Here is last Sunday's sermon. I was kind of afraid to share it but I decided that if I could share it in worship with my churches, then I could share it here too. I follow the lectionary readings for my scriptures. Here ya go...
This week’s scriptures are all about temptation. We are all tempted at times in our lives, for some of us who are trying to eat healthy it seems like every minute of every day! Temptation can be hard! We talk about the Temptation of Christ today because it is the first Sunday in Lent, 40 days before Easter and Jesus was tempted while he spent 40 days in the wilderness where he fasted for these 40 days. He was led to the wilderness by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. We are being led into the this 40 day wilderness by the Holy Spirit today too. We are to fast, or participate in self-denial, or practice temperance. This time is a time of spiritual growth and maybe even a little growth in self-awareness. I think this time for Jesus was a time for him to truly see what he was made of, what could endure, and a time to decide if he really wanted to take on this ministry he was called to. He had a lot of thinking to do, a lot of soul-searching to do, a lot of praying to do.
Would you please pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
I think that often times people don’t like to think much about the humanness of Christ but honestly, I think that’s one of the things that draws me to him. He was human, he walked this earth just as we do. He went through human things, parents getting on your nerves, puberty, anger, sadness, joy and yes, temptation. He was human and I think these 40 days and these temptations were him dealing with his humanness. I believe that even Jesus had free-will. I believe that he made choices and he chose to be in ministry and he chose to love us enough to pay that price he paid.
Let’s look at the temptations he faced. First, these forty days in the wilderness were spent fasting. He didn’t eat for forty days. 40 days! I can’t imagine not eating for more than day let alone 40. He was hungry! He was famished! He was starving! So what does the ol’ devil do? He tempts Jesus. Hey, I know you’re hungry and I know you are the son of God so why don’t you just turn these stones in loaves of bread? Satisfy yourself.
Now, I’m going to tell you a little something about myself here... I don’t really believe in the devil. I don’t think there is a little red guy with a pitch fork running around trying to make the world evil. I don’t believe that the devil makes us do things. I don’t really even think that the devil tempts us.
I do think that there is evil in the world, but I think that’s by choice by free will. I think that maybe, just maybe, Jesus was wrestling with himself here. Jesus knows who he is, he knows that he is the son of God, he knows he has power and he’s hungry! He’s starving and he knows that if he really wanted to, he could eat whatever he wanted. He could turn stones into bread. But he chooses not to do so. He chooses to continue his fast as he works to understand what his ministry is and what it means. He uses scripture to help him, to feed him. "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God."
Next he is tempted with a different kind of power. I think this one is kind of two fold, it has a little foreshadowing to it. The ‘devil’ takes Jesus to the tip top of the temple and tells him to throw himself down from it to test God, because God would call the angels to save him.
If we are continuing to remove the devil from this because like I said, I don’t believe in the devil, then we can say that Jesus is thinking of testing God here, to see if he does truly love him, if he would save him. And then there’s that, save him, that’s the foreshadowing here. Jesus could save himself if he wanted. But he doesn’t and chooses not to test God either for scripture says, "you shall not put the Lord, your God to the test."
And then next, the devil shows him all the kingdoms of earth and tells him he can have it all, the power and glory if he will just bow down and worship him. Now, isn’t it interesting though that if we take the ‘devil’ out of this equation then Jesus is considering power, glory, wealth, and so on but as he does he recognizes them as gods, as something we need to be careful not to worship, not to put them first. "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." He recognizes how easy it could be to become a slave to these little gods of power, glory and wealth.
This is where I really like to think of the humanness of Jesus. Jesus could do all kinds of things to make his life easier. He could have said, “No, I don’t want to die on a cross, I’ll just take my ministry elsewhere.” He could have just performed miracle after miracle, turned rocks into jewels to buy people’s belief, he could have just chosen to not rock the boat. But he didn’t. He chose to follow God’s plan. He chose to worship only the one true God. He chose to go and spread the good news of God’s love. He chose to love. He chose to be in ministry helping those others cared little for and often even not all.
Jesus could have given up and said, I’m hungry, and turned the stones into bread. He could have said, I’m tired of people not getting it, make me King and I’ll force it on them. He could have said, let the angels come down and save me I don’t want to die!
But he didn’t. During these 40 days he grew through his fasting, he grew through his struggles, he became stronger. He used scripture to do this. He used scripture to help him in his decision making. See I think this time, this 40 days in the wilderness is when Jesus came to terms with his ministry, his vocation. I think this is when he discerned the heart of God’s vision for him.
We can take these 40 days and do the same, both as individuals and as a church. We can spend time in prayer asking God to lead us in our ministry as a church. How can we do more of this as a church? as individuals? Think about it, pray about it.
We can spend time letting go of things that are holding us back, that is blocking our vision. Jesus fasted from food to help him see what God was calling him to do. This is a form of self-denial and we can practice it as a church to see what God is calling us to do. What is blocking our vision? What should we abstain from for a while so that we can see what God is really calling us to do? Is the same o‘ same o’? Is it the status quo? Are there things we are doing, just because we’ve always done them that maybe we should give up for 40 days? Is there something that we can let go of, even if just a little while, so that we can better see God’s vision for us?
This makes me wonder too what we can add to help us. What can we do that we aren’t already doing to help us focus on God’s vision for us? More mission? More worship? More study?
We can definitely spend more time in the scriptures. We have the Bible study, we have the devotions. How else can we spend more time in the scriptures so that we rely on his word to guide us? Can more of us get involved? Can we have discussions about them? Can we share scriptures with one another as we delve into them? What more can we do?
Jesus took 40 days in the wilderness to spend time with the Spirit, to discover who he was and what his ministry should be. Let us take these 40 days to do the same. Let us take these days to pray, to listen, to let the spirit work in and through us to help us find our way in ministry.