The Rev. Jennifer Adams – February 14, 2016 – Lent I, Year C: Luke 4:1-13
So here we are on the very first Sunday in Lent, the dust still flaking off of our foreheads from Ash Wednesday and we’re headed in to our forty days in the wilderness with a Spirit-filled Jesus and a pretty savvy Satan.
So on the one side there was Christ still dripping wet from his baptism. He had just been proclaimed God’s beloved and then was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. On the other hand is the devil, and let’s just put it this way – the guy knows how to tempt. First he offered Jesus stones into bread – Food. Second he offered all the kingdoms of the world – power. Third – he promised Jesus life if he tossed himself from the pinnacle of the temple – immortality. The big three. Now Jesus doesn’t fall for it. He didn’t even fall for it a little bit like changing one stone into bread for a little snack. Jesus held his own the whole time, perhaps with a little help from the Spirit.
Now there are lots of directions we could go with all of this and I’m going to run with a couple of them this morning. First is the obvious which is sort of an application to us individually.
What temps us? What temps you? And what does that even mean? Chocolate is an easy answer, perhaps even a universal one, but think bigger than that because this passage, this season calls us to think bigger than that. What is it that pulls you away from your essence, away from your callings, away from the identity you have been given by God, in baptism, through the grace of your own life? Walk through the passage with those questions in mind.
Turning stones into bread isn’t an option for most of us so maybe the question is more like what do you depend on too heavily for your own survival? What do you need to let go of a bit in order to lean into something larger, something more closely resembling God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s care?
And ruling over the kingdoms of the world hasn’t been offered to me, not sure about all of you but I’m guessing not – so what in terms of your own power do you over or under do on a regular basis? How can you adjust your perspective this season – stepping up or stepping back. Speaking up more often, listening more deeply, empowering others while you claim your place in your places, no more and no less than that.
And while none of us visit pinnacles very often, we can ask how it is that we each risk too much in terms of our own life or health. We are tempted regularly to throw ourselves over the edge of something – immersing too much in work or worry or any number of other options – so what care do we need to offer not only others but ourselves this Lent so that we take a few steps back from the pinnacles we face everyday.
There is that way to walk through this passage and I think it’s a very important one. Take time this season to consider what tempts you away from yourself, your callings, your essence. And then work to put pieces in place that will better ground and guide you. And use us to help you if you need us.
Now I want to go through again, because I think there’s another temptation running through us all, one that plagues us and I want to flag for us today.
Maybe it’s because we’re in an election year but it seems like everywhere I turn, people are looking for a savior while at the same time trying to prove how the other guy or gal is not a savior at all. “If you are the One!” we cry out, “Do this!”
We’re desperately seeking someone who will turn stones into bread – managing through one plan or another to get food into the hands of all who hunger. And not just food, but healthcare, education, homes, jobs. Things that frankly should be in all hands, but we can’t seem to agree on how to get them there. It will be through implementing this plan or eliminating that one. Raising taxes. Lowering taxes. Getting people off of this program or into this program. Raising pay for one job or getting into a better one. If we just find the right person we’re told– stones will become bread. That’s what we’re being tempted to believe.
And not only that but the right person will “rule over” in this country in ways that we believe are the right ways to rule. Or the flip of that which brings the third temptation into play – if we elect the right person we will be more safe, there will be less risk no matter how much or how little power we have. We will be powerful enough, or smart enough that even if we do fall from a pinnacle, we’ll be caught, safe from harm. Again a temptation, but one that is there for our taking all the time.
So what I fear is that as a people we’re longing for a savior to do what Satan was asking of Jesus. We are desperately seeking someone who will turn stones into bread. Someone who will rule over the nation(s) and make everything OK. One whose mortality and humanity can’t be factors, and who will keep us from being aware of our own.
And so there’s a collective responsibility this story brings to light too. A responsibility to keep perspective and to participate in civic processes in ways that are truly productive and even faithful. So a few things for us to keep in mind as we do that.
First of all, we don’t need a savior. We already have one. And He showed us a way very different than the way that was offered him in the dessert. Jesus didn’t make bread; he blessed it. He broke it. He shared it. And there was enough to go around ALL THE TIME. And there is here too.
Jesus didn’t rule over – he walked with, using his power to teach, to heal, to reach out, to welcome in. He used his power to reconcile and to forgive. Finally, Jesus didn’t throw himself off a pinnacle, he died, human and mortal at the hands of those who were afraid of new ways of being in this world. But the Spirit was with Jesus then too and he rose again offering new life to all. That’s how the story played out which is good to remember when other versions are being told.
Now none of this is to say that I don’t think our political decisions matter. Nor is it to say that we shouldn’t allow our faith (wisely applied) to guide the decisions that we make. And I hope you pour yourselves in positive ways into the participatory processes our country allows for us. Canvas your heart out. Get behind whomever you feel called to get behind. What I do think, however, is that this election carries more weight than it should because we’ve bought in to the collective temptation to place all of our hopes, and even our collective responsibilities in one place.
There are things that matter more than this election, or better said things that could take some weight off of this election and put things in a healthier, more faithful perspective. There are ways of being in this world, with one another that would make these electoral decisions less divisive than they have become. If we bless and share our bread we’ll be less likely to look for a “savior” to do it for us. If we empower one another, we won’t look so hard for someone else to level the field. If we keep our own anxieties in check, we’re less likely to fear the pinnacles that exist in this world and maybe even lower the risks with which others have been forced to live in it.
In this gospel story, Jesus leads us away from temptation into a new way of salvation. That’s what Jesus’ time in the wilderness was all about – essentially turning down the devils version of what getting saved looked like. We have yet to fully understand or live into Jesus’ way as individuals, as a people. But that’s what Lent is for. Forty days and forty nights to adjust course – individually and as a people. Forty days and forty nights to name the temptations that plague us and turn away into something new, something holy, something more truly and commonly good.
The good news is that the Spirit is still here, in our wilderness today. We have been proclaimed as God’s beloveds and are still dripping wet from our immersion into the love of a God who will not let go.
Get behind us, Satan. We have work to do.