Sermon for March 5, 2017 Lent 1 “Temptation: Not for the Faint of Heart”
Elusive, persuasive, crafty and not easy to pin down are the traits of temptation. Like images in the fog, as soon as we think we see clearly everything shifts and changes. Like eddies in the harbour, no sooner do we see them than they shift and look different. And so goes our historically long lament with temptation and our personal journey with temptation.
In the Genesis and Gospel text there is the original version of fake news. In Genesis the serpent offers a different perspective on what God has said. The serpent is not entirely untrue for in most fake news there is a small portion that is based in reality. And so the serpent says ‘oh surely you will not die, don’t be silly, you will only know the difference between good from evil, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God’ now don’t you want to be like God? And they ate.
In the Gospel, Jesus is preparing himself in the desert for the work and ministry that lay before him. After 40 days of fasting the devil came to him and presented fake facts to tempt him. Oh they sounded real enough, even enticing enough. Even in a challenged state Jesus had his heart and mind so on God that he could see through the fake offers, resist, be ministered to by the angels and begin ministry.
The challenge of temptation is that it is most acute when we are least able to resist. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the resolve to manage weight is greatest after a big meal and least when we are hungry and shopping. That we dream of serving our neighbour greatest when we are far away, that supporting your church is great on Mon but after a week of shopping not so much so on Sunday. Temptation is tough to resist, if it were not so it would be called something else.
For a long time we (and it is a general we) have lived with the idea that someone else will do it, when it is crunch time I will step up and support the church, I don’t need to offer; someone will ask and so it goes. We give into that temptation and untold blessings remain hidden. It is easy to stay on the sidelines and watch and critique. It something beautiful to step into the arena of life and live as is life matters.
In Jesus the pattern of hiding from God is broken, smashed to bits and a new pattern of living in the light of God’s love is demonstrated. Repeatedly in scripture Jesus reaches out to the ones on the edge, either by circumstances or by society, and brings them to life. In our day Jesus reaches into our temptation burdened life and sets us free. We now have the space to live into that freedom, to share with others so they may be guided on the path of wholehearted generous living.
When we emerge from our temptation induced coma’s I wonder what excitement and joy there will be. What opportunities will arise and what paths that have been closed due to lack of interest or resources will open before us. This is our time, no longer will we be held back by scarcity and the tempting idea that someone else will do it. All that has happened has led us to this point in time. Jesus invites us to soar, to live large and to minister unafraid.
In every Baptism there is a question for the gathered congregation and I would like to end today with this same question: We do this remembering that no family is in isolation, that the church is an interwoven design of many human relationships. That we are called to live life together. Keeping this in mind, let us also remember that it is our responsibility and duty to support these families with constant love, wholesome example, Christian teaching and faithful prayer. Are you willing to share in so great a responsibility?
Are you willing?