1st Sunday in Lent-C/March 10, 2019/Community Luth/Pr Joe Vought
Luke says Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Two chapters earlier Luke says, “Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him and God said, ‘You are my son, the beloved with you I am well pleased.’” Is this any way for a Father to treat his son? How can Jesus be baptized, given the Holy Spirit, proclaimed “beloved son” one moment and then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted? Let me answer it this way: When our children are born, they are beautiful, helpless and we parents fall in love. Every need is your command. They are the center of your universe so you revolve around them. But what happens when they turn 2? They get mobile, they start using their hands and grasping at everything. Now you must teach them NO! There are limits: “NO, you can’t terrorize the cat, NO, you can’t take things, NO keep your fingers away from the outlets! Every person must learn limits and this continues through the school years, into adolescence and it is doubtful whether some adults ever learn it.
Adam and Eve were given limits not to eat of the fruit, but they desired to be like God. Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the commandments of God and after receiving them Israel was tested in the wilderness for forty years. So Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted and tested. “Would Jesus use his Godly divine-human life to serve himself or would Jesus be a servant of the Lord to share God’s love and show us how to be fully human?”
Satan says “If you are the Son of God turn stones in to bread.” Satan’s assumption is that we will follow our appetites and desires and use power to get what we want. The 2nd assumption Satan makes is that to be human is to doubt relationships to test each other. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the temple.” The last temptation of Satan reveals that power and celebrity is what we really desire, therefore all of the kingdoms are offered. We know there is more to life than feeding our appetites and power but how we struggle with it.
One movie that captures the struggle is “Training Day.” Ethan Hawke stars as Jake Hoyt, an LA Police rookie anxious to join an elite narcotics squad headed by veteran Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). Harris agrees to give Hoyt a shot at joining his team with a one-day ride-along during which Hoyt must prove his mettle. As the day wears on, it becomes clear to Jake that his experienced mentor has blurred the line between right and wrong to an alarming degree, enforcing his own morally compromised code of ethics and street justice. We see Jake struggling: Will he become a dirty cop or keep his values? You want a more humorous look at testing watch “Bruce Almighty,” with Jim Carey about a newsman who wants to be superstar and gets a chance to play God.
The first humans “desired to be like God” and we are still tempted. Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a person, to see their true character, give them power.” All you have to do is watch the news and see the daily litany of Business Execs, Political and Religious personalities who use and abuse power for themselves. I spent 7 years doing prison ministry listening to people who were still learning. Some have begun to wonder whether the character of our nation is being tested again. In his book, “The Soul of America,” John Meachem speaks to the problem in our country. “The message of Martin Luther King, Jr.—that we should be judged on the content of our character—dwells in the American soul; so does the menace of the Ku Klux Klan. History hangs in the balance between extremes. In our finest hours the soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than to clench our fists; to look out rather than to turn inward; to accept rather than to reject. In so doing, America grows confident that the choice of light over dark is the means by which we pursue progress.”
How are we being tested? Jesus doesn’t use His godly power to serve himself, and all too often we are tempted to play God. Frederick Buechner said, “After being baptized, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness for 40 days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus.” The author of Hebrews writes “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace and find help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15) The call of Lent and our whole lives is to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. May God help us to learn it and live it. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.