (The devil quotes Psalm 91 here, and probably the devil knows scripture at least as well as most Christians…) And for his third temptation the devil skips over the “If you are” part – (as if conceding the point) – and offers all the kingdoms of the world in return for worship. Jesus counters each of the devil’s suggestions with quotations from Deuteronomy – replying “It is written ‘we don’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” – and – “Again it’s written, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” – and finally “Away with you Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” Now the devil departs…and angels wait on Jesus. We expect of course, the Son of God to withstand all the devil’s temptations. Just before where we’ve rejoined Matthew’s gospel-in-progress, the heavens have opened and God’s Spirit has descended on Jesus as he comes up from the waters of baptism, and God’s voice has said,“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (The same words we heard God say again last Sunday, on the mount of transfiguration.) Jesus knows – we know – even the devil knows – Jesus is the Son of God. What the devil says here “If you are the Son of God” can also be translated as “Since you are the Son of God.” The title isn’t really disputed. Just the job description. And… In his rejection of these temptations Jesus reveals what it means to be Son of God according to Jesus as opposed to the devil’s suggested job description. And throughout all the rest of the gospels, we’ll see Jesus faithfully living out his rejection of worldly power, fame, popularity, and short-term-short-cut solutions… And as we read the gospels carefully we see the total consistency of Jesus… in refusing all the devil’s temptations. Yet even with all we see of Jesus, teaching by word and example in the gospels – we, the church, have seldom rejected temptation with anything like the clarity and consistency of Jesus. Speaking not only now of flagrant sins of abuse, betrayal of trust, and lies perpetrated by some church leaders and members. We’re talking also about everyday yielding to everyday temptations that can also derail our lives if not noticed and addressed… The devil’s temptation to command stones to become bread can sound almost as innocent as eating chocolate in lent. After all Jesus is hungry… But it’s actually a metaphor that cuts to the heart of our immediate-gratification culture. A culture that wants everything delivered quickly and conveniently. Technical fixes, we’re told, are possible for just about everything. Including discipleship. We’ve got an app for that. Tap the app for Jesus on your phone. Next to the apps for pizza delivery and weather… But Jesus chooses hunger and solitude over quick-fix-fast-food…...

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March 5, 2017 – It is written

Lent 1    March 5, 2017   (Psalm 32, Genesis 2:15-17, Romans 5:12-17) Matthew 4:1-11    It is written **************************************************** We’re out in the wilderness today with Jesus, as he undergoes temptation and testing. (The same Greek word means both testing and temptation.) As it happens, our family has had some recent wilderness experience,  visiting family in Las Vegas recently. Las Vegas is desert terrain. Once you reach city limits you’re in desert wilderness, where from the highway everything looks very dry and barren. Yet when we paid a visit to an urban cactus garden we saw desert plants blooming with glorious blossoms in February. We learned the wilderness can be fertile, and strangely beautiful, up close… Much more beautiful than some of the human wilderness we also observed. As Reah’s brother drove us around sight-seeing, we saw many a drive-by Wedding Chapel (same day reservations accepted, Elvis outfits available for rent)… And Quickie-Stop Divorce offices next-door to wedding chapels. Tall towering casinos shaped the sky line, all lit-up in neon. Loud music piped into the streets. The Doors playing People are Strange… On cue, people walking by looking as if they’d been gambling for many days without sleep… Others dressed to look like  walking advertisements for temptation. I’m pretty sure I saw someone dressed as a devil, but I don’t really trust my memory… It was surrealistic like a bad dream… Advertisements for gambling, gawking, and strong drink everywhere… All the things the angel showed James Stewart that would have happened to his home town if he had not made all the little  sacrifices he did in that scene from It’s a Wonderful Life…And it’s easy to pick on Las Vegas. But Vegas is a parable, actually, for a  part of Everywhere USA, Everywhere Planet Earth… Though at first glance, the temptations Jesus faces in the wilderness don’t seem much like those on display in Las Vegas. Except that… the devil’s temptations do remind me of the view as soon as we came through the airport gates in Nevada…Facing row-after-row-after row of slot machines. Traveler try your luck.  Just a quarter a pull… to start… And “Just turn a few of these stones on the ground into loaves of bread,” the devil suggests. What can be wrong with that? God provided manna on the ground every day for the people of Israel for forty years in the wilderness. Surely the Son of God’s entitled to feed himself? The temptation seems small. Use your God-given powers, Son of God. Put on your own oxygen mask first. You’re the Son of God. You’ve got to feed the world. Feed yourself first. But Jesus replies “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.’” Quoting Deuteronomy (chapter 8), where it is written – God lets Israel hunger in the wilderness to teach us appreciation for our daily bread – and let us know – the food we need most of all is the word of God. Jesus could have quoted Isaiah 49 where God says “they shall not hunger or thirst” or Isaiah 55 where God says “eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food.” But Jesus knows the mission he’s on. Knows he is both Son of God and Son of...

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February 22, 2015 – In the wilderness

Mark 1:9-15 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” *** Lent 1 February 22, 2015   (Ps 25, Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-22) Mark 1:9-15 In the wilderness **************** Jesus goes to the edge of the wilderness to be baptized in the Jordan by John – the Baptizer who is identified, remember, through a quote from the prophet Isaiah, as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness…” And as he comes up out of the wilderness waters Jesus sees the heavens torn apart and a voice from on high says, “You are my Son, my beloved – with you I am well pleased.” If we weren’t snowed out last Sunday we’d of heard the voice of God saying again, “This is my Son, the beloved – Listen to him!” God speaking from the mountain of transfiguration, half way through Mark’s gospel. But here, back in the beginning of the gospel, now the Spirit immediately drives Jesus into the wilderness. Consider – the same Holy Spirit that falls afresh on Jesus – now drives him into the wilderness – where he resides forty days, tempted or tested (same word in Greek) by Satan. And Jesus is with the wild beasts – and angels wait on him… Each gospel tells the Jesus story in it’s own way. Matthew and Luke in their telling of the wilderness testing story say Jesus fasted the whole forty days and experienced three temptations from Satan. Matthew spends eleven verses telling the story, Luke spends thirteen. But St Mark, most succinct of gospel writers, takes only two short verses to tell the whole wilderness story, omitting all specifics of the testings and never mentioning fasting… Yet Mark adds one detail that neither Matthew nor Luke includes – telling us that Jesus was with the wild animals in the wilderness…. (St Matthew also mentions angels waiting on Jesus, but in Matthew the angels don’t show up til all temptations are finished. And –) Only in Mark do we hear of Jesus being with the wild beasts and only in Mark do the angels appear to be there all along, waiting on Jesus – along with the wild beasts – and oh yes, Satan’s there too – along with of course the Holy Spirit of God – all together in the wilderness… Which is how I remember my wilderness days. I’m really not sure when it was the Spirit driving me out into the wilderness, and when it was just my heart longing for wilderness time… But for many years I’ve sought wilderness… Which...

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