Lent 1-B/February 18, 2018/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Between His Baptism and Ministry, Jesus endured testing and temptation for 40 days. But this is nothing new for God’s children. Noah was called by God to build an ark and bring all the animals, for which he was ridiculed and then they had to ride through a flood of 40 days and nights. Abraham and Sarah left home with God’s promise they would be the father and mother of a great nation. They wandered more than 15 years and nearly gave up. Even when Isaac was born God tested them. Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and killed the Egyptian. When he tried to run away God told him to turn around and lead God’s people to freedom. He led Israel through the wilderness for 40 years and it wasn’t a walk in the park but grumbling and complaining all the way. You want to be a follower of God? Get ready for trials. So we should not be surprised that the Spirit of God who proclaimed Jesus, “My son the Beloved!” at his Baptism, is the same Spirit that drives him out into the wilderness.”
When God calls you into any venture or vocation, who knows if you will go the distance? How will you know the cost of discipleship and the price of commitment if you are not tested and tried? Buying my first clergy shirts was a thrill. I looked good and then I had to wear them for the first time as a chaplain in a cancer ward in a hospital and I got scared. I liked the idea of being a pastor, then I had to learn. Bilbo Baggins tells Frodo in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step into the road and there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” Remember Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, “Master Yoda I will complete the Jedhi training, I am not scared!” Yoda responds, “You will be.”
Jesus’ testing was a preparation for his true vocation. The question is not whether we will be tested, but when we are tested, how will we come through it? Jesus overcomes temptation and comes out preaching “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the good news.” You and I know that for Jesus there would be more to come. The call of Lent is to repent, to turn from our fears, our stubborn hide-bound ways, to confess our sins and follow Jesus. I think one of the most important things we can do is to name our temptations. If we cannot identify them, we remain ignorant and perhaps overconfident. It might mean taking a risk, sharing our struggle with another Christian. Luther reminds us that Christ is present in the heart and words of a brother or sister to declare forgiveness and new life. So much of our ministry is to listen and pray with people who are struggling.
Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan with the wild beasts AND angels ministered to him. When we are tested and tempted it is not good to be alone. The angels ministered to Jesus, so we may need a brother or a sister, a pastor or a Stephen Ministry, a messenger of God, which is really what the word angel means. Both of your pastors have confessors who listen: who are mirrors for us, challenge us and give us a word of grace when we are tempted or in need. Every Tuesday at staff meeting before we tackle our to-do lists, we listen to Scripture and pray together, because God knows we need it. We all need Bible Studies, prayer and faith formation so we can be strengthened. I hope you might consider Lenten Wednesdays
You want to be God’s child, love your family, take on a vocation, live a life of purpose? Get ready to be tested. The Good News is that when we are tested and tempted, Jesus knows our hearts and is praying with and for us. God and the Holy Spirit may even be using the pain and confusion in the events of our lives to help us turn around or walk in a new way. The beauty and mystery of our lives is that God and the Spirit allows for U-turns.
Have you heard this prayer? “So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper. Haven’t been grumpy, nasty or selfish. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed; and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help.”
Jesus was tested and came out of the wilderness to bring Good News for us and the whole world. We should not be afraid. We have God’s Word, the promises of our Baptism and this Holy Eucharist as food for the journey and this blessed church full of brothers and sisters walking beside us. So we can pray in the words of our Psalm, “Show us your ways O Lord, and teach us your paths. Lead us in your truth and teach us for you are the God of our salvation, in you we trust all the day long.” Amen.